Tag Archives: Hope Theatre

The Least We Could Do

The Least We Could Do

★★★★★

Hope Theatre

THE LEAST WE COULD DO at the Hope Theatre

★★★★★

The Least We Could Do

“The trio of actors are incredibly strong, lifting the superb material even further”

This is a Greek tragedy set in the internet age. Three showbiz-adjacent characters Levi, Charlie and Kieran are pulled inevitably into a whirlpool or chaos from a chance meeting and a hubristic decision. Less Pandora’s box opened, more like Pandora’s phone.

The plot has obvious parallels with the devastating story of Caroline Flack, a presenter whose downfall coincided with aggressive press speculation about her private life. However writer Kath Haling skilfully uses this more as a tragic departure rather than a blueprint, which avoids any mawkishness. She has sensitively woven in other themes (there’s a big trigger warning for pregnancy loss) to create something new, asking deep questions about trust, integrity, and grift. Not only is it about the symbiotic relationship between fame and press, but also about the voyeuristic interest in the process from ‘nobody’ people. Even the stage set up supports this, with scenes played out an arm’s length away from the front row of the audience that closes in claustrophobically around the performance area on three sides.

Designer Tallulah Caskey’s main set feature is a curved chain curtain that sweeps the stage. This acts as a semi-permeable barrier, a metaphorical and physical reminder of liminality and choices taken or not. Characters are occasionally lit to great effect translucently through the chains, before they are once again obscured (lighting design, Hector Murray). Ghostly conversations between people on both sides of the barrier are another nod to Greek drama, the challenging voices of conscience or a chorus of online voices. There are also three reflective blocks, used well by Director Katharine Farmer to offer different levels to the performance, and keep high energy and visual interest throughout.

The trio of actors are incredibly strong, lifting the superb material even further. Dan Wolff embodies blundering naivety as he stumbles into a situation above his head. Olivia Lindsay is magnetic as TV host Levi, with the perfect ‘It’ girl vocal fry. She gets the balance just right between the approachable familiarity of a prime time presenter, steeliness, and then when she reveals her depths, there is a wanting vulnerability that leaves just enough edge to leave the audience questioning whether she has planned her trauma as an ‘angle’. Melissa Saint completes the cast as Charlie, again utterly radiant, but with the potential for slipperiness hinted by her silk blouse. Everything appears so considered that I was left wondering whether the ‘French tuck’ of her shirt was yet more symbolism, showing her half in and half out of the celebrity world, or conversely her marriage. Though that might be me getting ahead of myself, what is clear is that in many key moments, Saint’s incredibly expressive face works through complex emotions in real time, a joy to watch, even if there is little to celebrate in the plot.

Given the heavy themes, this show does an excellent job at avoiding preaching. There is enough grey area and ambiguity left to avoid painting by numbers apportioning of blame, again very Greek.

If there is any morality message to be extracted, it is the reminder to be kind, especially if you are too obscured by the internet. With that, I must leave this review on a solely positive note: this is an exceptionally well thought out production, rich with details that stay lodged in your brain long after the lights go down.


THE LEAST WE COULD DO at the Hope Theatre

Reviewed on 12th October 2023

by Rosie Thomas

Photography by Lidia Crisafulli

 

 

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:

Mind Full | ★★★ | March 2023
Hen | ★★★ | June 2022
100 Paintings | ★★ | May 2022
Fever Pitch | ★★★★ | September 2021

The Least We Could Do

The Least We Could Do

Click here to read all our latest reviews

 

Mind Full

Mind Full

★★★

Hope Theatre

MIND FULL at the Hope Theatre

★★★

Mind Full

“Mind Full is funny, but sometimes feels uncertain”

 

This intimate comedy takes a look at two universal frustrations: struggling to sleep and struggling to get over someone.

James (Tom Hartwell) is a self-diagnosed insomniac. He knows he is because he Googled it at 4am. He hasn’t slept well since his terrible break up, six months ago. In his desperation he turns to mindfulness apps. But his ex is a thriving voiceover actor. He can’t get her voice out of his head. Or his headphones. At first it seems to be just him who’s struggling, but we soon learn Claire (Katherine Moran) can’t sleep either. The former couple cycle through memories of their failed relationship as they struggle to move on and find some much needed shut eye.

We’re welcomed into the bedroom, with the space being dominated by a large double bed, and off to the side, a microphone. Conor Cook’s direction really pays off here, as the microphone creates the world of the couple’s respective work (voice acting and stand-up comedy) and the bed creates their private world. The interference and sabotage between these worlds, sometimes funny, sometimes moving, works well to show the crumbling of the relationship.

It’s a funny idea, and there are moments where it really takes off There’s a long bit where James comments on all of the places he hears Claire’s voice – apps, supermarket checkouts, train announcements – and what she might be saying to him (lots of jokes at the expense of his sexual prowess). The script, written by Tom Hartwell, who also plays James, is packed with gags. At times though the comedy takes priority, to the detriment of emotional truth. To be fair, sometimes that’s the point. The play deals with questions around comedy, and how much of your own life, and the lives of people you love, is fair game. As with any piece which incorporates stand-up, it does raise the question of how much of it is meant to be funny. There is a mortifying moment where James fluffs it at Live at the Apollo, made weirder by the taped in applause of a fake audience, leaving the real audience a little uncertain of our place in the show.

There is real chemistry between Hartwell and Moran, and the early stages of their relationship are charming. Moran is particularly strong, making a potentially whiny character, warm, hilarious and totally reasonable. Hartwell is also very funny, and his comic timing is impeccable.

The simple lighting (Jonathan Simpson) and sound (Conor Cook) help to create the private bubble of this couple’s life.

Mind Full is funny, but sometimes feels uncertain. It’s not quite stand-up, and not quite plot focussed narrative, at times it verges on sketch comedy. But it’s enjoyable, fast-paced and well-performed.

 

 

Reviewed on 7th March 2023

by Auriol Reddaway

Photography by Rebecca Rayne

 

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:

 

Fever Pitch | ★★★★ | September 2021
100 Paintings | ★★ | May 2022
Hen | ★★★ | June 2022

 

Click here to read all our latest reviews