Category Archives: Reviews

Bullet Tongue – 4 Stars

Bullet Tongue

Bullet Tongue

The Big House

Reviewed – 16th November 2018

★★★★

“the show asks important questions in a refreshingly direct fashion”

 

Islington-based theatre company Big House, which works with young care leavers and those at high risk of social exclusion, launches its new premises with this ambitious promenade piece. 16-year old Bumper (an astonishing Shonagh Woodburn-Hall) is deeply involved in the perilous world of county-lines drug dealing. With her mother dead and her brother imprisoned, gang life provides a rare sense of family and identity. However, an attempt to bolster her credentials by purchasing a gun from a local crime lord, One Ton, leads to devastating consequences.

Employing an investigative journalist character as a kind of audience surrogate, the show asks important questions in a refreshingly direct fashion. The piece probes the inadequacy of social mechanisms designed to lift people out of criminality. Gangs and violence, it suggests, are the inevitable consequences of a society which wilfully ignores and invisibilises its dispossessed and lacks any insight or compassion into poverty.

Among a raft of impressive performances, Gerrome Miller as gang member Little Psych stands out, by turns brash and achingly vulnerable. Zia Bergin-Holly’s punchdrunk-esque set is extraordinary, with different parts of the Englefield Road building fitted out to create, variously, a prison visiting room, a seaside caravan park, a gang hideout. Maggie Norris’ thoughtful direction navigates this complex space with great skill. The show is also extremely canny its use of projection: in one particularly affecting moment, in which Bumper speaks passionately about the nature of inequality, a live camera feed of the audience is projected, as if to underscore our own complicity.

At times, one feels that the audience are being marshalled around a little too frequently, somewhat interrupting the momentum of the show. The longest scenes, which give tension the chance to accumulate and the characterisation a chance to settle in, are generally the best. Several promising narrative threads get a little lost or sidelined as the play proceeded and, one could argue, there are one or two rather superfluous scenes.

These however, are minor quibbles. This is a company doing timely and vital community theatre. Strongly recommended.

Reviewed by Joe Spence

 


Bullet Tongue

The Big House until 8th December

 

Other Big House productions:
Phoenix Rising | ★★★★★ | November 2017

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

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Cuckoo – 3 Stars

Cuckoo

Cuckoo

Soho Theatre

Reviewed – 16th November 2018

★★★

“The Soho Theatre is a place to experiment. Cuckoo tried, it didn’t fail but it didn’t completely succeed”

 

The Soho Theatre is a hotbed for new comedy and drama. It is a testing ground for the weird and wonderful to see if it sinks or swims in the ocean of live entertainment. Currently on offer in the upstairs space is ‘Cuckoo’. Set in a small Irish village, we follow its adolescent inhabitants, as some struggle through the opportunity of leaving home, while others struggle through not being able to leave at all. Cuckoo is a story of gender, small town thinking, friendship and fried chicken.

The story written by Lisa Carroll follows the mute gender non-conforming Pingu (Elise Heaven), the loud mouth but often humorous Iona (Caitriona Ennis) and the gang of Pockets (Colin Campbell), Trix (Peter Newington) and Toller (Sade Malone).

Cuckoo itself is interesting exploring something that most people have dealt with, leaving home and is it worth it? It’s structured well and packs a lot of humour, especially into tiny Iona’s character. Despite this, the story seems to drag. The running time of an hour and fifty minutes could be cut by at least half an hour to tighten everything up. By the end, it felt sloppy and almost irrelevant because of this overly long runtime.

What is evident though, is that the performances are solid and that can partially be attributed to Debbie Hannan’s adept direction. However, Caitriona Ennis as Iona is the stand out performer. Her comedic timing is really what saves the show and makes the full running time a little easier to cope with.

The Soho Theatre is a place to experiment. Cuckoo tried, it didn’t fail but it didn’t completely succeed. This show needs a bit of work, but with changes, it could hugely entertaining.

 

Reviewed by Shaun Dicks

Photography by David Gill

 


Cuckoo

Soho Theatre until 8th December

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Denim: World Tour | ★★★★★ | January 2018
Dust | ★★★★★ | February 2018
Francesco de Carlo: Comfort Zone | ★★★★ | May 2018
Great British Mysteries | ★★★½ | May 2018
Sarah Kendall: One-Seventeen | ★★★★ | May 2018
Sugar Baby | ★★★★ | May 2018
Flesh & Bone | ★★★★★ | July 2018
There but for the Grace of God (Go I) | ★★★★ | August 2018
Fabric | ★★★★ | September 2018
The Political History of Smack and Crack | ★★★★ | September 2018
Pickle Jar | ★★★★★ | October 2018

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

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