Tag Archives: The Turbine Theatre

Wreckage

★★★

The Turbine Theatre

WRECKAGE at The Turbine Theatre

★★★

Wreckage

“Rikki Beadle-Blair directs with a flair that matches the heightened narrative”

 

In Anthony Minghella’s film ‘Truly, Madly, Deeply’, Alan Rickman’s character returns from the dead specifically to help Juliet Stevenson get over him by tarnishing her idealised memory of him. As a ghost, he irritates her and behaves in ways that infuriate her. In Tom Ratcliffe’s “Wreckage”, now playing at the Turbine Theatre, a similar concept is deployed, but without the poignancy of Rickman’s intention. The two characters, dead or alive, seem to spend a lot of time irritating each other, dredging up past (and future) frustrations and misdemeanours. Although in between there are abundant declarations of love and we eventually understand that the shouty tantrums are, in effect, signifiers of grief.

Ratcliffe’s script is finely crafted and chronologically complex, moving between the past, present and future. Sam (Tom Ratcliffe) and Noel (Michael Walters) are in the perfect relationship. Noel, being older, more laid back and assured, is often the one to smooth out Sam’s rattled and jumpy mind. This is established at the outset during which Noel agrees to rush out on an errand to placate Sam, grabbing the car keys, promising to be back in twenty minutes. The scene, and its tragic consequence, is played out multiple times, reflecting the torturous “if only…” reaction that loops in Sam’s mind – possibly forever.

Separated by death, the couple become paradoxically inseparable and what ensues is an exploration of guilt and grief. Ratcliffe effectively portrays the torment of how to cope with loss as he battles with what to cling on to and what (or rather when) to move on. The ‘reality’ of Noel’s ghost in his mind is powerful enough for Noel to take over and control the narrative. The passion brought out in the performances is undeniable, but any true sense of heartbreak is undermined by a complete lack of subtlety. We long for more poignancy and silence amidst the shouting and screaming and writhing.

Despite a reluctance to tone down the performances, Rikki Beadle-Blair directs with a flair that matches the heightened narrative, and with the clever use of video projections and Rachel Sampley’s lighting we are guided clearly through the shifts in time. We witness the couple meeting for the first time, and we are privy to posthumous revelations of infidelity. The influence of in-laws and wranglings of property and possessions are explored in an ingenious fashion by the writing, casting fresh perspective on what would normally be a run of the mill relationship. We are asked to think, and to challenge our preconceptions about how we might cope. But ultimately, as compelling as it is on paper, the emotional connection is left wanting.

The idea is not new, but the execution is innovative. The tag line is “I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you”. Sam is young when he loses the love of his life and he goes on to live a long, fulfilling life. The message is that ‘love never dies’, and they will eventually be reunited. In a hurried finale, we are treated to a slideshow of Sam’s three-score-years-and-ten that lead up to their reunion. It is a lifetime, during which Sam does move on. But is he living a lie all along?

“Wreckage” draws you in, and whirls you around in its turmoil with two (for the most part) terrific performances. But it is strangely unmoving. Petulance too often pushes grief out of the way, while the mixed message gets in the way. The character you most feel for is the underwritten Christian – Sam’s new, lifelong, partner (very briefly played by Walters). He puts up with Sam for life, while all along Sam is yearning for the day that he can join Noel again – for eternity. Really? Come on – you spent most of your time arguing!

 

 

Reviewed on 11th January 2023

by Jonathan Evans

Photography courtesy Harlow Playhouse

 

 

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:

My Son’s A Queer But What Can You Do | ★★★½ | June 2021
My Night With Reg | ★★★★ | July 2021
Diva: Live From Hell | ★★★★★ | August 2022

Click here to read all our latest reviews

 

Diva Live from Hell

Diva: Live From Hell!

★★★★★

The Turbine Theatre

DIVA: LIVE FROM HELL! at the The Turbine Theatre

★★★★★

 

Diva Live from Hell

“Brilliantly performed by Luke Bayer who is having a devilishly good time”

 

In Dante Alighieri’s ‘The Divine Comedy’, the Underworld is divided into nine ‘circles’ in which sinners were punished in relation to their crimes. The treacherous and fraudulent would find themselves in circles eight or nine, for example. The Seventh Circle was reserved for the sins of violence. This is where we find Desmond Channing, a rather deranged but endearing teenager who is forced into an eternal residency at Hell’s hottest nightclub to retell his tale, night after night. His life was short and his descent into madness rapid. Desmond’s fearless craving for the limelight swiftly morphs into the unthinking terror of a rabbit in the headlights.

The insanely talented Luke Bayer croons through the overture by way of introducing us to the Seventh Circle Cabaret Bar. Bayer is so completely at home you wonder what sins he’s hiding up his sleeves, but a cheeky wink betrays an innocent nod to the fourth wall. This is fantasy, it is fun, and Bayer is relishing every minute. His charm is as infectious as his voice is gorgeous.

We are taken back to the Florida high school where Desmond was president of the ‘Ronald Reagan Drama Club’. He is musical theatre personified. Bayer unselfconsciously and candidly celebrates all the faults and foibles of this particular character (Nora Brigid Monahan’s script is wickedly insightful) as he struts and frets. He is a bit of a paradox; he’s diffident but oh, such a diva! He thinks he’s the king, but he’s such a drama queen. He’s in love with the sexiest girl in the class, but it is clear his interests lie elsewhere. Into his confused life and mind saunters Evan Harris, the cool kid from New York City. Evan steals his girl, his role in the school’s musical, his presidency and ultimately his sanity.

Bayer moves seamlessly between the characters, evoking each with an individualism that relies purely on expression and tone. He pours irony over Evan’s swagger, and charm over the endearing ‘best friend’ Allie Hewitt – the voice of reason; while his Principal Dallas has a playful mix of officiousness and pseudo-sympathy. He not only plays them, but sings them too. The score focuses on Desmond, but the bit parts also have their moments at the microphone. “Strong” is a wonderful number which has Bayer interacting with the house band and teasing the ‘earnest’ singer-songwriter paragon. “The Big Time” reveals another threat in Bayer’s skill set as he nimbly tap dances across the floor. Equally nimble is his hold on the songs, which ooze ‘joie de vivre’. Alexander Sage Oyen’s music and lyrics don’t stray too far from the catchy, pop genre but manage to balance perfectly the upbeat with the ballads, and the anger with the melancholy. It is refreshing, also, to see a show that actively acknowledges the onstage musicians; a skilful trio made up of musical director Debbi Clarke on keys, with Jonnie Grant on drums and Ben Uden on guitar and bass.

Just when we’re wallowing in the whimsical, offbeat rhythms of the night we are given a glimpse of the darker side, and the real reason Desmond is confined to his place in the Inferno. A difficult moment to stage in a space such as the Turbine Theatre, but director Joe McNeice pulls it off, with Alistair Lindsay’s deceptively simple lighting. We are back in Hell, where we started. Desmond has earned his diva title.

Clever, entertaining and deliciously camp, “Diva – Live from Hell” is increasingly uplifting the further it descends into the depths. Brilliantly performed by Luke Bayer who is having a devilishly good time. And so are the audience. The only danger is we might start believing that Hell is so much fun, we’ll all want to become sinners!

 

 

Reviewed on 19th August 2022

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Harry Elletson

 

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:

 

My Son’s A Queer But What Can You Do | ★★★½ | June 2021
My Night With Reg | ★★★★ | July 2021

 

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