Tag Archives: Stefan Menaul

Little Pieces of Gold – 5 Stars


Little Pieces of Gold

Staged Reading Sessions

The Space

Reviewed – 10th October 2018


“the event has become a kind of deconstructed theatre form, with high quality casts and directors attached to each low budget production”


Writers able to fund their own shows are unlikely to be the most deserving of exposure so Suzette Coon’s talent showcase is invaluable. It’s also a rich experience for audiences. Far from the dour-sounding ‘Reading session’ billed, the event has become a kind of deconstructed theatre form, with high quality casts and directors attached to each low budget production.

The night’s six works, chosen from six hundred, begin with a comedy that dredges laughs from the low wage economy. ‘Sandwiches’ by Clare Reddaway shows life on the sandwich production line, with three tightly written acts squeezing in erotic sandwich fillings, a villain with a whistle played by Nigel Fyfe and a showdown at the industry’s ‘Sarnies’ awards.

Two women also see off an obnoxious male in the second of the night’s comedies, ‘Body Language’ by Sarah Pitard. Stefan Menaul draws howls of recognition as the excruciating, self-obsessed Tom, hitting on Katrina (Amy Reitsma) while she is trying to read up on cancer. Both his monologue and that of the eavesdropping Susan (Meaghan Martin), a cancer survivor, are fluent, funny and fierce.

Most of the plays carry a message about modern life but the exception is ‘Bothy’ by Ben Rogers, a tale of two men taking refuge in the Scottish hills. Callum is a jolly, yet strangely sinister local handyman; Andrew is a claims manager up from Croydon. The economy of the script and the way it keeps the audience guessing as to the motives of Callum display a rare gift of scene-writing, heightened further by the performances and direction. (David Beatty, Adam Mirsky and Imogen Wyatt Corner, respectively).

‘Humane’ follows, by Polly Creed, reviving a forgotten news story about Essex locals who face down riot police to end live exports of animals. Absolved of the need for visual dramatics, this work is liberated by the format, as Georgia Nicholson sits facing the audience, relating her character’s story with obdurate humanity.

Little happens in ‘Becoming’ by Trevor Kaneswaran, just a few quiet moments in the life of Praveen, who rejects his Sri Lankan roots as he slopes home from football and exchanges monosyllables with his Mum like any British teen. Once his uncle arrives Praveen understands more about who he is and takes up cricket. Slow, filmic, even in this basic form, and elevated by Akshay Gulati’s perfectly pitched delivery.

The choice for finale is Chantelle Dusette’s Windrush tale, ‘Where de Mangoes Grow’. A simple but eloquent poem spliced through with a montage of scenes, moments and recordings, yet it conveys an entire era of betrayal. Exquisite performances from all, but Reece Pantry’s slow acceptance of loss is impossibly moving.

Beautifully curated, and with all six plays and their casts giving a glimpse of some eye-catching talents, the ‘Little Pieces of Gold’ enterprise is well-named.


Reviewed by Dominic Gettins


Little Pieces of Gold

The Space


Previously reviewed at this venue:
One Festival 2018 – Programme A | ★★★ | January 2018
Citizen | ★★★★ | April 2018
The Sleeper | ★★★ | April 2018
Dare to Do: The Bear Maxim | ★★½ | May 2018
Be Born | | June 2018
Asking For A Raise | ★★ | July 2018
Bluebird | ★★★★ | July 2018
I Occur Here | ★★★★★ | August 2018
Rush | ★★★½ | August 2018
Fleeced | | September 2018
Love is a Work In Progress | ★★★★ | October 2018
Woman of the Year | ★★★ | October 2018


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Think of England – 3 Stars


Think of England

The Vaults

Reviewed – 11th February 2018


“The soundscape of bombs rumbling in the background … allowed for a steady immersion into the world of the play”


Based on a true story by Worcester-based company, Anonymous Is A Woman, Think of England revolves around the role of sexuality in England during the Blitz. The company aim to focus upon telling the unheard stories of women through history, and after a rural tour the play now finds itself aptly in London taking place in one of The Vaults’ larger performance spaces.

The story follows two women, Bette and Vera, hired to host morale-boosting parties during the Second World War. The sound of the air-raid siren outside the theatre signals the beginning as the audience is ushered in to a dramatically lit space. You are warmly welcomed with sweets and song-sheets indicating the possibility of audience participation ahead. The soundscape of bombs rumbling in the background in combination with the wooden benches and selected wartime props allowed for a steady immersion into the world of the play. Bette and Vera begin to set up for the party when the atmosphere is interrupted by the arrival of three Canadian pilots each providing their own War archetype: the poster-boy who always ‘plays by the book’; the leery one who likes a drink; the innocent one who just joined in order to replace a recently deceased fellow soldier. The latter played by Stefan Menaul who gave an overwhelming warmness and charm to the role.

The story continues to explore sexual freedoms during the war, and how such a time of turmoil helped women feel increasingly more liberated, albeit whilst trying to keep up the morale during a difficult time of uncertainty and death. This was incredibly evident in the sound design of the play whereby dialogue and poignant moments were interrupted by a soundscape of bombs reminding us of the melancholy backdrop of the play.

I can imagine this play feeling even more immersive during the rural tour in village halls across the country, as you share the space with your local community it echoes closer towards the real setting of the piece and also means as an audience member you are more likely to participate. This was unfortunately lacking at times during the performance at The Vaults, as many audience members around me were, despite the best efforts of the performers, not interested in responding in order to heighten the levels of immersion for the audience as a whole.

Whilst the plot surrounded an interesting aspect of the female role during the war, at times the dialogue dragged its heels and towards the end depended heavily on a series of arguments that kept going back and forth. However, writer, Madeline Gould has found a lesser-known storyline relating to the women’s war effort and it is certainly a tale that needs to be told.

Reviewed by Claire Minnitt

Photography by Ali Wright


Think of England

Vaults Theatre until 11th February



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