Tag Archives: Manic Street Creature

Manic Street Creature

Manic Street Creature


Southwark Playhouse Borough

MANIC STREET CREATURE at Southwark Playhouse Borough


Manic Street Creature

“emotionally raw, yet sophisticated, with significant musical prowess”

You may not recognise Maimuna Memon’s name just yet, but if you saw her in Standing at the Sky’s Edge, you will instantly jolt as soon as she opens her mouth to sing. Memon has a huge stage presence and gives another mesmerising performance in Manic Street Creature, where she has also written the accomplished book, music, and lyrics.

Manic Street Creature is structured as an album recording, with narrative interspersed within and between nine tracks that Memon as new-to-London musician Ria is recording. The album tells the story of Ria’s rollercoaster relationship with Dan, the first person to show her kindness in London. It feels like a modern situationship: young lovers scared of their own feelings. So 2023, so avoidant. However, hiding behind Dan’s addictive charm is a darkness and severe vulnerability that eventually encompasses their relationship and forces Ria to lose herself in old patterns making an unwelcome return from her childhood.

On the back of the record-sleeve-like programme is a list of charities and resources for anyone affected by caring for someone struggling with mental health. It is worth checking the content notes ahead of time as there are moments of heaviness that could be triggering, with Memon unafraid to confront difficult and conflicting issues in her brave performance.

Walking into the Southwark Playhouse’s main house you see Memon busy tuning guitars with Rachel Barnes on cello and Harley Johnston on percussion. The band are busy in a central square space while the audience file to four raked seating stalls surrounding them on each side. There is an eclectic mix of guitars, a cellist, percussion, keyboard and a squeeze box situated on top of assorted Afghan carpets. Libby Watson (Designer) has created a recording studio in the theatre, with trailing cables on full display and an open tech box. The lights go down before the stage is flooded in red: the recording has begun.

Jamie Platt, Lighting Designer, has done a great job throughout the piece, using strobes, colours and spotlights to reflect at different times rollicking emotional turbulence and the gentle, slowly intensifying glow of a long-awaited sunrise.

“Memon’s voice is spectacular”

This is Ria’s story, with Memon also speaking Dan’s lines except for one recorded call to emergency services and voicemail messages from her father’s phone (Sound Quiet Time provides the moody sound design). Rachel Barnes and Harley Johnston mostly provide instrumentation and intricate harmonies to Memon’s main melodies. When they do speak lines, Barnes in particular does a great caricature of a highbrow Highgate psychoanalyst.

Manic Street Creature is centred around some high quality original songs. Memon’s voice is spectacular. She has a fantastic lower register and can growl through lyrics with strong emotional tugs. There are also moments of lightness, with vocal runs and sophisticated flights. She fits so much into her lyrics: the opening On My Way is a ‘moving to the big city’ track that works both as an anthem and a scene setter, whereas Souls on the Precipice tackles really challenging ideas, and is an articulate stream of consciousness with more of a progressive song form. Memon was nominated for an Olivier award for a staggering performance in Standing At The Sky’s Edge, where she put her voice to Richard Hawley’s Open up Your Doors, and there are perhaps some lyrical and melodic influences from the likes of Hawley, the Manics and other rock and alternative artists here.

The clever selection of instruments including a keyboard and a vintage squeezebox that provides organ like chords underlying smoother and more pensive moments. The band nimbly switches across instruments, with Director Kirsty Patrick Ward keeping transitions seamless. Memon keeps the piece moving with most songs performed back to back and unlike a gig there is no applause until the end of the piece. This keeps the focus centred on the storytelling, and Ria’s descent into memory.

Not everything is heavy, with the irreverent delivery and conversational style eliciting many laughs from the audience, but it rarely strays far. An episode takes place in a cat cafe that is initially benign and a little surreal, though this cute anniversary date quickly takes a turn for the macabre.

The conclusion is not necessarily a triumph, just two people having to make a very hard choice. It is not necessarily satisfying or optimistic but it is inevitable, and the most honest way a story like this ends.

Nonetheless, there was a standing ovation before the stage had even been cleared. This piece affected many people in the room, me included. It is emotionally raw, yet sophisticated, with significant musical prowess. It deservedly won several awards at the 2022 Edinburgh Fringe in 2022, and is a piece of new writing that deserves to have a long life.

MANIC STREET CREATURE at Southwark Playhouse Borough

Reviewed on 25th October

by Rosie Thomas

Photography by Ali Wright






Previously reviewed at this venue:


The Changeling | ★★★½ | October 2023
Ride | ★★★ | July 2023
How To Succeed In Business … | ★★★★★ | May 2023
Strike! | ★★★★★ | April 2023
The Tragedy Of Macbeth | ★★★★ | March 2023
Smoke | ★★ | February 2023
The Walworth Farce | ★★★ | February 2023
Hamlet | ★★★ | January 2023
Who’s Holiday! | ★★★ | December 2022
Doctor Faustus | ★★★★★ | September 2022

Manic Street Creature

Manic Street Creature

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