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Lullabies For The Lost


Old Red Lion Theatre

Lullabies For The Lost

Lullabies For The Lost

Old Red Lion Theatre

Reviewed – 9th January 2020



“At times there is a distinct Twilight Zone vibe, with the exact setting a mysterious and surreal uncertainty”


Airing dirty laundry in public is rarely a helpful exercise. But in Rosalind Blessed’s new play Lullabies for the Lost the sharing of secrets and anxieties becomes a step on the path to healing.

The piece is being staged in rep at the Old Red Lion Theatre, Islington (alongside her play The Delights of Dogs and the Problems of People), with chances to see each piece separately or across an afternoon and evening.

The two plays complement each other and Blessed has suggested that they exist in parallel realities. Significantly they both feature canine heroes, dogs which play their part in helping troubled people to move on, offering unconditional love.

This longer and newer play is more obviously about mental health, inhabited as it is by eight very different people relating struggles ranging from eating disorders to childlessness through depression and anxiety.

On an effective clinical white set (Anna Kezia Williams) on which white boxes are scattered and used for furniture eight characters are in search of an escape from their various issues. There is a sense that sharing with others is an important part of the process but it is initially unclear who they are – a gathering of supportive friends? A therapy group? A heavenly waiting room?

As each tells their story they gaze at a locked door hoping that this time it will open and allow them to exit rather than constantly having to relive their narrative. At times there is a distinct Twilight Zone vibe, with the exact setting a mysterious and surreal uncertainty.

For one, apparently newer, member of the group, Larry (a performance of studied apprehension from Chris Porter) there is a fear of going out, a secret demon urging his nervous side not to bother.

Another, Nerys, (Kate Tydman) has turned to collecting – not hoarding, she assures us – envious of a rat in her house who can have hundreds of babies while she constantly suffers miscarriages.

Then there’s Sarah (Helen Bang, exuding a confidence plagued by low self worth) a sensitive and lonely soul who has given up on love, wrapping herself in cotton wool of banality, and “Brothers Grimm” Tim (Liam Mulvery) and Jez (Nick Murphey), both having contemplated suicide but each unaware of the other’s state of mind.

As emotions are laid bare we understand the importance of communication, the need to share and concentrate on the light rather than the darkness. Shades of lighting (Mark Dymock) contrast the brightness of the characters relating to and opening up to each other and the relative dimness of inner conflict.

Rosalind Blessed plays Robin, a bulimic suffering from low self image, while Ash (an edgy Duncan Wilkins) is a cynical and sarcastic anorexic confined to an eating disorder unit.

It is only when we hear from Andy (a powerful and ardent Chris Pybus) that we sense anyone sees light at the end of the tunnel. Although feeling that he is stuck in mud, a rescue dog helps him to look beyond himself and his self-judging depression.

Blessed’s writing ensures that each of these people matter and the audience (occasionally addressed directly) are on their side, not only wanting them to face up to their anxieties and inner conflicts but to conquer them.

While often uncomfortably intense there are welcome bursts of humour and a relief that these likeable individuals encourage one another to be positive and hopeful.

As “Ma” appears (a warm film cameo from Blessed’s mother, Hildegard Neil) as an affirming voice from beyond confinement, there is a crucial message about sharing issues, not wasting life, the value of looking for purpose through beauty, love, nature, laughter, art and sport instead of meaningless self-obsession.

Lullabies for the Lost is a wise and important contribution to understanding mental health issues, not least underlining the valuable and vital role of sharing and realising you need never suffer alone.


Reviewed by David Guest

Photography by Adam Trigg


Lullabies For The Lost

Old Red Lion Theatre until 1st February


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
In Search Of Applause | ★★ | February 2019
Circa | ★★★★ | March 2019
Goodnight Mr Spindrift | ★★ | April 2019
Little Potatoes | ★★★ | April 2019
The Noises | ★★★★ | April 2019
Flinch | ★★★ | May 2019
The Knot | ★★★★ | June 2019
Edred, The Vampyre | ★★★½ | October 2019
Last Orders | ★★★ | October 2019
Blood Orange | ★★★★ | December 2019


Click here to see our most recent reviews


Pictures of Dorian Gray – D

Jermyn Street Theatre

Pictures of Dorian Gray - D

Pictures of Dorian Gray – D

Jermyn Street Theatre

Reviewed – 12th June 2019



“this Dorian-meets-Dracula interpretation has left the story drained of its lifeblood”


Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray – about the beautiful young man whose portrait grows old and marred over the years, while he remains a picture of innocent youth – is famous enough to be familiar even if you haven’t read it. The novel doesn’t lend itself well to the stage, and it’s an ambitious choice for an adaptation. Unfortunately, Tom Littler and Lucy Shaw’s one-note show doesn’t capture the complexity of Wilde’s writing.

Directed by Littler and adapted by Shaw, Pictures of Dorian Gray is titled in the plural to reflect its twist: the cast rotates through four different performances (‘Pictures’), gender swapping Dorian (Stanton Wright or Helen Reuben), Wotton (Richard Keightley or Augustina Seymour), Basil (Rueben or Wright), and Sibyl Vane (Seymour or Keightley).

The performances are strong all around – Reuben (Picture D) stands out for her portrayal of Dorian’s gradually souring innocence. However, the characters, and the intrigue around their gender-swapped dynamics, are drowned by Littler and Shaw’s heavily stylised presentation, which focuses solely on the darkness in Wilde’s story at the expense of all other elements. The aesthetic is gothic horror. The set is a sparse, black room with stark hanging lights and gothic mirrors (William Reynolds). The costumes are Victorian-influenced black robes (Emily Stuart). Disappointingly, this Dorian-meets-Dracula interpretation has left the story drained of its lifeblood. I found myself regularly reaching back to the novel for its colour and humour to contrast the hollow, unvarying bleakness of the production.

The characters who aren’t in scene slowly pace the edges of the stage, interspersing the dialogue with monotone prose from the novel, or blankly chanting scrambled, dissociated quotes. The constant repetition of echoing words – “Books. Mirror. Realism. Art. Art. Art.” – is grating and meaningless. The effect is a joyless, alienating tone. A few half-hearted chuckles from a handful of audience members survive the cleansing, but mostly the production dispenses with what is entertaining and engaging in favour of being confrontationally cold. Wilde would be the last person to take himself as seriously as this show wants to.

There’s plenty of darkness in Wilde’s works, but it’s insidious. In his plays, he slips his criticism into the comedy like razors. In The Picture of Dorian Gray, it takes a while to realise it’s a horror story. His writing lures you in with its warmth and humour, pretty dresses and lovely gardens. He’s still making light, witty jokes in the final chapters. Wilde is never straightforward. He’s very funny when he’s serious, and sincerity is his way of being playful. Littler and Shaw have missed this entirely.

In its attempt to stuff the story into a simplistic, one-note horror box, Pictures of Dorian Gray has stripped away the humour, the subtlety, the contradictions, all of Wilde’s colours, and left only black. It’s necessary to remember the original Dorian Gray is hugely enjoyable, even if Littler and Shaw want to argue it isn’t.


Reviewed by Addison Waite

Photography by  S R Taylor


Pictures of Dorian Gray – D

Jermyn Street Theatre until 6th July

The cast switch roles at different performances, giving you a choice of four versions:  A – Male Dorian with male Wotton, B – Male Dorian with female Wotton, C – Female Dorian with male Wotton and D – Female Dorian with female Wotton. See Jermyn Street Theatre website for dates each version is performed.


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Tomorrow at Noon | ★★★★ | May 2018
Stitchers | ★★★½ | June 2018
The Play About my Dad | ★★★★ | June 2018
Hymn to Love | ★★★ | July 2018
Burke & Hare | ★★★★ | November 2018
Original Death Rabbit | ★★★★★ | January 2019
Agnes Colander: An Attempt At Life | ★★★★ | February 2019
Mary’s Babies | ★★★ | March 2019
Creditors | ★★★★ | April 2019
Miss Julie | ★★★ | April 2019


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