Tag Archives: Lee Knight

A Very Very Very Dark Matter – 4 Stars

A Very Very Very Dark Matter

A Very Very Very Dark Matter

Bridge Theatre

Reviewed – 29th October 2018

★★★★

“the joviality imbues a sense of giddy discomfort to the atmosphere as the script and the cast expertly squeeze every ounce of black humour out”

 


With his unique brand of dark humour and storytelling, Martin McDonagh has authored countless classics, from The Pillowman to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Naturally, then, there’s a lot of excitement surrounding his latest play that dismantles the glorification of nineteenth-century writers like Hans Christian Anderson and Charles Dickens. Does it deliver? Very very very much.

The play centres around the notion that all of Anderson’s work was actually written by a Congolese pigmy named Marjory, who he keeps imprisoned in a pendulous box in his attic, and that he takes all the credit for her work (occasionally making edits, such as changing The Little Black Mermaid to just The Little Mermaid). It later transpires that Dickens is doing exactly the same thing with Marjory’s sister. This is of course an allusion to the cultural appropriation and colonialisation of BAME narratives, which McDonagh attempts to heighten by linking it with a time travel plot involving a massacre carried out by King Leopold II of Belgium. However, this never really seems to add anything of substance to the main themes of the play, and leaves you wondering exactly what its purpose was.

This is one of McDonagh’s most comically focussed works, with characters frequently playing directly to the audience and firing off joke after joke. Most land spectacularly, and the joviality imbues a sense of giddy discomfort to the atmosphere as the script and the cast expertly squeeze every ounce of black humour out. Jim Broadbent as Anderson is pitch-perfect, portraying him as lovable and somewhat bumbling, despite having committed the horrific act of enslaving Marjory – he’s the quintessential product of imperialism. Johnetta Eula’Mae Ackles makes her stage debut as Marjory and does a formidable job as the driven and unstoppable genius behind Anderson’s work, and Phil Daniels and Elizabeth Berrington are excellently paired as Charles and Catherine Dickens, whose hate-fuelled chemistry makes for some of the show’s most hilarious moments.

Anna Fleischle’s gothic design exacerbates the fairytale-esque quality of the story, with Anderson’s cavernous attic being adorned with marionettes that enhance the disturbing undertones of the subject matter. Matthew Dunster’s direction, too, strikes a just-right balance of not labouring the themes while also not downplaying the intellectual drive of the script. And A Very Very Very Dark Matter has intellectual drive in droves – it asks questions on celebrity, appropriation, oppression, colonialisation, imperialism, authorship, and the nature of stories and time itself. It spends so long asking questions, however, that it forgets to lay the foundation for the audience to find answers. This is a play that will subsequently gnaw away at your mind for a long time, as you ponder the reach of its implications. A Very Very Very Dark Matter takes you on a mesmeric journey, but never quite finds it destination.

 

Reviewed by Tom Francis

Photography by Manuel Harlan

 


A Very Very Very Dark Matter

Bridge Theatre until 6th January

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Julius Caesar | ★★★★★ | January 2018
Nightfall | ★★★ | May 2018
Allelujah! | ★★★★ | July 2018

 

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Adam & Eve

Adam

Adam & Eve

Hope Theatre

Reviewed – 24th May 2018

★★★★

“The strength of the production most definitely comes from the acting abilities of the three performers”

 

Adam and Eve are a seemingly perfect couple, about to embark on a new life in the countryside and buy their first home together. Their affection for one another is made clear from the outset and we are truly swept away with it at the start of the piece. Eve even asks Adam if he thinks other people get jealous of their relationship. The young couple seem to have it all, but when one of English teacher Adam’s teenage pupils makes startling accusations that threaten the pair’s relationship, they are forced to question how well they really know each other. Is their marriage as perfect as it seems?

Having received rave reviews at Jack Studio Theatre last summer, this transfer, featuring Jeannie Dickinson reprising her role as Eve, and Lee Knight and Melissa Parker taking over the roles of Adam and teenager Nikki, clearly had a lot to live up to. The strength of the production most definitely comes from the acting abilities of the three performers. Dickinson and Knight, in the title roles, do a particularly good job at bouncing off each other and present believable chemistry. Melissa Parker is a convincing teenager and is engaging throughout her time on stage.

Given the fact that the acting is of such high quality, the minimal set is not an issue and there is no need for anything more than the two chairs and various small props used. It’s not hard for us to imagine the couple’s home, the school Adam works in, or the newsagents where Nikki works and some of the action takes place. Scene changes are primarily marked through the lighting, which darkens in an almost eerie way and is very effective. This even happens during the “honeymoon period” at the start of the production, perhaps a sign of darker times to come.

The small space of The Hope Theatre, and the way the seating has been arranged, means that sometimes actors perform with their backs to certain sides of the audience for a time. This is mainly an issue during some of the confrontational scenes, where it would add to the impact if we were able to see the facial expressions and emotions of all actors at all times. However, on a positive note, the intimate studio space means the audience can really feel a part of the action, which perhaps wouldn’t be the case if the performance took place in a larger venue.

Throughout the progression of this short piece, we are taken on the journey of a couple facing a major test to their “idyllic” relationship. Psychologically, Adam & Eve will have you questioning which version of events you believe and, just when you think you have it sussed, a plot twist will be thrown in to change your view. Directed by Jennifer Davis, this production is gripping and full of tension and I highly recommend it.

 

Reviewed by Emily K Neal

Photography by Tim Cook

 


Adam & Eve

Hope Theatre until 9th June

 

Related
Previously reviewed at this venue
My Gay Best Friend | ★★★★★ | January 2018
Cream Tea & Incest | ★★★★ | April 2018
Worth a Flutter  | ★★ | May 2018

 

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