“All the cast get their good share of laughs in a play packed with very funny dialogue and well-timed comic moments”
Pedantic pain-in-the-arse Lucy (Katherine Thomas – who also wrote the show) is ready to settle for a night in. Room-mate Gus (Calum Robshaw) has got other plans. He’s dating Rachael (Natasha Grace Hutt), and the pair aim to invite ‘man bun’ Caps (Jack Forsyth Noble) over to make the evening a double date and try to set Lucy up. Thomas’ writing debut is cynicism turned up to eleven but delivers its sour grapes with hilarious results.
There’s an interesting quirk Thomas has given to her character Lucy: a love for the television show Gogglebox. Sneering at people’s reactions and life choices is exactly what she spends the whole play doing. Even though she makes you laugh, Lucy is truly detestable. Thomas plays her like a completely joyless version of Chandler from Friends, barely cracking an honest smile throughout. It could have been the plays failing – after all, what’s the point of a comedy straight-man you can’t stand? But her heady levels of sarcasm are tethered by a strong and evenly matched supporting cast.
Thomas is the kind of writer actors wish for. All the cast get their good share of laughs in a play packed with very funny dialogue and well-timed comic moments. The pick of the crop being a game of charades that had us all belly laughing throughout. More confidence could have been placed on the actors and their delivery though, as there was a slight tendency to go a line too long on some jokes and spell out the gag.
Unfortunately, the design elements were noticeably bland and did nothing to make the large space of the Stockwell Playhouse feel domestic. A clothes horse, desk lamp and sofa appear to have been thrown on stage indiscriminately and said nothing of a shared living situation. More attention here would have made the threats of eviction in the play feel worth it.
Katherine Thomas shows a clever knack of finding unimportant social norms, unravelling them to nonsensical degrees and using it to frame her comedy and drama. The trick is not pushing it too far. I look forward to what she does next.
“a clever hour of disguised thoughtfulness which lands with tight performances and commitment”
It’s not a new idea to wonder how the birth of Jesus would have occurred in modern-day Britain, what is new is to approach that question with humour, quick wit and some subtle seriousness. Timothy Blore’s one-hour production is a re-telling of the nativity story where year zero Bethlehem is swapped for 2018 Billericay (think “there’s no room at the inn, the Holiday Inn”) and, whilst it consists almost entirely of nose-tapping references and snappy one-liners, does manage to land as a substantive critique of the moralising upper middle class of this country.
We open with a family of four playing Trivial Pursuit and a sharpened script driving a worryingly accurate portrayal of a mid-life Christmas with grown-ish children. Banter flies across the board as Linda and Michael (Gillian King and Chris Pickles) lead their family in what many in the young audience would recognise as a harrowingly accurate portrayal of being simultaneously berated with and embarrassed by your parents’ experience, knowledge and lifestyle. Matthew (Jack Forsyth Noble) and Luke (Jonathan Savage) are recognisable but not stereotyped; they are young men looking to establish themselves without actually rebelling against their life of plenty. The payload of the show is delivered in the last half an hour as Maria (Bella Nash) and Joe (Clemente Lohr) arrived after being made homeless, and ask if they can sleep inside, only to be placed in the shed.
A serious theme is smuggled to the audience inside the banter and references, giving the solid foundation necessary for the joking not to seem frivolous and self-aggrandising. But the message is simple and summed up most memorably with “you must live on cloud Corbyn if you think we’re going to let a couple of gypos stay”. A great script was delivered well by the entire cast ably directed by Scott le Crass. The rehearsal and thought that had clearly gone into the show led to both clarity and great amusement.
At times the piece serves the clever references of the writer, not the other way around but it’s hard to care when there is such fun and wit scattered throughout. Ultimately, Alternativity is a clever little show full of disguised thoughtfulness which lands with tight performances and commitment on stage and off.