Tag Archives: Douggie McMeekin

Dirty Crusty

Dirty Crusty

★★★★

The Yard Theatre

Dirty Crusty

Dirty Crusty

The Yard Theatre

Reviewed – 28th October 2019

★★★★

 

“as completely random and unexpected as it is, it makes me inexplicably happy”

 

I feel slightly ill-equipped to properly appraise a show that employs so many different contrivances. Dirty Crusty, written by Clare Barron, begins with a plain white origami doll’s house lit from within, accompanied by a voice-over conversation between house mates. Jeanine (Akiya Henry) then appears on the upper stage followed by Victor (Douggie McMeekin) both of whom are holding giant CBBC style microphones. They deliver their conversation half facing the audience, a giant glowing moon projected behind them, and then suddenly they break in to song. They then clamber down to the main set, cast off their microphones and resume a sort of normal narrative.

I say ‘sort of’ because Jay Miller’s direction goes on to use (amongst other things) dance, voice-over narration, another musical number, and strange employment of time. Scenes in entirely different venues, often on different days, overlap: Jeanine and Victor are entangled in bed as Synda (Abiona Omonua) starts her dance class with Jeanine, and vice versa, as Victor initiates conversations about sex fantasies with Jeanine in his flat, whilst Jeanine and Synda are still dancing together in Synda’s rehearsal space.

But whilst the production itself attempts to animate the audience’s disbelief in a myriad of ways, the dialogue and its delivery are painstakingly true to life. Jeanine is thirty-one, and she’s at a difficult juncture. Feeling she hasn’t achieved enough for her age, she looks for ways to improve herself and expand her experiences. She tries to be sexually bolder with her (sort of) boyfriend Victor, and she decides to take up ballet lessons with dance teacher Synda. Her relationships with both are complicated. Sometimes they feed her enthusiasm and sometimes they crush it. Many of the conversations are so close to the real thing that it seems near impossible that they should be scripted. McMeekin’s delivery in particular – every hesitation, every stress – paints such a whole character, full of flaws and good intentions. This seems to be Barron’s particular expertise, having created similarly dimensional characters in her previous work, Dance Nation.

The stage (as designed by Emma Bailey) is built like a wide-set puppet show box, with heavy curtains concealing different sets: One is Victor’s flat, with meticulous Muji furniture; another, Synda’s sparse room, with not much more than a yoga mat for decoration. And a third, hidden for most of the story, is Jeanine’s clothes-covered mess of a hoarder’s room. The ever opening and closing curtains, along with all the other quirky production devices, provide a dream-like quality to the story, somehow magnifying the dialogue’s nuance and conviction.

But just when you think the plot has settled into a more conventional rhythm, (slight spoiler coming up, my apologies) the show ends with a children’s ballet recital- like, actual children ballet dancing. But as completely random and unexpected as it is, it makes me inexplicably happy. And that summary might be applied to the entire play: Completely random, but it makes me inexplicably happy.

 

Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Maurizio Martorana

 


Dirty Crusty

The Yard Theatre until 20th November

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
48 Hours: | ★★ | January 2019
Call it a Day | ★★★ | January 2019
Hotter Than A Pan | ★★★★ | January 2019
Plastic Soul | ★★★★ | January 2019
A Sea Of Troubles | ★★★★★ | February 2019
Cuteness Forensics | ★★½ | February 2019
Sex Sex Men Men | ★★★★★ | February 2019
To Move In Time | ★★½ | February 2019
Ways To Submit | ★★★★ | February 2019
Armadillo | ★★★★ | 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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