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tarantula

Tarantula

★★★★

Online via Southwark Playhouse

tarantula

Tarantula

Online via Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 30th April 2021

★★★★

 

“this twisted script and Henley’s gut-wrenching execution are plenty to keep us at home one more night, voraciously glued to the screen”

 

I first encountered Philip Ridley as a teenager, reading Pitchfork Disney, his 1991 play about an agoraphobic brother and sister who survive on chocolate and horror stories of the outside world. I’d never read anything like it; the strange recipe of graphic and often violent subversion coalescing with playful whimsy and childish naivety. Like Roald Dahl on a nasty come-down.

Ridley doesn’t appear to have changed his tune in his newest play, Tarantula, in which we accompany sweet adolescent Toni on her first real date with a boy she really fancies, and then, rather suddenly, through a harrowing near-death attack and the ensuing trauma it inevitably spawns.

Georgie Henley’s performance is rich and complicated. Unlike most trauma narratives, Henley’s Toni never loses her desire to be liked and likeable, and to maintain a sunny disposition. Rather than descending into shadowy darkness, Toni is desperate to see the light, making the story all the more troubling. Her smile stretches wider and wider until we can hardly see her at all, in her place just a manic plea for everything to be okay.

Ridley has also never shied away from casual domestic subversion and he does so with such ease, it feels crass to bring it up. But it also feels important and worthy of applause, so needs must. In this case it’s Toni’s dad who stays at home with the kids, whilst her mum tries her hand at various jobs. Toni’s older brother, a seeming classic trouble maker who, in someone else’s story would likely continue to represent something nasty and unlikeable, reveals depth and an unexpected self-awareness. And it appears that everyone is fairly sexually fluid and suffers no judgement. None of this is dwelled upon at all, which is what makes it so completely refreshing.

The one-woman format with little to no production – flood lighting becomes spotlighting on occasion, and half way through Henley removes a t-shirt to reveal sportswear – has become fairly commonplace in the past year, and understandably so what with theatres having to constantly change their programming to fit with fresh lockdowns and social distancing. Nonetheless it seems quite brave to do this only a couple of weeks before theatres (hopefully) open as usual, when attention spans are at an all-time low and everyone is so desperate to leave the house, we’re sitting outside restaurants in jumpers and coats, huddling beside outdoor heaters and pretending it’s not just started raining.

But Ridley was never going to have a problem holding the audience’s attention and director Wiebke Green clearly knows that. Whilst two hours is quite a lot to ask of an online audience at the moment, this twisted script and Henley’s gut-wrenching execution are plenty to keep us at home one more night, voraciously glued to the screen.

 

 

Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

 


Tarantula

Online via Southwark Playhouse until 1st May

 

Have you read this review?
The Picture of Dorian Gray | ★★★★ | Online | March 2021

 

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C-O-N-T-A-C-T

★★★★

Various London Locations

C-o-n-t-a-c-t

C-O-N-T-A-C-T

London – Central

(Various London locations are available)

Reviewed – 4th September 2020

★★★★

 

“feels creatively alive, tender and hopeful; it leaves a lasting artistic shimmer and sprinkles a touch of magic”

 

C-o-n-t-a-c-t is an outdoor immersive promenade production, that takes place on the edge of the river, five minutes from Monument tube (other locations are available). Plugged into headphones, through a previously downloaded app (all very simple, and efficiently handled by the facilitator, who we meet 10 minutes before the production begins), the audience hears the thoughts and conversation of the two characters, one of whom we are instructed to follow.

The concept is a simple one, and reminiscent of Wim Wenders’ masterwork Wings of Desire: a guardian angel is on earth in human form, and he has appeared in order to help a young, lost and grieving woman get over the death of her father. Written by Eric Chantelauze, it is a delicate 50 minute reflection on grief. In Quentin Bruno’s English adaptation, the writing is predominantly colloquial and straightforward, with occasional excursions into a slightly more meditative realm, and for the most part works well, though an unfortunate last minute detour into Latin does feel hackneyed and unnecessary. Max Gold, as the angel Raphael, fails to convince in this instance, and the grandeur of the language reduces, rather than enhances, his angelic aura.

This was a rare jarring moment however. Samuel Sené (director and creator of the original production, along with Gabrielle Jourdain) has put some lovely subtle movement sequences in place within the characters’ walk together, and there are many moments of gentle beauty, particularly in Laura White’s performance as Sarah, which seamlessly embodies Aoife Kennan’s spoken narrative. The atmosphere is also hugely enhanced by Cyril Barbessol’s contemplative, melodic piano, which is a continuous musical thread throughout the piece, and works brilliantly under a London sky and against the grand, ceaseless flow of the Thames.

In these strange and pretty desperate times for live theatre, C-o-n-t-a-c-t feels creatively alive, tender and hopeful; it leaves a lasting artistic shimmer and sprinkles a touch of magic on a September evening. Highly recommended.

 

Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw

Photography by Pamela Raith

 


C-O-N-T-A-C-T

Various London locations until 4th October see www.contactshow.co.uk for full details

 

Previously reviewed this year by Rebecca:
Dadderrs | ★★★ | The Yard Theatre | January 2020
In A Way So Brutal | ★★★★ | The Yard Theatre | January 2020
Santi & Naz | ★★★ | The Vaults | January 2020
The Maids | | Hen & Chickens Theatre | January 2020
Tom Brown’s Schooldays | ★★ | Union Theatre | January 2020
Ghost Stories | ★★★ | Theatre Royal Brighton | February 2020
Since U Been Gone | ★★★★ | The Vaults | February 2020
The Fourth Country | ★★★★★ | The Vaults | February 2020
The Tin Drum | ★★★★ | The Coronet Theatre | February 2020
Henry V | ★★★★ | The Barn Theatre | March 2020
Superman | ★★★½ | The Vaults | March 2020
Fanny & Stella | ★★★★ | The Garden Theatre | August 2020

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews