Tag Archives: Chuma Emembolu

Blue Tights, Red Knickers and an ‘S’ on her Vest


Lion and Unicorn Theatre

Blue Tights

Blue Tights, Red Knickers and an ‘S’ on her Vest

Lion and Unicorn Theatre

Reviewed – 14th August 2019



“the tone is charmingly undramatic, somewhere between a ‘my rubbish life’ comic monologue and self-deprecating lifestyle piece in a colour supplement”


Microaggressions at work, the indignities of commuting, the strain on relationships caused by overwork… these experiences speak to millions. In this production, they speak directly to Jenna, alone on stage while others in her life are represented by disembodied voices. It’s an elegant way to portray social anxiety as a world inside the head that alienates even those who try to help. The homemade superwoman costume Jenna wears signals her as the people pleaser, taking on piles of paperwork from idle colleagues while working late to fulfil her own stressful function as a legal representative.

This everyday story is low key and familiar, something of an attractive change for a Camden Fringe show. A victim of mildly disappointing annual reviews and far from horrific workplace bullying incidents, Jenna bemoans the lack of pastoral care from the firm but also dreads the camping break they organise as a bonding exercise. She resents the loss of support from best friend David as he moves away but is wary nevertheless when he tries to stay in touch, and although she groans at her mother’s calls, it’s her mother who worries enough to pay for her endless therapy sessions.

It’s an interesting conundrum, figuring out how to respond sympathetically to someone so relatively fortunate without falling into the same trap as her work colleagues. It’s easy for the insensitive or inexperienced to dismiss depression and anxiety disorders with ‘get a grip’ and ‘cheer up’, yet it’s not clear from Jenna’s description that she is suffering from either of these serious mental health problems, as opposed to the stress of working in an unhealthy culture.

Thematic Theatre is co-founded by the play’s writer and main performer, Laura Shoebottom, along with Liam Ashmead, who both directs the piece and voices the role of David. Created expressly to stage productions with important themes, they tackle here the subject of mental health, but in their own misdiagnosis of anxiety as something that can be cured by changing jobs or being more assertive – in other words, by getting a grip – they threaten to undermine their message and mission should anyone examine them too closely.

However, the tone is charmingly undramatic, somewhere between a ‘my rubbish life’ comic monologue and self-deprecating lifestyle piece in a colour supplement. Laura Shoebottom writes and plays the central character with a drily knowing quality, while her self-confident presence is given excellent technical support from Chuma Emembolu, Daniel Foggo and Phil Matejtschuk in the sound design and lighting departments. For a city-living audience the time passes pleasantly, affirming that their bad work experiences are common and that if you do occasionally feel isolated, you’re not alone.


Reviewed by Dominic Gettins

Photography courtesy Thematic Theatre


Camden Fringe

Blue Tights, Red Knickers and an ‘S’ on her Vest

Lion and Unicorn Theatre until 16th August as part of Camden Fringe 2019


Previously reviewed at this venue:
In the Wake of | ★★★ | August 2018
The German Girls | ★★★ | August 2018
The Cut | ★★ | November 2018
BackPAGE | ★★½ | February 2019
Like You Hate Me | ★★★ | April 2019
Mama G’s Story Time Roadshow | ★★★★★ | May 2019
River In The Sky | ★★½ | May 2019
Euan | ★★★★ | July 2019
The Death Of Ivan Ilyich | ★★ | August 2019

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Dare to Do (The Bear Maxim) -2.5 Stars


Dare to Do (The Bear Maxim)

The Space

Reviewed – 30th May 2018


“Unfortunately the production falls short of its potential”


They call him ‘The Bear’. In the world of finance he is unafraid to take risks, a giant on the 65th floor where the higher the elevator takes you is a clear indicator of status, “the black boy from Tottenham who took on the city”, Bear says of himself. But when he is let go by the firm because “my face doesn’t fit” his life spirals desperately back down, and soon he is transferring the rules of the finance world to the streets of London. An acute commentary on racism within the world of finance, as well as a scathing observation of a world and a people obsessed by money, this should’ve been a topical and moving story. Unfortunately the production falls short of its potential.

Mark Norfolk’s writing moves between conversation-based realism and spoken word, but the poetry is not brought out in the characters’ delivery. The rhythm and pace required of this style of writing is lacking, and moments of humour in the script are often lost in performance. Moments of uncertainty jar the performance – hesitations as lines are nearly forgotten that affect the production’s flow for example, but this is likely to be ironed out as the run continues.

The set (Alfie Heywood) is basic but functioning, but the lighting (Chuma Emembolu) is bizarrely literal at points and a more subtle design would’ve better complimented the space. The projections on the back wall could have been used more as they work really well, but needed to be more regularly integrated into the production as a whole to create a more coherent piece. At the same time, the projections are sometimes at odds with what the actors are saying and details such as unrealistic typing mean a certain slickness is lacking from the production.

To its credit, this production is an exemplar of gender blind casting. Bear is played by Jaye Ella-Ruth who is consistently convincing, portraying cut-throat trader alongside adoring husband and father, propelled forwards by an impressive tenacity and self-belief. Greater investigation into the emotional depth of the Bear’s character would aid this portrayal. I think this comes back to a question of pace. Where the spoken word moments require a greater rhythm and drive forwards, Bear’s emotional moments require more space around them, a moment to breathe. Bear carries the play, joined by actors rotating parts – a predominantly competent and supportive cast.

This is a script filled with potential and a production that is trying to do some really interesting, but it falls unfortunately short of where it is aiming to reach.


Reviewed by Amelia Brown


Dare to Do (The Bear Maxim)

The Space until June 9th


Previously reviewed at this venue
One Festival 2018 | ★★★ | January 2018
The Sleeper | ★★★ | April 2018
Citizen | ★★★★ | April 2018


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