Reviewed – 20th October 2021
“Hammerton and Champain have fantastic chemistry; their sisterly dynamic highly believable as it fluctuates between highly loving and purposefully antagonistic”
Flushed, the multi award-winning play directed by Catherine Cranfield, is the latest in a line of much needed productions exploring women’s health. We meet two sisters, Jen (Iona Champain) and Marnie (Elizabeth Hammerton), who are best friends. They go on double dates together; they go clubbing together; and they wait nervously on the results of pregnancy tests together. However, when twenty-five-year-old Marnie’s period is late and she is diagnosed with Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (a sort of early menopause), the siblings’ relationship is tested as the younger Jen struggles to comfort Marnie appropriately.
A story told against the backdrop of seven different bathrooms from nightclub to flat, Flushed explores the impacts of the rare medical condition and the desire to fulfil one’s ‘womanly’ purpose of having biological children.
Hammerton and Champain have fantastic chemistry; their sisterly dynamic highly believable as it fluctuates between highly loving and purposefully antagonistic. The pair are also dressed in colour matched outfits – pink and black – which connects them visually. Hammerton delivers a particularly powerful monologue about wanting to be pregnant (with a humorous interjection about revelling in the opportunity to pretend she is fat rather than expecting to overfamiliar strangers) and holding her tiny new-born for the first time between her palm and the inside of her elbow. Champain brings a wonderful humour to the play that helps to lighten an otherwise upsetting subject matter.
The set is simple, and it need not be any more complex. The duo makes good use of the sparse space – two toilets about two metres apart and a neon pink sign saying ‘toilets’ on the back wall – with some mimetic techniques such as acting opening the cubicle door upon entrance and exit. Many women would agree that the bathroom space is often identified as a refuge for female heart-to-hearts so this setting – though slightly comical – is completely understandable.
The lighting (Anthony Englezou) moves between pink and black and fades to darkness between each scene. The sound (Oscar Maguire) is well done especially when the sisters are in a club where we hear pounding but muffled music as if there really is a raging party going on next door.
Flushed explores an impressive amount in its sixty-minute run time. Having not heard of POI before last night, I am so pleased that theatre such as this exists to educate both men and women on little known but devastating health conditions. It is also a joy to see such tender sisterhood presented on stage. Cranfield’s production is an absolute pleasure and will no doubt leave most spectators both highly emotional and better educated.
Reviewed by Flora Doble
Photography by Lidia Crisafulli
Park Theatre until 6th November
Previously reviewed at this venue this year:
Murder on the Dancefloor
Reviewed – 12th October 2019
“this is a night of great music, played loud, and more clever physical dexterity than you can shake a stick at”
You could argue that not enough is made of the slough of oddness into which university leavers find themselves plunged on graduation. Returning, in many cases, to parental homes and familiar faces who have both not changed and changed very, very much is bound to be unsettling. First world problem it may be (and that does make it a little hard to feel too sorry for Murder on the Dancefloor’s main characters), but certainly one that invokes some flux, and it’s this that this production makes a focus – with a sinister outcome.
We meet the graduates back in their home city, convening around pub quiz machines to swap notes on jobhunting. Ollie Norton-Smith’s script rattles along at such a quickfire pace that it’s sometimes hard to keep up, and occasionally, as the plot unfolds, important twists and turns can be easily missed. The thrust is clear, though; Sabrina, played with great vigour by Phoebe Campbell, is all at sea, back at home in dead-end jobs and living with her hated brother and lecturing dad (Tullio Campanale, who is a quiet hero of the piece here, turning his hand to his two roles with alacrity). Just how lost these post-uni souls are is clear; on noting that it’s sad not to know what happens next, Sabrina tells her friend that it’s a job, a home, a future. ‘But that’s on us’, Bonnie (Francesa Thompson) reflects mournfully.
The choreography of this piece is extraordinary, especially in the tight space of the Pleasance and with audiences wrapped around on three sides – although more could be done to keep sightlines clear for folks sat at left and right. The cast’s running, dancing, flowing around the stage is positively mercurial; props to Zak Nemorin’s dance choreography. The physicality is commendable, and surely absolutely exhausting, but it risks becoming repetitive and the snappy run time here feels right, if nudging towards overlong for what turns out to be a slightly flimsy plot.
Murder on the Dancefloor is billed as a black comedy, and there is the odd laugh, but that doesn’t feel like it quite cuts it as a description. The script isn’t quite funny enough to call this a true comic piece, and lacks the emotional depth to make for truly powerful physical theatre. It’s a shame this falls between two stalls, as there’s much to recommend the night. All the acting and movement on display is impressive, with some clever moments of direction from Ollie Norton-Smith; a scene where Sabrina reminisces over an old photo album is especially neat. And the soundtrack is such a presence as to feel like it’s another character on stage; a Spotify playlist must surely follow.
This is a cast brimming with talent, executing some really notable choreography. Ultimately, their performances are undermined by a flawed narrative, with the closing plot twist so damn silly as to make a bit of a mockery of any moments of emotional heft that preceded it. That said: this is a night of great music, played loud, and more clever physical dexterity than you can shake a stick at. And there’s a lot to be said for that.
Reviewed by Abi Davies
Murder on the Dancefloor
Pleasance Theatre until 13th October
Previously reviewed at this venue: