Tag Archives: Felix Grainger

The Co-op


White Bear Theatre

The Co-op

The Co-op

White Bear Theatre

Reviewed – 15th January 2020



“the trio take the art of self-deprecation to a brand-new level that is a joy to watch”


‘Welcome to the Co-Op; the acting agency run by actors for actors’. For many individuals in the acting profession these words are a cause for celebration. They want to be in control of their career and the benefits of a co-operative agency over a conventional one is that it is managed by the actors themselves. There is no pressure to say yes to jobs they don’t want in order to keep their agent happy; they can see exactly what they are being submitted for and they are working in a team of like-minded, dedicated people keen to support you.

Let’s run that line again: ‘Welcome to the Co-op’. Coming from the mouths of the dysfunctional pair of struggling actors portrayed by Gabriel Fogarty-Graveson and Cara Steele, these words are more likely to have you reaching for the bottle in desperation and fear rather than celebration. Fogarty-Graveson and Steele are Jimmy and Caz respectively; desperately trying to keep their heads above water as their agency is sinking fast in a sea of unpaid bills, disconnected utilities and silent phone lines. Their best friend has deserted them having landed a job in ‘Holby City’. Enter Charlie (Felix Grainger), a babe in the woods thesp who might just be the answer to their problems.

This is the debut play by ‘Make It Beautiful Theatre Company’, described as a love letter to theatre and film, but also comes across as a love letter to themselves. As a result, the humour touches on indulgence and is in danger of alienating audiences beyond their immediate circle. Nevertheless, the laughs come thick and fast throughout this sixty minutes of anarchic mayhem, and the trio take the art of self-deprecation to a brand-new level that is a joy to watch. Their quick fire pace should be enough to sustain the piece, but the momentum is sometimes stalled by baffling moments of unnecessary physicality. At one point for instance, Charlie performs a weird dance to Eddy Grant’s ‘Electric Avenue’ as an audition for Hamlet.

Gabriel Fogarty-Graveson and Felix Grainger are the credited writers, but the overall sense is that of a devised collaboration. And like the co-op it depicts the three actors are certainly dedicated and committed to each other. It could certainly benefit from an outside eye, however, to weed out some of the more obscure references if it wants to reach a wider audience. Yet it is an exciting prospect and this show has the potential to stand out from the crowd. Bizarrely they seem to be trying just a little too hard. The company biog references the Russian practitioner Vakhtangov as an inspiration (I had to google him too!) who specialised in heightened expression and what is known as ‘the dramatic grotesque’. I’d like to think that this allusion is an extension of their tongue-in-cheek approach to the production, rather than the fact that some of the acting is overdone.

“The Co-Op” is mad, and it’s wild, but it is a beast that does need reigning in. There is much more under the surface, but it is obscured by the untamed humour and overstated exposition of this show.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans


The Co-op

White Bear Theatre until 25th January


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
The Old Room | ★★ | April 2018
The Unnatural Tragedy | ★★★★★ | July 2018
Eros | ★★ | August 2018
Schrodinger’s Dog | ★★★★ | November 2018
Franz Kafka – Apparatus | ★★★ | January 2019
The Project | ★★★ | March 2019
Swimming | ★★★★ | April 2019
Garry | ★★★ | June 2019
Reformation | ★★★ | June 2019
Good Gracious, Good Friday | ★★★★ | October 2019


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Review of Nell Gwynn – 4 Stars


Nell Gwynn

Bridewell Theatre

Reviewed – 7th December 2017


“Wardlaw is simply charming as Nell. She easily carries the weight of the title character with ferocity, grace and always a cheeky look in her eye.”


Nell Gwynn is Jessica Swale’s 2015 play about the famous English actress and mistress of King Charles II. Written originally for The Globe Theatre starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw with a subsequent West End transfer starring Gemma Arterton, this amateur production directed by Roger Beaumont brings heart (if not polished professionalism) to Blackfriars.

Grace Wardlaw is simply charming as Nell. She easily carries the weight of the title character with ferocity, grace and always a cheeky look in her eye. Wardlaw will be snapped up by the West End very quickly if casting agents are paying attention. Having seen the original production, it’s not unfair to say Wardlaw gave original Nell – Mbatha-Raw a good run for her money. I can certainly see her playing Nancy in Oliver! in the not-to-distant-future.

James Dart (King Charles II) has an excellent time swanning about the palace in tights, playing at royalty, and his relationship with Nell is sweet and touching. Simon Brooke is a gorgeously camp, scene-stealing Edward Kynaston. In kimono and wig-cap, Brooke’s comic timing and physicality leave him as an audience favourite. Felix Grainger is spritely and enthusiastic as tortured playwright, John Dryden. And Valerie Antwi comes into her own in the second act playing the comical serving lady and reluctant actress, Nancy. (Although, it did feel uncomfortable that the only non-white member of the cast was a servant, particularly given the original non-white casting of Gwynn in 2015).

The show suffered from an unfortunately mistimed party above the venue, meaning quieter moments were lost in the background noise – a reminder that however good the acting, it’s often the venues that let amateur productions down.

The action takes place over several locations around London meaning the ensemble/stage hands had their work cut out for them. Scene changes were sometimes slow, but were peppered with characterisation like ensemble member Alice Boorman getting increasingly frustrated picking up Dryden’s discarded pages. Director Beaumont also provides an elaborately designed set complete with Royal Box. I felt it would have benefitted from a simpler, stripped down set with additional lighting as the combination of the set and costumes felt too busy for a small stage.

The live band led by Musical Director Jonathan Norris provided nice accompaniment in the musical numbers (particularly the catchy ‘I can dance and I can sing’), however some notes went astray as the show went on.

This show was far from perfect, but like Ms Gwynn, it had charm, wit and gusto.


Reviewed by TheatreFox

Photography by Richard Piwko


St Bride Foundation [logo]


Nell Gwynn

is at the Bridewell Street Theatre until 16th December



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