White Bear Theatre
Reviewed – 30th April 2019
“Bower’s script, and indeed the show as a whole, are already in a pretty strong and exciting place”
Swimming is a common trope in the telling of gay stories. Think the Hampstead Men’s Pond in Alan Hollinghurst’s “The Line of Beauty”, David Hockney’s “Peter Getting Out of Nick’s Pool (1966)” and the pool-side antics in coming-of-age films from “Call Me By Your Name” to “Y Tu Mamá También”. Alex Bower’s memorable new play draws on this rich cultural heritage to create a gripping and probing hour of drama.
Dan (Andrew Hawley) has just said so long to girlfriend of three years Marianne (Harriet Green) and the two are fairly irreconcilable. She moves in with Dan’s best friend and trusty furniture-builder Ant (Jack Helsby) whilst Dan rekindles a long-forgotten desire for the male sex and starts dating Sam (Patrick Cavendish). Struggling with years of keeping in the closet, Dan begins to construct a new identity for himself – one free of the friends and girlfriends that have pigeon-holed him his whole life.
This run is described as an opportunity to “get the show on its feet” with intentions to develop it further, but Bower’s script, and indeed the show as a whole, are already in a pretty strong and exciting place. Bower has created four rich and detailed characters, and he asks some intriguing questions about how we approach the spectrum of sexuality. When Ant stumbles across Sam and Dan at the lido, Bower captures well the awkwardness of two sides of a personality colliding. Dan’s been straight his whole life, how can he suddenly decide he’s gay?
With just four stools and some neat shifts in lighting, Rebecca Loudon’s direction is reminiscent of Jamie Lloyd’s current work at the Harold Pinter Theatre. Minimal and sparse, the relationships between characters are crucial. Luckily Loudon has a excellent ensemble working together effortlessly.
Moving forward, work could be done to make these characters more like people with histories than mere “types”. Ant in particular feels well rounded and detailed, but Green and Cavendish are given a little less meat to chew on. I’m left contemplating the meaning of that title too. That aside, this is a promising new piece of work that ought to be seen even at this early stage of development.
Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich
Photography by Alex Brenner
White Bear Theatre until 4th May
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
The Hope Theatre
Reviewed – 28th September 2017
“moments of true theatrical beauty”
Turkey is impossible to simplify; somewhere between a modern Hedda Gabler and Yerma, it retains all the qualities of the greatest stories ever told, with a distinctly modern perspective. Hilariously funny, Turkey presents a liberal love story with a twist, though it’s crash-cut ending leaves the audience desperate for the end of the story.
The narrative follows the story of Maddie and Toni, a young lesbian couple who are happily monogamous, living a normal life. There’s just one issue; Maddie wants a baby and Toni can’t give her one. The visceral story explores the issues of motherhood in more unusual concepts, exploring the lengths to which one is willing to go to reach the ultimate goal and the consequences of tunnel-vision. The dialogue is incredibly well written and super snappy, with some truly breathtaking moments of stillness, though the pacing sometimes seemed to be lost in the middle of scenes.
The acting is strong and solid; Harriet Green gives a natural and consistently strong performance and Cameron Robertson flickers between an older man, out of place in the world of the young couple and a youthful exuberance that controls the stage. Pevyand Sadeghian (Madeline) gives a fiery performance, but sometimes lacks the depth that could make the character more likeable.
The set is constructed from a series of boxes and hanging props, allowing the piece to flit between abstract proxemics and physicality and the daring realism of the script and performances; credit must go to Niall Phillips’ direction for streamlining these differences into a coherent and well-functioning whole that serves the story with specificity and style. The comedy is incredibly well-written, truly highlighting the more dramatic moments, but can sometimes make the characters feel a little archetypal.
For me, the plot felt a little too centred around a single event or concept, rather than following through a more developed story line, and I would love to see this piece expanded and developed to 90 minutes or more, with a clearer reason behind the narrative. Turkey is a solid piece of theatre, with an interesting and uncommon story and some moments of true theatrical beauty. I look forward to seeing the next steps of Frankie Meredith’s writing career and will be watching closely; this is certainly a jaw-dropping achievement for Meredith’s first full-length play and the entire team must be commended for creating an original yet classically soulful story.
Reviewed by Tasmine Airey
is at The Hope Theatre until 14th October