Pros: Offbeat characters provide for an entertaining and intriguing hour of theatre.
Cons: At certain moments I wasn’t quite sure what was what, and the performances were sometimes dominated by one tone.
Despite the trek across London it involves for me, it is always a pleasure going to the Brockley Jack; the theatre and pub staff are always friendly, the beer is good and the theatrical fare is always varied. Ballast Theatre’s latest offering, an eccentric set of three monologues by Jack writer-in-residence Howard Colyer, is no exception.
The show opens with a very brief but punchy Again, where a man airs his grievances after being stranded at the seaside by his frustrated girlfriend. The piece is tonally reminiscent of Simon Stephens’ Seawall but we never see if Warren Taylor could capture the magic Andrew Scott conjures in Stephens’ monologue. The abrupt ending definitely had me wishing more had been explored beneath the surface; however this desire for more wasn’t completely positive.
From the seaside, we are whisked to a room in Deptford for You Take The 321, or to be precise Frankham House on Frankham Street as we are frequently reminded. Here, we hear the story of a young South Asian woman (Avita Jay) striking out on her own, much to the chagrin of her parents. Determined to stand on her own, she invests in property only to have her tenant – an old Polish man – die suddenly. I was totally captured by the mystery of Mr. Thomas Koval and his hasty departure, urging our protagonist on in her investigations. The story was well drawn but the performance felt a little same-y and slightly under-rehearsed.
Performance and writing finally come together in the final titular piece, Without Reluctance and Without Relief. David Bromely plays a hysterical manager at a family software firm, interviewing a bewildered applicant (Taylor reappears to give a silent but brilliant turn). As the character unravels in front of us I felt completely unnerved in the most thrilling way, a feeling peculiar to the live theatre experience.
If you’re looking for unusual new writing, look no further than Ballast’s Without Reluctance and Without Relief for Colyer & co. give us a refreshingly different, at times baffling, at others frustrating, and sometimes brilliant night of theatre. Go with an open mind, leave with a belly full of beer and a lingering sense of intrigue.
Writer: Howard Colyer.
Directors: Sean Turner and John Fricker
Set and Costume: Isa Shaw-Abulafia
Sound Design: Mark Webber
Lighting Design: Jai Morjaria
Booking Until: 28 February 2015
Box Office: 0333 666 3366
Booking Link: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/brockleyjackstudio/events