Tag Archives: Kiaran Kesby

Europe After the Rain – 4 Stars


Europe After the Rain

Mercury Theatre Colchester

Reviewed – 31st May 2018


“It’s not often a politically charged work of this type can feel so fluid and familiar and uninvasive to watch”


Europe After The Rain takes place in the sandbox of the soul that is generic Angry-Working-Class-Man Will’s back garden, in the aftermath of a world overturned by the withdrawal of the US from NATO and an impending British election. There is no escaping the comment on contemporary events and populist politics throughout this play – Brexit, privilege, rabid nationalism and Millennials vs Generation X angst are all here in buckets without much effort to disguise them. This could be dull, predictable even, but the movements of the characters through some touching confessions and conflicts pulls the narrative along nicely without becoming too dooming or preachy.

It is a skilful effort from writer Oliver Bennett to have pulled this off without falling into the realms of bleak end-of-the-world melodrama and despite touching on many political elements there is not really a sense that he is trying to influence your opinion on all these matters either way. There is a great sense of observation throughout, that one is watching an evolving event from several angles without needing to take a side, wave a flag or howl in despair. In fact, it is very funny on occasions, highlighting the foibles of modern British living with some astutely observed character based comedy.

Irritating, emotionally sketchy visitor Max (Simon Haines) in particular is perhaps a slightly too on-point embodiment of the worn down, over thinking thirty-something in severe danger of getting married to a boring desk job before being able to save the world from itself. Haines is engaging and full on, with a (hopefully) intentionally awkward performance that makes uncomfortable watching to begin with as he descends from being a bit weird, to rather tragically lost and insecure. James Alexandrou fits nicely into the character of Will – angry but needy, caring but entitled and progressively haunted by his own clumsy attempts to maintain his relationship with Yana (Anna Koval). Koval also does a great job as a surprising, and at times incredibly amusing, woman trying to get on with her present life as the men around her seem hellbent on focusing on either the horrors of the past or even bigger horrors of their imagined immediate future. There is a great contrast in the doom of the men waiting for what is to happen and the cheery abandon of Yana as she does her best to make things change for herself, no matter how small that change might be.

All in all, when the action is over it’s probably Marta you want to sneak off to the pub with afterwards. Natasha Kafka is the more understated of the players, taking on teenager Marta with a quiet confidence and increasing frustration throughout. It is a great performance from Kafka, allowing the audience again, through the strength of the writing, to enjoy and sympathise with the character regardless of how you feel about the social statement of powerless youth she represents on the stage. It really is the perfect example of a small ensemble cast without anyone particularly outshining the others, instead blending together comfortably to really make the action on stage work. It could quite easily have descended into a bit of a shouty drama (and there’s plenty of raised voices) but director Cara Nolan appears to have avoided this by keeping a sense of softness throughout the production despite the reasonably bleak subject matter.

The set is fairly sparse, and perfectly suited to the studio staging that I attended – namely a giant sand pit with some light interchangeable props. It is perhaps striking in its dullness, though this gives the chance for the audience to imagine that this illusion of the holiday beach could actually be any back garden outside of London – that these people could be anywhere facing these tribulations of love, loss, identity and self possession in a hard and inconsistent world. Indeed, they could be any one of us. The simple set and lack of flashy sound or lighting effects give it a comfortable flow despite the hefty themes at work in the foreground.

The real winning point, for me, is that at the time it feels like a simple, honest portrayal of four random and sympathetic human beings kicking around on a beach over a rough twenty four hours. The harder points in the background of the play – the painful legacy of being part of a democracy that makes inhumane decisions or the vanity tied up with Being A Good Person – don’t really hit you until afterwards. In fact it took me and my theatre buddy until some hours later to come to realise the meaning of a fairly massive point of the play, which I wont spoil here, and I think this is wonderful. It’s not often a politically charged work of this type can feel so fluid and familiar and uninvasive to watch.


Reviewed by Jenna Barton

Photography by Robert Day


Europe After the Rain

Mercury Theatre Colchester until 9th June


Previously reviewed at this venue
Deathtrap | ★★★★ | October 2017
The Turn of the Screw | ★★★★ | March 2018
Pieces of String | ★★★★ | April 2018


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Review of Richard III – 3 Stars


Richard III

The Cockpit Theatre

Reviewed – 18th October 2017



“the real stand out performances lie with the females in this play”


Richard III is one of Shakespeare’s longest plays. This fact does not hold back Front Foot Theatre’s production of the classic text. From the beginning it’s easy to follow and captivating.

All of the acting in this production is strong with a few performers being quite exceptional. Kim Hardy portrays Richard as a subtly menacing villain. His physicality of Richard’s deformity is visible but doesn’t ever border on being too much. The Duke of Buckingham, played by Guy Faith, acts wonderfully as his sinister right hand man. However, the real stand out performances lie with the females in this play, particularly Helen Rose Hampton as Queen Elizabeth and Fiona Tong as the Duchess of York. The strength of their characters easily shines through even when placed in terrible situations.

The use of space in this adaption is extremely clever. We’re brought closer in to the action by a thrust staging and the unused seating bank is utilised as a piece of set (designed by Amanda Mascarenhas) throughout the play. The balcony above the stage is used for numerous scenes. However, using the section directly above a large portion of the audience led to most being unable to watch the action and quickly becoming disengaged. Lighting (Kiaran Kesby) adds a lot to the space: uplighting the actors gives them a sinister glow and dark spaces allow characters to lurk in shadows.

One of the cleverest parts of this production is the use of puppets (made by Jenny Dee) to portray the infamous Princes in the Tower. These work well due to the actors both operating and voicing them. It would have been easy for this to come across as silly, but they manage to avoid that completely.

Throughout the play the setting remained confused; it was a little too muddled between modern and historical. All of the battles were fought with swords and shields yet someone listens to a radio and another pins up photographs. It’s quite jarring. Although from an aesthetical perspective the monochromatic theme of the piece with only small splashes of colour is effective.

Directed by Lawrence Carmichael, this is a strong production. For the majority of the time it’s extremely engaging which is a major achievement considering its length. With Shakespeare it’s easy to get too carried away and caught up in things but this adaption remains grounded and easily understandable.


Reviewed by Katie Douglas

Photography by David Monteith-Hodge




is at The Cockpit Theatre until 4th November



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