Home » Reviews » Off West End » Siren Song, The Lion & Unicorn Theatre – Review

Siren Song, The Lion & Unicorn Theatre – Review

Written and directed by Lisa McMullin
★★★

Pros: The live music, and some strong performances, particularly in the final act. There is also fun and clever wordplay in the script, providing lightness to what is a rather grim look at love and life.

Cons: If you haven’t exercised in a while, this play is a workout. Be prepared to walk up and down the stairs of the theatre, as this two-hour play has intervals a plenty.

Our Verdict: It gets better with each act, so stick with it, and you’ll enjoy it more. 

Credit: Kate Boswell

Siren Song by Lisa McMullin at The Lion & Unicorn doesn’t play by pub theatre rules. Instead of being one act, and running for just over an hour, this play is three acts. It runs for two hours and includes two 15-minute intervals.

The first act sets everything up. ‘Elastic’ is a jazz bar. Owner Tom (Ryan Kennedy) is stressed about the bar’s financials. His wife Kay (Niamh Bracken) is a singer at the bar. She is suspicious her husband is having an affair with ‘Hannah’ who also works in the bar, but we never meet. And Stuart (Ben Elder), Tom’s friend who works behind the bar, is in love with Kay. Out of spite, Kay kisses Stuart. End of act one.

At this point, the house lights were switched on, and the audience was ushered out of the theatre, told there would be a 15-minute interval while the stage was reset.

Reentering the theatre, I was expecting the set to have changed. But it was the exact same. The piano, the bar, the stools, the table and chairs, the hanging picture frames, the hat stand, the red curtain had not moved. Upon closer inspection, the only thing I noticed which was different were the tea-light candles, which Stuart has distributed in act one were no longer there. What were the 15-minutes for? Did the audience really have to leave the theatre so a couple of candles could be removed? A blackout would have been better.

The second act starts on the following day. Tom gets angry at Kay, who spent the previous night with Stuart. Tom’s level of anger feels a bit over-the-top, and the insults he uses are questionable. His wife has just slept with his friend, yet instead of calling her an adulteress (or something more rude), he tells her she is ‘physically repulsive’, which she’s definitely not. And on another occasion he says looking at her makes him feel sick. There’s something about Tom’s dialogue within this scene which doesn’t sit right.

In many ways, if the play opened in the second act, and the context and background from the first act was not there, it would make for more compelling viewing. Sometimes being dropped into the middle of the drama and the action, with no points of reference is more interesting for the audience than a more user-friendly format, which includes a beginning, middle and end.

And again there is another 15-minute interval at the end of the second act. And again nothing changes in the set, except for some scattered empty bottles, glasses, and crisp packets.

The third act is easily the strongest, in terms of the drama portrayed, the dialogue and the performances. Tom reciting his wife’s text messages is a really effective and clever way of building tension. The lead up to the secrets being revealed keeps you on the edge of your seat, and Tom’s final monologue is the best part of the play.

Each act concludes with a musical performance from one of the characters. At these points, the audience gets to see the characters at their most honest and vulnerable, which enhances the integrity of the story. The actors can sing, so it is nice to listen to them.

And at the end of the third act, it’s back down the stairs to the pub.

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

Siren Song runs at The Lion & Unicorn Theatre until 16th November 2013.
Book online at www.giantolive.com/sirensong.html

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