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Bash Latterday Plays, Old Red Lion Theatre – Review

Pros: Fantastic acting and three gripping stories.

Cons: The monologue structure and dark subject matter made for some intense viewing.

Pros: Fantastic acting and three gripping stories. Cons: The monologue structure and dark subject matter made for some intense viewing. It’s usually a pretty good thing when you get more than you expected. Arriving at the Old Red Lion Theatre, I discovered that tonight’s show comprised not one but three plays, each an act long. It’s a bit like a recurring dream I have. I’m running late for my wedding. But as I arrive, instead of one bride standing there, there’s three. Great! I think, as I imagine the honeymoon. But then I realise: they’re wearing veils. What if…

Summary

Rating

Excellent

Three well-crafted and well-performed character studies by an accomplished writer.

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It’s usually a pretty good thing when you get more than you expected. Arriving at the Old Red Lion Theatre, I discovered that tonight’s show comprised not one but three plays, each an act long. It’s a bit like a recurring dream I have. I’m running late for my wedding. But as I arrive, instead of one bride standing there, there’s three. Great! I think, as I imagine the honeymoon. But then I realise: they’re wearing veils. What if none of them are fit?

Since the plays in question each included Mormons as characters, this is a rather apt analogy. It’s also complete nonsense, as most dreams are. I’d obviously never ask three women to marry me, and I certainly wouldn’t judge women solely on their looks. And you know what? My three girlfriends respect me for that. But respect was hardly on offer for the characters involved in tonight’s triptych.

Each featured one or two actors recounting traumatic events to the audience: a young travelling businessman on an incident at home, a couple describing a night out, and a woman talking about a past school time relationship. Gradually, as each story went on, things grew darker and darker, with the characters transforming before my eyes.

Not only was the subject matter pretty heavy going, but the fact that the mini-plays consisted of effectively four monologues (the couple in play two barely reacted to each other) made things doubly intense. The worry when watching a monologue is that if you allow your mind to wander for a few seconds, you might miss some crucial information – more so than in a traditional set-up because there are fewer visual cues or characters to reinforce the story. Then you can spend even more time piecing things together without fully understanding what’s going on. I suppose it’s also how I feel like when watching Made in Chelsea.

Here, once I’d come through the first play and let the enormity of that story sink in, I didn’t have a massive amount of time to prepare my mind and its concentration thingies (technical term) for the next, equally unsettling tale. The writing was very conscientious about adding humour and keeping things follow-able, but by the time I got to the third one I was feeling a tad exhausted. Maybe that’s the Angry Birds generation for you.

But there really wasn’t much else to grumble about. The actors were excellent as they teased the audience by peeling off the layers of their stories bit by bit. The set, consisting of broken chairs surrounding a sparse doorway, perfectly captured the fragility of the characters, who themselves spent most of their time as if caged in their seats. And the stories themselves were, as you’d expect from a distinguished writer like LaBute, extremely rich in detail and full of entertaining turns of phrase.

The Mormon element was a bit random in my opinion. I suppose that was what connected the three, but it’s always fairly obvious to show devoutly religious characters with a wicked side. But I’m very much picking holes in an otherwise enjoyable, professional and slick production. So, to return to the earlier analogy, what I was faced with tonight were three hot brides, each fairly high maintenance, and with a hidden dark side. More importantly, though, do I recommend the show to others? Yes. I do.

Author: Neil LaBute
Director: Jonathan O’Boyle
Producer: Thirty One Productions
Booking Until: 12th April 2014
Box Office: 0844 412 4307
Booking Link:

About Jack Wake-Walker

Jack Wake-Walker
Gameshow Developer. Jack works in TV and has devised shows such as Ice Dreams, the frozen alternative to Great British Bake Off, and Tankenstein, a destructive quiz show involving a tank. Neither has yet been commissioned. He was an extra in the Bond film, Skyfall, and played a zombie in Derren Brown: Apocalypse. Neither was as fun as they sound. To counteract his low-brow career, Jack makes pretentious documentaries and video art pieces in his spare time. He enjoys theatre, in particular the weird kind, and is pleased to be part of a predominantly musical-hating blog.