Love Me Now
Tristan Bates Theatre
Reviewed – 29th March 2018
“a relevant and contemporary narrative that explores consent within a relationship”
The stage is taken up by a sloping double bed, red material snaking up the headboard to weave through the ceiling, clothes strewn, all slightly reflected in the shining black floor. Designer Fin Redshaw punctuates set and costume alike with bright red, a colour that bring out the intensity of the piece and mixes sexuality with foreboding. Michelle Barnette’s debut play is opened by B (Helena Wilson) entering through the audience, staring wide eyed at us as she moves to the stage, ‘Voulez Vous’ emblazoned across her T-shirt.
In B’s flat, A is preparing to leave post sex but when the door gets stuck, the pair are forced to discuss what exactly is going on between them. Interspersed with snapshots of their relationship prior to now, what begins as a conversation about a relationship unearths an ugly and pervasive misogyny. This is a relevant and contemporary narrative that explores consent within a relationship, the silencing of women, and the double standard surrounding sex and gender, that slut-shames women who have lots of sex and deems them “whores”, yet normalises and accepts this behaviour in men.
Helena Wilson is fantastic as B, urgent and warm, rounded and relatable, she comes alive onstage and is impossible to stop watching. Alistair Toovey as A is utterly unlikeable, callous and violent. Gianbruno Spena offers sinister comedy as C, but his characterisation feels the most stylised, the least natural.
What should have been the final scene is incredibly powerful, as B prepares to go out, shaking hand applying lipstick after a scene of near rape and near domestic abuse. This is an image of absolute strength in its vulnerability, reminding the audience how unfortunately normal this kind of narrative is, how many people have experiences like this and are forced to carry on. This should have been a brutally moving final moment.
Unfortunately this is not where the play ends. There is another half hour yet to come of light relief that descends into something more sinister, and a replay of earlier scenes, that seem an unnecessary over-labouring of the point. This second segment of the play does not take us anywhere we had not already arrived at, and does not give the audience and the actor credit for being able to understand and deliver respectively the impact of what has happened to B in her single lingering stare.
This is a compelling and moving piece of theatre with a stunning performance from Helena Wilson, that just didn’t know when to end.
Reviewed by Amelia Brown
Photography by Helen Murray
Love Me Now
Tristan Bates Theatre until 14th April
The Box of Delights
Wilton’s Music Hall
Reviewed – 7th December 2017
“I sat in a sea of bewitched adults and wide-eyed children”
If anything was going to make me feel festive, Wilton’s Music Hall was the perfect place to start. Having passed through the characterful entrance into the vaulted ceilings and the bare charm of the auditorium, I felt I was stepping into a bygone Christmas card: a twinkling fir tree, the church-like surrounding balcony, and the choral music evoking a Carol concert.
Over 80 years ago Poet John Masefield wrote this enchanting story. It has the feel of folklore and fairy tale yet holds many modern elements: Time travel for the Doctor Who lovers. Flying vehicles for the Harry Potter fans. Talking animals for the C.S. Lewis classicists. Good magicians … bad sorcerers … somewhat Lord of the Rings …? All packaged up in a boy’s struggle to find the courage and skill to ensure that evil does not overpower good.
Kay Harper (played by Alistair Toovey) is our young hero guarding the mysterious box for an elusive Punch & Judy man who is desperate to keep it out of the wicked hands of sorcerer Abner Brown (both parts played wonderfully by Matthew Kelly) who desperately wants the magical box and its amazing secrets for himself. The uneven battle is on. Kay with his playmates Mariah & Peter (enthusiastically played by Safiyya Ingar and Samuel Simmonds) and Abner with his witch of a wife (played with a sinister calmness by Josefina Gabrielle) and vicious hangers on (including a duplicitous performance by Tom Kanji – who is also the ineffective police officer of the piece!)
This adaptation for stage by Piers Torday is beautifully done, with a scattering of jokes and jibes that only the adults get. Puppets. Music. Video. Parachute quantities of fabric. Movement and poise. With light and images keeping your eye focused to avoid the slight of hand.
I liked the way the 1930s costumes blended into the theatre making me feel we had ourselves, travelled back in time. Designer Tom Piper’s draped set is amazingly versatile and blends into the ‘shabby chic’ restoration surrounding the stage making the seated patrons feel they are part of the stage. The use of projected imaging added a cinematic feel and afforded blizzards, magnificent creatures, raging infernos and further amazing effects from video designer Nina Dunn.
The cast all give brilliant performances, balancing a timeless, classic children’s story on the good side of old fashioned, and the comedy moments the right side of farce.
I sat in a sea of bewitched adults and wide-eyed children who gasped, giggled and clung to their adults in anticipation. Their silence throughout the performance said it all – if you can hold their attention so solidly you are doing something very right indeed. With festive music (Ed Lewis) interwoven and humorous laugh out loud moments from both the children and the villainous pursuers, everyone watched with smiles on their faces.
Steering away from vaudeville style pantomime, this seasonal production is the perfect alternative for children and adults of all ages and not to be missed. This show is exactly what it says it is: A Box of Delights, an early Christmas gift, festooned in magic and mystery which sparkles when opened. Unwrap it now!
Reviewed by Joanna Hinson
Photography by Alastair Muir
The Box of Delights
is at Wilton’s Music Hall until 6th January