Tag Archives: Leena Makoff

The Bald Prima Donna

Drayton Arms Theatre

The Bald Prima Donna

The Bald Prima Donna

Drayton Arms Theatre

Reviewed – 5th June 2019



“Julie Drake’s direction establishes the mastery of Ionesco’s script while risking a contemporary slant”


It wasn’t until he decided to teach himself English in his late thirties that Eugene Ionesco was inspired to write his first play, ‘The Bald Prima Donna’, which premiered in 1950. Diligently copying the simple, conversational phrases of his Assimil course, these sentences began to lose their educational purpose and take on a life of their own, expanding and distorting to give an underlying surrealism to an outwardly controlled and orderly way of life. Considered as one of the core representatives of the ‘Theatre of the Absurd’, his linguistic fascination leads to an observation of everyday situations and behaviour with innocence and often, puzzlement. The directness of his fast-moving, humorous dialogues appeals to audiences because of their familiarity as he moves them out of context, creating nonsensical mirror-worlds.

‘The Bald Prima Donna’ is cleverly structured as a gradual awareness of our use of words, clichés and maxims, the action accelerating from tranquil niceties to raging gobbledegook. In 5Go Theatre Company’s revival of this ‘anti-play’, Julie Drake’s direction establishes the mastery of Ionesco’s script while risking a contemporary slant and original artistic touches. The multi-racial casting and passages in Spanish and Polish are a thoughtful update on today’s stereotypical society but the initial narrated stage directions, however amusing, perhaps undermine the ability to put across the ‘Englishness’ through the acting.

A typical, middle-class scene is set in Mr and Mrs Smith’s living room – he is fixedly reading the newspaper and she is quietly darning socks. The peace is broken and the tone of the unexpected is set when the clock strikes seventeen and Mrs Smith comments “Goodness! It’s nine o’clock!”. They discuss domestic banalities; they are visited by their friends, the Martins, who discover, after a while, that they themselves just married; the Smith’s maid, Mary, appears to confuse things; finally, the Fire Chief arrives to put out a non-existent fire. On the whole, the actors create well-defined characters, though the opening scene lacks a quirkiness.

Sunil Patel portrays an unflinching Mr Smith, with a worrying glint in his eye but Kate Ruscombe-King, as his wife, sometimes rushes through her lines, leaving Mrs Smith as a less rounded role and not giving the audience time to absorb Ionesco’s writing. There is a change of gear as Mr and Mrs Martin enter in full eccentricity. Hugo Linton does well, clinging on to his sanity while Penelope Bosworth gives a wonderful interpretation as her immaculate self-control eventually gives way. Leena Makoff (Mary) balances the clever yet peculiar maid beautifully and Fabio Torrico conjures up a particularly vibrant Fire Chief.

Although the pacing and colour of the performances take time to get under the skin of Ionesco’s work, it is nice to see an interesting, committed and entertaining production of this ambitious ‘tragedy of language’ and reflect on the idiosyncrasy of Englishness at a time when its identity is being put to the test.


Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

Photography by  Olga Torrico


Drayton Arms Theatre

The Bald Prima Donna

Drayton Arms Theatre until 8th June


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Baby | ★★ | October 2018
Jake | ★★★ | October 2018
Love, Genius and a Walk | | October 2018
Boujie | ★★★½ | November 2018
Out of Step | ★★ | January 2019
Th’Importance Of Bein’ Earnest | ★★★ | February 2019
The Problem With Fletcher Mott | ★★★ | February 2019
Queer Trilogy | ★★★ | March 2019
Staying Faithful | ★★ | March 2019
Stream | ★★★ | April 2019


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The Seagull – 3 Stars


The Seagull

Theatro Technis

Reviewed – 24th April 2018


“an enjoyable watch, however, there was something left to be had from Gavin McAlinden’s direction”

Chekhov has been a source of endless inspiration for actors and directors over the hundred-plus years since the premiere of his first play, ‘The Seagull’. In the last week a new film adaptation premiered at the Tribeca film festival starring Saoirse Ronan, Annette Bening and Elisabeth Moss, giving this 19th century classic a Hollywood makeover. And why not? By focusing on actors, authors, playwrights and the theatre making itself, who’s to say whether this play will ever stop being interpreted?

Although an ensemble piece, the play charts the relations of Irina Arkadina (Leena Makoff), her lover the celebrated author Trigorin (Jared Denner), a nineteen year old neighbour Nina (Nathalie Prange) and Irina’s son Konstantin (Max Easton), who is helpless at gaining attention from either of the women he craves.

Chekhov’s plays were a change from the melodrama being produced at the time. Most of the action is not seen, either taking place offstage or between scenes – it is the way the characters react which is meaningful as opposed to the action itself. However, in this version, the performances felt slightly disjointed, as though the individual contributors were not connected in their interpretation.

Prange as Nina gave an enticing performance as a dewy-eyed, love-struck youth mesmerised by Trigorin whilst Makoff’s larger than life portrayal of the aging actress Arkadina was marvellously audacious. However, there seemed to be a slight hesitation from some of the other actors in their commitment to character.

For a play often described as a tragicomedy, the laughs were underserved, coming almost exclusively from two characters. Yasir Senna as Sorin, Konstantin’s uncle and the host of the summer gatherings, was refreshing with a jovial and mischievous manner providing light relief. Alan Kenny as the school teacher Shamrayev drew the most laughs from his pitiful, pining goodbyes which were never returned by the rest of the house guests. Moments delivered by other characters that should have stirred a laugh were either heavy handed or glossed over too quickly.

As a play that celebrates the work of the theatre and artists, the set was rather lacklustre; with only a few coloured cloths hanging from the rafters at the back of the stage. The props and costume were much more convincing – my eye continuously being drawn back to the dead body of the seagull during its appearance on stage.

The production was an enjoyable watch, however, there was something left to be had from Gavin McAlinden’s direction to bring the piece into full harmony.


Reviewed by Amber Woodward


The Seagull

Theatro Technis until May 3rd


Running in repertory
The Misanthrope | ★★ | April 2018
A Midsummer’s Night Dream | ★★ |April 2018


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