Tag Archives: Michael Edwards

Hell Yes I’m Tough Enough

Park Theatre

Hell Yes I'm Tough Enough

Hell Yes I’m Tough Enough

Park Theatre

Reviewed – 26th April 2019



“The satire gets lost in a mish-mash of absurdist comedy and sea-side slapstick, despite excellent performances from a talented cast”


Ben Alderton’s  story is about the political battle between Ned Contraband and David Carter, obvious caricatures of Miliband and Cameron. On the Labour side, Ben Hood plays Contraband as a lost soul, pulled between his hippy counsellor, Will, and tough talking advisor Sharon Slaughter. Michael Edwards is funny and convincing as Will, oozing charm as the exaggeratedly stereotyped yoga, energy healing, hug giving therapist, one of the only characters in the play who actually cares about anyone else. Cassandra Hercules, as Slaughter, is his polar opposite, hard as nails, ambitious and a little too shouty. Contraband is pulled one way and the other between them, seeming to lack any volition of his own. He is a weak character with no depth, and it is just not possible to see him as a real politician. This is in no way Hood’s fault, he does a good job, but what he has been given to work with is not fully realised.

On the Conservative side we have Alderton himself giving us a truly vile, self serving Prime Minister Carter. He bullies and towers above his flunkies, intimidating and unlikeable. Only Annie Tyson’s Glyniss can control, and occasionally dominate him. Glyniss is Carter’s campaign manager, and Tyson gives her a steely reality that only sometimes falls victim to the play’s one dimensionality. Nick Clog, played by James Bryant, is bullied by Carter to such an extent that he even cleans his shoes. Again, the stereotype is too much, but Bryant finds moments of humanity in the chaos, particularly in the second act. Venice Van Someren plays Poppy, a young Conservative, working on Carter’s re-election campaign and practically surgically attached to her Blackberry. Also in the blue camp is a young political consultant, Patrick. He is a fish out of water in the Tory shark tank, intelligent and clever. He is also the only truly human character in the play. He is written with depth and reality, and Mikhail Sen does an excellent job of showing Patrick’s disillusionment with the world of politics, and his eventual rethink about allegiance and ambition.

The final character, played by Edward Halsted, is an Obi-Wan Kenobi/Jeremy Corbyn figure, called Corbz, who appears from time to time, sweeping the floor and uttering profundities. His dialogue with Patrick at the end of the play is a rallying cry about not giving up, of finding a way to be honest and true in the political cesspool. It is impassioned and heartfelt, but unfortunately it is a little long, and feels like a bit of a tirade by the end.

It is in characterisation that Alderton’s writing fails to convince, and Roland Reynolds’ direction, which emphasises exaggerated performance, does not help. The essence of good caricature is its believability, and making such absurd stereotypes of the characters extracts their reality to such an extent that the comedy is often diminished, people seem one dimensional, and the power of the satire is lost. Often, instead of feeling the bite of satire as the two factions fight within and between themselves, it feels more like the playground, where kids yell ‘na na ni na na’ at each other.

The set is simple and effective, using a coloured strip which lights up red, blue or yellow, according to each political party, above a wooden sideboard and carpet tied floor, is enough to give atmosphere and locate the action. Isabella Van Braeekel is the designer, Alex Hopkins the lighting designer, and Julian Starr designed the sound.

Described as a political satire, Hell Yes I’m Tough Enough falls unhappily between two stools. The satire gets lost in a mish-mash of absurdist comedy and sea-side slapstick, despite excellent performances from a talented cast. It’s a pity really, because some of it is very funny.


Reviewed by Katre

Photography by Robert Workman


Hell Yes I’m Tough Enough

Park Theatre until 18th May


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Dialektikon | ★★★½ | December 2018
Peter Pan | ★★★★ | December 2018
Rosenbaum’s Rescue | ★★★★★ | January 2019
The Dame | ★★★★ | January 2019
Gently Down The Stream | ★★★★★ | February 2019
My Dad’s Gap Year | ★★½ | February 2019
Cry Havoc | ★★ | March 2019
The Life I Lead | ★★★ | March 2019
We’re Staying Right Here | ★★★★ | March 2019
Intra Muros | | April 2019


Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com


Counting Sheep

VAULT Festival

Counting Sheep

Counting Sheep

The Vaults

Reviewed – 21st February 2019



“It is highly effective in its emotional whiplash”


There’s nothing like going solo to an immersive theatre production which includes a whole lot of partner dancing, as well as a suggestion for everyone to kiss for about a minute (a suggestion, to my surprise, enthusiastically taken on by most of the audience) to make you wish the ground would literally open up beneath you, or at least make you wish you’d absolutely insisted on a plus-one.

The audience is fair warned from the opening line that their participation is expected. But how is one to know that this will entail not just happily accepting a cup of borscht and clapping along on request, but also marching around the room waving flags and placards, and chanting Ukrainian protest slogans?

We’re led in to this revolution by a very cheery Canadian, played by Michael Edwards, who tells us of his experience of the 2014 Kiev Uprising. This is also where he meets his future partner, played by Georgina Beaty. What begins as a sunny tale of rediscovering his Ukrainian roots, coupled with a bizarre but endearing meet-cute, quickly descends in to a frenzy of fire-blazing barricades, shouts of protest, and banshee wails from a widowed bride as she wraps her corpse groom in her wedding veil.

Beautifully harmonised Ukrainian folk music alternates with Bass-heavy EDM, creating a soundtrack of extreme sentiments. All of the music is arranged by ‘Balaklava Blues’, an outfit consisting only of Mark and Marichka Marczyk, who are also the co-creators and lead characters of ‘Counting Sheep’; this is their story.

Nicolai Hart-Hansen’s design is clever – a banquet table running the length of the room becomes the material for a barricade, as do tyres and sandbags stored under what were the audience’s benches, now dismantled to make room for protest. From the outset the audience is encouraged to use their phones to record and take photos, as do the cast themselves. This found footage is projected live on to surrounding walls, interspersed with scenes from the actual Kiev Uprising.

The production is full of energetic performances, particularly so from Hanna Arkipchuk and Siarhei Kvachonak, whose tragic love story is enacted almost in the background throughout, but whom we become heavily invested in nonetheless.

That being said, there is something uncomfortable about an immersive play in which the audience is pushed to participate in a political moment still ongoing. What Natalia Kaliada and Nicolai Khalezin, directors and co-writers, have created is a confusion of documentary, play and propaganda. It is highly effective in its emotional whiplash – we’re at a party, now we’re at a protest; we’re at a wedding, now we’re under siege; at one moment the audience dances to a waltz whose lulling rhythm becomes a learning tool for a protestor’s chant – we don’t know what it means but we’re beating the air and shouting along all the same. Somehow it seems irresponsible to merge personal experience, political agenda and participation, and all the more so because it is such an effective production.


Reviewed by Miriam Sallon


Vault Festival 2019

Counting Sheep

Part of VAULT Festival 2019




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