Goodnight Mr Spindrift
Old Red Lion Theatre
Reviewed – 24th April 2019
“Netherwood’s writing is wonderfully descriptive and could fill the space alone”
Tucked away upstairs at the Old Red Lion Theatre, Goodnight Mr Spindrift showcased the writing of Nancy Netherwood. The play introduces us to Archie (Joshua Asaré) and Isaac (Jacob Ward) who are awaiting government testing which, if successful will improve their standard of living. Their ability to pass the test rests solely on the strength of their relationship but as they move along the process, cracks begin to show. The venue certainly provided a space fitting for the two lovers as they nervously wait inside their apartment.
If you research the writer and the play, there is much to be found connecting the work with the genre of horror and as a horror fan myself, I was prepared to be thrilled for seventy minutes as the action unravelled. Sadly, this piece missed the mark. Voiceover and audio work featured quite heavily in this production which appeared to be an attempt at the sinister. Coming through the speakers were the taunting words of Mr Spindrift (Angus Bower Brown) himself which were interwoven with the action on stage. At times it became inaudible leaving me somewhat unable to determine why Mr Spindrift’s character was important to the overall plot line. You begin to have questions which remain unanswered, leaving certain aspects of the play a little ambiguous.
The set (Nancy Dawson) was very simple yet creative. The kitchen area comprising of an oven and sink were crafted from metal wiring in addition to a large window which hung downstage. Aesthetically the design looked great but sadly the kitchen collapsed mid performance when knocked by a performer so perhaps was more creative than practical. Stage-right featured an amalgamation of wiring and shards of broken mirror all connected to form an interesting and slightly intimidating creation that spread up towards the lighting rig.
The writing is an exploration of love and relationships, bringing in to question just how far someone is willing to go for the person they love. Netherwood’s writing is wonderfully descriptive and could fill the space alone so I’m not sure the production needed the props that dotted the stage as there were clunky set changes which detracted from the work. The horror and thriller I had hoped for just didn’t deliver on this occasion and was a little rough around the edges.
Reviewed by Lucy Bennett
Goodnight Mr Spindrift
Old Red Lion Theatre until 27th April
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Reviewed – 2nd March 2019
“A relevant, well-acted play with brilliant story concept. If Wood can work out the kinks in the script, Alcatraz could be a powerful show”
On Christmas Eve, 11-year-old Sandy embarks on a rescue mission: she’s going to break her granny out of the care home where they’ve locked her up. Sandy’s seen Escape from Alcatraz enough times – if Clint Eastwood can do it, so can she. The exasperated head nurse and a well-meaning new staff member are just two of the many obstacles between Sandy, her gran, and freedom.
Alcatraz, written by Nathan Lucky Wood and directed by Emily Collins, questions the state of elderly care in modern society. It’s an excellent premise for a vital topic. A child equating her grandmother’s care home with Alcatraz, and carrying out a plan to rescue her, is a scintillating approach to the social commentary. It’s a promising concept that hasn’t quite reached its potential.
The beginning of the play is confusing. Sandy (Katherine Carlton) monologues about papier-mâché, and narrates her journey breaking into ‘Alcatraz’ while reciting the plot of Escape from Alcatraz. These sections feel as long as it inevitably does when an overeager person is describing their favourite film. It’s difficult to care, and Wood hasn’t given us a reason to. Unless you’ve read the programme (which the script should not require), it’s unclear what Sandy’s doing or where she is. The disorientation creates a sense of detachment: if we don’t know her mission, we cannot be invested in whether she’ll achieve it. Additionally, a child breaking into a prison (or care home) has little stakes. What will happen if she’s caught? A reprimand and a call home. The scenario doesn’t inspire the sort of apprehension necessary to hold interest without any context to support it.
The story picks up when Sandy reaches her gran, and they make their escape. There’s good interaction between the characters and solid acting all around. The adult Carlton is impressively convincing as an 11-year-old. Josh Asaré is charming as flustered trainee-carer Peter. Ellie Dickens brings adept lightness to Donna, Sandy’s grandmother who is suffering from dementia. Although described as “not nice”, Lainy Boyle brings humanity to burned-out head nurse Arden.
The script continues to hit snags. The faltering pace makes the play feel far longer than its 60-minute runtime. An abundance of opportunities for humour aren’t fully capitalised on. There’s an attempt to pack what could be a second full-length play into the final ten minutes: Sandy’s father (Alec Nicholls) is introduced, along with a barrage of information about his relationship with Sandy and Donna, and Sandy’s absent mother. The scene quickly escalates to melodrama that isn’t necessarily earned, considering we’re just meeting the father. We don’t have the connection to him we need to feel his devastation as he confronts his failings. This is an intriguing, complicated family. It’s a shame the play only scratches their surface at the very end.
Alcatraz is a relevant, well-acted play with brilliant story concept. If Wood can work out the kinks in the script, Alcatraz could be a powerful show.
Reviewed by Addison Waite
Part of VAULT Festival 2019