Tag Archives: Tom Morley




Jermyn Street Theatre

OWNERS at the Jermyn Street Theatre



“The production is deceptively complex and skilfully carried off.”

“Turning you out? What an old-fashioned idea!” the power-hungry property developer Marion exclaims at one point in Owners. Of course, what the play sets out to prove is that it’s not an old-fashioned idea at all, but a painfully immediate one: both in 1972, when Caryl Churchill first wrote it, and now, in Stella Powell-Jones’ production at the Jermyn Street Theatre.

Owners is concerned with property: with having and being had. Clegg wants a son, wants a butcher’s shop, wants Marion, who wants power, who wants Alec, who wants — maybe nothing at all. As Marion ruthlessly develops her London properties, she sets her sights on the flat where Alec is living with his pregnant wife. She also sets her sights on their unborn child. Owners is a play about the need to possess, but it is also a play about the need to be possessed. As it unfolds, sinews of desire stretch and flex between the cast, as they separate and come together, tangled in ever darker threads.

The production is deceptively complex and skilfully carried off. The set, designed by Cat Fuller, is a stroke of genius, with a panorama of doors pressing claustrophobically in on the little family. Fuller uses the tiny space of the theatre’s stage to her advantage. Throughout the piece, everyone vies for exactly the same tiny patch of hotly contested real estate, as a series of hinges and compartments turn one flat into the next. It also means that, even when one person’s life is carefully hinged away, it is still ‘present’ on-stage. All these lives stack on top of each other in a suffocating palimpsest that is extremely effective.

What is initially identifiable as something almost in the vein of farce, grows mesmerizingly misshapen and grotesque as the play leads us down darker avenues. This is underscored by increasingly sinister interludes of music (Sasha Howe and Max Pappenheim) and lighting (Chuma Emembolu) during scene changes, before the lights come back up and we revert to the brightly lit family moment. The sense of something dark and inarticulate shadowing beneath the mundane works very well, especially as Owners gathers speed and becomes more confident in its own surreal cynicism. By the end, it eschews the comfortable escape-routes that something ultimately closer to farce might provide, and instead embraces a grim cannibalistic quality that makes for some beautiful moments of dialogue. Ryan Donaldson as Alec delivers a stunningly haunting hospital scene, and Laura Doddington is incredible as the bullish, smarting Marion (“be quick, be clean, be top, be best”), and a personal highlight.

While the themes are still strikingly relevant, the production shies away from what could be a more current exploration of them. The choice to maintain the 70s setting so distinctly through music and costume (Agata Odolczyk) is visually very effective, but also serves to buffer the play slightly, making it a more comfortable watch. When Clegg the butcher charges a customer just 20p for a pound of mince, a titter goes up from the audience: this is not our world, really, then, and we can breathe a sigh of relief. In the second act, however, when the grim surrealism is allowed more space to unfold, Owners does begin to bite more. Ultimately, though frustratingly lacking in urgency, this is a well-executed piece that leaves you heading back to your cold flat and your rented room with a pit in your stomach.

OWNERS at the Jermyn Street Theatre

Reviewed on 18th October 2023

by Anna Studsgarth

Photography by Steve Gregson






Previously reviewed at this venue:

Infamous | ★★★★ | September 2023
Spiral | ★★ | August 2023
Farm Hall | ★★★★ | March 2023
Love All | ★★★★ | September 2022
Cancelling Socrates | ★★★★ | June 2022
Orlando | ★★★★ | May 2022
Footfalls and Rockaby | ★★★★★ | November 2021
The Tempest | ★★★ | November 2021
This Beautiful Future | ★★★ | August 2021



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The Funeral Director – 5 Stars

The Funeral Director

The Funeral Director

Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 2nd November 2018


“The play illustrates the beauty of complexity; of embracing nuance rather than shying away from it”


In June 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favour of Colorado’s Masterpiece Cakeshop’s decision to refuse service for a same-sex couple, just a month before Iman Quereshi was announced as the winner of Papatango’s 10th Anniversary New Writing Prize with The Funeral Director. Justice Kennedy summarised that ‘Religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression’, though the court did not provide a lasting precedent for religious exemptions for businesses over clients’ sexual orientations. With The Funeral Director, Quereshi defiantly resists such deferral of responsibility. While courts wrangle and tabloids simplify, art rises. What emerges is a triumphant piece of theatre, which, despite its wonderfully stubborn insistence on complete humanisation, retains a deftness to its powerful LGBTQ storyline.

We begin with Ayesha (Aryana Ramkhalawon) and her husband Zeyd (Maanuv Thiara). Stuck in a relatively unspectacular (but not unloving) marriage, the pair manage Ayesha’s family business: an Islamic funeral home. However, when Tom (Tom Morley) arrives with a seemingly simple request — for them to provide a dignified service for his late boyfriend, their refusal leads to cultural and religious disarray. When Ayesha’s childhood friend-turned-lawyer Janey (Jessica Clark) returns to care for her own mother, the incident’s ramifications expand further. The play becomes an exploration of modern British identity and perception. Clark’s warmly charismatic Janey represents an increasingly secularised London elite: professional, liberal, firm, but fiercely inclusive and just. Her condescension towards the ‘backwards people’ of her hometown crumbles so as not to create an overpowering division of ‘us and them’ — incidentally, the racialised dynamic Zeyd fears from the British media.

This is the play’s most complex and successful negotiation. In creating Zeyd as a genuinely caring and pragmatic character, director Hannah Hauer King avoids a descent into generalisation. His homophobia is condemnable from the outset, but his dilemma embodies the encroachment of community pressure upon personal belief — forces managed with ease by the constantly endearing Thiara. He would love his own child regardless of its sexuality, but he cannot face the wider fallout from the Muslim community. Although this selectivity is hardly a foundation for sincere tolerance, it allows the play to develop the ideas of personal
spirituality and ideological emancipation which we hope eventually touch Zeyd too: a loving Allah would not want Muslims to suffer persecution owing to their sexuality and loves all, Ayesha explains at the close.

Again though, the play is woven with a precision which rightly champions the voices of its queer characters. Morley’s anguish as Tom prompts Ayesha’s transformation, but it is his boyfriend’s faith who provides the reasoning. Even in absence, his power is devastating, embodying the strength of queer Muslims while symbolising trauma’s potential results in the fight for existence. The play illustrates the beauty of complexity; of embracing nuance rather than shying away from it. Queer intersectionality’s very foundations within British society are questioned and embraced under the lights of Southwark Playhouse. The result is mesmerising.


Reviewed by Ravi Ghosh

Photography by The Other Richard


The Funeral Director

Southwark Playhouse until 24th 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 Bruising | ★★★★ | October 2018
The Trench | ★★★ | October 2018


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