Tag Archives: David Brady

Reading Gaol – 3.5 Stars


Reading Gaol

Theatre N16

Reviewed – 25th July 2018


“the work could do with more contrast and development to illustrate the various parts of the original text and to expound the ideas it inspires”


From their new home in Tottenham Hale, Theatre N16’s collaboration with Styx art space provides a challenging yet creative location for its programmes. Behind a trendy outside bar area, the shows are staged in the bleak warehouse of an old brewery, allowing plenty of scope for invention. Proforca’s director, David Brady, cleverly uses this stark setting to bring out the darkness and pathos in Oscar Wilde’s ballad, ‘Reading Gaol’, written in reaction to his time in prison. Free but disgraced, his last work is not only in protest at the Victorian penal system but also an exploration of the paradoxes of morality as he describes the execution of one and the collective feelings of the other inmates. In this production, an updated version, new writing has been incorporated to expand on the ideas of freedom, oppression and conflict.

Beams of light, smoke and sounds effects combine to create an atmosphere of desolation. A scarlet jacket on a red chair is the only focus of colour. Five actors recite the ballad, pacing like prisoners to its plodding meter. At intervals, each in turn offers a character to illustrate the vulnerability of human nature and its consequences. Breaking up the poem with fresh material is effective considering that the rich, detailed language is hard to assimilate in one sitting, some lines being thrown away due to a lack of clarity and expression. However, at almost two hours running time the work could do with more contrast and development to illustrate the various parts of the original text and to expound the ideas it inspires.

The three central stories make the most impact. ‘Human’ uses imaginative, dramatic lighting effects with handheld lamps and a strong performance by Nic James to take us to the jungles of Africa. Interestingly offbeat in its rhythm, ‘Guardian’ sees Malcolm Jeffries anxiously fighting his isolation and in a soulful tale, ‘Innocent’ tells of a country lad, touchingly played by Miles Parker, in prison for his naivety. But it is the first and last parts which require stronger personality to give the play its overall shape. James Vincent underplays the disturbing quality of the cold-blooded ‘Monster’ and the writing of ‘Hero’ (Nick Cope) fails to convincingly finalise the play with its meandering thoughts.

Even though it could do with a spot of further remodelling, it has the novelty of mixing classical and contemporary narrative and a great sense of live performance from the moment we enter the building. The technical aspects are innovative and slick and the actors work well together and individually, and all in a venue which will be a discovery for most.


Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

Photography courtesy Proforça Theatre Company


Reading Gaol

Theatre N16 until 3rd August


Also by  Proforça Theatre Company
Feel | ★★★★★ | Lion & Unicorn Theatre | March 2018
Feel / More | ★★★★ | Lion & Unicorn Theatre | March 2018


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Feel – 5 Stars



Lion & Unicorn Theatre

Reviewed – 23rd March 2018


“forces its audience to acknowledge the value of time and the sadness of life’s brevity”


James Lewis’ authentic and relatable new play ‘Feel’ makes for an extraordinary evening’s entertainment as it hops between being ingeniously witty and soul-wrenchingly moving. Directed by David Brady and set in the summer of 2016, the scenes cross cut between the bench on the platform of an unspecified train station and the bedroom of an understated flat, as four Londoners struggle with their life-long search for love, laughter and meaning. The set is simplistic but perfectly functional and its lack of bells and whistles is undoubtedly a blessing. This is a very wordy play and its real-world costumes and recognisable images allow the audience to pay close attention to the dialogue of the piece; for it is here that the magic really lies.

The text follows Nick and Karen, who meet on a train platform and whose differences in humour, countenance and spirit draw them closer to each other by the second; and Jamie and Naomi who turn out to be far more similar than either of them would like to let on. The couples fall madly, and sometimes begrudgingly, in love with each other and the performances of all four actors are stunning. Jonathon George’s portrayal of a man on the brink of self-destruction is incredibly moving and Isobel Eadie’s exceptional take on a reckless, grieving young woman makes the character’s on-the-page spite miraculously endearing. Gemma Wray and James Vincent bring an enviable chemistry to Nick and Karen and bring to life the relationship most of us fantasise about. Never predictable, these four actors truly astonish with the depths of their performances as they prove that there is something of Nick, Karen, Jamie and Naomi in each of us.

‘Feel’ serves as a punishing but worthy reminder that everybody you meet is dealing with their own heartache. It forces its audience to acknowledge the value of time and the sadness of life’s brevity; and the exquisite score brings the sometimes repetitive blackout transitions back to life. ‘Feel’ will leave you with a burning need to remind your loved ones that you care, but will also leave you with a will to smile at the boy who’s crying in the seat opposite you on the tube, or to buy a coffee for the girl behind you in the queue in Starbucks. If everyone is dealing with their own issues, ‘Feel’ is the perfect piece of persuasion to just try to be a little bit kinder to the world.


Reviewed by Sydney Austin

Photography by Nick Brittain



Lion & Unicorn Theatre until 31st March



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