Tag Archives: Abi Davies

Jade City

Jade City

★★★

The Bunker

Jade City

Jade City

The Bunker

Reviewed – 5th September

★★★

 

“praise should be given for facing stories of masculine brutality head-on”

 

Two men circle each other in a boxing ring; they spar, they wrestle, they laugh and, in a sense at least, they fight. The ropes that encircle the ring also encircle their lives, and by the end of performance, it’s clear that those ropes can’t contain them both.

Jade City, cleverly-named for both the local takeaway (with its £3.20 special) and a reference to the proximity of the Emerald Isle, is a two-man show from playwright Alice Malseed. Malseed hails from Belfast, where the play is set, and the whole production resonates with a sense of place. It opens with Monty (Barry Calvert) and Sas (Brendan Quinn) rattling off memories of their hometown. The Goliath crane, the Cregagh, Ormeau Road; cultural and local references which would be bound to strike powerful chords with those who know the city (and, as a nice touch, the Bunker is selling Tayto crisps). This densely-worded production is captioned throughout and in these quickfire exchanges it is invaluable (although at times distractingly serves to highlight deviations from the text, with whole lines missed, that can’t all be deliberate).

As we follow visits to the local, to Monty’s ‘stinking flat’, to the new bar in town, it’s clear that our two characters are knitted into their landscape, but passing references to their past indicate a troubling story. This unfolds, graphically and somewhat predictably, throughout the production. Some of the narrative is delivered via escapist role-plays, as Monty and Sas act out remembered or imagined situations. This is a helpful device, but it feels a bit hard to square the idea of lads who joke about times they’ve lobbed rocks at police and started fights also readily immersing themselves in shared childlike fantasies (‘We’re bin men!’). Given the narrative dwells on the toxicity and dishonesty of masculine posturing, this particular leap feels like a real ask of the audience, although passionate and likeable performances from Calvert and Quinn help.

The Bunker is a simple space in which to represent Belfast’s streets, pubs and clubs but clever lighting (Timothy Kelly) works hard, with strips around the boxing ring starkly setting up the stage and a sickly orange hue invoking the tacky-floored pub. Sound design from Michael Mormecha is also effective.

So many great components, then, but director Katherine Nesbitt isn’t quite able to unite them into a totally winning whole. One challenge is certainly the lyrical but heavy script, which feels like it’d be better served by being read on the page than seen performed. Another is the pacing; billed as a one-hour show, my performance ran 15 minutes over this and this extra time cost us tautness.

Rarely has a production had such a connection to a place; Belfast runs through Jade City like a stick of rock. In this regard, the play excels, and praise should be given for facing stories of masculine brutality head-on.

 

Reviewed by Abi Davies

Photography by Ali Wright

 


Jade City

The Bunker until 21st September

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Sam, The Good Person | ★★★ | January 2019
Welcome To The UK | ★★ | January 2019
Boots | ★★★★ | February 2019
Box Clever | ★★★★★ | March 2019
Killymuck | ★★★★ | March 2019
My White Best Friend | ★★★★★ | March 2019
Funeral Flowers | ★★★½ | April 2019
Fuck You Pay Me | ★★★★ | May 2019
The Flies | ★★★ | June 2019
Have I Told You I’m Writing a Play About my Vagina? | ★★★★ | July 2019

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

The Indecent Musings Of Miss Doncaster 2007

★★★½

Camden People’s Theatre

The Indecent Musings Of Miss Doncaster 2007

The Indecent Musings Of Miss Doncaster 2007

Lion and Unicorn Theatre

Reviewed – 10th August 2019

★★★½

 

“Some lines are stellar but the occasional too-easy joke could be lost without ill effect”

 

2007 was a big year. The first iPhone hit the shelves, as did the last Harry Potter book. We got Gordon Brown as PM. And, in Doncaster, our ‘Miss Donny’ is crowned Miss Doncaster, with the sash and tiara to prove it. A starry start indeed – but The Indecent Musings of Miss Doncaster 2007 shows what happens next. And, spoiler alert: this is where the glamour ends.

The one-hander, written and performed by Annabel York, spans confessional, spoken word and stand-up, and although just how biographical it is isn’t clear, it’s hard not to see it as intimate. Staging (design by Elle Loudon) supports this; lighting and choreography are exceptional. The sound design (Jacob Welsh) is terrific; scenes of Donny dancing work brilliantly, with clever and thoughtful music choices and just the odd scene where the sound levels are awry and we struggle to follow York’s quickfire delivery.

Sound effects are also strong. The gentle hiss and suck of Donny’s father’s ventilator in the quieter moments she spends beside him (and the staggering silence that follows once it’s turned off) are particularly poignant. Given that the use of props is almost non-existent, effects do the hard yards in giving us a sense of place.

In the same vein, Rebecca Loudon’s skill in direction is clear, especially in the detail that sets up each scene – the clever little adjustments to the office chair height that tell us that Donny is once again slouched at the desk at her ghastly office job, for example.

Naturally in any solo show all eyes are on the performer, and the clearly-talented York doesn’t disappoint. Primarily a comic piece, almost all scenes are played for laughs. This is perhaps a shame, as York’s excellent and nuanced acting gets a fuller airing in the few emotionally-charged scenes. Make no mistake, though – York is incredibly funny, and throws herself around to terrific effect. We’re introduced to a cast of characters through her, not least the pageant queen persona, Miss Doncaster 2007, herself.

Garbed in the full regalia of evening gown, pink sash and twinkly crown, it’s this version of Donny that opens and closes the production. This deadens the night’s impact just a little; the opening scene is one of the weakest of all and the all-smiles characterisation of Donny’s showbiz embodiment is less affecting and harder to like. After the journey Donny has gone on, it feels reductive, too, to return to the crown and fixed grins at the end.

Generally, the whirlwind of Donny’s chaotic life can risk feeling a bit one-note; exploration of the emotional impact of some of her fraught sexual encounters, for example, including ones where her dates’ behaviours are downright abusive, is lacking. These disastrous, drunken dates are suggestive of Donny’s vulnerability but that gets lost when they’re unrelentingly played for laughs. This is a pity, as a message about female fragility and strength is suggested throughout (it can’t be an accident that empowering tracks by feminist superstars Lizzo and Janelle Monáe feature).

Scripting could also stand to be just a touch tighter. Some lines are stellar but the occasional too-easy joke (‘I call a spade a spade… unless it’s a shovel’) could be lost without ill effect, and a little more light and dark introduced into those more frenetically active scenes.

Raw emotion does come, though, as we see grief take over from nights out on the town, and it’s here that the performance really sings. Our Donny may not be the darling of Doncaster, crown and all, any more. But a new kind of stardom may just beckon – and she’ll be ready.

Reviewed by Abi Davies

 

Camden Fringe

The Indecent Musings Of Miss Doncaster 2007

Camden People’s Theatre until 10th August as part of Camden Fringe 2019

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
The Absolute Truth About Absolutely Everything | ★★★ | May 2018
A Fortunate Man | ★★★½ | June 2018
Le Misanthrope | ★★½ | June 2018
Ouroboros | ★★★★ | July 2018
Did it Hurt? | ★★★ | August 2018
Asylum | ★★★ | November 2018
George | ★★★★ | March 2019
Mojave | ★★★ | April 2019
Human Jam | ★★★★ | May 2019
Hot Flushes – The Musical | ★★★ | June 2019

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