Tag Archives: Keeran Blessie

Little Light
★★★

The Tower Theatre

Little Light

Little Light

The Tower Theatre

Reviewed – 20th June 2019

★★★

 

“A well-acted piece in a fascinating venue, although I’m not sure that the play is quite ready to remove its water wings”

 

When you announce to folk that you’re off to see a play in a disused swimming pool, you get some funny looks. But here, in the depths of the new Tower Theatre building, the splendidly named Humble Crumble and Loitering With Intent theatre companies plunged in with Alice Birch’s Little Light in support of the Mental Health Foundation and that is to be applauded.

The story is of a family reunion that takes place at the same time every year in a house by the sea. The same people attend, the exact same meal is eaten, the same wine drunk and the same rituals take place at exactly the same point in proceedings. Married couple Teddy and Alison are the hosts with Alison’s sister Clarissa the other invited guest. When Clarissa turns up heavily pregnant and with boyfriend Simon in tow, frayed tempers snap and the whole gathering goes horribly wrong.

The set (Poppy Crumpton) had a simple wooden table and chairs, when Simon arrives and he is finally offered a seat, it is child size so that his chin sits on the table, a visual gag lifted straight from Ayckbourn’s Table Manners. There is also a square hole in the floor, with a stepladder leading down to a lower level which all actors negotiated most nimbly. The only backing sound came at random times with a weird vibrating noise and apart from Teddie saying “Can anybody hear that” was never fully explained. Lights (Hugo Dodsworth) faded in and out, but considering the title and theme of the play, I would have liked to have seen a little more creativity.

The audience were sat in a kind of ‘T’ shape and this presented a tricky problem for director (Shani Erez). Although the cast moved around well, you were so close to the performance space that I often found myself staring straight into the back of one of the actors. Performances were very strong; Teddy (Eoin Bentick) seemed highly unstable and you expected him to snap at any point. Alison (Hannah Madison) spat each of her lines out with a sarcastic venom and is not somebody that I would ever want myself to be in a locked room with. Clarissa (Hannah Donelon) seemed at first to want to be initiating change, but ended up almost seeming like the most manic of the lot. Outsider Simon (Keeran Blessie) looked like he was going to be cheery and positive, but ended up talking over people that he had never met before, as if he was one of the family. I would have liked to have seen a little more contrast.

Grief is a horrific trauma that we will all have to deal with and it is absolutely right that the theatre does not shy away from this subject. But ninety minutes of family squabbling, sentences not being finished and vicious vindictiveness can be difficult to sit through, whatever the reason. I wish that Little Light had found some space for a bit more light, as relief from the dark subject matter that we were dealing with. This may have helped you connect with the characters  more and encouraged you to share their grief.

A well-acted piece in a fascinating venue, although I’m not sure that the play is quite ready to remove its water wings.

 

Reviewed by Chris White

 


Little Light

The Tower Theatre until 22nd June

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
To Kill a Mockingbird | ★★★½ | October 2018
Table | ★★★★ | November 2018
The Seagull | ★★★ | November 2018
Talk Radio | ★★★½ | March 2019
Happy Days | ★★★★★ | April 2019

 

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

 

Bury the Dead – 4 Stars

Bury the Dead

Bury the Dead

Finborough Theatre

Reviewed – 1st November 2018

★★★★

“Rafaella Marcus’ direction is precise and ambitious, creating distance and momentum with high energy movement and rapid scene changes”

 

It has been eighty years since ‘Bury The Dead’, the overnight hit that kick-started American writer Irwin Shaw’s startling career, was last performed in Britain and time has been kind to this remarkable and effective First World War play.

Two unnamed soldiers are burying their recent dead when the impossible happens: the dead soldiers stand up and refuse to be buried. The press get wind of it and the generals, fearing the effect on morale, send in the soldiers’ wives, mothers and sisters to talk them into dying peacefully and laying back down in the earth.

Shaw exploits this simple device to ask vital and ever-relevant questions about how war and those that die for their country are remembered. These dead soldiers fight against the notion that “war is only won when the dead are buried and forgotten”, forcing the world to confront not just the horrors of past wars, but the human sacrifice of present ones. Forgetting is not an option. Shaw avoids memorialising and glorifying, opting instead to show intimate scenes between dead soldier and loved one. The message is to remember but not romanticise. Private Dean’s mother runs screaming from the stage when she sees her sons shell-mutilated face. Confrontation might help ease her suffering. Either way, ‘Bury The Dead’ opens the debate on memorialisation and its responsibility to question as well as record.

Verity Johnson creates a foggy, evocative set using the audience to form the boundaries of a trench filled with dirt and bordered by black crates. Rafaella Marcus’ direction is precise and ambitious, creating distance and momentum with high energy movement and rapid scene changes, building expert montages that seem refreshing after long scenes of dialogue. Sioned Jones is compelling in every scene she is in and offers a beguiling performance that tackles multiple roles with ease and attentiveness. She’s matched by Luke Dale, Liam Harkins and Scott Westwood who seem so at ease in their characters and honest that their scenes together and in isolation are thrilling to watch.

Atmospheric and thought-provoking, this production tackles big themes in a tiny space. War is claustrophobic, trench warfare especially, and this feeling is evoked masterfully throughout, breaking only in the final moments when the dead win the day. Gone but not forgotten; remembered for who they were not what they fought for. War is anything but glorious in this vital, compelling, must-see production.

 

Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich

Photography by Scott Rylander

 


Bury the Dead

Finborough Theatre until 24th November

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Imaginationship | ★★ | January 2018
Into the Numbers | ★★★★ | January 2018
Booby’s Bay | ★★★★ | February 2018
Cyril’s Success | ★★★ | February 2018
Checkpoint Chana | ★★★★ | March 2018
Returning to Haifa | ★★★★ | March 2018
White Guy on the Bus | ★★★★ | March 2018
Gracie | ★★★★ | April 2018
Masterpieces | ★★ | April 2018
Break of Noon | ★½ | May 2018
The Biograph Girl | ★★★ | May 2018
Finishing the Picture | ★★★★ | June 2018
But it Still Goes on | ★★★★ | July 2018
Homos, or Everyone in America | ★★★★ | August 2018
A Winning Hazard | ★★★★ | September 2018
Square Rounds | ★★★ | September 2018
A Funny Thing Happened … | ★★★★ | October 2018

 

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