Tag Archives: Emma Denly

Out of Sorts

Out of Sorts



Out of Sorts

Out of Sorts


Reviewed – 14th October 2019



“Samal’s smart, insightful script cares deeply about its characters”


Out of Sorts is the winner of Theatre503’s International Playwriting Award 2018. Written by Danusia Samal, it tells the story of Zara, a young woman caught between two cultures. Raised Muslim in London, when Zara got to university she quickly learned to adapt in order to fit in with her overwhelmingly white classmates. Now living with her best friend and flatmate Alice, Zara is the typical millennial: she parties, she drinks, and she wants more from life than marriage to a Muslim man. On the other hand, when she visits her family, she reverts to the good Muslim daughter, wearing her hijab at dinner and saying the prayers. On the surface it may seem that Zara has it all worked out, and it’s simply a matter of code switching. But the truth is that identity is messy, and the stress of being split in two this way, between two worlds, neither of which fully accept her, has its cost.

Directed by Tanuja Amarasuriya, Out of Sorts is a heartfelt story of identity and belonging. Samal’s smart, insightful script cares deeply about its characters, all of whom are layered and complicated. Samal shows impressive skill in her ability to balance lightness in her writing with the heaviness of her subjects. The play, which confronts racism, privilege, mental health, and eating disorders, is also touching, delightful, and laugh out loud funny. And although the script may allow itself a few too many speeches, the show never feels long.

Myriam Acharki (Layla, Zara’s mother), is particularly deft in her grasp of her character’s sadness and pain, but also her quite sly sense of humour. Nayef Rashed (Hussein, Zara’s father), likewise brings much of the comedy to the play. Oznur Cifci nails the part of Zara’s sharp-witted, ‘hood rat’ little sister Fatima. Nalân Burgess (Zara) gives a good portrayal of someone barely holding things together. Emma Denly (Alice) is spot on as Zara’s well-intended but privileged and condescending flatmate. Claudius Peters (Anthony) is earnest and convincing as Alice’s boyfriend, who is unfortunate enough to get caught in the avalanche of the girls’ collapsing relationship.

The show has one set, which is used to portray both Zara and Alice’s upmarket flat, and Zara’s family’s council estate flat. What may seem like not an ideal choice, made to accommodate Theatre503’s small space, works better than you might think. A change in lighting (Ali Hunter) is surprisingly effective in morphing the atmosphere. The characters from Zara’s two worlds often overlap in the room, which suggests that perhaps Zara isn’t doing as well as she thinks at keeping her two identities apart.

Out of Sorts makes a powerful argument for open and truthful communication, no matter how difficult it may be. All of Zara’s secrets that she keeps from her friends and family, and her attempt to handle her problems alone, result in a huge mess, both literally and figuratively. The play is clever in getting us to re-examine our own perspectives, and remember that what we see of someone’s life is never the full story. Samal is loving, perceptive, and precise in her championing of people from two cultures who feel like they don’t belong to either. It’s important now more than ever to centre stories like Zara’s. Don’t miss this hugely enjoyable, eye-opening show.


Reviewed by Addison Waite

Photography by Helen Murray


Out of Sorts

Theatre503 until 2nd November


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Isaac Came Home From the Mountain | ★★★★ | May 2018
Caterpillar | ★★★★ | September 2018
The Art of Gaman | ★★★★ | October 2018
Hypocrisy | ★★★½ | November 2018
Cinderella and the Beanstalk | ★★★★ | December 2018
Cuzco | ★★★ | January 2019
Wolfie | ★★★★★ | March 2019
The Amber Trap | ★★★ | April 2019
J’Ouvert | ★★★★ | June 2019
A Partnership | ★★★ | October 2019


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The Rivals – 5 Stars


The Rivals

Watermill Theatre

Reviewed – 22nd March 2018


“A feast of high-blown cod grandiloquence is delivered with crisp authority”


“Love. Zounds!” Newbury’s delightfully cosy Watermill Theatre has a sparkling hit on its hands in an adaptation of Sheridan’s The Rivals. First performed in 1775, and written in a desperate rush to finance a life lived beyond his means, the play satirises the lives of the well-to-do in the hotbed of intrigue that was Georgian Bath.

The twisting path to true love, with all its deceptions and vanities, is brought to life with real zest by a strong ensemble, directed by Jonathan Humphreys. The piece has been shortened and sharpened by its adaptor Beth Flintoff, complete with a re-written prologue and epilogue. The first compares the hot stories of today with Sheridan’s time, and the second keeps the focus on the women and the way love really does make the world go round.

James Cotterrill’s design features a period-looking thrust stage and a ravishing cascade of high kitsch drapes, in a riot of pink and purple frills and furbelows that neatly parodies the pretensions of the characters on the otherwise empty stage. This is a play of words, not deeds. A feast of high-blown cod grandiloquence is delivered with crisp authority by a talented cast.

Some of the best lines are spoken by the eponymous Mrs Malaprop, played with a wicked sense of fun by Julia St John. Her niece is memorably ‘as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile’. The malapropisms are sometimes new (I don’t think Sheridan knew about the calamari which Mrs Malaprop substitutes for a calamity) and they come so thick and fast you’ve hardly time to work out what she really meant to say before another rib-tickler comes along.

Michael Thomas plays Sir Anthony Absolute with a delightfully pugnacious swagger. Ncuti Gatwa is his son Captain Jack, the focus of a web of love complications that had the audience in stitches. His delivery, animated expression and movement (directed by Simon Pittman) wittily evoked the character of the silver-tongued dandy at the centre of the play.

His love is Lydia Languish (recent RADA graduate Emma Denly). She’s far from being a complete air-headed flibbertigibbet, in an interpretation that like Charlotte Bate’s satisfying portrayal of Julia that was as much about empowering the women as it was about reducing them to mere figures of fun.

As Faulkland, James Mack gave an engaging performance as a daft buffoon whose love always comes with a ‘but..’. Christopher Logan has some great comic moments in best stage Irish as Sir Lucius O’Trigger in a role that got Dublin-born Sheridan into trouble at the play’s premiere.

Daniel Abelson completes the versatile cast of eight as Bob Acres. He plays the role in a lusciously broad Bristollian accent that perfectly suits his booby of a character. Other characters are also played with versatility by the cast, so much so in fact that there seemed to be actors missing at the enthusiastic curtain call that concluded tonight’s performance.


Reviewed by David Woodward

Photography by Philip Tull


The Rivals

Watermill Theatre until 21st April


Teddy | ★★★★★ | The Watermill Theatre | January 2018


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