Old Red Lion Theatre
Reviewed – 4th April 2019
“delves into an abstracted perspective on very human issues, and is likely to be different from anything you have seen before”
The first thing you will notice about The Noises – a new play brought to The Old Red Lion Theatre by mother-daughter duo Jacqueline Saphra (writer) and Tamar Saphra (director) – is its main character, a dog named Luna. Shut inside a room by her owners her odd, defamiliarised speech is fascinating and hilarious; she calls sex “rump and grunty” and her owners “ma”, “pa” and “my Ellie girl”. She details all those strange things we know dogs do, from re-devouring a partially thrown up chicken (described in delightfully gruesome detail) to hiding one of every pair of shoes owned by various members of the house. Then there is her physicality, designed by movement director Louise Kempton and executed with impressive economical precision by Amy McAllister. The slight vibration of McAllister’s legs and bottom to suggest a wagging tail, the whine in her voice as she demands things from her owner, and an occasional growl are all particularly reminiscent to us dog owners of our own pets. Luna never delves too far into an animal reenactment – she doesn’t shuffle around on all fours as a child might – but there is just enough there to show us that she is not human.
The production begins with an audio description of the set, and special mention must be made to audio description and access consultants Jenni Elbourne and Amelia Cavallo for their work to make the show accessible for the visually impaired. The audio description itself adds to the show and experience, because so much of the play centres around Tom Parkinson’s sound design. Whilst the set is a single “room” with worn lino floor, a cracked ceiling and a single door stage-let, ‘The Noises’ themselves give a sense of the wider world beyond the door. At first these noises are familiar to Luna – a family argument, footsteps, a car outside – but as the play progresses they grow into something more frightening, until eventually they invade the set and even split the ceiling apart!
Thus we move from an amusing depiction of the inner workings of a dog’s mind to a deeper exploration of courage, fear and what it means to be ‘good’. Luna’s connection with the audience, looking us directly in the eye as she teaches us and tells her stories, means we find ourselves reconsidering our own outlooks. This play may revolve around a dog’s perspective, but it delves into an abstracted perspective on very human issues, and is likely to be different from anything you have seen before.
Reviewed by Katy Owen
Photography by Ali Wright
Old Red Lion Theatre until 20th April
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Super Duper Close Up
The Yard Theatre
Reviewed – 14th November 2018
“It is Latowicki’s strength as a performer that makes this piece hit close to home without feeling like a bland reiteration of our own interior monologue”
Made in China’s Super Duper Close Up tackles the anxieties of one woman in a world where ‘everything’s virtual, and virtually everything’s for sale’. It examines some of the hot topics of this moment: mental health, social media, and the subjection of women under both of these things. It is a subject with limitless potential… but is it just another “relatable” show covering “relatable” topics in a “relatable” (read: boring) way?
Thankfully not. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Super Duper Close Up is driven by a unique and uncompromising voice that permeates every layer of the production. At the centre is writer/performer Jess Latowicki as ‘an inherently unlikeable person’ with a mouth that can’t be trusted and a brain weighed down by things that shouldn’t matter, but do. With a perfectly balanced mix of humour and raw emotion, she expresses the everyday realities of anxiety in a world where the internet is a source of both comfort and fear. Stories of her grandfather, her friends’ wedding, and the long wait for a significant meeting are punctuated by paranoid Google searches and interludes of scrolling. These and other apparently unrelated fragments gradually weave together to form an engaging narrative, told from what is quite possibly the set of a David Lynch film. The fluffy pink rug, rainbow streamers and overflow of flowers suggest artifice and pretence, especially when Latowicki is joined by a camera (operated by Valentina Formenti) that records her every move and projects it above the stage. The surreal visual of two performers (each seemingly different from the other, but ultimately the same person) has the audience questioning the reality of what they see. It is one of many clever methods used to comment on the separation between our virtual and real selves. Every aspect, from the set design (Emma Bailey) to the contents of the monologue itself, feels essential to Latowicki’s exploration of this idea.
It is Latowicki’s strength as a performer that makes this piece hit close to home without feeling like a bland reiteration of our own interior monologue. The truth is, we’ve all felt inferior. To the perfect couple, to the influential boss, to the girl whose photo we see one time on Instagram and who haunts us for the rest of the week. Made in China represent this experience with depth and honesty, cleverly using their singular style to avoid circular discussions and obvious statements. They have pioneered a new way to articulate the hidden sources of our insecurities, and have transformed them into something that is witty, visually striking and politically engaged without being preachy or pandering.
There’s so much more that I could say about this extraordinary show, but I just don’t have the words. Sorry. I guess you’ll just have to go and see it instead.
Reviewed by Harriet Corke
Photography by John Hunter
Super Duper Close Up
The Yard Theatre until 24th November
Previously reviewed at this venue: