Tag Archives: Tyler Luke Cunningham

The Prince

The Prince


Southwark Playhouse

THE PRINCE at the Southwark Playhouse



The Prince

“Over the course of the play, no antagonist is revealed, and little conflict truly arises, resulting in a flat conclusion”


Performance itself lies at the heart of The Prince, Abigail Thorn’s playwriting debut at Southwark Playhouse’s Large Theatre. Characters find themselves stuck inside a multiverse of Shakespearean dramas (Though the action is mostly confined to Henry IV Part I) and at odds with the rigidity of their roles. Sam, played by Joni Ayton-Kent, who is cast as a number of nameless bit characters, is desperately searching for a way out. Mary Malone plays Jen, who finds herself in a similar situation and decides to tag along with Sam. Jen, however, finds tensions within the ways in which the primary characters perform their gender, and begins to poke holes in their constructed identities. In particular, Jen reads Thorn’s Hotspur as a trans woman and Corey Montague Sholay’s Prince Hal as a gay man. Over the course of the play, both characters waffle between conformity to their roles and self-actualization, a broader metaphor for the struggles endured and decisions faced when butting up against a rigid gender binary, especially the construct of masculinity. Though The Prince suffers from a lack of narrative coherence, the metaphor is powerful and at times quite personally affecting.

Thorn and Malone, both in principal roles, turn in strong performances. Malone plays Jen’s fish-out-of-water bewilderment with earnest charm and comedic timing. The funniest moments of the play come from the ways in which other characters play off of hers. Thorn, as Hotspur, carries the show. She peels back her character’s internal tension in careful layers and remains nimble and forceful in her handling of both her own verse and Shakespeare’s. The scenes in which she actively decides to continue in the role of the masculine hero at the expense of her own identity carry tremendous weight. It is unfortunate then, that the structural foundation of the play is unable to support these performances.

The Prince seems to eschew both coherent world-building and narrative signposting, both of which are essential when leading an audience through a multiverse. The moments when Jen is able to break the Shakespearean characters out of their performances are nearly indistinguishable for the moments when they remain stuck. In essence, these breaks happen at random, giving Jen little to learn about the mechanics of the world into which she has been dropped. Sam’s desire to escape should be easily aided by a magical map of sorts, represented by a somewhat unconvincing plastic tetrahedron, but the object only appears all-powerful in Jen’s hands, though no context is given to allow the audience to understand this discrepancy. These two characters are also denied specific or rich inner lives, even an inkling of who they might be outside of their current situation. The multiverse device primarily exists in absentia, as most of Sam and Jen’s haphazard narrative hopping occurs within Henry IV Part I. The play’s only detour into Hamlet arrives without much context and serves only as justification to shoehorn in the “To be, or not to be?” soliloquy, though Thorn delivers it well. Over the course of the play, no antagonist is revealed, and little conflict truly arises, resulting in a flat conclusion.

Martha Godfrey’s lighting design feels similarly uneven. The tubes of LED light that hang at odd angles above the playing space are visually compelling and seem to indicate different corners of the Shakespearean multiverse. But their function remains out of sync with the play throughout, illuminating, changing colours, falling and rising without impetus or textual justification. Rebecca Cartwright’s historical costumes, on the other hand, are a strong point of the play’s design—the ways in which they mutate alongside Jen’s poking and prodding is masterful.

Though it contains joyous and raucous moments, as well as symbolic significance, Thorn’s debut remains unnecessarily messy throughout, wanting for narrative drive and formal consistency.


Reviewed on 19th September 2022

by JC Kerr

Photography by Mark Senior





Previously reviewed at this venue:

The Woods | ★★★ | March 2022
Anyone Can Whistle | ★★★★ | April 2022
I Know I Know I Know | ★★★★ | April 2022
The Lion | ★★★ | May 2022
Evelyn | ★★★ | June 2022
Tasting Notes | ★★ | July 2022
Doctor Faustus | ★★★★★ | September 2022



Click here to read all our latest reviews


Stop and Search

Arcola Theatre

Stop and Search

Stop and Search

Arcola Theatre

Reviewed – 14th January 2019


“Good design and convincing acting ultimately save this messy, drawn-out and static production”


‘Stop and Search’ is Gabriel Gbadamosi’s “play as a Londoner” and, like London, is a sprawling, confusing urban adventure brimming with big ideas. A strong opening scene sets up some intriguing characters with questionable histories, but it’s a downhill slog from there.

Built around three tediously long conversations, the play professes to explore personal distrust and the blurring of lines between friendly chat and interrogation. Tel (Shaun Mason) picks up hitchhiking Akim (Munashe Chirisa) on his way smuggling illegal furs across the Channel. Meanwhile good cop/bad cop team Tone (David Kirkbride) and Lee (Tyler Luke Cunningham) pass the time working on a surveillance job closely linked to Tel’s girlfriend Bev (Jessye Romeo) and his own illegal activity. The final scene sees Akim as a cab driver, picking up Bev who has started to question how much her life is worth living.

The constellation of characters and situation should lead to fireworks, but instead burns out to empty exposition. Gbadamosi’s script fails in creating action and plot within the temporal and spatial confines of the play. Those long, winding conversations, although littered with some pretty turns of phrase, are not interesting enough in their own right to hold our attention. In fact, by reaching towards style over substance, the dialogue becomes quite opaque at times, leaving audience members asking on their way out: “Did you get what that was about?”

Mehmet Ergen’s direction does not help matters. Two out of three scenes take place in a car and remain static and restricted because of it. There is no sense of place or atmosphere in the one outdoor scene. As with the script, the direction lacks action and hides behind the words. The scenic design is reminiscent of a grimy underground car park, and Daniel Balfour’s sound builds a suitable feeling of dread in the climax of the piece. The actors work hard to create complex and convincing characters and give the script a much-needed energy. Chirisa and Mason remain the most interesting and evenly matched partnership.

‘Stop and Search’ does to London what ‘True Detective’ did to L.A. There is a whole world hidden behind this script that wants exploring, but this is sadly not the play to do it. Good design and convincing acting ultimately save this messy, drawn-out and static production.


Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich

Photography by Idil Sukan


Stop and Search

Arcola Theatre until 9th February


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Fine & Dandy | ★★★★★ | February 2018
The Daughter-in-Law | ★★★★ | May 2018
The Parade | ★★★ | May 2018
The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives | ★★★★★ | June 2018
The Rape of Lucretia | ★★★★ | July 2018
Elephant Steps | ★★★★ | August 2018
Greek | ★★★★ | August 2018
Forgotten | ★★★ | October 2018
Mrs Dalloway | ★★★★ | October 2018
A Hero of our Time | ★★★★★ | November 2018


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