Tag Archives: EM Williams

The Prince

The Prince

★★★

Southwark Playhouse

THE PRINCE at the Southwark Playhouse

★★★

 

The Prince

“Over the course of the play, no antagonist is revealed, and little conflict truly arises, resulting in a flat conclusion”

 

Performance itself lies at the heart of The Prince, Abigail Thorn’s playwriting debut at Southwark Playhouse’s Large Theatre. Characters find themselves stuck inside a multiverse of Shakespearean dramas (Though the action is mostly confined to Henry IV Part I) and at odds with the rigidity of their roles. Sam, played by Joni Ayton-Kent, who is cast as a number of nameless bit characters, is desperately searching for a way out. Mary Malone plays Jen, who finds herself in a similar situation and decides to tag along with Sam. Jen, however, finds tensions within the ways in which the primary characters perform their gender, and begins to poke holes in their constructed identities. In particular, Jen reads Thorn’s Hotspur as a trans woman and Corey Montague Sholay’s Prince Hal as a gay man. Over the course of the play, both characters waffle between conformity to their roles and self-actualization, a broader metaphor for the struggles endured and decisions faced when butting up against a rigid gender binary, especially the construct of masculinity. Though The Prince suffers from a lack of narrative coherence, the metaphor is powerful and at times quite personally affecting.

Thorn and Malone, both in principal roles, turn in strong performances. Malone plays Jen’s fish-out-of-water bewilderment with earnest charm and comedic timing. The funniest moments of the play come from the ways in which other characters play off of hers. Thorn, as Hotspur, carries the show. She peels back her character’s internal tension in careful layers and remains nimble and forceful in her handling of both her own verse and Shakespeare’s. The scenes in which she actively decides to continue in the role of the masculine hero at the expense of her own identity carry tremendous weight. It is unfortunate then, that the structural foundation of the play is unable to support these performances.

The Prince seems to eschew both coherent world-building and narrative signposting, both of which are essential when leading an audience through a multiverse. The moments when Jen is able to break the Shakespearean characters out of their performances are nearly indistinguishable for the moments when they remain stuck. In essence, these breaks happen at random, giving Jen little to learn about the mechanics of the world into which she has been dropped. Sam’s desire to escape should be easily aided by a magical map of sorts, represented by a somewhat unconvincing plastic tetrahedron, but the object only appears all-powerful in Jen’s hands, though no context is given to allow the audience to understand this discrepancy. These two characters are also denied specific or rich inner lives, even an inkling of who they might be outside of their current situation. The multiverse device primarily exists in absentia, as most of Sam and Jen’s haphazard narrative hopping occurs within Henry IV Part I. The play’s only detour into Hamlet arrives without much context and serves only as justification to shoehorn in the “To be, or not to be?” soliloquy, though Thorn delivers it well. Over the course of the play, no antagonist is revealed, and little conflict truly arises, resulting in a flat conclusion.

Martha Godfrey’s lighting design feels similarly uneven. The tubes of LED light that hang at odd angles above the playing space are visually compelling and seem to indicate different corners of the Shakespearean multiverse. But their function remains out of sync with the play throughout, illuminating, changing colours, falling and rising without impetus or textual justification. Rebecca Cartwright’s historical costumes, on the other hand, are a strong point of the play’s design—the ways in which they mutate alongside Jen’s poking and prodding is masterful.

Though it contains joyous and raucous moments, as well as symbolic significance, Thorn’s debut remains unnecessarily messy throughout, wanting for narrative drive and formal consistency.

 

Reviewed on 19th September 2022

by JC Kerr

Photography by Mark Senior

 

 

 

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:

The Woods | ★★★ | March 2022
Anyone Can Whistle | ★★★★ | April 2022
I Know I Know I Know | ★★★★ | April 2022
The Lion | ★★★ | May 2022
Evelyn | ★★★ | June 2022
Tasting Notes | ★★ | July 2022
Doctor Faustus | ★★★★★ | September 2022

 

 

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V&V

★★★★

VAULT Festival 2020

V&V

V&V

Studio – The Vaults

Reviewed – 4th March 2020

★★★★

 

“Although not flawless, it is fresh, intense and overall quite brilliant”

 

Through the intricately balanced language of finely crafted letters and no less exquisitely crafted Whatsapp messages, Sprezzatura Productions brings to the VAULT Festival a wonderful new queer play, “V&V”.

One storyline, told purely via the art of epistolography, revolves around the famous affair between Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West – two exquisite women, confined by the social bonds of their times. The other one is a contemporary romance involving Mia and Lottie, two young ladies who strive to communicate via complicated language of messages, emoji and xxx’s.

Heather Wilkins (Virginia Woolf and Lottie) and EM Williams (Vita Sackville-West and Mia) have unparalleled chemistry. As Lottie and Mia, they are easily excitable, spontaneous and extremely relatable in their struggle to read between the lines and understand why the other one only responded with two x’s instead of three. As Virginia and Vita, they are much more solemn and the intent behind their discourse – more evanescent, as not directly explained to the audience. Bottom line is, both couples try to grasp feelings of the partner concealed behind the performativity of their respective writing forms. This balance (written and directed by Misha Pinnington) works out very well, especially given that the audience never actually gets to see them interacting in “real life”.

Two storylines intertwine, with only a slight change in music as an indication. With an extremely simple set – nothing but a chair and a screen (that is used to project Mia and Lottie’s messages), the play relies heavily on the interaction between two actresses. They both manage to make their characters quite different and, even though they spend lion’s share of their stage time on talking to the audience, rather than talking to one another, their relationships are genuinely believable and engaging. The ending of the contemporary storyline could have been perhaps tad more defined for the sake of pacing the story, but it is a minuscule drawback.

It is a brilliant show, very well acted and genuinely moving. Although not flawless, it is fresh, intense and overall quite brilliant.

 

Reviewed by Dominika Fleszar

Photography by Ali Wright

 

VAULT Festival 2020

 

 

Click here to see all our reviews from VAULT Festival 2020