Tag Archives: Joshua Jacob

The Sleeper – 3 Stars


The Sleeper

The Space

Reviewed – 4th April 2018


“sometimes its cleverness is confusing, and occasionally the dialogue does become repetitive”


At the height of the refugee crisis, in 2015, over seven hundred people drowned in one morning crossing the Mediterranean on the hazardous boat trip from Libya to the Italian island of Lampedusa. They were just a part of the mass Syrian exodus trying to reach Europe, handing over control of their lives to fate, knowing that there was only a slim chance of ever getting it back. For those lucky enough to reach dry land, the next step on their journey was hopping on the overnight train to Paris; a direct route between the countries, which has become known as the “train of second chances”.

This night train is the setting for “The Sleeper”, written and directed by Henry C. Krempels, currently running at The Space following its debut in Edinburgh last year. Drawn from his experiences of riding that train himself as research for a commissioned magazine article, this slick and powerful theatre piece revolves around Karina, a white, British traveller; Amena – a Syrian refugee without papers or passport, or money; and the officious guard on board the train.

And ‘revolve’ is what the drama does. The story frequently finds itself back at the beginning, allowing us to observe the events from differing viewpoints – our own shifting perceptions being cleverly swayed each time the characters subtly reshape the narrative.

Karina (Michelle Fahrenheim) reports a refugee (Sarah Agha) hiding in her bunk on the overnight train in Europe. Fahrenheim brilliantly captures that very English mix of obsequiousness and hauteur. Is she really trying to help or is she just a professional complainer looking for a quick upgrade to first class? Joshua Jacob, as the French guard, is the voice of authority. Unbending in his commitment to ‘following procedure’ he chillingly reminds us of the historical dangers of taking this edict to the extreme. But the shining light is Agha’s strong portrayal of the refugee. Initially mute, she eventually seizes the narrative for herself. Even at one point totally smashing down the fourth wall and stopping the action, stepping out of character, and questioning the other two ‘white’ actors’ right to be involved in the telling of what is, after all, her story. “A play is not going to solve the refugee crisis!” she pointedly laments.

This self-awareness in the writing keeps the piece entertaining and avoids the pitfalls of diatribe, but sometimes its cleverness is confusing, and occasionally the dialogue does become repetitive. But, despite an overly drawn-out conclusion, this is an important piece of theatre: thought-provoking and illuminating. The cyclical structure reminds us that there is always more than one way of looking at things. Krempels challenges our preconceptions about the crisis and allows us to absorb the fact that there is “no single solution”. Again – like the play itself – that can be interpreted in more than one way.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Anima Theatre Company


The Sleeper

The Space until 14th April



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Review of Dead Souls – 4 Stars

Dead Souls thespyinthestalls

Dead Souls

Theatre N16

Opening Night – 5th July 2017




“A very interesting adaptation superbly acted”


Nikolai Gogol’s satire Dead Souls, in which a civil servant attempts to get rich quick by buying up the rights to recently deceased serfs in order to appear wealthy, has been adapted by Monkhead Theatre which aims to bring ‘the wild rock and roll playfulness of experimental multimedia theatre’ to the Russian classic.

Dead Souls thespyinthestalls

And they have done so successfully. ‘The Machine’, a microphone dangling above a vibrating cymbal which sits centre stage, provides a low-pitch hum throughout the drama to symbolise the ‘impalpable sound’ of the dead serfs who haunt the background of the characters petty, unfeeling, bureaucratic arguments. Video projection is also used, filming the actors as they perform in the pub downstairs. If you enjoy the humour of unaware audience participation, you’ll enjoy these sections. If, like me, you find it a bit cringy, then it can feel laboured. That is not the fault of the acting however: Joshua Jacob (Chichikov and The Minister), Jules Armana (The Prosecutor, Sobkievitch and Plyushkin) and Toby Osmond (Manilov and Nozdryov) are all superb.

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Chloe Myerson’s adaptation condenses Gogol’s circuitous novel into a taut hour and thirty minutes. Such a streamlining necessarily means that some of the author’s themes are given more prominence: in this, it is the theme of class. Chichikov is marked by his lower social status and it is here that the costuming comes into its own. Just the shoes of the characters are able to denote their ranking: Chichikov’s are a bashed about pair of slip-ons, whereas the wealthy landowner Nozdryov’s are a shining black leather.

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Fortunately, something that is not lost in the adaption is Gogol’s wry humour. It is particularly apparent in Toby Osmond’s brilliant dual portrayals of the gauche Manilov and the boorish Nozdryov, and also in the sardonic descriptions that appear on the projection.

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All in all, a very interesting production. If things get a little over-heated at the end (and it was very warm in the small space), that does not dampen the sharpness of this drama.


Reviewed by Alice Gray


Theatre N16 thespyinthestalls

Dead Souls

is at Theatre N16 until 8th July





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