Tag Archives: Drayton Arms Theatre

The Bald Prima Donna
★★★½

Drayton Arms Theatre

The Bald Prima Donna

The Bald Prima Donna

Drayton Arms Theatre

Reviewed – 5th June 2019

★★★½

 

“Julie Drake’s direction establishes the mastery of Ionesco’s script while risking a contemporary slant”

 

It wasn’t until he decided to teach himself English in his late thirties that Eugene Ionesco was inspired to write his first play, ‘The Bald Prima Donna’, which premiered in 1950. Diligently copying the simple, conversational phrases of his Assimil course, these sentences began to lose their educational purpose and take on a life of their own, expanding and distorting to give an underlying surrealism to an outwardly controlled and orderly way of life. Considered as one of the core representatives of the ‘Theatre of the Absurd’, his linguistic fascination leads to an observation of everyday situations and behaviour with innocence and often, puzzlement. The directness of his fast-moving, humorous dialogues appeals to audiences because of their familiarity as he moves them out of context, creating nonsensical mirror-worlds.

‘The Bald Prima Donna’ is cleverly structured as a gradual awareness of our use of words, clichés and maxims, the action accelerating from tranquil niceties to raging gobbledegook. In 5Go Theatre Company’s revival of this ‘anti-play’, Julie Drake’s direction establishes the mastery of Ionesco’s script while risking a contemporary slant and original artistic touches. The multi-racial casting and passages in Spanish and Polish are a thoughtful update on today’s stereotypical society but the initial narrated stage directions, however amusing, perhaps undermine the ability to put across the ‘Englishness’ through the acting.

A typical, middle-class scene is set in Mr and Mrs Smith’s living room – he is fixedly reading the newspaper and she is quietly darning socks. The peace is broken and the tone of the unexpected is set when the clock strikes seventeen and Mrs Smith comments “Goodness! It’s nine o’clock!”. They discuss domestic banalities; they are visited by their friends, the Martins, who discover, after a while, that they themselves just married; the Smith’s maid, Mary, appears to confuse things; finally, the Fire Chief arrives to put out a non-existent fire. On the whole, the actors create well-defined characters, though the opening scene lacks a quirkiness.

Sunil Patel portrays an unflinching Mr Smith, with a worrying glint in his eye but Kate Ruscombe-King, as his wife, sometimes rushes through her lines, leaving Mrs Smith as a less rounded role and not giving the audience time to absorb Ionesco’s writing. There is a change of gear as Mr and Mrs Martin enter in full eccentricity. Hugo Linton does well, clinging on to his sanity while Penelope Bosworth gives a wonderful interpretation as her immaculate self-control eventually gives way. Leena Makoff (Mary) balances the clever yet peculiar maid beautifully and Fabio Torrico conjures up a particularly vibrant Fire Chief.

Although the pacing and colour of the performances take time to get under the skin of Ionesco’s work, it is nice to see an interesting, committed and entertaining production of this ambitious ‘tragedy of language’ and reflect on the idiosyncrasy of Englishness at a time when its identity is being put to the test.

 

Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

Photography by  Olga Torrico

 

Drayton Arms Theatre

The Bald Prima Donna

Drayton Arms Theatre until 8th June

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Baby | ★★ | October 2018
Jake | ★★★ | October 2018
Love, Genius and a Walk | | October 2018
Boujie | ★★★½ | November 2018
Out of Step | ★★ | January 2019
Th’Importance Of Bein’ Earnest | ★★★ | February 2019
The Problem With Fletcher Mott | ★★★ | February 2019
Queer Trilogy | ★★★ | March 2019
Staying Faithful | ★★ | March 2019
Stream | ★★★ | April 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

Stream
★★★

Drayton Arms Theatre

Stream

Stream:

Salmon

★★★

Mom Bob

★★★

 

Drayton Arms Theatre

Reviewed – 9th April 2019

 

“These are insightful accounts into current struggles in our society”

 

Described as ‘…a show that explores the ebb and flow at the very core of being human’, ‘Stream: Two New Plays’ is a promising example of a double bill, complementing through genre and mood rather than tenuously linked by its topic. The fresh writing and innovative theatrical ideas make for two interesting works from a new group of creatives and actors in collaboration with Eve and Sea Productions and Stumble Theatre Company.

In ‘Salmon’, written and directed by Constance Eldon McCaig and Eva Lily, we watch Angus spiral to breaking point after the death of his dog, opening our eyes to the lack of purpose felt by so many young people, their inability to admit or express this sense of futility and the abuse of drugs to escape the emptiness. Devoid of prospects in a small town in Scotland, Angus fixates on the salmon’s innate objective in life. The script is well-crafted, combining poetic fragments and shared lines with the main narrative. Josh Smith, as Angus, gives a committed and moving performance as he moves from reality to delirium. Sometimes lacking confidence in the physical theatre of the play’s more surreal scenes and a slickness in the interlinking dialogue, the rest of the cast play his parents, girlfriend and social support who attempt to understand and offer help. The sound and lighting coordinate effectively to create the changes in Angus’s state of mind, and the poetry and relevant music enhance the atmosphere, but the constant soundscape detracts from the strength of the characters on stage, occasionally to the point of rendering them inaudible.

In contrast to the ‘son et lumière’ of the first play, ‘Mom Bob’ is a gentle reflection on the discovery of deep maternal feelings embedded in women, against the odds. Writer, Jane Hancock, plays Claire, recently reconnected with the daughter she gave up for adoption as a teenager. As she sits by a duck pond in Central Park, we learn the story behind her early pregnancy, her decision to give up her daughter and her liberation from domestic abuse. The writing is sensitive and we become engaged with Claire’s journey through life and struggle to come to terms with strong attachments for a child she didn’t raise. Alex Woolley’s direction makes good use of movement to break up the monologue but could vary the pace to internalise Claire’s train of thought and build up a deeper picture. The performance comes across as a linear interpretation of a text rather than from a character with the complexity and underlying fragility of someone marked by their ordeal.

These are insightful accounts into current struggles in our society and on a personal level and the messages are artfully and originally conveyed. Each could take a leaf out of the other’s book – the simplicity of the set in ‘Mom Bob’ and the visceral risk-taking of ‘Salmon’ – to intensify the drama through the acting, yet it is encouraging to see such carefully structured and thoughtfully produced theatre by talented newcomers.

 

Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

 


Stream

Drayton Arms Theatre until 13th April

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
The Beautiful Game | ★★★ | August 2018
Baby | ★★ | October 2018
Jake | ★★★ | October 2018
Love, Genius and a Walk | | October 2018
Boujie | ★★★½ | November 2018
Out of Step | ★★ | January 2019
Th’Importance Of Bein’ Earnest | ★★★ | February 2019
The Problem With Fletcher Mott | ★★★ | February 2019
Queer Trilogy | ★★★ | March 2019
Staying Faithful | ★★ | March 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com