Reviewed – 3rd May 2018
“The show moves along at a fast pace and there is never a dull moment”
The thought of attending a play described as a ‘dark, savage and unflinching exploration of lesbian subculture in London’ has the potential to polarise an audience and it was with an element of apprehension that I arrived to see Grotty at The Bunker. I left having seen a terrifically well written, acted and directed piece of modern theatre.
Grotty is a fast moving, darkly funny yet ultimately sad semi-autobiographical story, written by and starring the award winning Izzy Tennyson who had recent success with Brute. She is Rigby, an anti-hero who joins the Dalston lesbian scene in London and whose life centres around two very different women. Together they form a triangle and narrator Rigby brings us into her world often speaking directly to the audience with flashbacks explaining her journey.
On entering the theatre we are greeted by a simple but detailed set and are transported to a basement club where it is ‘Clam Jam’ night (a phrase I had to look up on the internet!). The audience then witnesses a sub-culture that has often been confined to the basements of gay clubs and we see some women behaving really badly.
Grotty has a stellar cast of five, playing nine parts and each actor is a joy to watch. Tennyson takes centre stage with her portrayal of Rigby. She has a style of delivery that surely has potential for a far wider audience. The two scenes where she describes lesbian sex and takes some recreational drugs are extremely clever and very funny. Rebekah Hinds convincingly plays two very different characters; firstly the overpowering love interest Toad and also straight Kate. Grace Chilton also plays two parts. As the Witch she is heavily into BDSM and takes Rigby to some dark places. She also plays Elliot who is a completely opposite character and has a great influence in Rigby’s life.
Anita-Joy Uwajeh takes on three very different roles as Natty, Josie and Dr Alexandra. She plays each role with passion and conviction. Completing the cast is Clare Gollop who appears towards the end of the play as Rigby’s mother and whose role really is key to the whole piece.
Hannah Hauer-King’s direction is perfect. The show moves along at a fast pace and there is never a dull moment. However in the first half of the show some of the humour was lost as the cast often continued speaking before the audience had finished laughing. Designer Anna Reid’s set is basic but the use of square pouffes enabled the cast to easily transport us from seedy nightclub to ‘posh flats’. The lighting design from Zoe Spurr was simple but effective as was Alexandra Faye Braithwaites’s sound design.
Writer Izzy Tennyson and Kitty Wordsworth from Damsel Productions should be proud of this show. It has comedy, pathos, some wickedly funny, if questionable, behaviour and is a joy to watch.
Reviewed by Steve Sparrow
Photography by The Other Richard
The Bunker until 26th May
Previously at this venue