Tag Archives: Paul Giddings



Riverside Studios

ARTIFICIALLY YOURS at Riverside Studios


“We want to dig deeper into the shadows, but the writing is reluctant to explore far enough to flesh out the ideas that are bubbling underneath”

As I came out of the premiere of Aaron Thakar’s debut play, “Artificially Yours” I played a game with my smart phone. I don’t use Siri, which probably puts me in the minority of the population, but I decided to ask it some questions. Whilst it was able to give me factual details (my next appointment or my partner’s phone number for example), when it was asked something more abstract that required an emotional reaction, it merely answered with the words ‘that’s an interesting question’.

Thakar takes this notion a step further with his one-act play and, in turn, asks some interesting questions. It centres around an advanced AI device, called Agapé, that is not just a personal assistant but also one that can act as a relationship therapist to its bickering owners. Under Hannah McLeod’s slick direction, the narrative follows the effects this has on three different – though connected – couples as they navigate the usual hurdles that interrupt the smooth run of their affairs. Billed as a ‘dark comedy’ it yields some rich comic moments but never really explores the darkness. Agapé is given a bit of an underwritten supporting role here, and the piece often feels like just another sitcom. A perceptive one, nevertheless, which grapples with issues beyond AI’s limited capabilities of which the young writer has a mature grasp.

Agapé’s most accomplished skill is that of distinguishing a lie from a truth, and as such is more judgemental than its human counterpart therapist. But still the three couples decide to choose what they only want to hear. First up we have Pippa and Martin (Leslie Ash and Paul Giddings). Recently divorced, Martin is trying to get Pippa to agree to him introducing their daughter to his new girlfriend. Meanwhile Lilah and Ash (Destiny Mayers and writer Thakar himself) sport matching pyjamas but a clashing reliance on their artificial counsellor. Further clashes ensue when they go on a double dinner date with Ellie and Noah (Ella Jarvis and Jake Mavis). The connections between the six individuals are gradually revealed through disagreements, quarrels and occasional reconciliations: but no real resolve.

The cast spar well together, and while Thakar’s writing is thoughtful, we do often forget that Agapé is in the room as the characters’ idiosyncrasies take centre stage. Destiny Mayers is convincing as the frustrated Lilah who silently laments her partner’s reliance on artificial communication. As jobbing actor Ash, Thakar has the strongest arc which culminates in the play’s only distinct self-reformation. Leslie Ash’s Pippa makes the most of her underwritten mother-of-two. Ash excels, however, in depicting her internal tug-of-war between affection and disdain for her ex – equally convincingly illustrated by Paul Giddings’ Martin, wrapped up in his over-padded mid-life crisis. Ella Jarvis’ unhinged, overwrought Ellie and Jake Mavis’ maddening, fitness-fanatic Noah dish out the lion’s share of the laughs. Bordering on farce, the cast collectively manage to avoid artificiality.

Yet the serious questions, and the darkness that is teasingly dangled in front of us never really materialises. We want to dig deeper into the shadows, but the writing is reluctant to explore far enough to flesh out the ideas that are bubbling underneath. Yet we must remember (and just in case we don’t, we were reminded at curtain call) that this is Thakar’s debut as a writer and an actor. Depending on which way you look at this it can either be an excuse or a celebration. I lean towards the latter. In its own way it is quite an achievement. “Artificially Yours” might not yet be his hallmark, but Thakar has made his mark and, in time, is someone to watch out for.


ARTIFICIALLY YOURS at Riverside Studios

Reviewed on 11th April 2024

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Andrew Fosker




Previously reviewed at this venue:

ULSTER AMERICAN | ★★★★★ | December 2023
OTHELLO | ★★★★ | October 2023
FLOWERS FOR MRS HARRIS | ★★★★ | October 2023
RUN TO THE NUNS – THE MUSICAL | ★★★★ | July 2023
THE SUN WILL RISE | ★★★ | July 2023
KILLING THE CAT | ★★ | March 2023
CIRQUE BERSERK! | ★★★★★ | February 2023
DAVID COPPERFIELD | ★★★ | February 2023



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A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Arundel and Ladbroke Gardens

A Midsummer Nights Dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Arundel and Ladbroke Gardens

Reviewed – 25th June 2019



“this setting could have been made for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with Tatty Hennessy born to direct”


Stepping into a normally locked, private garden a few long days after the Summer Solstice is the perfect entry to Shakespeare’s fantastic interplay of human passions and fairy spells. Arundel and Ladbroke Gardens supplies a cluster of trees and shrubs, to be adorned with bunting and soft lighting and it’s not long before this Shakespeare in the Squares production transports you sufficiently to block out the Notting Hill noise beyond the hedge.

This is Tatty Hennessy’s third production with the company, her last being a 1970s Music Festival setting for As you Like It, an interpretation that played better than most because it followed the cultural, fashion and musical spirit of the work rather than indulging a historical theory. Indeed, the idea of a 1920s Midsummer Night’s Dream initially suggests some convoluted connection being made, between two eras of post-war fallout. Thankfully, it is again the decade’s cultural resonances that are reflected, with costume (Emma Lindsey) and music (Richard Baker) bringing out the play’s themes of attraction, love, magic and bacchanalia with effortless aptness. The aesthetics of burlesque and 1920s Music Hall are a fine fit for the lusts and jealousies of Hermia, Lysander, Demetrius and Helena, just as suited to the Mechanicals’ ham-fisted style of entertainment and afford the fairy characters a louche, decadent manner whether carelessly casting spells or settling back with popcorn to enjoy the emotional carnage they’ve caused.

The casting for this troupe of players, most of whom must double up as musicians and singers as well as other characters, is a triumph of talent logistics. Paul Giddings trisects Theseus, Oberon and Quince, bringing a quizzical authority that plays differently but superbly to each. Gemma Barnett’s combination of delicacy and bravery works as well to fair Hermia as to the Fairy as to Snug’s hilariously pathetic lion. Yet the versatility comes with no loss of individual stamp as Hannah Sinclair Robinson elevates Helena to a point where she competes for notional title of Comedy Lead with James Tobin’s left eyebrow, which cocks winningly as it brings some drag queen insouciance to Puck.

Ensemble playing is hearty and energetic with the cast’s movement (Yarit Dor) reaching into and around the audience, enhanced by the cast’s ad libs and some witty design details (Emily Stuart with Eleanor Tipler). If sometimes laughs are pursued too ardently it’s an understandable side-effect of the show’s mission to help even a child in the back row enjoy Shakespeare.

Finding new ways to access Shakespeare never grows old and, aside from the Portaloos and sirens, this setting could have been made for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with Tatty Hennessy born to direct.


Reviewed by Dominic Gettins

Photography by James Miller


A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Various London Squares and Gardens until 11th July


Last ten shows covered by this reviewer:
Fool Britannia | ★★★ | The Vaults | January 2019
Cheating Death | ★★ | Cockpit Theatre | February 2019
The South Afreakins | ★★★★★ | The Space | February 2019
Tobacco Road | ★★★★ | Network Theatre | February 2019
How Eva Von Schnippisch Won WWII | ★★★★ | The Vaults | March 2019
Butterfly Powder: A Very Modern Play | ★★★★ | Rosemary Branch Theatre | April 2019
The Fatal Eggs | ★★★★★ | Barons Court Theatre | April 2019
Tony’s Last Tape | ★★★★ | Omnibus Theatre | April 2019
Fuck You Pay Me | ★★★★ | The Bunker | May 2019
Much Ado About Not(h)Ing | ★★★ | Cockpit Theatre | June 2019


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