Pros: A strong cast with a fantastic singer.
Cons: A few too many stories in play meant that some of the impact was lost.
The Flannelettes, a new play by Richard Cameron, is premiering at the Kings Head Pub Theatre, a warm friendly venue on Islington High Street. Set in a struggling women’s shelter in a northern mining town, the play opens with two new arrivals: Jean who has left her abusive husband, and Delie who has come to stay for a couple of weeks. Delie is in her early twenties “with a mental age of about twelve” and her Aunt Brenda runs the shelter.
Over the course of the play we spend a couple of weeks in the lives of four very different women: Jean from the home counties who has fled her partner; Roma, a local girl in an abusive relationship; Brenda who refuses to be somebody’s bit-on-the-side; and Delie, who is also unable to escape negative male attention.
Delie (Emma Hook) is the real star of the show, both vulnerable and loveable. It is ultimately her story which packs the hardest punch. As the lead singer for The Flannelettes she also has a fantastic voice which really does justice to the show’s soundtrack of 1960’s soul music. It’s a shame that we don’t get to see The Flanelletes do their thing more often throughout the performance.
There are a lot of characters and a lot of stories packed into this play. As a result some of the stories failed to have the necessary impact and it certainly felt like a long show. This wasn’t helped by an ongoing series of blackout scene changes, which mainly served the purpose of allowing actors to leave or to move items of set a few metres.
The set is simple and domestic with a few indications of the outside world. Although much of the play is set inside the shelter, stark LED strip lights are used to take us out to the street and imaginatively employed at times to good effect.
The venue is everything that a pub theatre should be. A large, welcoming bar with an intimate back-room theatre space. The stage seems fairly shallow adding further to the intimacy of the environment, but it’s also long and therefore less intimidating to be so close to the action. It’s worth mentioning that the King’s Head is committed to paying all performers and stage managers Equity approved pay throughout rehearsals and runs, which is impressive for a small-scale unfunded theatre.
Overall this is a good show played by a strong, talented cast, who handle difficult subject matter with the care and sensitivity that it requires. There’s humour and heart-break, and although the harshest moments don’t always hit the spot, when they do it is devastating.
Author: Richard Cameron
Director: Mike Bradwell
Booking Until: 6 June 2015
Box Office: 020 7193 7845
Booking Link: http://www.kingsheadtheatre.com/