Reviewed – 15th June 2018
“David Allen’s intricate set design results in a space that is both intimately charming and frustratingly cluttered”
As part of Pride in London Festival 2018, Trafalgar Studios hosts the UK premiere production of Steven Dietz’s most widely performed work, Lonely Planet. The story follows the unlikely friendship between two men, Jody and Carl, in an unidentified city in 1980s America as they struggle with the disease that is beginning to decimate their community, AIDS.
The entirety of the play takes place in Jody’s map shop, full to the brim with an array of furniture, maps (of course), and a whole host of miscellaneous items. David Allen’s intricate set design results in a space that is both intimately charming and frustratingly cluttered, beautifully projecting the key metaphors embedded within the original text.
Both Alexander McMorran (Jody) and Aaron Vodovoz (Carl) bring the unusual friendship between both characters to life with a wealth of charisma and chemistry together. Whilst the underlying story within the play takes time to unfold, McMorran and Vodovoz waste no time in establishing their characters that quickly become familiar to the audience. This, in combination with the detailed set, hooks the viewer into the text emotionally despite the lengthy plot development. Whilst taking place in the 1980s, this production of Lonely Planet strives to highlight the parallels of stigmatisation regarding AIDS both then and today.
Throughout the limited run of the show, and building-up to London Pride, a weekly Q&A session is being held straight after the show with prominent figures in the movement sharing their experiences with AIDS. The Lonely Planet Speaker Series began with Jonathan Blake, an actor, activist and one of the first people to be diagnosed with HIV in the UK. This series, sponsored by Pasante and INSTI self-test kit displays how this particular run is so much more than simply the production alone.
Reviewed by Claire Minnitt
Photography by Richard Hubert Smith
Trafalgar Studios until 7th July
Previously reviewed at this venue
Cantata for Four Wings
Reviewed – 17th April 2018
“The script is definitely in need of work in order to keep the audience empathetic and interested”
Robert Brutter’s Cantata for Four Wings at the Cockpit Theatre is a religiously-loaded hour long show which combines suicide with angels, God and self-forgiveness. After a woman, played by Sylwia Kaczmarek, tries to commit suicide (in a rather over-dramatic and hard to believe sort of way), two angels, Judy Turan and Aaron Vodovoz, come to her rescue in an attempt to stop her from committing the sin, and therefore ‘ruining God’s Plan’. What follows is an hour of rather odd divine intervention, and a plot which is simplistic yet completely hard to follow.
The script has not translated from the original Polish especially well, and this ruins the moments of comedy and any moments of resonance become underwhelming. The ‘message’ that the audience are meant to take away is completely transparent, handed to them on a plate with no further contemplation necessary. This gives the play an almost condescending tone, as if it were intended for children who want to learn about religion and self-forgiveness.
The three person cast worked well together, but their acting was mostly over-dramatic and unrealistic. Whilst consideration has to be given that English might not be their first language, a lot of lines were spoken clumsily with emphasis in the wrong places. Director Lukasz Lewandowski also sometimes placed actors with their back to the audience as they spoke, making it hard to stay focussed on anything they were saying. Any sympathy for the suicidal woman is removed when her backstory and reasons for wanting to die are blurted out in the space of two minutes. The script is definitely in need of work in order to keep the audience empathetic and interested throughout.
Wojtek Kaj Ryalski’s set was simple, a mattress on the floor, a Christmas tree (which was never actually explained) and a wardrobe made of fabric, which doubled as a shadow screen in a particularly confusing part of the play, in which woman and angel swapped bodies. There was also somewhat random use of a smoke machine and a rather bright spotlight which shined awkwardly on some parts of the audience, making it hard to actually see what was going on onstage without squinting.
Whilst described as a ‘tragi-comic reflection’, Cantata for Four Wings is more of an hour of religious advertising that needs some work on maintaining a slower plot reveal and more subtlety in its message.
Reviewed by Charlotte Cox
Cantata for Four Wings