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Credit: Alex Brenner
Credit: Alex Brenner

then LEAP, Ovalhouse – review

Pros: Colourful and evocative writing.

Cons: It’s a bit ‘Balamory for grown-ups’.

Pros: Colourful and evocative writing. Cons: It’s a bit ‘Balamory for grown-ups’. then LEAP is a one woman show about family relationships and growing up. That woman is Laura Lindow, who delivers her lyrical and perceptive script in a soothing Scottish lilt. Lindow plays all the characters in the story, but mostly the protagonist Ottilie, a diffident 39 year old who leads a small life in London. (The underside of a folding ladder is used, amusingly, to demonstrate the size of her studio flat.) When a close relative dies, she travels reluctantly back to her home town in Scotland,…

Summary

Rating

Good

Charming and well-written, but heavy on the whimsy.

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then LEAP is a one woman show about family relationships and growing up. That woman is Laura Lindow, who delivers her lyrical and perceptive script in a soothing Scottish lilt. Lindow plays all the characters in the story, but mostly the protagonist Ottilie, a diffident 39 year old who leads a small life in London. (The underside of a folding ladder is used, amusingly, to demonstrate the size of her studio flat.) When a close relative dies, she travels reluctantly back to her home town in Scotland, where family and old acquaintances are waiting to see her.

Lindow obviously enjoys using language, and there are some lovely turns of phrase and descriptive passages in the story. Through words, more than through set, she conjures up a bleak coastal town, and as she walks unnoticed through the place where she grew up, she gives us incisive pen portraits of the residents. There are welcome, but all too occasional acerbic remarks, in a fifty minute passage which, although beautifully written, does become a bit monotone in performance.

Despite being billed as a ‘fantastical journey’, the fantasy elements co-exist with a well observed and largely believable portrait of strained but tender family relationships. There is tension between twin sisters, one of whom feels she carries the whole burden of their dad, the other of whom knows that her escape to the big smoke is not all it was hoped to be. There is the moment when Ottilie faces her father after a long absence, and suddenly sees an old man.

In addition to the aforementioned folding ladder, the set comprises a couple of cartoonish signposts, some steps, a chair and a wheelbarrow. First impressions are that it’s a set for a children’s show, but presumably it is supposed to represent Ottilie’s return to the scene of her childhood. Lighting and haze are used to create an intimate and magical atmosphere, and there is a neat bit of projection to round off the performance.

I was interested to see that this show has been toured to a variety of venues including libraries, town halls and art galleries. I can see how well it would work in those non-theatre spaces, with its simple set, original music and likeable storyteller. In those spaces I imagine it is a pleasantly theatrical surprise. In a conventional theatre space, however, I found that it was not quite the sum of its parts. There was not enough story to hold my attention, I was frustrated by the timorous heroine, and the whimsical fantasy elements became tiresome. That said, I am not generally a fan of magical realism, so maybe then LEAP is just the ticket for those who are.

Author: Laura Lindow
Director: Paula Penman
Booking Until: This show has now ended its run at Ovalhouse.

About Clare Annamalai

Clare Annamalai
A commercial manager in the pharma industry, Clare dreams of doing something a bit more luvvy. She has a degree in English & French from Oxford University, and is a qualified translator. When she’s not driving thermometer sales she’s probably driving her daughters to yet another birthday party, or cleaning out the hamster. So if she occasionally slopes off for a sneaky theatre fix, it’s really the least she deserves. Her preference is for shows where she can sit down and not be expected to participate in any way at all.