It’s a Playception
Reviewed – 8th September 2019
“A perfect demonstration that you don’t always need high production value if you have a good idea”
Sirenna and Elise are putting on a play about two women putting on a play about two women putting on a play. It’s their first venture together, and they really have no idea what they’re doing. They know they’re being ripped off by the venue, they know they don’t know anything about marketing and they know that if they don’t completely sell out, they’re going to lose a lot of money and face. But they’ve decided to go ahead all the same.
The play itself is a continuous story about the lead-up to putting on a play (about the lead-up to putting on a play and so on), but often we’re uncertain whether we’re watching the play or the play within the play, as are Sirenna (Olivia Baker) and Elise (Evangeline Duncan). In a confusing babble trying to work out which they’re talking about, Elise cuts in, “Is this the play? Wait…this is real life. Right?”
And the requirements for the play with the play continuously effect the play itself. After a discussion with the “very attractive but generally unhelpful” technician (Josh Redding), for example, who demands they not use real coffee in the play (“no liquids on stage”) they appear in the next scene holding empty coffee cups, pretending to drink.
Baker and Duncan create a very believable friendship, built on a seemingly genuine love and respect for one another which is expressed through seemingly stupid things, such as excitement over matching coffee orders, or entire conversations about why one another’s outfits are so great. Similarly, bubbling tensions are shown in minor quibbles and sideways glances. The characters seem so whole that I was quite surprised to see the actors didn’t go by the same name.
The play’s concept being set in a theatre, there’s not much required in the way of scenery or props – just a couple of coffee cups and mobile phones and we’re away! A perfect demonstration that you don’t always need high production value if you have a good idea.
It’s a Playception will not have you up all night trying to work out what it all means – there’s no ever-lasting spinning top to make you feel like you’re losing your mind. That being said, the central concept is fun and, though a silly idea in theory, very cleverly and wittily executed.
Reviewed by Miriam Sallon
It’s a Playception
Hope Theatre until 9th September
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Reviewed – 9th January 2019
“well-paced, with a clear narrative arc and some terrific, playful moments of theatricality”
The premise of STARCHEDtheatre’s debut production is a simple one: five neighbouring women in 1950s East London live out their lives and loves over their laundry. The company has clearly done its research – there is a wealth of lovely period detail, including the wonderful moment when Connie (superbly played by Jade Dowsett-Roberts) paints on her nylons with gravy – and it is impressively-shaped for a devised piece; well-paced, with a clear narrative arc and some terrific, playful moments of theatricality. The company is clearly ambitious, which is to be applauded, and for the most part its boldness pays off. Sarah Carton clearly has a future in sound design, though the persistent presence of music did occasionally distract from the dramatic action on stage, and the first introduction of a contemporary dance beat into the score does take away from the power of the later intense, wordless washing sequence, in which the women pound their individual frustrations out, drenched in red light.
This sequence, as well as the other powerful ensemble moment, which brings the play to its close, are, unfortunately, only fully visible to the people in the front row, which is a serious flaw in the otherwise excellent production design. It really is a shame to have so much excellent work wasted, and the audience frustration in the second two rows was palpable. Doubly disappointing, this, when there is so much creativity to admire elsewhere in the production – the pleasing use of the sheets in George and Elsie’s wedding scene, and again in Elsie’s moving solo moment in the latter stages of the play, to name but two.
The development of George and Elsie’s relationship is tender and beautiful throughout, from its tentative early beginnings through to its poignant close, and credit must go here both to Harry Elliott and Olivia Baker, who bring a touching level of emotional truth to these two rather understated characters. There is some terrific acting talent on display throughout. Particularly notable are Duncan Mitchell’s Arthur – a picture of roguish charm, deceit and emotional hopelessness – and William Reardon’s explosive turn as John, full of repressed steel and thunder. Anna Hallas Smith also lends a good deal of psychological heft to Betsy, the piece’s agent provocateur and tragic heroine.
The action was managed deftly for the full seventy minutes, and the stage was always pleasingly alive – a particularly impressive feat given that, as per the lack of directing credit on the cast and crew sheet, the company appears to have directed itself collectively. Overall, Laundry is an impassioned and ambitious debut from this young company, bursting with talent and drive. It would be exciting to see where all this creative energy could go in the service of a more contemporary story – something which truly belongs to these performers – and this reviewer, for one, would be first in line for a ticket.
Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw
Photography by Henry Thompson
The Space until 12th January
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: