Pros: With a snappily written script full of great one-liners and witty comebacks, this play supports a number of good roles for female actresses especially.
Cons: Most of the performances were good rather than exceptional, and the story took a while to get moving.
What do you do when you’ve lost your dad, your girlfriend dumps you and a stranger breaks into your new flat, handcuffing you to the radiator? Engage in a battle of wits for your freedom of course!
The stage and walls are completely bare excepting a plethora of cardboard boxes of the type you use when you move house. Emily (Lucy Litchfield) is handcuffed to a radiator whilst the Lara Croft-esque Megan (Rachel Eireann) lords over her. It seems she is holding her hostage, though it takes a while for the details to be revealed. The pace is almost akin to Beckett, and there are a few moments when I wonder if the action is going to progress. Despite its verbosity the production feels sparse; even the scene changes offer no music or sound effects, just a blackout of the stage. This emphasises the tension of the hostage situation, but also highlights the tight budget of the production.
The action does start to move, but slowly. Megan has been hired by an unnamed boss to retrieve an object from Emily, and it eventually emerges that it is a piece of jewellery. Emily is baffled because she doesn’t have any jewellery worth anything, apart from some things in a storage unit, and she refuses to tell Megan where this is. The status quo changes as Megan becomes more desperate and Emily gains the upper hand. Even though Megan is armed with a knife, she seems reluctant to use it in spite of bragging about how easy it is to kill people.
During their conversation it emerges that both of these young women carry lots of issues and baggage. The dialogue is mostly rapid fire and both characters are highly intelligent, if emotionally damaged. Power shifts again when Emily’s brother (Daniel Farley) enters the scene and recognises Megan after she beats him up. Things spiral out of control, and after the boss (Sylvie England) has cleaned up the mess the truth behind the whole hostage situation is made amusingly clear.
None of the performances were outstanding, but neither were they poor. The character constructions relied on stereotypes to generate comedy: the middle class girl who seems to have a comfortable life but struggles to cope with its difficulties; the fiery young woman who had a tough upbringing and turned to a life of crime; the older version of this character who’s an East End crime boss; and the waster brother who’s never grown up. Whilst the performances were good, it would have been nice to see more depth, though this could be developed more in the text. More vulnerability from all of them would have certainly enhanced the production.
The writing is tight, though playwright Michael Eckett could have easily shaved fifteen minutes from the beginning to make it even more pacy. He has a great sense of comic timing and a great understanding of sound dramatic structure, even if the twist at the end felt slightly formulaic. His dialogue is excellent, and the actors’ delivery suited it well. Though it could benefit from development, No Take Backs is a strong one-act offering for this years’ Camden Fringe Festival, and shows that not all good theatre relocates to Edinburgh for the summer!
Director: Michael Eckett
Author: Michael Eckett
Producer: Sigil Club at The Camden Fringe Festival 2014
Booking Until: 16 August 2014
Box Office: 020 7240 6283
Booking Link: http://www.camdenfringe.com/detailact.php?acts_id=489