SLAM, King’s Cross
Reviewed – 1st October 2017
for the evening as a whole
“the hugely divergent standard of work ultimately left me feeling nothing very strongly”
Untold Arts’ Untold Stories, staged in the beautiful blank canvas of SLAM, King’s Cross, was an eclectic evening of diversely varying quality. The setting was, in the words of Holly Kavanagh’s piece, ‘a bit of atmosphere’: a relaxed, fairly priced bar and small tables in a cabaret arrangement with candles in the centre, created a warmly welcoming space and aura of storytelling. Kavanagh’s self-authored and performed Singles Night: Over 50s, was sharply observed, expertly realised, wittily and sensitively communicated. Her multi-roling was marvellous and memorable. She was truly riveting to watch, and set the bar for the evening very high.
Mike Shephard’s Goulburn provided an immediate tonal contrast. The premise was interesting, and the build to the murder and role reversal was well-achieved. But the piece rested on two-dimensional stereotypes of female interaction, propelled by brashly-drawn characters (nonetheless convincingly performed), which meant the denouement had no depth, but only a shallow shock factor.
Nick Myles’ Knees started bravely, with David Lenik as Jay bursting onto the stage through the audience crying ‘Help me!’: but Knees did not commit itself to one feeling or line of communication, either in writing or directing, thus the piece was too erratic to engage with.
Both Rebecca Jones’ Stevie and Mark Lindow’s I’ll be Along D’reckly shared the same pitfall as the second two items on the programme: they were not staged for the audience, but rather an insular foray into two imagined psychologies of two people whom the writers seemed to have thought and researched very little about. The fact that Stevie was not performed by a disabled actor was a lazy and upsetting decision by the production team. Watching as Dave Perry as Noah wheeled himself off stage only to bound back on thirty seconds later to collect his applause was almost unbelievable. The piece was not worth it for such cavalier offence. A dash of scrutiny would not have gone amiss.
Bakersfield (heading image on this page) had many merits. Compellingly and strikingly performed by Kingsley Amadi and well-lit by Florence Bell, it was bursting at the seams with ideas and moving subject matter. If anything, the piece had too much in it for the format of the evening, and Chris Oduh would do well considering developing it into a longer work. By comparison, Mark Lindow’s I’ll be Along D’reckly was thinly written, and though Silas Hawkins’ performance was lived-in and honest, the content did not have enough backbone to support him.
Shyam Bhatt’s Treya’s Last Dance was funny and full of life, which made the slow reveal of her brother’s death and the complex social circumstances which provoked it all-the-more poignant. A little too long in places, but energetically directed and beautifully performed by Bhatt, the piece was the perfect close to the evening.
Untold Stories was a showcase not without flashes of theatre at its best, but the hugely divergent standard of work ultimately left me feeling nothing very strongly, except that I wished I had been told some different ones; or similar stories much better.
Reviewed by Eloïse Poulton
Photography by Nathalie St Clair
was at SLAM, King’s Cross