Tag Archives: Julian Starr

Tiger Under the Skin
★★★★

RADA Gielgud Theatre

Tiger Under the Skin

Tiger Under the Skin

RADA Gielgud Theatre

Reviewed – 26th June 2019

★★★★

 

“powerful lines and relatable images will remain with the audience as they leave the theatre”

 

Tom Kelsey performs his own one-man show on home turf, at the RADA Theatre in central London, where he trained. In spite of the intensely personal nature of this piece, Tom relaxes into the monologue. His openness makes for both an endearing and frightening performance. The audience is taken on a journey through an average day which spins out of control as Tom uncharacteristically accepts a friend’s offer to join on a night out.

The missing piece of the puzzle is the confession he opens with: Tom suffers from anxiety and panic attacks. The play portrays his suffering through a simple but powerful animal metaphor. The events of the night lead to the panic under his skin to surface once more, manifesting in complete tiger metamorphosis.

A long dark, wooden table at the back of the room makes up the set which acts, at different points, as park bench, tube and skyscraper. A raw and compelling performance renders every new scene completely believable.

Impressive execution of sound and lighting (Julian Starr and Simisola Majekodunmi), allows for an immersive experience. Tom is perfectly on cue, miming or reacting to the noises invading his world: doors opening, phones ringing and dogs barking. Tom’s larger than life movements, directed by Gabrielle Moleta, swiping through the air to answer his phone, for instance, ironically render this world more realistic and the audience becomes ever more involved.

The lighting emits bold colours, framing specific scenes to provide structure. The stark colours invoke emotive responses: light blue streams onto the “tube”, a tranquilising calm before the storm; red flashes indicate the onset of panic; deep purple offers pathos when dark thoughts threaten to override his joy; an electric orange heralds the terror of the transformation.

The standard of Tom’s acting is high, carrying the play forward on his own. He adopts multiple roles to convey his mother and friend Dave, breaking up the lengthy monologue and injecting the performance with some light humour.

As sounds reverberate through the room and Tom welcomes us in, directing his gaze straight into the huddle of bodies below, there is an unnerving sense that we are not only in Tom’s world, but in Tom’s head. His gestures are over the top and inviting: every word he utters is extended through action. This is a beautiful exposition of the need for control over every aspect of life, conveying the obsessive nature of his illness. By the end, however, this is replaced by the frightening movements of the tiger released from inside him. However, it is in human form, rather than as a tiger, that Tom conveys the most debilitating qualities of his daily plight. The final scenes of the play are more confusing and jump between places without transition or clear explanation. Although this succeeds in conveying the tumult inside his head, it leaves the audience a little adrift.

Although spectacular make-up transforms Tom, the stripy orange tiger is less impressive than the honest and creative ways Tom finds to convey his mental health in the first half of the play. The powerful lines and relatable images will remain with the audience as they leave the theatre.

 

Reviewed by Amy Faulkner

Photography by  Sarah Hickson

 

RADA

Tiger Under the Skin

RADA Gielgud Theatre as part of Festival 19

 

 

 

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After Dark; or, A Drama of London Life
★★★★

Finborough Theatre

After Dark; or, A Drama of London Life

After Dark; or, A Drama of London Life

Finborough Theatre

Reviewed – 20th June 2019

★★★★

 

“once you get your ear into a penny dreadful frame of mind, it becomes engrossing and plain fun”

 

If you’d told me that a Thursday evening in Brexit Britain following the latest instalment of a soulless slog towards finding the new Tory Prime Minister would have seen me grinning along to a rousing rendition of Rule Britannia, complete with Union Jacks, I’d have laughed in your face. But perhaps the play is right; all the best things do happen After Dark.

Written by Dion Boucicault (who based it on Les Oiseaux de Proie by Eugène Grangé and Adolphe d’Ennery), the work, subtitled A Drama of London Life, was an 1868 box office hit. London life is right; we find ourselves at the nexus of some key moments in our city’s past. Robert Peel’s bobbies patrol the streets, the new Metropolitan line (cleverly rendered) plays a starring role and (gulp) empire is held above all. Despite adjustments for modern audiences (director Phil Willmott rightly removed anti-Semitic characterisation), this remains every inch the melodrama, with ham in spades. The music hall is still alive at the Finborough, with the saucy ditties to prove it, and some depictions border on panto. Toby Wynn-Davies as sly lawyer Chandos Bellingham, for example, is only ever a signature song away from Fagin – but once you get your ear into a penny dreadful frame of mind, it becomes engrossing and just good plain fun. Wynn-Davies in particular brings real menace, especially in a beautifully-choreographed scene making the most of the clever sliding set and a terrific thunderclap sound effect.

In fact sound (Julian Starr) and lighting (Zak Macro) are, uniformly, first class. Rousing Victorian brass sets the scene and the live music too is of exceptionally high quality; Gabi King, Rosa Lennox (who is also musical director) and Helen Potter deliver a genuinely affecting rendition of Abide With Me, amongst other more ribald pieces. Hannah Postlethwaite’s adroit staging, establishing all of London from treacherous Rotherhithe to a smart hat shop, combined with liberal quantities of dry ice, make the small space feel genuinely atmospheric. It doesn’t take long to believe we’re in the murky streets of old; fans of Sherlock Holmes will find plenty here to enjoy.

Those of us who have had a sticky tube journey here might be heard snorting at the underground described as a ‘glorious pathway of shining light’, and certainly there are other moments that date the piece even uncomfortably (the uneasily stereotypical Russian dance troupe springs to mind). But approach the night with tongue firmly in cheek, anticipating an ending of Shakespearean levels of silliness, and you can’t go too far wrong.

 

Reviewed by Abi Davies

Photography by Sheila Burnett

 


 After Dark; or, A Drama of London Life

Finborough Theatre until 6th July

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Square Rounds | ★★★ | September 2018
A Funny Thing Happened … | ★★★★ | October 2018
Bury the Dead | ★★★★ | November 2018
Exodus | ★★★★ | November 2018
Jeannie | ★★★★ | November 2018
Beast on the Moon | ★★★★★ | January 2019
Time Is Love | ★★★½ | January 2019
A Lesson From Aloes | ★★★★★ | March 2019
Maggie May     | ★★★★ | March 2019
Blueprint Medea | ★★★ | May 2019

 

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