Tag Archives: soho theatre

Lampedusa – Soho Theatre

The migrant boat crisis in the Mediterranean is sad. Very sad. In spite of the dangers, they come in waves of incomprehensible numbers. A week ago, Sir Nicholas Winton passed away – a man credited with saving the lives of 669 Jewish children from the holocaust; contrast this with the fact that often a similar number of lives are lost in a single sinking, fleeing from similar atrocities. It is simply too distressing to think of these people as individuals and the media coverage slowly dulls our horror until we become immune to one of the worst humanitarian disasters in recent history.  So it is perhaps a good thing that this timely and emotionally charged two-hander reawakens a sense of compassion and redefines just how far we would go for our own loved ones.

In the intimacy of in-the-round, we switch between Stefano (Ferdy Roberts), a man with the grim task of fishing migrant corpses out of the water, and Denise (Louise Mai Newberry), a payday loan collector in Yorkshire; on the surface, two wildly different jobs with little in common – but the parallels soon become apparent: both are doing the jobs that no one else wants, both are condescending and judgmental of their ‘clients’, both resenting their very existence… and yet both find a very human connection in the unlikeliest of places.

My ticket was courtesy of Bargain Theatre. To read the review in full, please click here.

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The Halfway Point

It’s my birthday. Hurrah! It also marks the point exactly halfway through the year, so now seems as good a time as any to look back at the last 6 months of theatre.  Somehow, even having seen 50 shows in 6 months, I am still (relatively) financially solvent. So here are my monthly highlights:

JANUARY
Taken at Midnight – Theatre Royal, Haymarket
Penelope Wilton was exceptional in the lead role as Irmgard, as she fiercely sought justice and the release of her son, Hans Litten. Her final words, delivered with such tenacity, haunted me for days after:

“I started screaming a long time ago. I’m screaming now. I don’t think I’m even half way through, yet.”

Taken at Midnight – Theatre Royal, Haymarket

FEBRUARY
The Wasp – Hampstead Theatre Downstairs
Simply an excellent piece of writing by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm which constantly pulled the rug from under you with clever twists and turns in the plot. You can see my full review here.

MARCH
Radiant Vermin – Soho Theatre
A blistering performance and a really witty satire on greed and the housing market, delivered at breakneck speed. A real tour de force. You can see my full review here.

Deposit – Hampstead Theatre Downstairs
I didn’t get time to write a review of this one, but another housing market play which explores the claustrophobia as two couples move into a one-bedroom flat for a year while they save up for a deposit. What will give first? Their relationships, their friendship or the dream of owning a property? Beautiful writing that really cuts to the bone.

Deposit – Hampstead Theatre Downstairs

APRIL
A Level Playing Field – Jermyn Street Theatre
Wickedly funny with a strong young cast, we see how a bunch of kids cope (and don’t cope) with the pressures of exams and the threat of failure. You can see my full review here.

The Money – Battersea Arts Centre
A really clever and unpredictable piece exploring the value of money – but you have just two hours to reach a unanimous agreement on how best to spend it (or it rolls over to the next group). As a result, I will be spending mine this coming weekend. You can see my full review here.

MAY
World Factory – Young Vic
A fascinating piece of game-theatre which throws audiences into the cut-throat business of running a Chinese garment factory. Every decision you make has a consequence, affecting the lives of your fictional workers. You will never look at your clothes in the same way again. You can see my full review here.

JUNE
buckets – Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond
Another one I sadly didn’t get time to review, but a stunning and emotional little one-act play about seizing the day with both hands and living as if your life depended on it. 25 little moments that will make you evaluate your own life and happiness. Definitely didn’t cry at the end. Just something in my eye.

buckets – Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond

Teddy – Southwark Playhouse
Another one I wish I’d had time to review. Stepping into the dingy gloom of Southwark Playhouse, it’s like being hurled back to grubby bomb-scarred streets of South London. Filled with explosive energy and an infectious foot-tapping 1950s-inspired original score, Teddy and Josie capture the birth of the teenager and show us what it is to be young and reckless.

Radiant Vermin – Soho Theatre

Two words: standing ovation.

It takes a monumental performance to get me on my feet at the end of a play.  But Radiant Vermin has done just that.  With the general election just 6 weeks away, Philip Ridley’s satire on materialism, entitlement and the housing bubble is perfectly timed.

Ollie and Jill are living on a rough housing estate and expecting their first child together. When a mysterious letter arrives making them an offer they cannot possibly refuse, they start on a path which shows just how far some people will go to own their dream home.  You’ll need to put realism on hold for this one (the dialogue in the initial set up is a little contrived), but over the course of 90 minutes their trajectory takes them from need to greed with startling ease, exploring how people’s perception of “enough” changes as they get richer.

Gemma Whelan, Amanda Daniels and Sean Michael Verey.

Gemma Whelan as Jill is bright and smiley, with an endearing naivety to her character – even when she become quite ruthless towards the end, she still elicits some empathy from the audience, as she just wants the best for her child.  Sean Michael Verey as Ollie is a suitably geeky beta-male – everything about him suggests that he’s too nice to harm anyone.  There is great on-stage chemistry between them as they lightly bicker and finish one another’s sentences.  Their impersonations of their neighbours had the audience in stitches.  They flip with ease between narration and acting out their story, with perfect clarity between the two.

Amanda Daniels has a slightly sinister streak to her benevolence as the estate agent Miss Dee – quite a contrast to her later appearance as homeless woman, Kay; she gives a very subtle performance which adds a chilling human dimension (she represents the true cost of what Ollie and Jill are doing) and the change of pace helps to balance out the stylistic nature of the play.  The parallels with real life grow ever more uncomfortable, particularly for anyone who “just wants to get the kitchen done.  And the bathroom.” and how one want soon leads to another.  We are relentlessly bombarded with advertising for all the things we “want” – of course “want” is a completely artificial construct to make us buy things.  I don’t think anyone could’ve left with their own “wants” unquestioned.

But the pièce de résistance has to be the birthday party at the end.  Throughout the play we’ve been introduced to each of their new neighbours with little asides and impersonations: so when all of these extra people descend on the house for their son’s first birthday, we are treated to a theatrical maelstrom as Gemma Whelan and Sean Michael Verey snap between 5 or 6 characters each, with a speed and accuracy that left me breathless.  The sort of thing than an average actor might be able to sustain for perhaps a minute, but that these two kept up for at least ten (at a seemingly accelerating pace) in performances to rival Kevin Bishop in Fully Committed (which I saw last year at the Menier Chocolate Factory).  It has to be seen to believed.

Radiant Vermin is on until Sunday 12th April at Soho Theatre, 21 Dean Street, London, W1D 3NE.  Contains strong language and not suitable for under 14s.  For tickets and more information, go to http://www.sohotheatre.com/whats-on/radiant-vermin/