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The Matchmakers/Yolk, RADA Studios

The Matchmakers
Paula Fleming

Yolk
Natalie Cheary

Directed by Ng Choon Ping
★★★

Pros: Interesting new writing, not far off being very good; committed performances.

Cons: Slightly more development needed by both the script and the acting in places, felt slightly like a first draft of something excellent.

Our Verdict: An enjoyable showcase of two shows and two writers with real potential that isn’t fully realised on this occasion.

Credit: Jon Cartwright

This visit to the RADA Studios was a first for Everything Theatre. The small basement space is perfect for small scale performances and these two shows fitted well within the venue chosen by Three Muses Productions. It was, however, a little sad that during the second show a loud group of people decided that standing outside the theatre and talking loudly to one another was a good idea; a little off putting for both the audience and actors. RADA, take note!

The Matchmakers is a very modern and current play, exploring the political agenda behind dating agencies. You can’t look anywhere on the tube nowadays without a dating advert staring back at you, promising to set you up with Mr (or Miss) Right. Louise (Elizabeth Hammond) wants to be a journalist and, to get her ground-breaking story, she’s gone undercover to expose the dating scam as the cynical result of capitalism that it is. Unfortunately, thanks both to the other characters and her own misfortunes, it doesn’t quite turn out the way she had hoped. Well, was it really ever going to when the agency she infiltrates uses Margaret Thatcher as their role model?!

The actors were very competent if somewhat muted in their portrayals. It was difficult to see really strong emotions and characterisation coming through from any of them (except of course the slight Thatcherisms from Rayyah McCaul, which were executed smartly) and the motives behind their actions were unclear. Emma-Jane Goodwin stands out for me as Estelle, the put upon assistant whose flowery character comes across really well, helped along by her Welsh accent.

I can see Paula Fleming has thought hard about the script, but the play is written as a comedy and while there were moments where I smiled to myself, there are areas of the show that need working on to bring out the big laughs. The slightly quizzical use of Margaret Thatcher as one of the main comedy drivers was both clever yet somewhat obvious (not necessarily a bad thing of course). The story was not difficult to follow and the last line of the play reveals the strength of Flemingʼs ability to think outside the box. Overall however, I believe the play could do with a little something extra, a little ‘vavavoom’ to make Fleming stand out from the other new playwrights out there.

Yolk sees a larger cast, with Elizabeth Hammond taking centre stage again as Alice, a slightly wayward teacher on sabbatical from her career. It is snowing heavily and as Alice works her way wearily through the night, she gets some unexpected visitors, all from the same family. Rayyah McCaul plays Kate, an unimposing, downtrodden wife and mother; Sean Buchanan plays her dogmatic husband, Ed; and Alvin Wright-Jones is introduced as James, their stoned teenage son. The writing really allowed McCaul to show her flexibility as an actor. The two characters she takes on in the two plays couldn’t be more different, allowing McCaulʼs talent to shine. Buchanan also gave a good performance, the use of his raised voice put to good effect in the small studio space.

The story was cleverly put together, the premise a little spooky and the main characters mysterious, leaving the audience on edge and wondering. Unfortunately the show was a little weaker at the end. The ending was performed strongly but the narrative was a touch unbelievable. The author’s aim was understandable, but it just felt rushed. Perhaps if the show was a little longer then the characters’ motives could be explained, allowing the ending to then sit better with the audience. Apart from this however, the show was an intriguing contribution to new writing in London and the writer, Natalie Cheary, has a promising future.

Both shows had the same director and they were simply done. However, the use of the spare tables in the cafe setting of Yolk to seat audience members was, while a clever idea, also a bit of a shame; the writing meant for the audience to really connect with Alice’s isolation but with the tables full this was hard to imagine. Direction in The Matchmakers was smooth and frank meanwhile, and scene changes using Estelle to write the company ʻquote of the dayʼ (Thatcher quotes) were clever if a little unnecessarily slow.

Overall, these are two shows, and more importantly two writers, with real potential, even if it wasn’t fully realised this time around. I enjoyed Yolk slightly more than The Matchmakers because there was more body to it, more material to hook me in. A little work on both in slightly different areas and the writers could produce great shows; these ones just felt a bit like earlier drafts. There was also not a weak actor in the collection and, while I might have distributed the roles differently, their effort and commitment to the show was clearly visible, which is something to be acknowledged and applauded.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

The Matchmakers and Yolk has now finished its run at the RADA Studios.
For more information about Three Muses Productions visit http://www.rada.ac.uk/

About Everything Theatre

Everything Theatre
Founded in 2011, Everything Theatre started life as a pokey blog run by two theatre enthusiasts and – thanks to the Entry Pass Scheme for 16-25 year olds – regular National Theatre goers. Today, we are run by part-time volunteers from a wide array of backgrounds. Among our various contributors are people who work in theatre, but also people who work in law, medicine, events, marketing and even psychiatry! We are all united by our love for the London theatre scene.