Reviewed – 14th June 2019
“The devilishly witty and highly complex poetic rhythms entice you in”
Winner of the 2017 Verity Bargate Award for new-writers, author Dylan Coburn Gray brings his love letter to Dublin on to the London stage.
Citysong began its life as a commission for a spoken word festival. It tells the story of three generations of a Dublin family on one day and passes through time as the characters reflect and reminisce. The play starts off with a taxi driver telling us of his fares and their reason for journeying around the City, he speaks of his family and we see Dublin through his eyes, until the story effortlessly moves to another inhabitant. We have lovely scenes with keenly focussed observations on first love, meeting the parents, teenage awkwardness and a delightful moment in a delivery ward to name but a few. It reflects everyday people, “Everyone belongs in a city and yet everyone is only passing through”.
Set designer (Sarah Bacon) has given us a stripped-back, bare set apart from a few nondescript chairs and tables and a stunning abstract, fractured glass backdrop in the shape of Dublin and its coastline. When a piece of this crashed to the stage ten minutes before curtain up, I was left on tenterhooks every time an actor came through the door within this structure. Thankfully all was well and I hope there are no issues moving forward as the reflections and light coming from this backdrop are utterly unique. Sound (Adrienne Quartly) has an almost constant single note, similar, although lower in tone to when you run your finger around the top of a glass, occasionally it breaks into a tune before correcting itself. This and a constant high screen of dry ice and moody lighting (Paul Keogan) add to the atmosphere.
Director (Caitríona McLaughlin) has lovingly passed this script to a six-strong ensemble. She has created some delightful shapes on a fairly limited space and allowed the actors to express themselves. A cast of just six (Amy Conroy, Daryl McCormack, Jade Jordan, Blaithín MacGabhann, Clare McKenna and Dan Monaghan) playing sixty characters is a heck of a challenge. But without exception, each of them proves themself to be highly versatile, a pair of glasses here, a baseball cap there and you are with them immediately. Everyone has their time to shine and they are all a joy to watch, only on a couple of rare occasions did a small characterisation fall slightly flat.
The play is described as a “Modern day Dublin’s Under Milk Wood”. I hope it shakes off this tag, as it is more than able to stand on its own two feet. The staging is fascinating, the acting is delightful, but the real star is the script itself. The devilishly witty and highly complex poetic rhythms entice you in, wrap you in a warm, comfortable blanket and at the end, gently put you to one side with a satisfied smile on your face. This really is an absolute delight.
Reviewed by Chris White
Photography by Ros Kavanagh
Soho Theatre until 6th July
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Reviewed – 11th December 2018
“This production is funny and touching, with a delightful simplicity”
This is a charming production, based on JM Barrie’s original text, and occasionally updated with contemporary references. Peter Pan is a story that many of us have grown up with. We wait for Captain Hook’s villainy, clap to save Tinkerbell, and look on in wonder as Peter flies. This production manages to create the atmosphere of those childhood encounters with the story, without the full on nature of pantomime, or the facilities of a large West End theatre.
Several of the cast play multiple roles. Alfie Webster plays two pirates and a dog, and Harveen Mann successfully managing to convince with her five characters! We are aware that it’s the same actor, and that’s part of the joke, particularly when she transforms from Jukes to Cecco. There are plenty of laughs to be had and some outstanding performances, particularly from Nickcolia King-N’Da as Peter Pan and Alexander Vlahos as Hook. King N’Da’s Peter is an innocent, cocky and immensely likeable boy. It’s a lovely moment when he first flies in, peddling through the air with a huge grin. He is a kid we could meet on the streets of Finsbury Park, ballsy, joyful, vulnerable and stubborn, but with added magic. His encounters with Hook are nicely done, and Hook’s use of a leaf blower as a weapon is inspired. Vlahos is a different kind of Hook. He is full of himself, overconfident, and hilariously terrified of the crocodile. He struts and preens with more than a little camp thrown in, ably and enthusiastically aided by Smee, played by Natalie Grady, who also plays Mrs Darling.
The two Darling boys are convincing as kids, Adam Buchanan plays Michael as a very believable little boy with a giant teddy, and Jason Kajdi is John, his older brother. Rosemary Boyle plays Wendy, and beautifully portrays the difficulties of a young girl becoming a woman. She is attracted to Peter, very much wanting a kiss. Wanting him to be her ‘husband’ rather than her ‘son.’ But, of course, he doesn’t get it. She finds it hard to be a mother to the lost boys too. I’ve never understood Wendy so well before, and it adds another level to the emotional strata of the story.
This production is funny and touching, with a delightful simplicity. In a space such as the Park Two Hundred it is good to see such a well designed and flexible set. Gregor Donnelly has done a great job with it, allowing the cast to easily transform the space from the Darling’s home to Neverland, to a pirate ship and back. When the sound and lighting, by Adrienne Quartly and Nic Farman are added, the stage is set for magic to happen. The only thing that I didn’t like was the puppet of Nana, the dog. In contrast to the naturalistic, yet fantastical feeing of the rest of the production, Nana looked like an autumnal sea monster that, despite Alfie Webster’s able puppetry, failed to convince. Jonathan O’Boyle’s direction is assured, and he has enabled his actors to shine and enjoy themselves hugely in this lovely show.
Reviewed by Katre
Photography by Chris Gardner
Park Theatre until 5th January
Previously reviewed at this venue: