Reviewed – 25th July 2018
“viscerally funny, and celebratory too; a love affair with language, with London, and with the messiness of being human”
There couldn’t be a more apt time for The Space to stage Simon Stephens’ 2012 play, Bluebird – the action of which takes place over the course of a sweltering summer night in London. The stifling heat at the moment, together with the proximity of the actors in The Space’s intimate playing area, made us feel, as audience members, that we were truly sharing the night with the characters, in a way that only added to the emotional intensity of the evening.
The play revolves around Jimmy, a Mancunian writer turned cab driver. Simon Stephens sees that the cab driver takes on the role of confessor in the secular world of contemporary Britain, and as Jimmy criss-crosses London in his Nissan Bluebird, his fares divulge the secrets of their lives, and, each in their own way, struggle to make sense of the business of living. ‘Do you have any idea what it means – at all?’ asks fare number two, a genial joker with a beer in his hand; a question that resonates throughout, and is at its most unbearably poignant in relation to the central tragedy of Jimmy’s own life.
Although the play deals with irreparable loss, grief, and the immense and powerful everyday drama of the relationship between parent and child – recurrent Stephens themes all – it is also viscerally funny, and celebratory too; a love affair with language, with London, and with the messiness of being human.
The Space’s production – directed by Adam Hemming with a sure hand and a light touch – rightly keeps the language centre stage, and maximises the strengths of an immensely able cast, in order to create a powerful, funny and genuinely moving evening. A few of the transition sequences were a little clumsy, and a couple of performances required greater vocal control – with writing this good, you really don’t want to miss a word! – but these were tiny niggles in the face of some exceptionally good acting. Terrific, tight, well-observed and connected work from Jonathan Keane as Jimmy, Mike Duran as Robert and Adam Scott-Pringle as Richard, as well as a wonderfully warm and true performance from Felicity Walsh as Angela. Special mention must go, however, to Anna Doolan, for her heartbreaking portrayal of Jimmy’s wife Clare. It was an exceptional performance, and this reviewer wasn’t the only audience member to find herself in need of a hanky.
Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw
Photography courtesy Space Productions
The Space until 4th August
Reviewed – 19th October 2017
“Kate Tulloch performed with a viscerality that demanded not only our attention, but our hearts”
Howard Barker is not an easy playwright to master. A master of eloquence and wit, with a cutting use of profanity that would make a stripper blush, it is easy for his language to overtake the performance, leaving the audience left in a syntactical labyrinth. For The Castle, however, this was certainly not the case, The complex and broken language was treated with simplicity and emotion, resulting in a fascinating and engaging piece.
Performances were largely phenomenal and casting of the larger roles seemed fitting, with a few exceptions. For a linguistically challenging playwright like Barker, vocal training and projection is elemental in successfully getting across the story. For some of the actors, the vastness of the space combined with a naturalistic performance style sometimes proved challenging and some sections of text were lost entirely. Yet the importance of vocal performance was evident in those that were most engaging; Kate Tulloch and Anthony Cozens.
As the male lead, with huge passages of text, Anthony Cozens handled the character of Stucley phenomenally, with elements of a more versatile David Tennant. The performance of Kate Tulloch as Skinner was a stunning experience to witness. With a physicality that took over the stage, she performed with a viscerality that demanded not only our attention, but our hearts; pulling the audience along her narrative trajectory with a bold and daring force with which no one can argue.
The set is largely symbolic, built around the performance space, this suitability brought the piece an additional layer of realism, building upon rather than altering the theatre. A similar enhancement was utilised with tech, feeling almost as if the audio could have solely been an amplification of the echoes of the theatre’s lofty ceilings. Costume and props, for me, were a questionable aspect of the performance, as their simplicity seemed to attempt naturalism and failed miserably, a little like a school nativity. A more symbolic use of colour or material may have better suited the slick performances and text.
The Castle at The Space is a beautifully constructed production, delivering a complex narrative and text spectacularly, I absolutely recommend this production for those less familiar with Barker’s work. Standout performances matched with Adam Hemming’s accessible and streamlined direction makes this production a credit to the entire team.
Reviewed by Tasmine Airey
Photography by Ellamae Cieslik
is at The Space until 28th October