Tag Archives: Tim Kelly



The Bunker



The Bunker

Reviewed – 22nd February 2019



“Sacha Voit and Jessica Butcher have written a very good play. If they were to pare down the problems a bit they could turn it into an excellent one”


A line from the show’s publicity is a good introduction to this play. “A funny, heartbreaking adventure through forests, friendship and Femfresh that reveals the loneliness of age and the power of Mother Nature.”

Willow works as a pharmacist, patiently listening to people’s problems and trying to help. Liz, an elderly customer, doesn’t think Willow looks like a pharmacist – she is a young black woman and doesn’t fit the stereotype. But Liz doesn’t fit the old lady stereotype either. She is feisty and funny, keeping her husband in the utility room, walking in the woods smoking and swearing. She is also very good at putting her foot in it. These two very different women talk to the audience and to each other, stripping off the defensive layers they have built up to protect themselves. In the process they discover a shared love for trees. Willow is writing an article and a book about the Wood Wide Web, the underground network of mycorrhizal fungi that link trees underground, allowing them to communicate and share resources. But something in her past makes her afraid in the woods. When Liz persuades her to join a protest against the destruction of the trees to make way for a new superstore, Willow is forced to revisit a terrible memory and to begin the healing process.

Tanya Loretta Dee is funny and moving as Willow; unravelling from the patient pharmacist, with a wry and sometimes hilarious take on her customer’s inability to speak about body parts, to a damaged and vulnerable woman. Nadia Papachronopoulou’s direction and Quang Kien Van’s movement direction give her some nicely stylised physical tropes.

Amanda Boxer’s Liz is engaging, surprising the audience with her quirky eccentricities and swearing. The bad times in her past are revealed straight to the audience without her ever giving way to sympathy seeking. She is very funny, but there is a double layer in the comedy, as humour is a good deflector of sadness.

Papachronopoulou makes good use of Lia Waber’s outstanding set in her direction and allows the two characters to combine naturalism with just the right amount of stylisation. Jack Weir’s lighting design and Chris Drohan’s sound help to tell the story with some lovely atmospheric touches.

Although Boots is a strong production, it does feel as though too many problems have been crammed into the fabric of the play. An hour and fifteen minutes is not really long enough to carry a narrative that includes a dead baby, postnatal depression, racism, ageism, infertility, loneliness, rape, the destruction of nature, incontinence and other ageing related issues. Sacha Voit and Jessica Butcher have written a very good play. If they were to pare down the problems a bit they could turn it into an excellent one.


Reviewed by Katre

Photography by  Tim Kelly



The Bunker until 16th March


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
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
Chutney | ★★★ | November 2018
The Interpretation of Dreams | ★★★ | November 2018
Sam, The Good Person | ★★★ | January 2019
Welcome To The UK | ★★ | January 2019


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The Trench – 3 Stars


The Trench

Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 16th October 2018


“a slick, impressive show, so long as you don’t dig too deep”


As the only tunneller awarded a Victoria Cross in the First World War, William Hackett provides inspiration, storyline and main character (renamed Bert) for this play by Oliver Lansley. Despite his heart condition, Hackett enlisted in late 1915. A few months later he was denied leave to visit his 14-year-old son, who had lost a leg in a mining accident. Then, on 22nd June 1916, he was trapped underground with four comrades by a German mine blast. Over several days he helped rescue three but died going back for the last.

In this already cheerless saga, the amputation is replaced by news from home of a baby lost in childbirth, heightening perhaps Bert’s motivation to save his much younger colleague. To ramp up the melodrama further, the journey unfolds via a solid hour of iambic pentameter, spoken mostly by Bert (Lansley himself) as he scrapes and writhes through a claustrophobic set, aided by the multiple stage skills of Edward Cartwright, James Hastings and Kadell Herida, who play his comrades. The entombed ensemble is accompanied by the brooding presence stage left of the show’s composer Alexander Wolfe riffing dolefully on guitars, with sad melodies on sundry instruments occasionally aided by the multi-talented Hastings.

If this sounds unremittingly gloomy, it is. On the upside, The Trench is the work of Les Enfant Terribles, a theatre company with its own brand of showmanship and production design. Samuel Wyer provides an explosion of visual ideas and techniques, which provide the energy needed for an otherwise plodding tale. Shadow puppetry is used especially well to depict sepulchral columns of doomed troops; high tension wires and projections combine to create a cinematic overhead camera effect as Bert stumbles through the mire of the battlefield. The team also depicts the horrors that Bert encounters with a series of demonic puppets resembling the rotting carcasses of rats and horses, culminating in a red dragon, a reference to the Red Dragon crater by which the area is still known.

It’s hard to think what William Hackett would make of all this. Most likely he would enjoy the technical flair along with everyone else and may have recognised, too, the Music Hall style rhyming monologue, sustained from ‘A species on extinction’s brink’ all the way through to ‘The flickering flame of fate has faded’. Hackett might even have recognised Oliver Lansley’s actor-manager function but if so, probably wouldn’t have recognised himself. Hackett’s photos online suggest a less commanding figure than the one portrayed and a more vulnerable performance would have raised the emotional engagement hugely.

The glorification of WW1’s futile sacrifices can become a divisive subject especially at this time of year, but there’s no escaping that this is a slick, impressive show, so long as you don’t dig too deep.


Reviewed by Dominic Gettins

Photography by Rah Petherbridge


The Trench

Southwark Playhouse until 17th November


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Bananaman | ★★★ | January 2018
Pippin | ★★★★ | February 2018
Old Fools | ★★★★★ | March 2018
The Country Wife | ★★★ | April 2018
Confidence | ★★ | May 2018
The Rink | ★★★★ | May 2018
Why is the Sky Blue? | ★★★★★ | May 2018
Wasted | ★★★ | September 2018
The Sweet Science of Brusing | ★★★★ | October 2018


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