“Netherwood’s writing is wonderfully descriptive and could fill the space alone”
Tucked away upstairs at the Old Red Lion Theatre, Goodnight Mr Spindrift showcased the writing of Nancy Netherwood. The play introduces us to Archie (Joshua Asaré) and Isaac (Jacob Ward) who are awaiting government testing which, if successful will improve their standard of living. Their ability to pass the test rests solely on the strength of their relationship but as they move along the process, cracks begin to show. The venue certainly provided a space fitting for the two lovers as they nervously wait inside their apartment.
If you research the writer and the play, there is much to be found connecting the work with the genre of horror and as a horror fan myself, I was prepared to be thrilled for seventy minutes as the action unravelled. Sadly, this piece missed the mark. Voiceover and audio work featured quite heavily in this production which appeared to be an attempt at the sinister. Coming through the speakers were the taunting words of Mr Spindrift (Angus Bower Brown) himself which were interwoven with the action on stage. At times it became inaudible leaving me somewhat unable to determine why Mr Spindrift’s character was important to the overall plot line. You begin to have questions which remain unanswered, leaving certain aspects of the play a little ambiguous.
The set (Nancy Dawson) was very simple yet creative. The kitchen area comprising of an oven and sink were crafted from metal wiring in addition to a large window which hung downstage. Aesthetically the design looked great but sadly the kitchen collapsed mid performance when knocked by a performer so perhaps was more creative than practical. Stage-right featured an amalgamation of wiring and shards of broken mirror all connected to form an interesting and slightly intimidating creation that spread up towards the lighting rig.
The writing is an exploration of love and relationships, bringing in to question just how far someone is willing to go for the person they love. Netherwood’s writing is wonderfully descriptive and could fill the space alone so I’m not sure the production needed the props that dotted the stage as there were clunky set changes which detracted from the work. The horror and thriller I had hoped for just didn’t deliver on this occasion and was a little rough around the edges.
“this musical packed as much energy as any West End show I’ve attended”
In the heart of Vauxhall, Above the Stag Theatre has established itself as the only professional LGBT+ theatre in the UK with Artistic Director Peter Bull introducing some exciting productions. Romance Romance is a revival of the 1980’s Broadway original, with book and lyrics by Barry Harman and music by Keith Herrmann. Marketed as a reimagining told through the exploration of gay attraction and relationships, this two-act musical offers two very different stories both connected by the theme of love. Act One, The Little Comedy, is set in 19th Century Vienna and provides a light-hearted, farcical story of two people who upon adopting new personas fall in love. Act Two jumps forward to a contemporary setting in The Hamptons for Summer Share, which explores the complexities of love through the possibility of an affair.
First and foremost for a small production this musical packed as much energy as any West End show I’ve attended. The driving force behind this was the cast of just four performers (Ryan Anderson, Jordan Lee Davies, Alex Lodge, and Blair Robertson) who each threw themselves into this production heart and soul. Powerful performances from all but notably Ryan Anderson who brought the house down with his solo number ‘How did I end up Here?’ Some fantastic casting as the dynamic between the four was electric, and by the end of Act Two, the idea of this being a reimagining as a means to explore gay attraction is so far out of the picture, it was as if it was meant to have been written this way. Act Two really stood out because of its exploration of love, emotion and the complexities of relationships offering something we can all connect to regardless of your sexual orientation.
The direction (Steven Dexter with Summer Strallen as associate director) ensured the absolute most was made of all available space which doubled the size of the production as it burst out from every part of the stage. David Shields’ smart design allowed for the set to be transformed in front of our eyes, transporting us from Vienna to The Hamptons in a blink of an eye. Live music filled the room from upstage where the band sat playing for all to see, emphasising just how much can be achieved in a studio space. The lighting design (Jack Weir) added another layer which allowed for us to be transformed from the character’s private thoughts to new locations. The production made the most of all it had and then some.
Overall this musical was very sharp and full of life. My only wish is that it could be realised on a bigger scale as it has so much to offer. Act One offers you fun, songs, silliness and dance with Act Two bringing the heart and soul; a musical of two very different halves but with something for everything!