Tag Archives: Wilton’s Music Hall

The Sweet Science of Bruising
★★★★

Wilton’s Music Hall

The Sweet Science of Bruising

The Sweet Science of Bruising

Wilton’s Music Hall

Reviewed – 7th June 2019

★★★★

 

“Now in a venue every bit as grand as the writing deserves, The Sweet Science of Bruising is a gripping spectacle”

 

If you were given a minute to name as many stories about boxing as you could, you’d probably get into double figures. After all, there were six Rocky films alone. However, if this was narrowed down to women’s boxing, you might get Million Dollar Baby and then hit a wall.

In ‘The Sweet Science of Bruising’, Joy Wilkinson has written a worthy addition to this untapped canon. The play follows four women from different stratum of Victorian society who take up fisticuffs for a plethora of reasons: to champion women’s equality, to overcome domestic abuse or just because they’re good at lamping people. The first act romps along with the sort of feelgood factor – all upper cuts and corsets – that wouldn’t be out of place in the sort of Britcom film starring Gemma Arterton. However, things take a turn for the darker after the interval and there are several devastating moments that take the wind out of you.

The production premiered at Southwark Playhouse last October and since then, you can tell it’s been honed further, with the overall pacing now as lean as a boxer weighing in pre-fight. Some of the dialogue is ladled on a bit thick, but only to minor detriment. The main change is, of course, the venue and it’s difficult to imagine anywhere more fitting to stage it than Wilton’s Music Hall. Built in real life only ten years before the play was set, the venue certainly adds a seedy realness to the underground fighting in the script. Director Kirtsy Patrick Ward utilises the space brilliantly. One climatic fight scene has the majority of the ten-strong cast rushing in and out of the wings and onto the balconies in such an explosive manner that it has your eyes darting about like a dog watching a volleyball match. Even the subtle touches are there too – a layer of dry ice hangs in the air like the sort of deep Victorian smog in which Jack the Ripper lurked.

Credit must go to Kate Waters, the fight director – not a title you see on a programme all too often. What could have easily looked like drama school graduates pulling on boxing gloves for the first time actually looked fairly convincing. In fact, Fiona Skinner – who was difficult to prise your eyes off as the hyperactive northern lass Polly Stokes – looked like she could be quite handy in the ring if the whole thesp thing doesn’t work out. What’s more, while it seems churlish to pick out a male actor’s performance for particular praise in a play all about female empowerment, Owen Brenman is especially amusing as the verbose Svengali figure who organises the bouts.

Now in a venue every bit as grand as the writing deserves, The Sweet Science of Bruising is a gripping spectacle that never drops in quality and doesn’t shirk in getting stuck into the burning injustices of the time.

 

Reviewed by Joe Holyoake

Photography by Mitzi de Margary

 


The Sweet Science of Bruising

Wilton’s Music Hall until 29th June

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
A Midsummer Night’s Dream | ★★★½ | June 2018
Sancho – An act of Remembrance | ★★★★★ | June 2018
Twelfth Night | ★★★ | September 2018
Dietrich – Natural Duty | ★★★★ | November 2018
The Box of Delights | ★★★★ | December 2018
Dad’s Army Radio Hour | ★★★★ | January 2019
The Good, The Bad And The Fifty | ★★★★ | February 2019
The Pirates Of Penzance | ★★★★ | February 2019
The Shape Of the Pain | ★★★★★ | March 2019
The Talented Mr Ripley | ★★★★ | May 2019

 

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

 

The Talented Mr Ripley
★★★★

Wilton’s Music Hall

Talented Mr Ripley

The Talented Mr Ripley

Wilton’s Music Hall

Reviewed – 22nd May 2019

★★★★

 

“Dynamic, thrilling and imaginative”

 

We first see Tom Ripley, clicking away at his typewriter keys, with his back to us. Turning around he asks us “Have you ever had the feeling you are being watched?” It is a leitmotif that bookends the show and many of the scenes within; and its delivery sets the scene, tearing down the fourth wall and drawing us completely into the mind of the character. For the next two hours we are hooked.

The slightly unsettling thing about witnessing The Faction’s “The Talented Mr Ripley” at Wilton’s Music Hall (and indeed reading Patricia Highsmith’s original 1955 novel) is how much you find yourself rooting for a double murderer. You want him to win – to get away with it. Orphaned and brought up by a cold, judgemental aunt, he is quite vulnerable, starry-eyed and charmingly naïve. But also, he is clever and able to outwit all around him, escaping from scrapes with flair and downright good luck. Christopher Hughes, as Ripley, plays on this dichotomy with sheer brilliance. A stunning performance during which he never leaves the stage, and during which you cannot keep your eyes off him.

But for all the attention Hughes attracts, there is still plenty of focus on the full ensemble in this tour de force of storytelling, particularly Luke Shaw as the shipping magnate Herbert Greenleaf who sets the wheels of Ripley’s adventures in motion. Herbert’s son, Dickie, is living it up in Italy showing no signs of coming home. Mistakenly believing Ripley to be a close friend of Dickie’s he offers him an all expenses paid trip to persuade the wayward son to return to the roost. Eyeing a way out of the mess his life has become in America (and of course a free holiday), Ripley readily accepts and unwittingly takes his first step onto his murderous journey. A trail that winds dangerously through the plot twists with a white-knuckle intensity.

Christopher York is captivating as Dickie, and with Natasha Rickman’s Marge; the triangle is complete, although with Ripley kept on the margins rather than fully being allowed to steal into the lifestyle he so covets. So instead he steals lives and identities. Mark Leipacher’s direction keeps us on our toes, adding further twists into the already knotted narrative. Minor characters morph into shadowy figures that prey on Ripley’s paranoia and conscience. The action is occasionally brought to a halt with the cry of “Cut!” and the scene replayed with the outcome Ripley wants. He is, after all, in control, though the double-take suggests that he’s not a villain. He’s just busking it really – making it up as he goes along.

But that definitely can’t be said of this company’s inventive interpretation of the story. This is undoubtedly finely thought out. Dynamic, thrilling and imaginative.

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Richard Davenport

 


The Talented Mr Ripley

Wilton’s Music Hall until 25th May

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Songs For Nobodies | ★★★★ | March 2018
A Midsummer Night’s Dream | ★★★½ | June 2018
Sancho – An act of Remembrance | ★★★★★ | June 2018
Twelfth Night | ★★★ | September 2018
Dietrich – Natural Duty | ★★★★ | November 2018
The Box of Delights | ★★★★ | December 2018
Dad’s Army Radio Hour | ★★★★ | January 2019
The Good, The Bad And The Fifty | ★★★★ | February 2019
The Pirates Of Penzance | ★★★★ | February 2019
The Shape Of the Pain | ★★★★★ | March 2019

 

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