Tag Archives: Natasha J Barnes

Wasted – 3 Stars

Wasted

Wasted

Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 12th September 2018

★★★

“The punk ethic is there but not authentic enough to make us root for these supposed desperados”

 

There are many famous people who continue to live with us through their work, none of whom could have known how famous they would become posthumously. Artists such as Vincent Van Gogh and Johannes Vermeer, writers Franz Kafka, Edgar Allen Poe and John Keats, the Italian astronomer Galileo (who had to wait three centuries before his theories were accepted) and even J.S. Bach was little known in his own lifetime.

The creators of “Wasted”, the new musical at Southwark Playhouse, are adding the Brontë sisters to the canon, the title of which suggests that the three sisters and their often overlooked brother never achieved the recognition they sought nor found their true vocation. Hence, they believed their lives were ‘wasted’. We will never know if this was a real concern to the siblings two centuries ago, but the writers here drum home the imagined anxieties with a mixture of teenage angst and prophetic irony.

Part gig and part rock documentary, Christopher Ash’s music and Carl Miller’s book chart the struggles, frustrations and heartbreaks of Charlotte, Emily, Anne and their brother Branwell. A four-piece band form the backdrop while Libby Todd’s effective use of flight cases and sheet music create the set, reinforcing the rock theme. With hand held mics, the strong cast of four are the lead singers, imbued with a New Wave tension as they sing about being “stuck in this dump” and “we want to write”. The punk ethic is there but not authentic enough to make us root for these supposed desperados.

Although the narrative is often a touch too quaint to comfortably sit with the style of the songs, the cast do pull off the numbers with an anarchic self-possession. And you can detect a rock band’s politics permeating the foursome. Natasha Barnes’ Charlotte is pretty much the lead here; the strong contender in control, who goes onto a successful solo career. She does, after all, outlive her sisters. Siobhan Athwal gives Emily the tortured soul treatment; emotional and wayward while Molly Lynch, as Anne, is the quiet one who nevertheless is the one who comes across as the most interesting. Not to be outdone by this feminine trio, Matthew Jacobs Morgan holds his own and, even if historically Branwell fell by the wayside, Morgan certainly keeps up with the girls here.

All four sing exquisitely and they do wonders to shake off the dusty image of the Brontë family. The rock score reminds us how radical and visionary they were, yet the punch is weakened by stretching the point to its limit. And many of the songs are far too long, which does lessen the poignancy and the power of the material. Likewise, Adam Lenson’s dynamic direction is diluted in a show that does overrun its natural course. Some ruthless editing is needed for it to truly echo the characters who lived fast and died young.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Helen Maybanks

 


Wasted

Southwark Playhouse until 6th October

 

 

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Review of Tryst – 4 Stars

Tryst

Tryst

The Tabard Theatre

Reviewed – 17th October 2017

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

“what has begun as a quaint romantic drama reveals itself to be an unpredictable thriller”

 

Based on a true story “Tryst”, which first ran in the West End twenty years ago, is revived at the Tabard Theatre. Starring Natasha J Barnes (who notably came to prominence when she stepped into the lead role of Funny Girl last year) and Fred Perry it is a passion-fuelled Edwardian thriller.

The two characters kick off by addressing the audience, laying bare their motives. Neatly delivered by the two actors, this device does initially give the audience an easy ride by taking away the need for a certain amount of guesswork. However, just as we are thinking that there is little room for intrigue, the dynamics shift and what has begun as a quaint romantic drama reveals itself to be an unpredictable thriller.

Adelaide Pinchin, a backroom milliner, is seduced by serial fraudster George Love. At first we wonder at the ease with which this happens; her gullibility is a touch unbelievable. So it is with a sense of relief that we see a suppressed intelligence break through when Adelaide eventually sees her antagonist for what he really is. From there on she demonstrates that she can give as good as she gets.

Natasha J Barnes plays the desperation of an unempowered, lonely soul to perfection. Barnes is a formidable stage presence, yet has the gift of restraint that allows the subtle shades of her portrayal to shine through. The range of emotions, from naïve wide-eyed wonder through to bitter anger is beautifully defined. Fred Perry’s George Love has an equally sweeping journey. The pair are a great match in this cat and mouse potboiler. Yet who is the cat and who is the mouse is never fixed. Until maybe the end, but it would be unfair of me to reveal too much.

There is a fine balance of rom-com and psycho-thriller built into the ninety minutes. The comedy’s main source is George Love’s outrageous lies. An unashamedly unscrupulous misogynist he is quite out of place in today’s society, even at times provoking a groan of mock disgust from a particularly vocal audience member. Then the tables turn and the switch to melodrama is seamless under Phoebe Barran’s stylish direction, enhanced by the thrilling moods of Matt Drury’s lighting, Max Dorey’s set and Dave McSeveny’s sound design.

Barnes may be the main selling point of this production but there is no hint of stunt casting. It is clear that her accolades are deserved; yet she is still part of the whole. “Tryst” is the first in-house production since an extensive refurbishment. The Tabard has always been a gem of a venue. This compelling production maintains its consistency, style and production values. A tryst well worth making a date for.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Alastair Hilton

 

 

 

TRYST

is at The Tabard Theatre until 5th November

 

 

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