Tag Archives: Isabella van Braeckel

Hell Yes I’m Tough Enough

Park Theatre

Hell Yes I'm Tough Enough

Hell Yes I’m Tough Enough

Park Theatre

Reviewed – 26th April 2019



“The satire gets lost in a mish-mash of absurdist comedy and sea-side slapstick, despite excellent performances from a talented cast”


Ben Alderton’s  story is about the political battle between Ned Contraband and David Carter, obvious caricatures of Miliband and Cameron. On the Labour side, Ben Hood plays Contraband as a lost soul, pulled between his hippy counsellor, Will, and tough talking advisor Sharon Slaughter. Michael Edwards is funny and convincing as Will, oozing charm as the exaggeratedly stereotyped yoga, energy healing, hug giving therapist, one of the only characters in the play who actually cares about anyone else. Cassandra Hercules, as Slaughter, is his polar opposite, hard as nails, ambitious and a little too shouty. Contraband is pulled one way and the other between them, seeming to lack any volition of his own. He is a weak character with no depth, and it is just not possible to see him as a real politician. This is in no way Hood’s fault, he does a good job, but what he has been given to work with is not fully realised.

On the Conservative side we have Alderton himself giving us a truly vile, self serving Prime Minister Carter. He bullies and towers above his flunkies, intimidating and unlikeable. Only Annie Tyson’s Glyniss can control, and occasionally dominate him. Glyniss is Carter’s campaign manager, and Tyson gives her a steely reality that only sometimes falls victim to the play’s one dimensionality. Nick Clog, played by James Bryant, is bullied by Carter to such an extent that he even cleans his shoes. Again, the stereotype is too much, but Bryant finds moments of humanity in the chaos, particularly in the second act. Venice Van Someren plays Poppy, a young Conservative, working on Carter’s re-election campaign and practically surgically attached to her Blackberry. Also in the blue camp is a young political consultant, Patrick. He is a fish out of water in the Tory shark tank, intelligent and clever. He is also the only truly human character in the play. He is written with depth and reality, and Mikhail Sen does an excellent job of showing Patrick’s disillusionment with the world of politics, and his eventual rethink about allegiance and ambition.

The final character, played by Edward Halsted, is an Obi-Wan Kenobi/Jeremy Corbyn figure, called Corbz, who appears from time to time, sweeping the floor and uttering profundities. His dialogue with Patrick at the end of the play is a rallying cry about not giving up, of finding a way to be honest and true in the political cesspool. It is impassioned and heartfelt, but unfortunately it is a little long, and feels like a bit of a tirade by the end.

It is in characterisation that Alderton’s writing fails to convince, and Roland Reynolds’ direction, which emphasises exaggerated performance, does not help. The essence of good caricature is its believability, and making such absurd stereotypes of the characters extracts their reality to such an extent that the comedy is often diminished, people seem one dimensional, and the power of the satire is lost. Often, instead of feeling the bite of satire as the two factions fight within and between themselves, it feels more like the playground, where kids yell ‘na na ni na na’ at each other.

The set is simple and effective, using a coloured strip which lights up red, blue or yellow, according to each political party, above a wooden sideboard and carpet tied floor, is enough to give atmosphere and locate the action. Isabella Van Braeekel is the designer, Alex Hopkins the lighting designer, and Julian Starr designed the sound.

Described as a political satire, Hell Yes I’m Tough Enough falls unhappily between two stools. The satire gets lost in a mish-mash of absurdist comedy and sea-side slapstick, despite excellent performances from a talented cast. It’s a pity really, because some of it is very funny.


Reviewed by Katre

Photography by Robert Workman


Hell Yes I’m Tough Enough

Park Theatre until 18th May


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Dialektikon | ★★★½ | December 2018
Peter Pan | ★★★★ | December 2018
Rosenbaum’s Rescue | ★★★★★ | January 2019
The Dame | ★★★★ | January 2019
Gently Down The Stream | ★★★★★ | February 2019
My Dad’s Gap Year | ★★½ | February 2019
Cry Havoc | ★★ | March 2019
The Life I Lead | ★★★ | March 2019
We’re Staying Right Here | ★★★★ | March 2019
Intra Muros | | April 2019


Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com


A Funny Thing Happened – 4 Stars


A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit …

Finborough Theatre

Reviewed – 4th October 2018


“opens up the walls of free speech to challenge our notions of offence”


“I’ve been single so long? I’ve started having sexual fantasies about my vibrator.” At odds with the sombre hospital ward setting, this opening line of the European premiere of Halley Feiffer’s script sets the tone for piece determined to find comedy in life’s darkest moments. Spunky and spirited Karla (Cariad Lloyd) is trying out some new “bits” for her mother (‘Marcie’, played by Kristin Milward), bedbound by her cancer treatment. On the other side of the curtain, unassuming forty-something Don (Rob Crouch) arrives to visit his mother (Cara Chase). What starts out as offence turns into friendship, and over the course of the play, the relationship between this mismatched couple deepens as the tragedy that underpins the reasons for their connection grows ever more present. Family is at the heart of this touching and witty play, and this production offers genuine laugh-out-loud moments – often at the expense of others – gently mixed with tender and nuanced moments of introspection and revelation.

What’s so glorious about the comedy on display is how fresh it seems. Shifting from the off into the murky realm between ‘funny’ and ‘offensive’, “A Funny Thing…” invites the audience to admit no topic is off-limits. Are only certain groups of people allowed to make certain jokes? Is, as Karla declares, there “anything funnier than rape”? This audience in particular seemed to enjoy gasping and laughing in unison, and, especially by giving this shocking and foul-mouthed voice to a female comedian character, opens up the walls of free speech to challenge our notions of offence (something Ricky Gervais has spent many years trying to do).

The performances on display are exceptional, showing an acute awareness of comic timing whilst still producing believable and relatable characters on stage. Cariad Lloyd flows with natural energy and it utterly compelling, whilst Rob Crouch, although seeming sometimes too heightened in comparison to Lloyd, embodies the everyman battered down by the pains and disappointments of his life. Chase and Milward, silent and asleep in bed for most of the play, hold a lot of presence, and their moments of speech come as a pleasant and hilarious surprise. Milward especially justifies everything that comes out of Marcie’s mouth making her perhaps the most memorable character in the show.

It is the nature of a script set in a hospital ward that much of the action takes place sat down in chairs, but Bethany Pitts’ direction still makes space for dynamic moments of motion that disrupt the normality of sitting, reading and waiting. Isabella Van Braeckel’s detailed costume design deserves a mention for its simple awareness of each character, allowing us to truly see these whose these people are at a glance.

With gasps and guffaws in equal measure, “A Funny Thing…” translates well into British culture, being moving, wince-inducing and really funny all in one go. Not one to be missed.


Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich

Photography by James O Jenkins


A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit

Finborough Theatre until 27th October


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Imaginationship | ★★ | January 2018
Into the Numbers | ★★★★ | January 2018
Booby’s Bay | ★★★★ | February 2018
Cyril’s Success | ★★★ | February 2018
Checkpoint Chana | ★★★★ | March 2018
Returning to Haifa | ★★★★ | March 2018
White Guy on the Bus | ★★★★ | March 2018
Gracie | ★★★★ | April 2018
Masterpieces | ★★ | April 2018
Break of Noon | ★½ | May 2018
The Biograph Girl | ★★★ | May 2018
Finishing the Picture | ★★★★ | June 2018
But it Still Goes on | ★★★★ | July 2018
Homos, or Everyone in America | ★★★★ | August 2018
A Winning Hazard | ★★★★ | September 2018
Square Rounds | ★★★ | September 2018


Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com