Old Red Lion Theatre
Reviewed – 4th April 2019
“delves into an abstracted perspective on very human issues, and is likely to be different from anything you have seen before”
The first thing you will notice about The Noises – a new play brought to The Old Red Lion Theatre by mother-daughter duo Jacqueline Saphra (writer) and Tamar Saphra (director) – is its main character, a dog named Luna. Shut inside a room by her owners her odd, defamiliarised speech is fascinating and hilarious; she calls sex “rump and grunty” and her owners “ma”, “pa” and “my Ellie girl”. She details all those strange things we know dogs do, from re-devouring a partially thrown up chicken (described in delightfully gruesome detail) to hiding one of every pair of shoes owned by various members of the house. Then there is her physicality, designed by movement director Louise Kempton and executed with impressive economical precision by Amy McAllister. The slight vibration of McAllister’s legs and bottom to suggest a wagging tail, the whine in her voice as she demands things from her owner, and an occasional growl are all particularly reminiscent to us dog owners of our own pets. Luna never delves too far into an animal reenactment – she doesn’t shuffle around on all fours as a child might – but there is just enough there to show us that she is not human.
The production begins with an audio description of the set, and special mention must be made to audio description and access consultants Jenni Elbourne and Amelia Cavallo for their work to make the show accessible for the visually impaired. The audio description itself adds to the show and experience, because so much of the play centres around Tom Parkinson’s sound design. Whilst the set is a single “room” with worn lino floor, a cracked ceiling and a single door stage-let, ‘The Noises’ themselves give a sense of the wider world beyond the door. At first these noises are familiar to Luna – a family argument, footsteps, a car outside – but as the play progresses they grow into something more frightening, until eventually they invade the set and even split the ceiling apart!
Thus we move from an amusing depiction of the inner workings of a dog’s mind to a deeper exploration of courage, fear and what it means to be ‘good’. Luna’s connection with the audience, looking us directly in the eye as she teaches us and tells her stories, means we find ourselves reconsidering our own outlooks. This play may revolve around a dog’s perspective, but it delves into an abstracted perspective on very human issues, and is likely to be different from anything you have seen before.
Reviewed by Katy Owen
Photography by Ali Wright
Old Red Lion Theatre until 20th April
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Reviewed – 20th February 2019
“Guyler is most definitely a writing talent to be reckoned with”
Digging Deep is Amy Guyler’s four man play about suicide, which, shockingly, as the beer mats placed on our seats remind us, is the biggest killer of men under 45 in this country. The play centres on 22 year old Mossy and his group of mates. Mossy is done with life – he feels he’s flatlining already and he doesn’t see the point of carrying on – but he doesn’t want to leave his Mum with a costly funeral bill, so he enlists his mates to help him raise £10,000 before he ends it all. Before long, their local campaign goes viral and hits the headlines, the money is raised, and Mossy is faced with the reality of his situation.
Digging Deep is a well-paced, tightly written drama, with an expertly handled and unexpected last minute denouement. Guyler has a great ear, and for the most part the dialogue is eminently recognisable as the comfortable banter common to a group of lads who hang out together a lot. The gags are occasionally overplayed, and the comedic moments occasionally overwritten, but there are a lot of genuine laughs to be had, and Guyler is most definitely a writing talent to be reckoned with, particularly since she is also capable of moving people to tears; two men in the audience last night were completely overcome in the play’s final moments.
Credit must go too to Alistair Wilkinson’s sure-handed and creative direction, and to some terrific performances. Kyle Rowe, as Mossy, is magnetic on stage throughout, with tremendous physical and vocal presence. He is ably supported by Jonny Green – who gives a nuanced portrayal of the sensitive Matt – and Matthew Woodhead, entirely believable as Mossy’s oldest mate Kane. Josh Sinclair-Evans, as Jack, arguably has the most difficult task, and, although his performance makes more sense at the play’s close than it does during its unfolding, Jack’s characterisation still seems somewhat skin-deep in comparison with that of the other three. This is partly owing to the choice to give him a very obvious tic (he played nervously with the tie of his hoodie throughout) which emphasises his external behaviour over what he carries in his body.
The boys’ physicality plays a huge part in this piece; how they move, individually and collectively, tells us so much about who they are. There are some brilliantly directed set pieces – the sponsored onion-eating; the football match; the sky dive – but the subtle physical detail in each performance is almost more pleasing, defining, as it does, the boys so clearly one from the other. They scuff and lounge and strut around the stage, hands in pockets or down trousers, chests out or shoulders hunched, and paint a poignant potrait of the so-often-hidden struggles that so many young men face. Prepare to be moved.
Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw
Photography by Andrew James
Part of VAULT Festival 2019