Reviewed – 18th April 2019
“it grips its audience immediately and has us on the edge of our seats”
It’s a Saturday night in April and Anthony is in a flat with eight or so other men that he doesn’t remember the names of. They have been going for eighteen hours – they’re high but not as high as they’ll be by the 36th hour or the 72nd. The twenty minute taxi ride to this flat was enough to start the sound in Anthony’s head, a sound that begins with ticking and then overwhelms. This is what he takes the drugs for to stop hearing. Also to feel his body moving from bone to cartilage. But tonight’s trip holds a surprise. The ghost of George, a young man and former flame of Anthony’s walks across his vision. His body was found the day before on the Tumulus, Hampstead Heath. The police said it was an overdose, that it isn’t even worth investigating. George, in ghost form, tells Anthony he has been murdered. George makes a deal with Anthony. Find my necklace and with it the killer, and I’ll stop the sound in your head. So our thriller begins.
The narrative, written by Christopher Adams, is funny at times, darkly awful at others. The thriller genre is a really original way to investigate the dark underside of the gay chemsex culture, and the dismissive police response to the death of young gay men in a society riddled with homophobia.
Ciaran Owens delivers a strong and convincing Anthony, playful and desperate and driven by something beyond his control. He is joined by Ian Hallard and Harry Lister Smith who create the many characters Anthony meets along his journey. Lister Smith embodies the young boys who go from lovers to victims, and Hallard competently alternates between cheery dog walkers, sinister villains and therapists, all ably directed by Matt Steinberg.
Both Hallard and Lister Smith, in their various guises, wear microphones that echo and distort their voices and lend them a disconcerting plurality. They create a soundscape of audio through objects held against microphones, reminiscent of a radio play made visible (sound design by Nick Manning). Set design (Alison Neighbour) is simple and effective, and Anthony paints the picture for us, making the table and cabinets chameleons in the space.
It isn’t a perfect production – there are moments that feel clumsy and unpolished – but it grips its audience immediately and has us on the edge of our seats, rooting for Anthony’s mission and, in turn, for George and the queer men, murdered but dismissed by the police, that he represents.
Reviewed by Amelia Brown
Photography by Darren Bell
Soho Theatre until 4th May
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Reviewed – 6th March 2019
“the space was filled with song, dance and moments of physical theatre which at times lost focus and appeared to lose momentum”
Outside Edge Theatre Company showcased their offering Check-in/Check-Out as part of this year’s VAULT Festival. Entering into the Brick Hall to the bass of loud dance music playing overhead, you first meet the six individuals who welcome you to an Alcoholics/Narcotics Anonymous meeting, like you’ve never seen before. The company, all performers in recovery, collaboratively devised the piece which appears to be inspired by the mantra “from personal journeys of chaos come authentic stories of recovery”, which features across their flyer. As they each introduce themselves, the rules of the meeting are outlined and from this point on anything goes as we are transported through the turbulent years they each faced, whilst on their journey towards sobriety.
The array of performers highlighted one thing: addiction doesn’t discriminate. To see individuals on stage that felt strikingly ‘familiar’ to friends and family drummed in the message that it can happen to anyone. As they delivered their accounts of sexual abuse, drink driving and theft, it often teetered on the borderline of humorous yet uncomfortable. A dark comedic undertone bubbled away throughout where heavy topics were discussed in a frank and deadpan fashion. The audience were often caught mid laugh as light-hearted lines were swiftly followed with cold hard accounts of addiction. The vulnerability of each individual standing up to recall their darkest moments is something to be greatly respected. The power of art as a means of therapy is clearly evident here as we watch the performers physically draw the damage they have done to their bodies to then wipe it all away; symbolic of their twelve-steps to recovery.
The set (Robson Barreto) was simple yet more dynamic than first anticipated. Various stacks of plastic chairs were moved and restacked throughout creating new spaces for stories to be explored by the performers. A hybrid version of verbatim and documentary style theatre, the space was filled with song, dance and moments of physical theatre which at times lost focus and appeared to lose momentum. Authentic, unpolished and a little rough around the edges, it was an eclectic mix of storytelling co-facilitated by Matt Steinberg and Christopher Holt, which laid bare the various roots to recovery in a very human way.
As the performance drew to a close, in walks Lauren who introduces herself as an addict, the newest arrival to the group. A cold reminder that as one person makes it to recovery someone else’s twelve-step journey is just about to begin. Despite this nod to the ongoing battle faced by many others, Check-In/Check-Out is a show of hope, sharing the success of one very mixed group of individuals; who despite their setbacks are ready to share their honest accounts of how they turned their lives around.
Reviewed by Lucy Bennett
Photography courtesy Outside Edge Theatre
Part of VAULT Festival 2019