Tag Archives: Manuel Bau

Little Pieces of Gold – 5 Stars


Little Pieces of Gold

Staged Reading Sessions

The Space

Reviewed – 10th October 2018


“the event has become a kind of deconstructed theatre form, with high quality casts and directors attached to each low budget production”


Writers able to fund their own shows are unlikely to be the most deserving of exposure so Suzette Coon’s talent showcase is invaluable. It’s also a rich experience for audiences. Far from the dour-sounding ‘Reading session’ billed, the event has become a kind of deconstructed theatre form, with high quality casts and directors attached to each low budget production.

The night’s six works, chosen from six hundred, begin with a comedy that dredges laughs from the low wage economy. ‘Sandwiches’ by Clare Reddaway shows life on the sandwich production line, with three tightly written acts squeezing in erotic sandwich fillings, a villain with a whistle played by Nigel Fyfe and a showdown at the industry’s ‘Sarnies’ awards.

Two women also see off an obnoxious male in the second of the night’s comedies, ‘Body Language’ by Sarah Pitard. Stefan Menaul draws howls of recognition as the excruciating, self-obsessed Tom, hitting on Katrina (Amy Reitsma) while she is trying to read up on cancer. Both his monologue and that of the eavesdropping Susan (Meaghan Martin), a cancer survivor, are fluent, funny and fierce.

Most of the plays carry a message about modern life but the exception is ‘Bothy’ by Ben Rogers, a tale of two men taking refuge in the Scottish hills. Callum is a jolly, yet strangely sinister local handyman; Andrew is a claims manager up from Croydon. The economy of the script and the way it keeps the audience guessing as to the motives of Callum display a rare gift of scene-writing, heightened further by the performances and direction. (David Beatty, Adam Mirsky and Imogen Wyatt Corner, respectively).

‘Humane’ follows, by Polly Creed, reviving a forgotten news story about Essex locals who face down riot police to end live exports of animals. Absolved of the need for visual dramatics, this work is liberated by the format, as Georgia Nicholson sits facing the audience, relating her character’s story with obdurate humanity.

Little happens in ‘Becoming’ by Trevor Kaneswaran, just a few quiet moments in the life of Praveen, who rejects his Sri Lankan roots as he slopes home from football and exchanges monosyllables with his Mum like any British teen. Once his uncle arrives Praveen understands more about who he is and takes up cricket. Slow, filmic, even in this basic form, and elevated by Akshay Gulati’s perfectly pitched delivery.

The choice for finale is Chantelle Dusette’s Windrush tale, ‘Where de Mangoes Grow’. A simple but eloquent poem spliced through with a montage of scenes, moments and recordings, yet it conveys an entire era of betrayal. Exquisite performances from all, but Reece Pantry’s slow acceptance of loss is impossibly moving.

Beautifully curated, and with all six plays and their casts giving a glimpse of some eye-catching talents, the ‘Little Pieces of Gold’ enterprise is well-named.


Reviewed by Dominic Gettins


Little Pieces of Gold

The Space


Previously reviewed at this venue:
One Festival 2018 – Programme A | ★★★ | January 2018
Citizen | ★★★★ | April 2018
The Sleeper | ★★★ | April 2018
Dare to Do: The Bear Maxim | ★★½ | May 2018
Be Born | | June 2018
Asking For A Raise | ★★ | July 2018
Bluebird | ★★★★ | July 2018
I Occur Here | ★★★★★ | August 2018
Rush | ★★★½ | August 2018
Fleeced | | September 2018
Love is a Work In Progress | ★★★★ | October 2018
Woman of the Year | ★★★ | October 2018


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Checkpoint Chana – 4 Stars


Checkpoint Chana

Finborough Theatre

Reviewed – 5th March 2018


“Somerville’s command of the stage is exemplary and brings an added intensity to an already complex terrain”


Stepping into the intimate and distinguished Finborough Theatre, we are immediately transported to the milieu of poet Bev Hemmings, under public scrutiny for an apparently anti-Semitic comparison in a recent poem. Jeff Page’s ‘Checkpoint Chana’ not only questions the grey area between pro-Palestinian criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism but also manages to emphasise the creative questions of self-expression and individual interpretation within sensitive boundaries.

Before the play begins, Daisy Blower’s artfully designed room, scattered with carefully selected props and evocative seventies music do more than simply set the scene; the details cleverly hint at the poet’s past and paint a picture of the seemingly carefree, bohemian life she leads. The lighting (Jamie Platt), subtly used throughout the play to intensify but not intrude, adds a warm, comfortable glow.

Out of this evolves the agony of being misunderstood and fear of losing everything, with a brilliant performance by Geraldine Somerville as Bev, whose emotions sway from disbelief to anger, frustration and resignation, deepened by the guilty grief over her dying father. Her command of the stage is exemplary and brings an added intensity to an already complex terrain. Ulrika Krishnamurti (Tamsin) portrays Bev’s PA who has the difficult job of persuading her to apologise as well as managing her erratic behaviour. However, her youth and the strength of her personality show as nervous earnestness which consequently depicts a detached working relationship, lacking plausible closeness, rather than a strong, familiar bond built up over the years. David, played by Matt Mella, the journalist prepared to help with the recovery of Bev’s reputation, surprises us with his twists of character and a moving account of painful memories. Nathaniel Wade is excellent as Michael, establishing an identity from the moment he appears, and building a rapport with the poet from very little interaction.

The script is an interesting comment on tiptoeing around political correctness by doing just that. With a pointedly politically-correct cast it lays down the various opinions as a debate with no conclusion, as opposed to a standpoint. Apart from a few unneeded jokes the drama works well as layers of complication thicken the argument. Director, Manuel Bau, concentrates on the trauma Bev is going through, leaving the changes of scene as subtle as possible and showing how one wrong step could turn her world about.

Thoughtful writing, a beautifully detailed set and some powerful performances make this a compelling production intellectually, aesthetically and emotionally.


Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington 

Photography by Samuel Kirkman


Checkpoint Chana

Finborough Theatre until 20th March



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