Tag Archives: Alfie Friedman

LAUGHING BOY

★★★

Jermyn Street Theatre

LAUGHING BOY at Jermyn Street Theatre

★★★

“Whilst moving, the piece lacks dramatic elements and at times feels more like a lecture more than a theatrical work”

Laughing Boy is a piece of Political Protest Theatre, which is theatre that arises from injustice and makes it clear it is protesting against it. It tells the true story of Connor or ‘LB’, a learning disabled young man with epilepsy who died as a result of negligence and systemic faults in his care in 2013. His family campaigned and gave testimony as part of a lengthy legal battle. Written and Directed by Stephen Urwin, Laughing Boy is an adaptation of Sara Ryan’s book ‘Justice for Laughing Boy’. The play uses video projection (Matt Powell) to display real reports and quotes from the legal case along with family footage .

Connor’s story is told by his family, primarily his mother Sara (Janie Dee), an Oxford academic who delivers details of Connor’s death and the parties involved with fury and wit. Her love for Connor burns through the play as she unapologetically rips into the architects of the family’s tragedy. In supporting roles are husband and father Rich (Forbes Masson), brothers Owen (Lee Braithwaite), Will, (Charlie Ives), Tom (Daniel Rainford) and sister (Molly Osborne). Connor (Alfie Friedman) sits expectantly, asking his mother what happened to him as his family chip in to parody the various uncaring faces. The cast portray a loving family who undergo gaslighting, victim-blaming and bureaucracy in the search of answers. We fall in love with Connor and as the family affectionately discuss him. I found myself thinking of the countless people and their families in my life who rely on services that failed Connor and felt their pain.

 

 

As far as stories go, Laughing Boy is a nightmare of devasting grief brought to life. It is told with the factual precision of an Oxford academic with tweets, reports and blog posts dissecting the events and circumstances of Connor’s death. As compelling as the story is, narratively it is anti-climactic and leans into telling us what happened instead of showing. It is mainly from Sara’s perspective despite Connor and other family remaining on stage throughout. Sara explains her actions, including how the online campaign negatively affected the court case, leaving no room for any conjecture or doubt. Nurses, social workers, support staff, defence lawyers and headteachers are painted as bleak, sarcastic and one-dimensional by the supporting cast, with some humour injected in their caricatured portrayal. At points it felt like a Panorama documentary interspersed with heart-breaking input from Connor as he questions where he is from beyond the grave. The play itself is referenced, as Sara remarks at how far the campaign has come.

The set (Simon Higlett) is simple and plain; four wooden chairs and a white curved cyclorama, evoking the austere environment of Slade House and also allowing the stage to be used for detailed projections . The use of the cast reflects this simplicity, miming props and setting, always returning to the base of family as they comfort each other in between impersonating other characters. Whilst moving, the piece lacks dramatic elements and at times feels more like a lecture more than a theatrical work. It serves its purpose at being informative and celebrating Connor as well as the success of the family’s campaign for justice. Laughing Boy calls to action on behalf of all who suffer as a result of underfunded disability services.

 


LAUGHING BOY at Jermyn Street Theatre

Reviewed on 1st May 2024

by Jessica Potts

Photography by Alex Brenner

 

 

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:

THE LONELY LONDONERS | ★★★★ | March 2024
TWO ROUNDS | ★★★ | February 2024
THE BEAUTIFUL FUTURE IS COMING | ★★★★ | January 2024
OWNERS | ★★★½ | October 2023
INFAMOUS | ★★★★ | September 2023
SPIRAL | ★★ | August 2023
FARM HALL | ★★★★ | March 2023
LOVE ALL | ★★★★ | September 2022
CANCELLING SOCRATES | ★★★★ | June 2022
ORLANDO | ★★★★ | May 2022

LAUGHING BOY

LAUGHING BOY

Click here to see our Recommended Shows page

 

Legacy

★★★★★

Menier Chocolate Factory

Legacy

Menier Chocolate Factory

Reviewed – 8th March 2022

★★★★★

 

“You’ll leave the show feeling as though you’ve been to a rather wonderful party full of funny and charming people”

 

Past, present and future come together in a magnificent show by Maria Friedman and Friends at the Menier Chocolate Factory. It’s true that the music and songs of Legacy are a reminder of what we’ve recently lost, sadly. But in Legacy, Maria Friedman has assembled a company of singers and musicians to celebrate that past — and to give us a tantalizing peek into the future. As the show proceeds, we meet a dazzling line up of both experienced performers, and young singers making their stage debut. Above all, Legacy is a sing your heart out tribute to the songs of Marvin Hamlisch, Michel Legrand and Stephen Sondheim. The enthusiastic audience lapped it all up and begged for more.

Legacy is not just a great night out for fans of good music. In between the singing, and one great number by the band alone, Maria Friedman treats the audience to anecdotes about her life in musical theatre, including her memories of the men whose songs she sings, and whom she knew well. She connects with her audience easily — she’s full of warmth and self-deprecating humour. And she’s generous — not only in her introductions of the other performers on stage, but also the way in which she brings the audience into the show. Don’t be surprised if, on the night you visit, that’s literally what she does. On the night I was there, Friedman enthusiastically welcomed on stage Marvin Hamlisch’s widow Terre Blair. You’ll leave the show feeling as though you’ve been to a rather wonderful party full of funny and charming people.

The programme doesn’t give a completely accurate picture of what audiences will see on any one particular evening. Instead, Legacy puts together a number of well known numbers and reserves the right to add, or omit, to those on the list. The same holds true for the performers. What doesn’t change is the presence of Friedman herself, accompanied by the talents of long time friends Ian McLarnon and Matthew White. They are ably supported by stand out newcomers Desmonda Cathabel and Alfie Friedman. Friedman has not only inherited his mother’s talent — he brings something extra that is all his own. The band is superb, led by Theo Jamieson on piano, with Paul Moylan on double bass, and Joe Evans on drums. Legacy is a lively evening that modulates between boisterous ensemble numbers such as Hamlisch’s “I Hope I Get It”; an unusually upbeat “Windmills of Your Mind” (Legrand), to quieter, more intimate numbers such as “Old Friends” (Sondheim). And on this particular evening, as a tribute to International Women’s Day, Maria Friedman added a beautiful rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now.”

If you’ve never been to the Menier Chocolate Factory, don’t hesitate to make Maria Friedman and Friends’ Legacy a reason for a first visit to this warm and welcoming venue. Bring some friends of your own. They’ll thank you.

 

 

Reviewed by Dominica Plummer

Photography by Nobby Clark

 


Legacy

Menier Chocolate Factory until 17th April

 

Recently reviewed at this venue:
Brian and Roger | ★★★★★ | November 2021
Habeas Corpus | ★★★ | December 2021

 

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