Tag Archives: Anthony Neilson

The Censor

Hope Theatre

The Censor

The Censor

Hope Theatre

Reviewed – 27th June 2019



“As much as round RoundPeg tries to revitalise this unsettling play, it feels heavy handed and melodramatic”


Art or porn? That is the question. Anthony Neilson’s controversial play The Censor, makes a London comeback to explore all things taboo. Female-driven RoundPeg Theatre, responsible for its return, try taking a feminist stance on the work’s gender power play. Yet it’s difficult to tell if the fault lies with the writing, the performances or direction in not fully achieving the desired affect, making this production quite unbearable at times to watch (and that’s not the extremely close-up explicit content).

A female film director finds herself in the office of a censor, a man whose decision determines whether her work will be given the green light for release. Due to the film’s highly pornographic nature, the censor point blank writes it off as a no go, but can Miss Fontaine convince him to see beyond the images and at its artistic dissection of humanity instead? As she tries to educate him past the black and white and into the grey areas, more unravels about the censor’s personal life and the repressed feelings he’s held back.

The two female roles, Miss Fontaine and the censor’s wife, in particular, feel very one dimensional. As mentioned previously, it’s difficult to tell whether it’s the writing or the performances that don’t quite work. I feel it’s a little of both. Chandrika Chevli as The Wife is far too underused and whose brief moments on stage with Jonathan McGarrity seem fruitless. It would be more interesting to see their relationship developed further. Suzy Whitefield’s turn as the allusive Miss Fontaine can often come across forced whilst McGarrity as the censor lacks a sense of authority to initially clash and then be overruled by Miss Fontaine’s dominance.

The twenty-two year old play does feel aged in certain ways. Due to the growth of explicit images surrounding us and being easily accessible, the ‘scenes of a sexual nature’ in The Censor seem to have lost their potency. Undeniably there is still a certain frisson in having such acts simulated live, particularly the infamous defecation scene, but overall our desensitisation to the like, has made it far less shocking than back in 1997 when first staged.

The projection screens to the corners of the space, showing the erotic, semi-graphic scenes from ‘the film’ could have been used with far more powerful intention. It does help to set the dark, ambiguous atmosphere but ends up feeling monotonous and ineffectual as generally the same brief clip repeats for denoting transitions or sexual acts on stage.

As much as round RoundPeg tries to revitalise this unsettling play, it feels heavy handed and melodramatic. Although there are certainly problems with the writing itself, such as questionable character actions or improbable situations that occur, the more interesting questions that Neilson does raise feels undeveloped and not presented clearly enough by the company.


Reviewed by Phoebe Cole

Photography by Lidia Crisafulli


The Censor

Hope Theatre until 13th July


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Gilded Butterflies | ★★ | November 2018
Head-rot Holiday | ★★★★ | November 2018
Alternativity | ★★★★ | December 2018
In Conversation With Graham Norton | ★★★ | January 2019
The Ruffian On The Stair | ★★★★ | January 2019
Getting Over Everest | ★★★ | April 2019
Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story | ★★★★★ | April 2019
Uncle Vanya | ★★★★ | April 2019
True Colours | ★★★★ | May 2019
Cuttings | ★★★½ | June 2019


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The Night Before Christmas

Southwark Playhouse

The Night Before Christmas

The Night Before Christmas

Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 30th November 2018


“This not-at-all-family-friendly Christmas tale is wickedly clever, and doesn’t fail to draw laughs”


It’s Christmas Eve, and Simon (Michael Salami) is less than thrilled to be called out of bed in the middle of the night. His friend, Gary (Douggie McMeekin), has caught an Elf (Dan Starkey) breaking into his warehouse. Or at least a man dressed like an elf. Elf claims he fell from Santa’s sleigh. Gullible Gary is inclined to believe him. Cynical Simon tells Gary to call the police. Elf begs to be let go, plying them with detailed information about Santa, including the Powdered Christmas Feeling (PCF) he gives to children (great high, no side effects).

Gary and Simon are still deliberating what to do when sex-worker Cherry (Unique Spencer) arrives, demanding the Power Rangers for her son Gary promised her in exchange for sex. Elf says he needs to get back to Santa’s sleigh, but when Cherry checks his arms, she finds track marks. Obviously a junkie. Elf protests, it’s just PFC! He’ll grant each of them one wish if they’ll just let him go…

This not-at-all-family-friendly Christmas tale is wickedly clever, and doesn’t fail to draw laughs. It’s also touching – surprisingly Christmas-spirited – as even the most jaded adults manage to rediscover the Christmas feeling.

Director Alex Sutton’s revival of Anthony Neilson’s play, which premiered in London in 1995, is as sweary and gritty (real cigarettes smoked on stage) as its “in-yer-face” author intended. Unfortunately though, the story has just got started when it’s dragged to a near-standstill by overly-lengthy expositional dialogue. Gary and Simon spend too long questioning Elf and not believing him. Their extended Q&A interrogates the rules of Santa’s operation to an unnecessary extent, and while Elf’s explanation is unique, it’s pure exposition. The performance feels stalled with Simon constantly threatening to call the police, and neither of them making a decision. When Cherry finally arrives on the scene, it’s like being yanked out of the mud. The pace falters again later with the characters’ circular debate over which wishes to choose. When a play has a 65-minute runtime, it’s not good for scenes to feel long.

McMeekin, Salami, and Spencer give high-energy, confident performances with skilled comedic timing. Starkey’s decision to play the elf straightforward – distressed and desperate – forgoes some of the potential comedy in the role. Designer Michael Leopold has made effective use of a sparse set, and delights the audience with some well-timed ‘Christmas magic.’

Considering Soho Theatre’s 2013 revival of The Night Before Christmas was a musical, there’s a question of whether this 2018 revival has anything to add to the original. The script provides an excellent premise, but it feels as though Sutton has missed an opportunity to address its flaws, and contribute a fresh perspective.

The Night Before Christmas is fun, silly, ‘alternative’ Christmas theatre, but this revival doesn’t lift the play above the original’s pitfalls.


Reviewed by Addison Waite

Photography by Darren Bell


The Night Before Christmas

Southwark Playhouse until 29th December


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Old Fools | ★★★★★ | March 2018
The Country Wife | ★★★ | April 2018
Confidence | ★★ | May 2018
The Rink | ★★★★ | May 2018
Why is the Sky Blue? | ★★★★★ | May 2018
Wasted | ★★★ | September 2018
The Sweet Science of Bruising | ★★★★ | October 2018
The Trench | ★★★ | October 2018
The Funeral Director | ★★★★★ | November 2018
Seussical The Musical | ★★★★ | November 2018

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