Tag Archives: Amanda Waggott

Artefact and Something Unspoken

Artefact and Something Unspoken


The Playground Theatre

ARTEFACT and SOMETHING UNSPOKEN at The Playground Theatre


Artefact and Something Unspoken

“Together they are a delicious meditation on mid-century hidden desire”

Artefact / Something Unspoken intertwines two pieces of forbidden love, sharing a set, actors, and sapphic tensions. I took along a plus one who was not a date, but also not not a date, and leaning into liminality is the best way to experience this double bill.

The opening piece is Artefact, new writing from Rena Brannan. The piece imagines Betty Ford, of the eponymous clinics and First Lady duties, rediscovering a letter from a roommate from her dancing days.

It is set in July 1964, around the time Betty Ford had a psychiatric break before seeking help for her addictions. The piece suggests the letter, the Artefact, may have had something to do with this.

Artefact is dense with text and reminiscence, with rich, clever lines. Sophie Ward, as Betty Ford, delivers these in a captivating performance of the monologue. She roams around the audience cabaret tables, the central aisle, the (working!) bar to stage right, and the ballet studio platform to stage left, always demanding the audience’s full attention and at one point, their seat.

Sarah Lawrie, who performs as Grace Lancaster in Tennessee Williams’ Something Unspoken, is also part of the set for Artefact. Her arm crashes out from under the central stage platform clutching the found Artefact, before taking up position behind the bar, and finally as a stand-in for Betty’s old roommate in a lovely silhouetted pas de deux with Ward.

The lighting and direction across the two pieces (Steven Dean Moore and Anthony Biggs respectively) is used cleverly, almost as a character in itself. The swinging of a hanging bar light marks Ford’s descent into addiction, and opposite side lights add punctuation whilst relaying a conversation with her mother.

Artefact merges into Something Unspoken with Amanda Waggott taking the main stage platform as grande dame Cornelia Scott. Tara Kelly’s costumes and stage design immediately places us in classic Williams territory, the home of a fading Southern Belle.

Something Unspoken is one of Williams’ more obscure plays, a short and efficient one act that rips apart the facade of a gentile scene to reveal the emotional churn beneath. It studies the codependent relationship between the outwardly fierce Cornelia and her secretary, the submissive Grace, at the crux of an election to their local United Confederate Daughters chapter. Cornelia wishes to be handed the title of Regent ‘by acclimation’, or she threatens to resign entirely.

Her refusal to confront her vulnerability and the prospect of rejection has isolated Cornelia from friends, associates, and her secretary. This loneliness has eaten away at her until her fraying threads snap in a confrontation with Grace, where she demands Grace starts voicing the ‘Something Unspoken’ between them.

Grace dances around Cornelia’s demands, filling silences with music from the victrola gramophone, or is saved by the ringing of the telephone that updates Cornelia with proceedings from the Confederate Daughters.

Sarah Lawrie plays Grace with shaking nervousness and a touch of ethereal distance, perhaps a continuation of her ghostly role in Artefact. However, she looks too young to have been encased for fifteen years with Cornelia Scott after a first marriage. Amanda Waggott manages to convey the chinks emerging in Cornelia’s boldness and ferocity well. Accents sometimes are less American South and more South Yorkshire, but this is rarely a distraction.

The set on the main platform perfectly encapsulates the old world faded glamour, with metallic roses suspended above the chintzy breakfast table. Stacks of records and the gramophone surround the stage, providing unsteady columns and barriers to navigate.

The two pieces work well as a double bill. There are several echoes outside of the underlying destabilisation of forbidden love, with the 4th of July a prominent motif. Together they are a delicious meditation on mid-century hidden desire; a heady evening to share with your more-than-friends.


ARTEFACT and SOMETHING UNSPOKEN at The Playground Theatre

Reviewed on 15th September 2023

by Rosie Thomas

Photography by Jonathan Pang



Previously reviewed at this venue:

Picasso | ★★★ | January 2023
Rehab the Musical | ★★★★★ | September 2022



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The Beauty Queen Of Leenane


The Tower Theatre

Beauty Queen Of Leenane

The Beauty Queen Of Leenane

The Tower Theatre

Reviewed – 7th November 2019



“Waggott’s ability to balance frailty and seeming harmlessness with taloned cruelty is quite spectacular”


Martin McDonagh has made quite a name for himself in the past few years as a connoisseur of pitch-black humour and crooked characters. Whilst he’s become a household name for major screenplays such as In Bruges and Oscar-winning Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, his ability to make an entire audience laugh at the most heinous crimes, and then to gasp at their own inhumanity, is showcased most spectacularly in the theatre.

Having climbed to such great heights as casting Jim Broadbent in the starring role of his most recent West End production, A Very Very Very Dark Matter, it’s quite a treat to go back to McDonagh’s first play and see where he began, and indeed where his twisted sense of humour and humanity first came to fruition.

At forty years old, Maureen (Julia Flatley) still lives with her seemingly ailing mother, Mag (Amanda Waggott), in Leenane, a small Irish village. Embittered by the cards she’s been dealt, Maureen spends her days snapping at her mother and telling her of her fantasies of finding her corpse on the kitchen table. Mag seems little concerned by her daughter’s misery and isolation, and appears to want her to stay forever, regardless.

But at a party at the neighbours’, Maureen reconnects with an old crush, the neighbours’ son Pato (Nick Cannon), and she dares to wonder that there might be a way out of her miserable and lonely existence after all. That is if her mother doesn’t have anything to say on the matter.

The set (Philip Ley) is detailed but traditional, allowing the psychological gymnastics of the script, rather than an overly complex design, to do the talking. The entire story takes place in Maureen and Mag’s kitchen-living room, the room in which they spend the majority of their days, and you can feel the sense of crushing claustrophobia by which Maureen is tormented, and which Mag depends upon, like a crusty old corset.

Waggott’s ability to balance frailty and seeming harmlessness with taloned cruelty is quite spectacular, and Flatley is an equally armed adversary. There’s a natural desire to find the villain in this story, but both are so twisted and yet so tormented, it’s impossible to pick a side.

In stark contrast, Cannon’s open-faced, sweet nature seems completely foreign in this household. Bringing a little levity to the plot, he’s a pleasant reminder that this room isn’t the whole world, and that not everyone is full of rancor and vitriol.

Simon Brooke, playing Pato’s petulant younger brother, is plenty energetic, but he could do with toning it down a tiny bit, just so that when he’s really losing his patience, or being especially sulky, we can tell.

For the first half, I don’t know that I saw much of what I have come to recognise as McDonagh hallmarks, but as the story unravels, so too does the web of miseries and mishaps, and, most disquietingly, somehow we’re laughing at it all. The Beauty Queen of Leenane, as directed by Colette Dockery, is perhaps more subtle than his most recent works, but it is just as disturbingly sadistic, and perniciously potent.


Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Robert Piwko


The Beauty Queen Of Leenane

The Tower Theatre until 16th November


Previously reviewed at this venue:
To Kill a Mockingbird | ★★★½ | October 2018
Table | ★★★★ | November 2018
The Seagull | ★★★ | November 2018
Talk Radio | ★★★½ | March 2019
Happy Days | ★★★★★ | April 2019
Little Light | ★★★ | June 2019


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