Tag Archives: Rah Petherbridge

Sh*t-faced Showtime: Oliver With a Twist!
★★

Leicester Square Theatre

Sh*t-faced Showtime: Oliver With a Twist!

Sh*t-faced Showtime: Oliver With a Twist!

Leicester Square Theatre

Reviewed – 29th March 2019

★★

 

“the show feels very artificial and flat”

 

If you’re not familiar with Magnificent Bastard Productions’ Shit-Faced Showtime, the concept is simple: The company parodies a classic musical, and one cast member gets drunk before the show. They rotate which performer will be inebriated each night, and you don’t know ahead of time which character will be ‘shitfaced’.

The press night performance of Oliver with a Twist featured Oliver, played by Issy Wroe Wright, as an allegedly smashed orphan. However, while Wright may have had several drinks over the course of several hours prior to the performance (as the programme explains), it was obvious she was not drunk, let alone ‘shitfaced’. Whether due to health and safety laws, or the company not wanting to accept risk, the reality is a barely-tipsy performer acting drunk.

Unfortunately, Wright’s impression of being wasted is largely unconvincing. Her occasional missteps feel contrived, and a lot of her movement is obviously choreographed. What’s meant to be spontaneous comedy from ‘alcohol-inspired’ lines is either scripted, or improv that has nothing to do with being drunk. Oliver asks Dodger if they’re going to stay in an Airbnb, and if Mr Brownlow has done one of those internet DNA tests. The lines aren’t particularly funny, and it’s unclear how to interpret them. Are we meant to believe Wright is so hammered she doesn’t know she’s in a play?

Writer/director Katy Baker, who plays the MC, makes a big deal in her introductory speech about how the already ‘sloshed’ actor will have to drink during the performance. Two audience members are given instruments to play (once each) to signal Wright to drink. However, when the instruments are played, Baker pours beer into a pint glass, nowhere-near full, and Wright takes one (exactly one) tiny sip. Audience members who notice Wright isn’t drinking yell for her to do so. Wright gives a snarky response that she’s “going to drink it,” and then never does. She eventually disappears off stage and comes back empty-handed. Her second drink doesn’t go near her mouth, and is finally neglected on the stage. It’s baffling why this is part of the show. If the actor doesn’t drink, the gimmick only serves to remind the audience how fake the whole thing is.

The play’s comedy is built around the concept that a cast member is drunk. But because Wright is not drunk, and not very good at pretending to be, the show feels very artificial and flat. I’ve seen drunk theatre before, real drunk theatre, which is uproarious and wild. This is a highly produced, sterilised version. Its ‘West-End’ nature perhaps requires it to be that way, but the question then is why do it? The false advertising rankles. The audience are not children who don’t notice the actor flagrantly not-drinking in front of us. The play is much stronger when it is genuine parody: Bill Sikes (Hal Hillman) with his dog, and Nick Moore’s multi-roling. Pub theatres are the natural habitat of drunk performances; Shit-Faced Showtime proves they’re best left there.

 

Reviewed by Addison Waite

Photography by Rah Petherbridge

 


Sh*t-faced Showtime: Oliver With a Twist!

Leicester Square Theatre until 12th April

 

Last ten shows covered by this reviewer:
Timpson: The Musical | ★★★ | King’s Head Theatre | February 2019
We’ve Got Each Other | ★★★½ | The Vaults | February 2019
Without That Certain Thing | ★★★ | Network Theatre | February 2019
Alcatraz | ★★★ | The Vaults | March 2019
Anna X | ★★★★ | The Vaults | March 2019
Essex Girl | ★★★★ | The Vaults | March 2019
Feed | ★★★★ | The Vaults | March 2019
Mary’s Babies | ★★★ | Jermyn Street Theatre | March 2019
Six | ★★★★★ | Arts Theatre | March 2019
Vulvarine | ★★★★★ | The Vaults | March 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

Chutney – 3 Stars

Chutney

Chutney

The Bunker

Reviewed – 14th November 2018

★★★

“There are a few moments sprinkled throughout where the asides subside, and the story and characters are allowed to actually breathe”

 

Chutney is a play brimming with potential – an intriguing premise, intelligent intentions, slick design, and a talented pair of actors helming the two-hander. Despite having all the recipe for brilliance, however, not all the ingredients are used effectively.

Reece Connolly’s play aims to transpose the murderous couple dynamic seen in the likes of Macbeth and Sweeney Todd to the thoroughly middle class Gregg (Will Adolphy) and Claire (Isabel Della-Porta). After primally killing a dog one evening, the pair ignite a bloodlust that they find in equal parts exhilarating and terrifying as it consumes their lives, and the paranoia of their misdeeds starts to infect their relationship. It’s an exciting setup for a story, but the script unrelentingly dismisses the old adage of ‘show, don’t tell’ with a constant barrage of narration and exposition to the audience; having the characters incessantly explain what they are thinking at any given moment removes all notion of subtext, and frequently kills the dramatic potential for scenes. Claire and Gregg will often deliver intercutting monologues to the audience which would have been more far more engaging as dialogue between the two where they are forced to challenge and change each other. Instead, it at times feels like two one-person shows simply running parallel.

It’s a shame the script falters in this way, as Connolly’s writing is often witty, sharp, and poetic. There are a few moments sprinkled throughout where the asides subside, and the story and characters are allowed to actually breathe – moments such as Claire drunkenly dancing with a crossbow, the couple reservedly eating pasta, and a particularly enthralling confrontation in the second act are all stellar, and made it all the more disappointing that more of the script did not place an equal amount of faith in the audience to engage with the story. It is also in these moments that Adolphy and Della-Porta are allowed to shine, finding opportunities to bring depth and nuance to the characters, and delivering energetic and intense performances.

The design helps to gloss over the script’s shortcomings, with Matt Cater’s sumptuous lighting and Ben Winter’s biting sound lending weight and impact to dramatic peaks that would have otherwise been lacking. Jasmine Swan’s aesthetically delightful middle-class kitchen set also depicts the world of the play very effectively, and Georgie Staight’s direction incorporates this with the actors to create some striking imagery.

Ultimately, however, it all feels hollow. It’s always concerning when the writer’s note in a programme claims the play is achieving or exploring ideas that simply aren’t present in what transpired on stage. Chutney, unfortunately, is one such example of this. It aims to critique the middle-class utopia of Britain but, for a play which spends the majority of its runtime lambasting the audience with quips and asides, finds itself with very little to say.

 

Reviewed by Tom Francis

Photography by Rah Petherbridge

 


Chutney

The Bunker until 1st December

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Ken | ★★★ | January 2018
Electra | ★★★★ | March 2018
Devil With the Blue Dress | ★★ | April 2018
Reboot:Shorts | ★★★ | April 2018
Conquest | ★★★★ | May 2018
Grotty | ★★★★ | May 2018
Guy | ★★★½ | June 2018
Kiss Chase | ★★★ | June 2018
Libby’s Eyes | ★★★★ | June 2018
Nine Foot Nine | ★★★★ | June 2018
No One is Coming to Save You | ★★★★ | June 2018
Section 2 | ★★★★ | June 2018
Breathe | ★★★★ | August 2018
Eris | ★★★★ | September 2018
Reboot: Shorts 2 | ★★★★ | October 2018
Semites | ★★★ | October 2018

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com