Tag Archives: Jake Brunger

Four Play

Four Play

★★★

Above the Stag

Four Play

Four Play

Above the Stag

Reviewed – 21st January 2020

★★★

 

“you’ll go and you’ll have a good time, but there’s not much of a lasting impression”

 

Since its inception in 2015, Four Play has more or less consistently had a production somewhere in London – a feat that usually only Shakespeare and Chekhov achieve. Does that mean Jake Brunger’s play is of the same calibre? Alas, not quite.

Four Play’s plot is kickstarted when Rafe (Ashley Byam) and Pete (Keeran Blessie), getting some serious FOMO from being each other’s only ever partners for the past seven years, proposition their friend Michael (Declan Spaine) to sleep with each of them to get all their anxieties out of their systems, which ultimately exposes the cracks in their relationship, as well as the jealousies in the supposedly polygamous arrangement Michael has with Andrew (Marc MacKinnon). The play gently touches on the idea of monogamy and whether the traditions of heterosexual relationships can simply be transposed onto homosexual relationships, although if you’re seeking a deep and nuanced exploration then look elsewhere; this is mostly frivolous stuff.

Brunger’s script is full of quips about labradoodles and your nan watching porn, and can sometimes feel like it relies on them a little too heavily to mask a lack of substance. This especially shows in what are clearly some updates to the references in the script – an exasperating gag about Apple TV stuck out as a particular offender. The writing does find moments of really juicy tension – a dinner party with all four characters was a notable highlight, in which Rafe and Pete try to maintain a lie that they’re unaware Andrew already knows is a lie. The script also moves at an excellent pace for the most part, although the final few scenes outstay their welcome a little.

The performances are also a mixed bag – Byam is radiantly energetic as Rafe but he and Blessie struggle to find chemistry, while Spaine’s aloofness teeters into an unengaged apathy a little too often. MacKinnon finds a lovely amount of depth in Andrew, with a standout performance at the aforementioned dinner party, and some very poignant moments with Rafe. The actors overall feel somewhat over-directed by Matthew Iliffe, resulting in an inauthenticity that makes it clear when someone’s been told to sit down or move across the stage or gesticulate in a certain way, which is a shame as Carrie-Ann Stein’s modern kitchen set design establishes a genuine domesticity so effectively.

Four Play ultimately feels like fast food theatre. Like a trip to McDonalds, you’ll go and you’ll have a good time, but there’s not much of a lasting impression and there’s nothing to really chew on.

 

Reviewed by Ethan Doyle

Photography by PBG Studios

 


Four Play

Above the Stag until 22nd February

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Title Of Show | ★★★★ | February 2019
Goodbye Norma Jeane | ★★ | March 2019
Romance Romance | ★★★★ | March 2019
Queereteria TV | ★★ | April 2019
Fanny & Stella: The Shocking True Story  | ★★★★ | May 2019
Happily Ever Poofter | ★★★★ | July 2019
Velvet | ★★★ | October 2019
Pinocchio: No Strings Attached! | ★★★★ | November 2019

 

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The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ – The Musical
★★★★★

Ambassadors Theatre

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ - The Musical

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ – The Musical

Ambassadors Theatre

Reviewed – 3rd July 2019

★★★★★

 

“joyful, energetic and hilarious, with some moments of real tenderness and yearning”

 

I admit to being unsure if Sue Townsend’s geeky Mole would translate well as a piece of musical theatre, and I’m happy to say that my scepticism was unfounded. The show is joyful, energetic and hilarious, with some moments of real tenderness and yearning that bring a tear to the eye. It is a piece that truly reflects the time in which it was written and is set, the early 80s. There are lots of references that older audience members clearly enjoyed; Pebble Mill at One, Malcolm Muggeridge and, of course, the Royal Wedding. And it matters not at all that the younger ones don’t pick up on those moments; the lives of Adrian and his friends and family have plenty for everyone to relate to and enjoy.

The children’s parts are each played by a rotating cast of four. Adrian was played by Rufus Kampa this evening, and the huge applause and standing ovation he received were richly deserved. His Adrian had all the awkwardness and angst of Townsend’s much loved young teen, coping with his parent’s awful marriage and break up and discovering himself as an intellectual with a passion for the feisty, pretty new girl at school – Pandora. And Rebecca Nardin’s Pandora was pitch perfect; the flame that called to Adrian’s moth, sparkling, feisty and very funny. Her voice has a range and depth that are unusual in such a young performer, and she has a wonderful comedic instinct. Jeremiah Davan Waysome played Adrian’s friend, and rival for Pandora’s attention, Nigel with a lovely cheeky energy and the school bully, Barry, was made suitably odious by Jack Gale.

The adults in the cast also play children, and were clearly having a lot of fun doing so. The poignant moments between Adrian’s parents, Pauline and George, played by Amy Ellen Richardson and Andrew Langtree, were beautifully moving, and Richardson’s song ‘Perfect Mother’ was so full of sadness and regret that it hurt. ‘How Could You?’ a painful and powerful argument between Pauline and Grandma allowed both women to let rip with passion, a serious and intense moment, and a reflection of many such a confrontation from the real world. Rosemary Ashe’s Grandma is, by turns, fun, interfering and helpful to Adrian and his Dad, and she brings verve and a fabulous voice to the role. Ian Talbot gave a good turn as the grumpy communist Bert and Laura Denning clearly relishes hamming it up to just the right degree as Miss Elf and Doreen Slater. The final member of the adult cast is John Hopkins, and he somehow managed to strut, bluster and give a storming performance that was always just on the right side of overacting. His vile Mr Scruton, the headmaster, was a great, bombastic villain, and the sleazy lothario, Mr Lucas from next door, was just deliciously awful.

Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary first wrote the book, music and lyrics in 2012, when they were ‘a pair of naive twenty four year olds.’ They met Sue Townsend and she was so impressed that she sold them the rights for a pound. She was worried that the story may be dated but, as Brunger and Cleary explained to her; ‘Despite the internet and mobile phones and all those terribly modern things, spots were still spots, school was still school, and boys still measured their things.” Director Luke Sheppard has translated their vision into a show that bounces with life and allows the early eighties to exist without trying to alter things for our contemporary sensibilities.

There is some inspired and very funny, choreography from Rebecca Howell and Mark Collins and the musicians do a great job with the score. The lighting design, by Howard Hudson, is unusual and effective and Tom Rogers’ set is an evocative, flexible home for the action. I found myself humming ‘Misunderstood’ on the way to the tube. This show has some good tunes too! The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ – The Musical is an excellent adaptation vividly brought to life by an outstanding cast

 

Reviewed by Katre

Photography by Pamela Raith

 


The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ – The Musical

Ambassadors Theatre until 12th October

 

Last ten shows covered by this reviewer:
The Thread | ★★½ | Sadler’s Wells Theatre | March 2019
Yamato – Passion | ★★★★★ | Peacock Theatre | March 2019
Hell Yes I’m Tough Enough | ★★½ | Park Theatre | April 2019
Little Miss Sunshine | ★★★★★ | Arcola Theatre | April 2019
Man Of La Mancha | ★★★★ | London Coliseum | April 2019
Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare: The Taming Of The Shrew | ★★★★★ | Leicester Square Theatre | April 2019
On Reflection | ★★★★★ | Underbelly Festival Southbank | May 2019
Zara | ★★★★★ | Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park | May 2019
Elixir Extracts Festival: Company Of Elders | ★★★★★ | Lilian Baylis Studio | June 2019
Napoli, Brooklyn | ★★★★ | Park Theatre | June 2019

 

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