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Unstable Table – A Double Bill, Blue Elephant Theatre – Review

Pros: A double bill of new works, each very different from the other, showcasing strong talent and intriguing stories.

Cons: Any small niggles in either of these pieces are due to the fact that they are works in progress.

Pros: A double bill of new works, each very different from the other, showcasing strong talent and intriguing stories. Cons: Any small niggles in either of these pieces are due to the fact that they are works in progress. In One for Sorrow the audience watches a grown man of questionable sanity in his pyjamas sitting alone in a dark room with an old record player, a burning candle and a storage box he says his grandmother is in. Despite knowing it’s fiction, it’s a slightly unnerving experience. James Ernest's play dives into the mental state of Keith, a…

Summary

Rating

Good

This is an evening of discovery, of learning what is on the minds of playwrights and in the pipeline for performance.

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In One for Sorrow the audience watches a grown man of questionable sanity in his pyjamas sitting alone in a dark room with an old record player, a burning candle and a storage box he says his grandmother is in. Despite knowing it’s fiction, it’s a slightly unnerving experience. James Ernest’s play dives into the mental state of Keith, a youngish man lost in his own grief and feelings of abandonment. He is stuck in his mind and lives in a sleepless world to keep the nightmares at bay, snacking on coffee and writing feverishly to the beloved grandfather that left and never returned to love him back.

Keith is a well written character, played with fearless commitment by Richard Foster-King. Cleverly not all dark and grave, the piece shines a light on the humorous side of the unconscious frenetic behaviour caused by sleep deprivation and self pity; a state with which many can probably sympathise. While the story was interesting to watch unfurl, I found the narrative somewhat lacking. Though the point may well have been to create some ambiguity in Keith’s story that allows the audience to surmise their own outcome, this leaves you feeling cheated from the characters’ true narrative. A stronger sense of what is carrying the story throughout (only really revealed at the end), or a stronger understanding of why Keith is in that room by himself with the record player and a burning candle, would make the story more compelling.

Interestingly, Lone Rangers, devised by its cast Janet Etuk and Lily Levin, demonstrates its strength in showing rather than telling: the piece uses no verbal dialogue. At it’s core this is a story about power struggle, first one against the other, then both show a united front against a greater evil. While the theme might be classic, the play is not without its own quirks. Our first character is clad in bin liners and wellies, calms herself by shaving her legs and keeps company with a plastic bag puppet. Her opponent wears a bee hive, a painted eye mask and a leather jacket and wields a metal pipe obviously quite set on defeating the ‘evil beast’ they both seem to fear.

As previously mentioned, the scene is performed entirely without words, to great humourous effect. This also allows the audience to assign whatever backstory to the situation they like. I saw a feminine female character and a more masculine female character at loggerheads over who is dominant only to band together to defeat a bigger problem. It’s a very entertaining piece that perhaps loses its momentum towards the end as the abandonment of dialogue loses its charm. The introduction of a third character, who happens to be male, comes on late; an earlier entrance might have added another, more intriguing dimension.

Unstable Table’s double bill is an evening of entertainment that is chaotic and uncertain for both characters and audience, but also shows promising beginnings of vibrant new work.

Authors: James Ernest; Lily Levin and Janet Etuk
Directors: Lily Levin; James Ivens
Box Office: 020 7701 0100
Booking Link: http://www.blueelephanttheatre.co.uk/double-bill-new-works-progress
Booking Until: 25 October 2014

About Julia Cameron

Julia Cameron
Works in arts marketing/administration. Julia studied theatre at university and once upon a time thought she wanted to be an actor. Upon spending most of her time working in Accessorize in pursuit of the dream she opted for the route of pragmatism and did an English Masters in Shakespeare instead. Julia has been in London for four years where she’s worked in and outside of the arts. In addition to Shakespeare, she loves a good kitchen sink drama and most of the classics but will see pretty much anything. Except puppets – she has a tough time with puppets.