Tag Archives: Lizzy Leech

Spiderfly

★★★★★

Theatre503

Spiderfly

Spiderfly

Theatre503

Reviewed – 11th November 2019

★★★★★

 

“a fantastically unpredictable play – deeply unsettling its audience one moment and then having them roar with cathartic laughter the next”

 

John Webber’s debut play immediately makes a strong, lasting impression, bursting onto the Theatre503 stage with all the boxes for a winning production ticked and making me wonder why we haven’t come across Webber sooner. It packs high drama, nail-biting tension and po-faced hilarity into one 80 minute two-hander, paired beautifully with a production design that strikes the optimum balance between simplicity and ingenuity – Lizzy Leech (set/costume), Dominic Brennan (sound) and Peter Small (lighting) are to be applauded for their masterful touch here.

Spiderfly follows the story of Esther (Lia Burge), who is still traumatised by her sister Rachel’s death and wants answers from Keith (Matt Whitchurch), the man convicted of and who pleaded not guilty to Rachel’s murder. A blossoming romance with Chris (also Whitchurch) is tested as Esther allows herself to be drawn into Keith’s unsettling world; her dogged determination for truth manifesting in subsequent visits where the two form a dangerous bond. More and more we watch in fascinated horror as Keith’s effect on Esther’s own life outside the visits becomes more profound, and we wonder whether she will fall completely under his spell before finding the closure she so desperately seeks.

It’s a fantastically unpredictable play – deeply unsettling its audience one moment and then having them roar with cathartic laughter the next. A structure where the finer details and context of the plot are drip-fed in a way that gives just enough information to know what’s going on but still maintaining an air of mysterious suspense is part of why Spiderfly remains entirely gripping throughout – it really feels as though you are rewarded for sticking with it.

As for Burge and Whitchurch, they pay absolute dividends to the text. The performances are so well observed you’d be forgiven for thinking they’d written it themselves – director Kirsty Patrick Ward has clearly done a fantastic job in eking out the rich morsels of detail for the characters. Esther’s deep-set trauma is painstakingly etched into everything the character does – never once does Burge lose this, even during the lighter scenes with Chris where despite her best efforts, Esther seems as though something is holding her back. It’s a highly sophisticated performance and never one-note, as the relatability of some of Esther’s lines (“I need to look happy. Nicotine-free, obviously”) thankfully maintain her sense of humour.

Whitchurch’s contrast between Keith and Chris is extremely impressive and in the earlier stages of the play I had to look closely just to check whether it really was the same actor playing both. The lovably awkward, put-his-foot-in-it-again Chris is a favourite of the audience and provides effective comic relief, however Keith is the character that stays with you. Whitchurch’s performance is absolutely chilling – Keith is often friendly and almost charming, but a deep undercurrent of violence is forever present. When his nastier side rears its head the character becomes genuinely terrifying, absolutely dripping with quiet menace. The last scene between Keith and Esther is truly a masterclass in acting and even by itself well worth watching Spiderfly for.

I have utmost confidence that this will not be the last we see of Webber – Spiderfly is absolutely spectacular and as a debut play blows all expectations out of the water.

 

Reviewed by Sebastian Porter

Photography by Josh McClure

 


Spiderfly

Theatre503 until 30th November

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Caterpillar | ★★★★ | September 2018
The Art of Gaman | ★★★★ | October 2018
Hypocrisy | ★★★½ | November 2018
Cinderella and the Beanstalk | ★★★★ | December 2018
Cuzco | ★★★ | January 2019
Wolfie | ★★★★★ | March 2019
The Amber Trap | ★★★ | April 2019
J’Ouvert | ★★★★ | June 2019
A Partnership | ★★★ | October 2019
Out Of Sorts | ★★★★ | October 2019

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Germ Free Adolescent

★★★★

The Bunker

Germ Free Adolescent

Germ Free Adolescent

The Bunker

Reviewed – 31st October 2019

★★★★

 

“a story which is both funny and moving, with fantastic timing and energy”

 

In Medway, Ollie and Ashley are about to celebrate their three month relationship. They are both sixteen. Ollie is certain that tonight is the night. He’s cooked her dinner, sent her flowers at school, which maybe he shouldn’t have done but anyway, he’s sure he’s done everything right. Only he’s paranoid that because of his leg, she won’t like him. Ashley isn’t certain she can go through with this. She’s the resident sexual health expert at school, four leaflets on every subject, always four, it’s got to be four. And what if they have sex and then – and then …

Ashley struggles with OCD. She thinks no one knows about it, and spends her life buried in her own coping mechanisms, doing her best to hide what she is dealing with. Written by Natalie Mitchell, this is a show about what normal is, or isn’t, about no one really being normal, whatever that means after all. It’s a show about young love, sex, and self-acceptance. And it talks about all this with humour.

Francesca Henry and Jake Richards as Ashley and Ollie respectively, are fantastic individually and lovely together, well directed by Grace Gummer. The relationship between them, with all its complexities, is believable throughout. They deliver a story which is both funny and moving, with fantastic timing and energy, underscored by a youth and vulnerability that the play is made by.

The two tell the story out to the audience, never quite together onstage even though they are onstage together, until the final scene, where they actually speak to each other directly.

Lizzy Leech’s set is split into four strips. A strip of that grey school corridor flooring they always use, especially in science corridors. Another strip of patterned wallpaper, grey bordering on silver. The third is dark grey, full colour, the last one grey tiles. Across its walls and the floor at various points in the piece, Kristallnacht is projected, letter by letter, spelt out as a coping mechanism.

The ending isn’t as strong or as believable as the rest of the play. Something about it feels too easy, too conclusive. But the journey we are taken on leading up to this point is an intelligent and engaging one, honest and lively as it talks about such an important issue.

 

Reviewed by Amelia Brown

Photography by Sam Wainwright

 


 Germ Free Adolescent

The Bunker until 9th November

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Boots | ★★★★ | February 2019
Box Clever | ★★★★★ | March 2019
Killymuck | ★★★★ | March 2019
My White Best Friend | ★★★★★ | March 2019
Funeral Flowers | ★★★½ | April 2019
Fuck You Pay Me | ★★★★ | May 2019
The Flies | ★★★ | June 2019
Have I Told You I’m Writing a Play About my Vagina? | ★★★★ | July 2019
Jade City | ★★★ | September 2019
We Anchor In Hope | ★★★★ | October 2019

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews