“All the cast get their good share of laughs in a play packed with very funny dialogue and well-timed comic moments”
Pedantic pain-in-the-arse Lucy (Katherine Thomas – who also wrote the show) is ready to settle for a night in. Room-mate Gus (Calum Robshaw) has got other plans. He’s dating Rachael (Natasha Grace Hutt), and the pair aim to invite ‘man bun’ Caps (Jack Forsyth Noble) over to make the evening a double date and try to set Lucy up. Thomas’ writing debut is cynicism turned up to eleven but delivers its sour grapes with hilarious results.
There’s an interesting quirk Thomas has given to her character Lucy: a love for the television show Gogglebox. Sneering at people’s reactions and life choices is exactly what she spends the whole play doing. Even though she makes you laugh, Lucy is truly detestable. Thomas plays her like a completely joyless version of Chandler from Friends, barely cracking an honest smile throughout. It could have been the plays failing – after all, what’s the point of a comedy straight-man you can’t stand? But her heady levels of sarcasm are tethered by a strong and evenly matched supporting cast.
Thomas is the kind of writer actors wish for. All the cast get their good share of laughs in a play packed with very funny dialogue and well-timed comic moments. The pick of the crop being a game of charades that had us all belly laughing throughout. More confidence could have been placed on the actors and their delivery though, as there was a slight tendency to go a line too long on some jokes and spell out the gag.
Unfortunately, the design elements were noticeably bland and did nothing to make the large space of the Stockwell Playhouse feel domestic. A clothes horse, desk lamp and sofa appear to have been thrown on stage indiscriminately and said nothing of a shared living situation. More attention here would have made the threats of eviction in the play feel worth it.
Katherine Thomas shows a clever knack of finding unimportant social norms, unravelling them to nonsensical degrees and using it to frame her comedy and drama. The trick is not pushing it too far. I look forward to what she does next.
As part of the ‘Working Class Stories’ season, the Tristan Bates Theatre opens its doors to the Loosely Based Theatre Company with ‘Classified’ which, in response to the growing inequality between classes, envisions possible eventualities in a gratifyingly old-school production. Writer, Jayne Woodhouse, creates three imaginative and perceptive worlds, with a strong feminine slant, to discuss causes and effects of this division and to reflect on how we are becoming trapped within our own lives through the control of data. Each play has its own style but they are connected by a portrayal of different human reactions to injustice and impotence.
In ‘Choices’, set in the present day, the offer of a better life for her new-born baby leaves Leanne disillusioned about the inevitable prospects facing her son, as an unnervingly persuasive ‘Interviewer’ reveals the effects that the negative algorithms of her lifestyle already have on her child. Anna Hallas Smith plays the young mother, swaying sensitively between tough exterior and internal vulnerability while David Lenik is an appealingly comic tormentor.
‘Classified’ takes us to 2080, when society has succumbed to an enforced class structure. Reminiscent of the ‘angry young men’ dramas of the 50s, a couple discover that their mismatched resistance to authority has unanticipated results. Kate O’Rourke and Aaron Kehoe show a very real and heart-felt dilemma, enhanced by the mindful character writing and unpretentious acting.
Moving ten years on, ‘The Watchers’ depicts two generations, mother and daughter, their grasp of the tighter restrictive barriers and their coping strategies. In stirring performances by both, Kate O’Rourke as the mother is shattered by her passive resistance to the system and resigned to her ensuing downgrading but her daughter, played by Anna Hallas Smith, knows nothing else. She feels protected against the ‘dangerous’ lower classes by the fierce authoritative constraints and reacts disturbingly to the taunting she suffers when she and her mother are forced to move to the other side of ‘the wall’.
Calum Robshaw’s direction is direct and unaffected, providing a welcome simplicity, though the initial set-up as the audience enters is becoming something of a cliché; in retrospect, it detracts from the straightforward nature of the concept. Jayne Woodhouse builds interest and tension in scenes with skill and observation and most of the time the dialogue is in keeping with the roles, occasionally becoming somewhat strident. As a personal note, it would be interesting to interchange the order of ‘Choices’ and ‘Classified’ to reshape the dynamics and make the audience’s participation more poignant. A refreshingly uncluttered trio of plays, ‘Classified’ encourages a consideration of our prevailing social climate with sincerity and charm.