Tag Archives: Aoife Smyth


Cockpit Theatre



Cockpit Theatre

Reviewed – 26th June 2019



“While the show has a scattering of very funny lines, it’s mostly incomprehensible”


Perhaps you’ve heard the ancient Greek story about a nation’s women who, fed up with an interminable war, banded together to refuse men sex until they agreed to call off the fighting. This is the plot of Lysistrata by Aristophanes, first performed in Athens in 411 BC. The Delta Collective have revamped the play for the modern era, setting the story in a non-binary world.

Unfortunately, if you haven’t read the original play, this one won’t make much sense. Alice Carlill, Alex Kristoffy, Robin Kristoffy and Luke MacLeod’s adaptation takes almost no care to clarify who the characters are, where they are, and what they’re doing at any given moment. Each scene presents a new challenge to discern what they’re talking about. The specifics of their protest are opaque. The series of events verges on nonsensical: there’s a gathering of representatives – we have no idea who they are, or what they represent. In one scene, the women are hard at work hauling bags – we’re given no clue why. In another, a letter arrives prompting everyone to fall screaming to the floor – it’s never explained. The whole thing feels random and messy. It’s very hard to follow.

The characters make long, passionate speeches that are practically unintelligible. Generic language about “not submitting” and “rights” and “the workers” form highly vague arguments that don’t seem to be attached to any particular subjects. Flashes of clever, surprisingly funny lines prove the writing is strongest when it breaks out of adaptation mode. Ikky Elyas (Philurgus and Drakes), and Louis Rembges (The Secretary) stand out in regard to the comedy.

Lack of clarity in the writing combined with uneven performances makes the characters seem erratic: suddenly they’re shouting, suddenly they’re sobbing. It’s impossible to feel connected to the emotions when they appear to fly out of nowhere. Aoife Smyth, who plays Lysistrata, comes across more stroppy teen than fierce leader. But immaturity is a broader issue. Most of what should be impassioned debate is reduced to senseless juvenile screaming. It’s a young cast, and director Olivia Stone may have intentionally chosen to emphasise the characters’ adolescent behaviour. However, while teenage-leaning performances bring out the sophomoric nature of Aristophanes’ sex-based comedy, they’re shallower and less convincing as adults with spouses and children.

Lysistrata, a comedy about a sex strike, is not something to meet with seriousness. The Delta Collective are absolutely right to play and experiment with reshaping this text for 2019, interrogating its gender and sexuality power dynamics. It’s a shame the story seems to have been lost in translation. While the show has a scattering of very funny lines, it’s mostly incomprehensible.


Reviewed by Addison Waite



Cockpit Theatre until 29th June


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
On Mother’s Day | ★★★½ | August 2018
Zeus on the Loose | ★★ | August 2018
The Distance You Have Come | ★★★★ | October 2018
Don’t You Dare! | ★★★ | November 2018
Unbelonger | ★★★½ | November 2018
L’Incoronazione Di Poppea | ★★★★ | January 2019
Mob Wife: A Mafia Comedy | ★★★ | January 2019
Cheating Death | ★★ | February 2019
Bed Peace: The Battle Of Yohn & Joko | ★★★ | April 2019
Much Ado About Not(h)Ing | ★★★ | June 2019


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Eigengrau – 1 Star



Greenwich Theatre

Reviewed – 1st August 2018

“time has not been kind to Penelope Skinner’s slight four-hander”


Four young people in two flat shares in London: Cassie, a committed feminist activist, shares with Rose, a sweet hippy-dippy type; Mark, doing well in the marketing world, shares with his old University buddy Tim, who’s a bit of a waster. At the play’s opening, Mark wakes up in the girls’ flat after a night with Rose, and encounters Cassie, who is almost immediately triggered into launching into an angry feminist tirade at him, which, who would have guessed it, gets Mark going something rotten, and, he eventually manages to seduce her, using exactly the same tactics he used on the unfortunate Rose. What a snake, hey? At the play’s close, Mark ends up alone, Cassie experiencing her womanhood in an entirely new way, and Rose pretty much entirely dependent on the hapless Tim, who has finally managed to let go, both literally and figuratively, of his dead Grandma.

If this sounds pedestrian and predictable, it’s because it is. Time has not been kind to Penelope Skinner’s slight four-hander, and its handling of gender politics seems unbelievably clumsy and cliché-ridden in 2018. A lot has happened in eight years. That being said, a prickly feminist who likes to be dominated in bed was satirical stock-in-trade in the 70s – which makes the decision to revive this piece now all the more difficult to understand.

Although the writing is decidedly creaky, the dialogue is nonetheless sprinkled with whippy one-liners, and there are a couple of big theatrical moments to play with. Sadly, neither the acting nor the direction in this production was good enough to take advantage of these strengths. The direction was as pedestrian as the plot, and as a result the piece lacked both colour and drive. Why, oh why, were both the big moments visually masked? One by a strobe; the other by a barely lit stage? Penelope Skinner wrote the fellatio scene in to her play for a reason. It is the audience who should be squirming here; not the director.

Joseph McCarthy managed to lift Mark off the page, but the other characters remained resolutely one note and failed to breathe beyond the boundaries of their stereotype. Seldom has there been such unconvincing smoking on stage, or a more laughable slap in the face. And there was certainly nothing erotic about the central seduction scene. In addition, the intrusive and badly-managed sound design only underlined the production’s overall lack of atmosphere.

Eigengrau is ‘the uniform dark grey background that many people report seeing in the absence of light’. It is a strange title for a piece of theatre, but, in this particular case, peculiarly apt.


Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw

Photography by Victorine Pontillon



Greenwich Theatre until 11th August



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