Tag Archives: Julian Starr

Hell Yes I’m Tough Enough
★★½

Park Theatre

Hell Yes I'm Tough Enough

Hell Yes I’m Tough Enough

Park Theatre

Reviewed – 26th April 2019

★★½

 

“The satire gets lost in a mish-mash of absurdist comedy and sea-side slapstick, despite excellent performances from a talented cast”

 

Ben Alderton’s  story is about the political battle between Ned Contraband and David Carter, obvious caricatures of Miliband and Cameron. On the Labour side, Ben Hood plays Contraband as a lost soul, pulled between his hippy counsellor, Will, and tough talking advisor Sharon Slaughter. Michael Edwards is funny and convincing as Will, oozing charm as the exaggeratedly stereotyped yoga, energy healing, hug giving therapist, one of the only characters in the play who actually cares about anyone else. Cassandra Hercules, as Slaughter, is his polar opposite, hard as nails, ambitious and a little too shouty. Contraband is pulled one way and the other between them, seeming to lack any volition of his own. He is a weak character with no depth, and it is just not possible to see him as a real politician. This is in no way Hood’s fault, he does a good job, but what he has been given to work with is not fully realised.

On the Conservative side we have Alderton himself giving us a truly vile, self serving Prime Minister Carter. He bullies and towers above his flunkies, intimidating and unlikeable. Only Annie Tyson’s Glyniss can control, and occasionally dominate him. Glyniss is Carter’s campaign manager, and Tyson gives her a steely reality that only sometimes falls victim to the play’s one dimensionality. Nick Clog, played by James Bryant, is bullied by Carter to such an extent that he even cleans his shoes. Again, the stereotype is too much, but Bryant finds moments of humanity in the chaos, particularly in the second act. Venice Van Someren plays Poppy, a young Conservative, working on Carter’s re-election campaign and practically surgically attached to her Blackberry. Also in the blue camp is a young political consultant, Patrick. He is a fish out of water in the Tory shark tank, intelligent and clever. He is also the only truly human character in the play. He is written with depth and reality, and Mikhail Sen does an excellent job of showing Patrick’s disillusionment with the world of politics, and his eventual rethink about allegiance and ambition.

The final character, played by Edward Halsted, is an Obi-Wan Kenobi/Jeremy Corbyn figure, called Corbz, who appears from time to time, sweeping the floor and uttering profundities. His dialogue with Patrick at the end of the play is a rallying cry about not giving up, of finding a way to be honest and true in the political cesspool. It is impassioned and heartfelt, but unfortunately it is a little long, and feels like a bit of a tirade by the end.

It is in characterisation that Alderton’s writing fails to convince, and Roland Reynolds’ direction, which emphasises exaggerated performance, does not help. The essence of good caricature is its believability, and making such absurd stereotypes of the characters extracts their reality to such an extent that the comedy is often diminished, people seem one dimensional, and the power of the satire is lost. Often, instead of feeling the bite of satire as the two factions fight within and between themselves, it feels more like the playground, where kids yell ‘na na ni na na’ at each other.

The set is simple and effective, using a coloured strip which lights up red, blue or yellow, according to each political party, above a wooden sideboard and carpet tied floor, is enough to give atmosphere and locate the action. Isabella Van Braeekel is the designer, Alex Hopkins the lighting designer, and Julian Starr designed the sound.

Described as a political satire, Hell Yes I’m Tough Enough falls unhappily between two stools. The satire gets lost in a mish-mash of absurdist comedy and sea-side slapstick, despite excellent performances from a talented cast. It’s a pity really, because some of it is very funny.

 

Reviewed by Katre

Photography by Robert Workman

 


Hell Yes I’m Tough Enough

Park Theatre until 18th May

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Dialektikon | ★★★½ | December 2018
Peter Pan | ★★★★ | December 2018
Rosenbaum’s Rescue | ★★★★★ | January 2019
The Dame | ★★★★ | January 2019
Gently Down The Stream | ★★★★★ | February 2019
My Dad’s Gap Year | ★★½ | February 2019
Cry Havoc | ★★ | March 2019
The Life I Lead | ★★★ | March 2019
We’re Staying Right Here | ★★★★ | March 2019
Intra Muros | | April 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

Cry Havoc
★★

Park Theatre

Cry Havoc

Cry Havoc

Park Theatre

Reviewed – 29th March 2019

★★

 

“not quite the rallying cry to action it ought to be”

 

Imagining the “blood and destruction” that will sweep Italy, Marc Antony famously pictures the moment when Caesar’s spirit “Ranging for revenge, With Ate by his side come hot from hell, Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice, Cry ‘Havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war”. Lacking true drama, threat or passion, Tom Coash’s play, sadly, never lives up to the promise of its title.

Mohammed El-Masri (James El-Sharawy) returns to a trashed flat in Egypt after six days of imprisonment and beatings at the hand of the government police forces. Weakened and shaken by his ordeal, he turns to English gent Nicholas Field (Marc Antolin) to help him escape the regime. After pleading with Karren Winchester’s bizarrely entertaining immigration officer Ms. Nevers, Nicholas gets the visa they need. But Mohammed’s love for his homeland is not so easily overcome, and he ends up facing a stark choice.

Told through various conversations taking place in Mohammed’s flat, Coash’s script introduces a vital topic for our times: the continued and frequent imprisonment and torture of gay men in countries across the world. And yet his play lacks any real intention or high stakes, and his characters remain forgettable. We meet Mohammed at the wrong time in his story so that the anguish of his ordeal draws less sympathy than it should. Considering this moment defines so much of the character’s actions, some sense of who he was before his imprisonment would have really added to our understanding of his character.

Director Pamela Schermann’s well-known skills never quite shine through in this production, hampered, perhaps, by the script. Time passes, but it is often unclear how much. Her actors do well however in the regular black-outs to change scene in character. Mohammed and Nicholas’ relationship struggles to convince however, and even an awkwardly placed scene where the pair reminisce about how they met (and handily fills us in on their history in the meantime) fails to make it clear who these characters really are and why they are trying to be together in the first place. The climax therefore lands with a dull thud. This story deserves more.

‘Cry Havoc’ has too many caricatures and not enough character. An important story that raises awareness of a global problem, but not quite the rallying cry to action it ought to be.

 

Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich

Photography by  Lidia Crisafulli

 


Cry Havoc

Park Theatre until 20th April

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Honour | ★★★ | October 2018
A Pupil | ★★★★ | November 2018
Dialektikon | ★★★½ | December 2018
Peter Pan | ★★★★ | December 2018
Rosenbaum’s Rescue | ★★★★★ | January 2019
The Dame | ★★★★ | January 2019
Gently Down The Stream | ★★★★★ | February 2019
My Dad’s Gap Year | ★★½ | February 2019
The Life I Lead | ★★★ | March 2019
We’re Staying Right Here | ★★★★ | March 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com