Tag Archives: Isley Lynn

The Desert

15 Heroines – The Desert


Jermyn Street Theatre Online

The Desert

15 Heroines – The Desert

Online from Jermyn Street Theatre

Reviewed – 8th November 2020



“an exhilarating and thoughtful production”


The Desert is one of the three instalments in 15 Heroines, a series of monologue’s inspired by a work by the Roman poet Ovid that give a voice to the aggrieved women of ancient mythology. Directed by Adjoa Andoh, Tom Littler and Cat Robey, The Desert gives a platform to Deianaria, Dido, Canace, Hypermnesta, and Sappho, all of whom were abandoned by their husbands or lovers.

We first hear from Dianaria (Indra Ové), the first wife and eventual killer of the great hero Hercules. Reimagined as the betrayed WAG of a star footballer, Dianaria – whose name incidentally means ‘man destroyer’ – plots her revenge on her cheating husband and muses on the laddish culture of celebrity sports. Dido (Rosalind Eleazar) shares her story next. The Queen of Carthage gave refuge to the great Roman hero Aeneas before he left suddenly in the night for Italy. Devastated at his leaving, Dido commits suicide, in myth, by pyre, in this play, by sword.

We then learn about the incestuous romance between Canace (Eleanor Tomlinson) and her brother Macareus who, despite their sordid affair, refused to marry her. Canace here is a guest on a talk show, answering questions about her horrifying relationship from an imagined figure off stage. The defiant Hypermnestra (Nicholle Cherrie) follows with her tale of desertion by her husband despite saving his life at risk of her own.

The great poet Sappho (Martina Laird) ends the quintet speaking about her unfaithful lover Phaon who she refers to as Britain. Sappho’s monologue explores the relationship between coloniser and colonised as Sappho laments her conformation to white beauty standards – bleached skin and a blonde wig – despite her Trinidadian heritage. This theme feels particularly poignant as Lesbos, Sappho’s home, is currently at the centre of the migrant crisis.

Ové, Tomlinson and Laird are the standout performers of the piece. Ové brings a menace to her speech that excites the audience; Tomlinson is fantastically convincing in the role of Canace; and Laird lends a vulnerability to her scene making its themes all the more powerful.

The reimagining of Dianaria, Canace and Sappho are also the most interesting and all have captivating scripts (April De Angelis, Isley Lynn and Lorna French respectively). De Angelis’ script has a welcome touch of humour. For example, Dianaria exclaiming that she was so upset by her husband leaving that she almost gave up hot yoga. Her speech also refers to several footballer scandals from Wayne Rooney to Adam Johnson. Though her tale feels exceedingly personal, we are reminded through these references that abuse and betrayal at the hands of powerful men is far from a rare occurrence.

Lynn’s script takes a different approach from the others, adopting a more conversational and thoroughly light-hearted tone at the beginning. The televised interview is an interesting way to explore such a taboo topic, and highlights how gossip and spectacle is at the heart of celebrity culture.

The sets are all centred around a chair on which the women sit apart from Hypermnestra’s scene (Jessie McKenzie) where Cherrie moves around the stage with great energy. There are also some brief bouts of singing in Hypermnestra’s monologue and a rhythmic breathing serving as a backing track. There is a clever reference to the metre of Sappho’s lyric poetry when Laird hits her papers to a careful beat while reading her letter to Phaon.

The Desert is an exhilarating and thoughtful production. All three chapters of 15 Heroines have explored universal themes of love, loss, and betrayal, but none do so successfully as The Desert that demonstrates how even millennia later, some things never change.


Reviewed by Flora Doble

Photography by Marc Brenner


15 Heroines – The Desert

Online via jermynstreettheatre.co.uk until 14th November


Last ten shows reviewed by Flora:
Jekyll & Hyde | ★★★½ | The Vaults | February 2020
Minority Report | ★★★½ | The Vaults | February 2020
The Six Wives Of Henry VIII | ★★★ | King’s Head Theatre | February 2020
Julius Caesar | ★★★★ | The Space | March 2020
The Haus Of Kunst | ★★★ | The Vaults | March 2020
Big Girl | ★★★ | Bread & Roses Theatre | September 2020
Pippin | ★★★★ | The Garden Theatre | September 2020
All By Myself | ★★½ | Online | October 2020
How to Live a Jellicle Life | ★★★★ | Lion & Unicorn Theatre | October 2020
Howerd’s End | ★★★½ | Golden Goose Theatre | October 2020


Click here to see our most recent reviews


The War of the Worlds

The War of the Worlds

New Diorama Theatre

The War of the Worlds

The War of the Worlds

New Diorama Theatre

Reviewed – 10th January 2019


“without doubt visually and technically strong; occasionally, however, it feels as though something important is missing”


As innovative as he was, it is doubtful that H. G. Wells foresaw his most famous work – often referred to as “the first sci-fi novel” – being even remotely related to debates about the 2016 US elections, lizard people, and whether or not you’re allowed to vape at the dinner table. But, in their reimagining of Wells’ classic novel, Rhum and Clay have done just that. A story about Martians has become a story about the truth, and which version of it we choose to believe.

The War of the Worlds tells three stories simultaneously. The first is derived from Wells’ novel, detailing the Martians’ invasion of Earth. The second is the story behind Orson Welles’ 1938 radio adaptation of the novel, which was so realistic that it allegedly caused mass panic amongst the American public. Finally, in the present day, British blogger Meena travels to Grover’s Mill, New Jersey, to explore the effect of this hysteria on a local family – but goes far deeper than she intended. It won’t please those looking for a faithful adaptation of the novel, but the three stories fit together coherently and bring out aspects of each other well. Despite the sometimes tenuous connection between Meena’s narrative and the source material, it is an unexpectedly insightful way of exploring contemporary concerns about fake news and political paranoia.

The weaker moments are often strengthened by an energetic and committed cast. Mona Goodwin makes Meena a likeable character, who is naïve and earnest despite the self-serving nature of her project. Julian Spooner brings a sense of urgency, particularly through his portrayal of news reporter Carl Phillips; Matthew Wells’ gravitas grounds the action during its more melodramatic moments. Of the four, Amalia Vitale is the most captivating, particularly in the role of Lawson. She has an amazing stage presence: even when she is only a background character, it is hard not to watch her. Set designer Bethany Wells must also be credited for her simple yet effective stage. The translucent walls that surround the space help create a sense of artificiality; the way they obscure the characters’ movements adds a sinister edge.

That being said, there are still some elements of the show that are a little difficult to be enthusiastic about. It has a lot to say about relevant and exciting topics, yet the ending does not tie these things together as effectively as it should. Meena’s story in particular feels a little rushed and unfinished. It is without doubt visually and technically strong; occasionally, however, it feels as though something important is missing.

Rhum and Clay have successfully given an oft-told story a new sense of relevance. Although the final product does not fully do justice to their vision, it is still entertaining, insightful, and above all an effective immersion into a sinister and intriguing world – one that is far closer than we think.


Reviewed by Harriet Corke

Photography by The Other Richard


The War of the Worlds

New Diorama Theatre until 9th February


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Close Up | ★★★ | February 2018
It Made me Consider | ★★★ | February 2018
Trap Street | ★★★★ | March 2018
Left my Desk | ★★★★ | May 2018
Bitter | ★★★ | June 2018
Taking Flight | ★★★ | June 2018
4.48 Psychosis | ★★★★ | September 2018
Boys | ★★★★★ | November 2018


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