Tag Archives: Tristan Bates Theatre

Nuns

Nuns
★★★

Tristan Bates Theatre

Nuns

Nuns

Tristan Bates Theatre

Reviewed – 17th January 2019

★★★

 

“this play, written for a stonking all-female cast, perhaps needed a bit more darkness, a bit more bite”

 

This all-female cast and crew production is fun, dynamic and crowd-pleasing. A strong cast of four, directed by Charlotte Everest, brought Robert Luxford’s sometimes witty, energetic script to life, making some bold and engaging staging and performance choices. But a truncated flow in stage action and occasionally restrictive episodic structure mean it sacrifices humorous depth for giggling shallows.

Natalya Wolter-Ferguson, Cecile Sinclair and Rebecca Wilson are a terrific trio: perfectly balanced, wonderfully varied and each with their own outrageous showcase moment, they were a joy to watch. I found their commitment and passion exciting, and their clear support of one another inspiring. All embraced the challenges which their parts required, and the result was three female performers being free, uninhibited and brave onstage. Gillian Broderick joins the action later, but her reputation precedes her as the infamous Mother Superior, who turns out not to be so superior after all. Broderick adds a new flavour to the plot, and she played the inscrutable, but ultimately liberally persuadable, nun with growing conviction and nuance as the play progressed. The cast enjoyed themselves, which was reflected back at them in the auditorium.

Luxford’s script has clear intentions, which you can read immediately in the show’s aesthetic, and the performers’ characterisation: camp, mellow shock, sex and silliness – all habit-forming stuff. But each scene is so contained that the narrative never quite moved beyond stereotype. I was particularly frustrated by Mother Superior’s rousing speech about the church’s misogyny, in which the first example she used was that make-up is perceived as problematic. This dissection never quite unravelled and complexified to such an extent that the little shocks of the show amounted to the feeling of anything beyond being tickled. Being tickled is fine, but this play, written for a stonking all-female cast, perhaps needed a bit more darkness, a bit more bite.

Tara Usher’s set design is excellent. It perfectly frames, frills and sasses up the Tristan Bates space, with a gloriously kitsch combo of electric neon, which accents model angel wings and a garish central cross, and baby pink and blue velvet bedsheets, adorned with simpering Christs. It creates the perfect realm for playful debauchery, and Everest’s direction comes to its own when she incorporates the bed as the centrepiece of the Sisters’ lusty confusion. Sally McCulloch’s lighting design, using torches and creating different moods and textures with isolated neon lights, is inventive and thoughtful. However, much as I thought the sound choices were second to nun (not a typo; what a playlist), a couple of the tracks could have been cut, to let the dialogue and performances speak. Recorded voices illuminating context and offering different perspectives on nuns within the church were a nice touch, but used a little too frequently: pairing them with blackouts at points furthered the script’s feeling of incompleteness.

Nuns was met with a warm audience reception. The production team have made a production which is worth seeing, for its creative vivacity and committed performances.

 

Reviewed by  Eloïse Poulton

Photography by XXXXXXXXXX

 


Nuns

Tristan Bates Theatre until 26th January

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
The Gulf | ★★★ | April 2018
San Domino | ★★ | June 2018
The Cloakroom Attendant | ★★★ | July 2018
Echoes | ★★★★★ | August 2018
Love Lab | ★★★★ | August 2018
Butterfly Lovers | ★★ | September 2018
The Problem With Fletcher Mott | ★★★★ | September 2018
Sundowning | ★★★★ | October 2018
Drowned or Saved? | ★★★★ | November 2018
Me & My Left Ball | ★★★★ | January 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

me and my left ball

Me and My Left Ball
★★★★

Tristan Bates Theatre

me and my left ball

Me and My Left Ball

Tristan Bates Theatre

Reviewed – 8th January 2019

★★★★

“Ryan, Rainford and Young create a wonderful, believable chemistry with each other”

 

Darkly funny and inventively staged, ‘Me & My Left Ball’, a new play by writer/actor Jack James Ryan, packs a real emotional punch. Its relatable characters and strong message, that we shouldn’t be afraid to be honest, open and vulnerable with each other, linger on in the mind long after the final bows.

Ryan’s script begins with a simple premise. Clueless Alfie (Ryan) lives with his mum, trapped in a seemingly endless cycle of getting drugged up and going clubbing with alpha-male mates Mike (Daniel Rainford) and Callum (Marco Young). That is, until he meets the whimsical, extraordinary Tess (Eilidh Loan) who gives his life a new direction. All this is turned on its head the moment Alfie learns he has testicular cancer. As his friends and new girlfriend learn to deal with the news in various different ways, it’s up to Alfie to decide how life can go on once it’s altered beyond his comprehension.

The strong ensemble deal with the highly emotional aspects of the show with aplomb. In a short space of time, Ryan, Rainford and Young create a wonderful, believable chemistry with each other, and the length and strength of their friendship is on show from the beginning. To pick a stand-out performance is tricky, but Rainford embodies the duality of being a hyper-masculine man and vulnerable, confused boy beautifully. Loan provides a much-needed breath of fresh feminine air to proceedings and plays the self-aware, flawed girl of Alfie’s dreams expertly.

Natasha Ravenscroft’s direction keeps the ensemble mobile and makes good use of minimal props. Just two white crates serve as bed, hilltop and everything in between. I’ve also never seen toilet roll utilised in such a hilariously inventive way before. After an initial verbal battle with ‘Alexa’, music ends up playing a key role in this piece. From jiving in the club to an emotional self-penned song at the end, music adds to both the weight of scenes and our understanding of the characters. Jodie Sully as movement director has created an excellent array of sequences that move from funny (the boys have a variety of club-based dance moves) to profound (the carrying of a reluctant Alfie into his wheelchair), and the cast prove to be strong and capable movers.

This is promising stuff from Ryan and his group. It’s a short script that could easily contain more, and the ending, with all its resolution, feels a bit too easily achieved. “I would have understood if you’d just told me” feels like the mantra of the play and is an important way of viewing how we communicate with the people we love. Ryan’s script is truly inspiring in that sense. Inventive, well-choreographed and wonderfully acted, ‘Me & My Left Ball’ comes highly recommended.

 

Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich

Photography by Tom Grace Portraits

 


Me & My Left Ball

Tristan Bates Theatre until 10th January

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Meiwes / Brandes | ★★★ | April 2018
The Gulf | ★★★ | April 2018
San Domino | ★★ | June 2018
The Cloakroom Attendant | ★★★ | July 2018
Echoes | ★★★★★ | August 2018
Love Lab | ★★★★ | August 2018
Butterfly Lovers | ★★ | September 2018
The Problem With Fletcher Mott | ★★★★ | September 2018
Sundowning | ★★★★ | October 2018
Drowned or Saved? | ★★★★ | November 2018

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com