Reviewed – 23rd January 2019
“the incredible writing, coupled with Dunne’s fluid, lively direction, allows the performances to spring to life”
Papercut Theatre have created something truly special with Hannah Nixon’s play Lola. Under Melissa Dunne’s direction, and using Nabokov’s Lolita as a source of inspiration, the play effortlessly addresses issues of power and gender that are timely and highly impassioned.
The play follows Lola (Gemma Barnett), an 18-year-old sixth former who is attempting to navigate the restraints and obsessions put on her gender and sexuality by the boys, and men, around her. In seeking the council of two of her teachers, Jez (Rob Ostlere) and Olivia (Joanne Ferguson), the play spills into a gripping and highly relevant drama of gender politics that refuses to stay silent.
Nixon’s writing is intricate and subtle and yet so full of weight. She’s able to capture so much story in a few sweeping statements, thus giving space for some excellent drama to play out between the play’s three characters as they struggle for power. The dialogue is seamless and flows like everyday conversation, constantly building in tension and allowing us to read deeper into all three personalities. The script does, however, lose some of its feeling when slipping into the dream sequences, which are a little jarring and occasionally act to take us out of the drama, rather than to throw us in deeper.
That said, the incredible writing, coupled with Dunne’s fluid, lively direction, allows the performances to spring to life. Ferguson’s Olivia is proud and human, funny and heartfelt. Ostlere’s Jez is charming and unnerving, and there is some real genius behind the actor’s creation of this untrustworthy ‘nice guy’ who proves difficult to work out. As Lola, Barnett’s performance takes centre stage; it’s mesmerising, raw and so beautifully executed. She’ll make you laugh, she’ll make you cry.
Lola is one of the best new plays I’ve seen a long while – it’s exciting, it’s slick, it’s inspiring and it showcases some real upcoming talent. Contemporary drama about gender politics can so often miss the mark, but this company have produced something that challenges social norms in a way that feels original, rousing and ultimately moving. I urge you to go and see this play if you can.
Reviewed by Tobias Graham
Photography by Ali Wright
Part of VAULT Festival 2019