Tag Archives: Jemima Murphy

Gaslight

★★★★

The Playground Theatre

Gaslight

Gaslight

The Playground Theatre

Reviewed – 24th October 2019

★★★★

 

“fraught with suspension and quiet terror”

 

Mrs Manningham (Jemima Murphy) believes she is going mad, for what other explanation could there be when keys, pendants, even paintings go missing and end up amongst her own possessions.

Her husband, Mr. Manningham (Jordan Wallace), grows seemingly impatient with her inability to remember her own small thefts and strange behaviours, and threatens the visit of a doctor who will, no doubt, prescribe the same awful fate for her as befell her mother – the madhouse.

But all is not as it seems in the Manningham household, as is revealed by a kindly though somewhat motivated stranger, Rough (Joe Mcardle).

Murphy and Wallace both play their parts admirably: Murphy flits nervously about like a small bird, trying to disguise bordering hysteria with excitable cheer. Wallace is a force, ruling with restrained, smiling fury. My only criticism for both is their choice of pronunciation. It seems a decision has been made to use modern diction for certain words: ‘yeh’, ‘gonna’, ‘dunno’, sometimes dropping ‘t’s. Perhaps this is an attempt for the performers to feel more honest in what they’re expressing, but the script was written in the ‘30s after all, and throwing in contemporary pronunciation once in a while sounds anachronistic and awkward.

After an excruciatingly tense twenty minutes between Mr and Mrs Manningham in the first half, Mcardle’s Rough is a much-needed respite, and the audience seems to laugh out of sheer relief. Affable and without airs, Mcardle plays his part with a kind of likeable impatience, cutting the play’s unbearable discomfort with ease.

Throughout, we hear a low, ominous rumble, so faint I’m not entirely sure it’s really there. If this is on purpose, it’s awfully clever, gently gaslighting the audience. If it’s not, sound designer Herbert Homer-Warbeck should say it is and take all the credit.

In a way, it’s a shame that the phrase ‘gaslighting’, coined from this very play, is now in such common use, obviously because no-one should gaslight anyone, but also because you know what’s happening in the play from the get. I would be interested to see if they couldn’t condense the story slightly into a 75-minute single act, in order that the plot’s big reveal might be somewhere nearer the end, rather than half way through.

That being said, Gaslight, as directed by Imy Wyatt Corner, is still fraught with suspension and quiet terror, regardless of whether we know where it’s going to end up. On leaving the theatre, my shoulders ached from two hours of sustained panic, and gripping tension.

 

Reviewed by Flora Doble

Photography by William Waterworth

 

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Gaslight

The Playground Theatre until 10th November

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Fanatical – the Musical | ★★★ | November 2018
Sacha Guitry, Ma Fille Et Moi | ★★★½ | January 2019
My Brother’s Keeper | ★★★★ | February 2019
The Jazz Age | ★★★★★ | October 2019

 

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Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons
★★★

Barons Court Theatre

Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons

Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons

Barons Court Theatre

Reviewed – 9th May 2019

★★★

 

“an unusual, darkish romcom with thoughtful messages and ideas to discover”

 

If we were only allowed to speak 140 words a day, who would we save them for and what would we say? How would we manage without small talk or singing along to our favourite songs? In ‘Lemons…’ (not to waste words) writer, Sam Steiner, creates a stifled world of confined expression and prompts us to consider the implications on both a personal level and as a society. Oliver and Bernadette, musician and lawyer, meet in the romantic setting of a cat graveyard, fall in love and soon move in together. As the relationship develops, the bumps appear; she is jealous of his ex and he finds her work hard to accept. Sometimes they talk about it, sometimes they don’t. When the Government passes the ‘Quietude Bill’ they realise what it will mean to lose what they have always taken for (140) granted.

Steiner builds the narrative with a string of short, non-chronological dialogues, following the journey of the pair’s communication from dreamy beginnings to when ‘I love you’ becomes a habit. He suggests, perhaps a little unimaginatively, alternative ways they might communicate in the future and demonstrates how they waste their word limit as hurtful ammunition. The script is carefully linked throughout with random numbers referring to the daily ration and the ‘Westminster’ theme clearly makes itself heard. But the action wavers between ‘their’ story and the political outside world, not quite focusing on either and not reaching a culminating point.

The strong chemistry between Jemima Murphy’s precise, crafted acting and Charlie Suff’s natural stage presence engages the audience emotionally and director, Hamish Clayton, creates a cinematic effect, punctuating the fragmented scenario with choreographed set changes and accompanying lighting (Gregory Jordan) and sound (Charlotte Brown). However, the uniformity and repetition produces a linear form, lacking overall shape, and the constant soundscape (with the exception Madness’ Baggy Trousers) pushes the audience into the corresponding moods rather than being drawn in by the actors. It only becomes theatrically dramatic, apart from a couple of political outbursts from Oliver, when they decide to spend their last five minutes of carefree conversation telling each other what has really been on their minds.

Although it feels ironed out and in need of a few creases, ‘Lemons…’ is an unusual, darkish romcom with thoughtful messages and ideas to discover. Less explicit programme notes would allow everyone their own interpretation of analogies as, in the end, more than a political statement about freedom of speech or the tenuous parallel of Brexit, it incites us to reflect on our own ability and fear of putting our hearts and souls into words.

 

Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

Photography by  Maximilian Clarke

 


Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons

Barons Court Theatre until 27th May

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
The Big Things | ★★½ | April 2018
Owls | ★★★ | July 2018
Sex Magick | ★★★ | October 2018
The Fatal Eggs | ★★★★★ | April 2019

 

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