Tag Archives: Hugo Aguirre

Debris – 5 Stars



Theatre N16

Reviewed – 21st October 2018


“highly watchable and totally uncompromising in its commitment to Kelly’s vision”


Dennis Kelly’s Debris is not a beautiful play. A classic of In-yer-face theatre, it documents the strange, fantastical origins of a brother and sister whose understanding of life is warped by the adults that control it. The play opens with the brother’s description of their father committing suicide by crucifixion: thus, the audience is immersed into a world of where adults are predators, babies are found in the rubbish, and normality is just a dream on a TV screen. It is visceral, loud, disturbing.

But, somehow, beautiful is the immediate adjective that I reach for when thinking of Battered Soul Theatre’s revival of Debris. The company have engaged with the many layers in Kelly’s text to create a vivid piece that is beautifully acted and designed and executed with enthralling energy.

Hugo Aguirre’s set design plays a huge part in this; in many ways, it is the star of the show. Upon entering Theatre N16, the curious spectator peers over the heads of their fellow audience members to see a cramped square of stage, on which two people sit drawing shapes in the dust. They are surrounded by stones and sand; a bike wheel and a ripped plastic bag sit in one corner, a neon tricycle in another. By covering the stage in literal debris, Aguirre not only reflects the dark content of the play, but uses it in order to amplify the action. From the sounds of the actors walking across stones to the clouds of dust that billow up as they scramble violently through their grotesque world, this highly innovative design evokes more than artificial means could hope to.

But this is not to compromise the performers themselves. It is thanks to James Anthony-Rose and Louise Waller that the pace of the show never flags. Anthony-Rose’s Michael fizzes with anger and frustration: his bitter, deadpan description of his ‘fat bastard’ of a father dying on the cross and annoyance at his sister’s persistent aliveness is both chilling and darkly funny. Equally, however, Anthony-Rose emphasises Michael’s vulnerability. His discovery of a baby in a pile of rubbish and instinct to care for him is moving; the audience’s attachment to these moments is strengthened by the prior harshness of his character. Waller’s delivery has the same deadpan quality, but her Michelle maintains the coolness that Michael loses. She effectively portrays and maintains the siblings’ detachment from reality: the many contradictory stories of her mother’s death have an otherworldly quality, despite their emotional core. Under the strong guidance of director Alex Prescot, they have created characters that are both believable and detached, perfectly capturing the internal conflict of Kelly’s play.

Battered Soul have proven that Debris still stands as a fascinating and innovative piece of theatre that has the ability to challenge and captivate an audience. Their adaptation is both highly watchable and totally uncompromising in its commitment to Kelly’s vision.


Reviewed by Harriet Corke

Photography courtesy Battered Soul Theatre



Theatre N16 until 25th October


Previously reviewed at this venure:
Unicorn | ★★★½ | May 2018
Shakespeare’s Mad Women | ★★★★ | June 2018
Reading Gaol | ★★★½ | July 2018
Castles Palaces Castles | ★★ | September 2018
Rough | ★★ | September 2018
Timeless | ★★★ | October 2018


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Asking for a Raise – 2 Stars


Asking for a Raise

The Space

Reviewed – 3rd July 2018


“The ensemble work produced by this cast was of the highest calibre, and the skill required to pull off this type of work should not be underestimated”


Asking for a Raise is a devised comedy which explores one of the central and perennial demands of office culture; exactly how do you pluck up the courage to ask for a raise? It’s a situation familiar to many of us, although the ‘universal office’ in the piece had more in common with offices of the past than with contemporary work spaces. One of the performers – the excellent Poppy Lawless – mentions her time at a call centre in her programme biography, and this reviewer couldn’t help feeling that the piece would have been taken to the next level by properly drawing on the experiences of these young actors, rather than rehashing an office setting that essentially hasn’t changed since the 1950s.

There’s no doubt that Hugo Aguirre (designer/director) and Franciska Éry (director), ably assisted by Liam Murphy (music), have produced a slick piece of theatre. It is visually arresting and tightly choreographed, with some well-orchestrated set pieces. Stylistically, it is reminiscent of the wonderful formative years of Theatre de Complicité, and there is still a lot of fun to be had within that absurdist European tradition. Again however, there was a feeling of disconnect. It felt like a well-mastered technique, as opposed to an organically-developed theatrical language, unique to this company, and as such, was lacking in soul. The office is, of course, an alienating soulless space, but the subject shouldn’t affect the performance quality. The ensemble work produced by this cast was of the highest calibre, and the skill required to pull off this type of work should not be underestimated. It was just a shame that the substance of the piece was not there for them to work with, and that they were not more present as individuals.

Fifty minutes is an awful lot of time for one relatively flimsy scenario to fill, no matter how much flair there is in its execution, and the script would have benefited from the same attention to detail as its performative realisation. Congratulations though to Poppy Lawless, Imogen Parker (with special mention to her wonderful solo smoky jazz pastiche), Jacob Ward, Jack Westgate and Gemma Wray. It would be exciting to see this gang work together again, taking a few more risks and bringing in some heart.


Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw

Photography by LivLeopard Photography


Asking to a Raise

The Space until 7th July


Previously reviewed at this venue
One Festival | ★★★ | January 2018
Citizen | ★★★★ | April 2018
Be Born | | June 2018


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