Directed by Sam Miller
Pros: Wonderful script and sublime performances, really London fringe theatre at its absolute best.
Cons: Slightly dragged at one point, but to be honest this is almost not worth mentioning.
Our Verdict: Superb. Go and see it now, you haven’t got long!
|Courtesy of New Diorama Theatre|
Every now and again, you find a gem hidden away in the depths of London. This evening, I found two. Firstly, I discovered the New Diorama Theatre, tucked away in the middle of what looks like a mini version of Canary Wharf in Euston. And secondly, I found possibly the most enjoyable production I have seen so far this year. All the Pigs Theatre Company’s production of Scooter Thomas Makes it to the Top of the World, preceded by Russell Woodhead’s piece of new writing What We Lost, is an absolute triumph; funny, moving, and thoroughly engaging throughout, it really was an outstanding evening.
A few weeks ago I had never heard of the New Diorama, but they kept popping up on Twitter, so I thought I’d check it out. Good decision. It’s a wonderful, purpose built 80-seater studio theatre, and despite it being new and shiny it seems to be full of character. It’s that proper ‘friendly fringe theatre’ feel, and I immediately liked it. My evening only got better when the first of the evening’s two performances started, a short 15-minute piece of new writing called What We Lost by Russell Woodhead, being performed as part of All the Pig’s First-Time-Writers Initiative (a laudable initiative in itself).
I don’t want to spend too long on this, because the pièce de résistance was Scooter Thomas itself, but this was a wonderful start. Ciaran Dowd and Annemarie Gaillard played a married couple who had just lost their house and all their belongings in a fire, and who were both coming to terms with it in adjacent hospital beds. Both actors delivered captivating performances which began with a deeply amusing chemistry, and devolved into a rather sombre affair (literally). Both funny and moving, it engaged me from the outset, and if Russell Woodhead writes anything else, I’d thoroughly recommend going to see it.
On to the main event, Scooter Thomas. Peter Parnell’s script is a touching look at how friendships are affected by growing up. Dennis receives call from his Mother informing him that his childhood friend, Scooter has died. This prompts him to look back over their time together in a series of moving stories (brilliantly constructed on stage by director Sam Miller) which eventually show the two friends growing apart as Dennis goes to college and becomes and architect, and Scooter, more of a dreamer, struggles on with an imperfect personal life and a job in the local Post Office. In the end, Scooter dies in a dramatic accident coming down off a California mountain, having reached the ‘top of the world’.
The story is brought to life by two stunningly good performances from Graham Dickson and Samuel Dent. Dickson, who plays Dennis and a host of other characters in the flashbacks, delivers one of the most engaging performances I have ever seen. His characterisation of the hilarious loud-mouthed school gym teacher was a personal favourite, but he went from that, to a geeky school kid, to a moody teenager to a deeply affected young adult with absolute grace. At the end, his obvious heartbreak at the death of his friend Scooter brought a tear to my eye. Dent meanwhile was wonderful as the dreamer Scooter, captivating the audience from the start and acting as one of those only-too-recognisable characters who are never settled, and who always believe that the grass is greener elsewhere. They were, in short, superb performances, and I hope to see more of them both soon.
There was a short period of 10 minutes where I felt it started to drag slightly, but it quickly picked up again, and in short I was blown away by the whole evening. A gushing review I know, but I really feel like this is an up-and-coming company, and it makes me cross to think that the New Diorama wasn’t full this evening because people were paying £85 to see less-good West End shows! In their programme, All the Pigs say that they ‘don’t ask for anything but a fair chance’. My strong suggestion is that you grant them that request.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments in the section below!
Scooter Thomas Makes it to the Top of the World runs at the New Diorama Theatre until 3rd March 2012.