Reviewed – 6th June 2019
“wonderfully throws a humorous and uncomfortable mirror up to society’s failure to engender a sense of responsibility”
If you’ve never been to the Hope Theatre, I recommend you pay it a visit. Based in Islington and part of the pub-theatre tradition, it has a lovely, intimate theatre space; drawing the audience right into the action of any production. The staff, at the Hope are also incredibly friendly which only adds to the enjoyable ambience of the venue.
Written by Ollie George Clark, this play set about tackling the culture of ‘apology’ – or the failure to do it earnestly – in a very articulate and multifaceted way. It begins in a publicist’s office with staff frantically fire-fighting the damage caused by the colourful language of one their clients. We watch as their discussion of how to cultivate a heart-felt apology descends into sinister realms.
Many aspects of this production stood out – from the fine detail of the props such as the incredibly realistic newspaper articles and décor (Caitlin Abbott) to the female led cast, with Maisie Preston’s performance of Danica as a deeply insecure, happy go lucky intern, being of particular joy to watch. These roles are meaty and complex; with each character highlighting the different dynamics women have with each other and how they have to navigate that with the outside world – in this instance, the acting industry. The idea of race was also highlighted both within the play and aesthetically. It was really gratifying to see actress Natasha Patel (who plays Ruchi) on stage performing with savvy assuredness, Patel’s presence reflected both the importance of inclusivity of casting whilst simultaneously illuminating the lack of it within the industry.
Cuttings touches upon a very ripe and tender nerve about the way social media influences our everyday communication, and not always for the better. How YouTube beefs have now become newsworthy topics, how popularity trumps talent, the exploitative monetising of mental health and the unconventional rise of the insta-celeb which threatens the decorum of the well-oiled theatrical establishment.
When the simple act of apologising becomes an act of war; this play wonderfully throws a humorous and uncomfortable mirror up to society’s failure to engender a sense of responsibility.
Reviewed by Pippin
Photography by Cam Harle
VENUE until DATE (no year)
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Reviewed – 27th September 2018
“The dialogue, in the hands of the accomplished trio of actors, is music (sometimes thrillingly discordant) to the ears throughout”
Written in 1950, Eugene Ionesco’s “The Lesson” has lost none of its strangeness, nor its resonance. It exemplifies what has been coined ‘Theatre of the absurd’ of which Ionesco is master. A powerful three hander it beats to the palpitating rhythm of a macabre merry-go-round upon which the archetypal characters of the Professor, the Pupil and the Maid are fated to ride.
The Maid is busy mopping the floor of the Professor’s study as the audience take their seats. A seemingly innocuous pre-show. For those familiar with the play, I don’t need to state its significance; and for those unfamiliar, I won’t. So let the lesson begin. The Maid fussily withdraws having ushered in the new Pupil. It gets off to a smooth start but it’s not long before the Professor becomes increasingly frustrated with his protégé’s inability to grasp the rudiments of mathematics. Roger Alborough wastes no time establishing his stage presence with a performance that is chillingly playful. But playful in the way a predator teases with its prey.
Sheetal Kapoor is quite extraordinary as the Pupil, transforming from compliant, naïve schoolgirl into a shattered marionette. As her enthusiasm for the lesson deteriorates her toothache increases; clearly a metaphor for her psychological pain. In fact, the whole play is a metaphor, a cautionary tale for today, further exemplified by Joan Potter’s Maid who repeatedly has to clean up the mess. Potter makes the sinister aspects of this play quite palpable with an understated performance pitched with just the right amount of irony. Yes, it’s gruesome but, hey, it’s absurd so it’s okay to laugh.
Donald Watson’s translation is further heightened under Matthew Parker’s slick direction. The dialogue, in the hands of the accomplished trio of actors, is music (sometimes thrillingly discordant) to the ears throughout. Repeated banalities, unshackled illogicality and non sequiturs all compete for air time. Comedy and violence, absurdity and disturbance, mystery and fear all go hand in hand; so the audience’s reactions are varied. While some are laughing, others are recoiling in horror.
The experience is sharpened by the confines of the space. Encased in the round, neither the actors nor the audience have room to escape, and there’s even less room for a fourth wall. Although the cast never address the audience directly we are drawn into the impossible dialogue: there is no barrier between us and them, between reality and fantasy, which intensifies the unnerving quality of the writing. Simon Arrowsmith’s filmic sound design adds the final layer; a gossamer cloak of atmosphere that fits the action perfectly.
Gripping through to the final scene in which the absurdity pours over the action like blood from a knife wound, “The Lesson” has something to teach us all. And this production at the Hope Theatre is, without a doubt, a high-grade lesson in theatre making.
Reviewed by Jonathan Evans
Photography by LH Photography
Hope Theatre until 13th October
Previously reviewed at The Hope: