Tag Archives: Jonathan Evans

Wireless Operator

★★★★

Pleasance Theatre

Wireless Operator

Wireless Operator

Pleasance Theatre

Reviewed – 14th November 2019

★★★★

 

“The sadness and the poignancy are shattering, and the vocal shrapnel pierces you with countless questions”

 

Next year, 2020, will mark the 75th anniversary of the ending of WW2. It will be a time of reflection and remembrance. A commemoration currently in the foreground of our minds days after this year’s Remembrance Sunday. But of the military services (and civilians) who are remembered each year, it is only recently that the members of Bomber Command have been recognised. In the immediate aftermath of the second world war, Churchill made no reference to them when praising all those who had contributed to victory, and for a long time the muddied waters of history washed over their sacrifice. While films and stories have glamorised the harsh reality of serving as an airman in Bomber Command, politicians have been keen to distance themselves from the unresolved and ambiguous morality of the bombing raids.

It is this double-barrelled conflict that is beautifully touched upon in Bob Baldwin and Max Kinning’s play, “Wireless Operator”. On the surface it is a thrilling wartime nail-biter, but it leaves a vapour trail that haunts, as it dissipates its poignancy into the night. Based on Baldwin’s own father’s experiences the play focuses on the eponymous wireless operator; a pacifist plucked from everyday life and turned into a killer. His tour of duty is thirty missions, and this is his last one. On average an airman would only survive five. As the plane heads across the channel towards Germany the young operator recalls his life back at home, his fiancée, his imminent fatherhood and recent childhood, the Tommy Dorsey music that played on his gramophone, football games in the Mile End streets. A warm jet stream of nostalgia, fiercely punctured by the cold realisation that he’s about to obliterate many, many lives just like his own friends and family.

Thomas Dennis portrays the sheer complexity of emotions with brilliant accuracy, whilst capturing the white-knuckle fear and ear-splitting danger of the flight, tempered by the camaraderie of the rest of his crew. Dennis is alone onstage, perched in designer Kit Line’s ingenious aircraft – a contraption lifted from a Heath Robinson drawing – that moves in rhythm to Phil Maguire’s blistering, flak-filled soundtrack. Merged into the soundscape is the unseen supporting cast who, through voiceover, reinforces the nightmare hidden beneath the light-hearted banter and camaraderie that keeps them going throughout the mission. But essentially this is a powerful solo performance; the sweat on Dennis’ brow is not just from the arc lights.

Played out almost in real time this is a breathless sixty minutes of theatre, during which the aircraft’s engines occasionally cut out and, with just the gliding sound of the wind, moments of reflection are given space. The sadness and the poignancy are shattering, and the vocal shrapnel pierces you with countless questions. Before the flight the wireless operator kisses a photograph of Rita Hayworth for luck. During the flight he kisses the bible while looking up to the heavens and asking, “Whose side are you on anyway?” That kind of says it all.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

 


Wireless Operator

Pleasance Theatre until 16th November

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Murder On The Dance Floor | ★★★ | October 2019
The Accident Did Not Take Place | ★★ | October 2019
The Fetch Wilson | ★★★★ | October 2019
The Hypnotist | ★★½ | October 2019
The Perfect Companion | ★★★★ | October 2019
The Unseen Hour | ★★★★ | October 2019
Endless Second | ★★★ | November 2019
Heroin(e) For Breakfast | ★★★★★ | November 2019
Land Of My Fathers And Mothers And Some Other People | ★★★★ | November 2019
Madame Ovary | ★★★★★ | November 2019

 

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All’s Well That Ends Well

★★★★

Jermyn Street Theatre

All’s Well That Ends Well

All’s Well That Ends Well

Jermyn Street Theatre

Reviewed – 8th November 2019

★★★★

 

“Ceri-Lyn Cissone steals the comedic limelight with her natural gift and assorted accents”

 

“All’s Well That Ends Well” has always been one of Shakespeare’s least performed works. Classified as one of his ‘problem plays’ it shifts between comedy, fantasy and psychological drama. The evidence that Shakespeare intended it to be a comedy is in the happy ending, as the title would suggest. Criticised as being a rather contrived and truncated conclusion, Tom Littler’s inventive production at the Jermyn Street Theatre adds a subtle twist that instils a touch of much needed pathos.

The action is transposed to 1970s London, Paris and Florence. When his Bertram’s father dies, he rejects his friends, abandons his mother, and flees his childhood home. But the orphaned Helena, in love with him since childhood, refuses to give up hope. Following in her father’s footsteps, she becomes a doctor, saves a monarch’s life, and crosses half of Europe in the passionate pursuit of her happiness.

This is an intimate production, scaled down to a cast of six. The setting is evoked more by the soundtrack than Neil Irish and Anett Black’s slightly baffling set design. Predominated by Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’ album from the mid seventies, the music is intercut with live piano accompaniment – a leitmotif echoing the iconic riffs of the recorded music. Stefan Bednarczyk and Ceri-Lyn Cissone duet and duel on a pair of upright pianos, seamlessly weaving in and out of the action. Bednarczyk’s arrangements underscore not just the dialogue but the emotional core of the characters that is often lost in the delivery.

The crux is persuading the audience why Helena should be so in love with the outwardly unloveable Bertram. Gavin Fowler shows us a chink in the armour of his roguish indifference to Helena that sheds a ray of hope. We’re not sure that Helena sees this, but her dogged determination to bag her man is matched by Hannah Morrish’s solid performance. Multi-rolling Miranda Foster delivers the most emotional punch as Helena’s newly widowed mother and the ailing Queen (normally a king) of France. Cured from her illness by Helena, Foster is like a starry-eyed convert before reclaiming her steely grasp on the proceedings.

But all in all, much of the musicality of Shakespeare’s language is missing, and the rhythm often fails to ignite the frequent tongue-twisters and tricks of the dialogue. The plot is slight so it’s all in the text which doesn’t always match the magic created by the musical atmosphere.

But what does shine is the comedy, and the torchbearers are the peripheral characters. Robert Mountford’s swaggering Parolles is a gust of fresh air as he relishes his cowardly downfall, while Ceri-Lyn Cissone steals the comedic limelight with her natural gift and assorted accents.

With themes of social mobility, deception and sexual misconduct that are still relevant today, this is a play that mixes dark fairytale with light humour; but, despite moments of magic, the peaks and troughs are never fully reached.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Matt Pereira

 


All’s Well That Ends Well

Jermyn Street Theatre until 30th November 2019

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Agnes Colander: An Attempt At Life | ★★★★ | February 2019
Mary’s Babies | ★★★ | March 2019
Creditors | ★★★★ | April 2019
Miss Julie | ★★★ | April 2019
Pictures Of Dorian Gray (A) | ★★★ | June 2019
Pictures Of Dorian Gray (B) | ★★★ | June 2019
Pictures Of Dorian Gray (C) | ★★★★ | June 2019
Pictures Of Dorian Gray (D) | ★★ | June 2019
For Services Rendered | ★★★★★ | September 2019
The Ice Cream Boys | ★★★★ | October 2019

 

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