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The Win Bin, Old Red Lion Theatre – Review

Pros: An energetic, funny and precision performed dissection of a gameshow-style arts audition.

Cons: It would be good to see more of the two characters who get only one brief scene.

Pros: An energetic, funny and precision performed dissection of a gameshow-style arts audition. Cons: It would be good to see more of the two characters who get only one brief scene. The set of The Win Bin is bizarre. A dazzlingly white room, empty except for a raised platform in its centre, is decorated with hundreds of black and red spots that cover the walls, doors and platform. It's intriguing, it's striking, and it's never explained. Similarly, the competition that's at the heart of the play is never fully explained. When Bash, a comic book artist, enters and begins…

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Razor-sharp writing and a superb performance from Kate Kennedy make this a must-see show.

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The set of The Win Bin is bizarre. A dazzlingly white room, empty except for a raised platform in its centre, is decorated with hundreds of black and red spots that cover the walls, doors and platform. It’s intriguing, it’s striking, and it’s never explained.

Similarly, the competition that’s at the heart of the play is never fully explained. When Bash, a comic book artist, enters and begins to perform her nervous audition to an unseen panel, she’s clearly on edge. She explains away the invisible stain on the shoulder of her black top as the result of an incident that happened that morning, rather than something that’s always there: “I spill all the time. It’s like dyspraxia, but it’s not. It turns out I’m just too long.” She’s joined by Knock, a streetwise choreographer, who’s also up for the same audition. The action flashes between them as they both perform a mime in which they have to play someone in a lift – but what sort of lift? Is it fast? Is it moving? Is there anyone else in there? Their questions are never answered, and neither are ours.

All we learn is that they’re among the six finalists for ‘the last Arts job in England. It’s the only one left.’ Their performances on a final gruelling, 12-hour day are being appraised by The Bench, who set them tasks via a disembodied voice; an over-cheery, gameshow-esque, Irish lilt. But the tasks he sets are impossible and rather than specific instructions, he guides their emotions and behaviour. “Sizzle! Put the sausages in the pan, and don’t use any oven mitts!”

Bash is played to perfection by the stellar Kate Kennedy, co-creater of the piece, and who also plays the two other female finalists Hum, a taxidermist and Flap, a neurotic American felter (“Not just felt – I do all textiles”). Knock is played by the excellent Wilf Scolding, who also plays the two other male parts, the writer Tread and the photographer Sniff. The fact that the professions are all so different is relevant too; this really is the last Arts job in England, and they’re all desperate to win it.

It is a shame we only see Hum and Sniff in one brief scene, but their presence is felt at other moments as their auditions and actions are described, examined and assessed by the other four contestants. And it’s these four that we concentrate on, as the action switches between them. The two performers flash between different accents and personas in an instant, jump cut after jump cut indicated by a change of mood or lighting.

Running at just 70 minutes, The Win Bin is an energetic, funny, touching and sometimes shocking play in which we explore the lives and aspirations of characters who are pushed to their limit. Is their advice designed to help each other? Or to try to trick each other into failure? How much, if anything, of the personal information they reveal is true, and how much designed purely for effect?

As well as it’s great entertainment value, this play, originally funded through Kickstarter, gives a searing, incisive commentary on the nature of the arts world and the current state of the job market. Tightly written and performed with razor-sharp timing, it’s a superb, flawless production that’s a real joy to watch. Catch it if you can.

Author: Kate Kennedy
Director: Sara Joyce
Producers: Kate Kennedy and Sara Joyce in association with Robert F Bradish
Booking until: 26 September 2015
Box Office: 0844 412 4307
Booking Link: http://www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk/the-win-bin.html

About Steve Caplin

Steve Caplin
Steve is a freelance artist and writer, specialising in Photoshop, who builds unlikely furniture in his spare time. He plays the piano reasonably well, the accordion moderately and the guitar badly. Steve does, of course, love the theatre. The worst play he ever saw starred Charlton Heston and his wife, who have both always wanted to play the London stage. Neither had any experience of learning lines. This was almost as scarring an experience as seeing Ron Moody performing a musical Sherlock Holmes. Steve has no acting ambitions whatsoever.