Pros: Strong performances, poignant plot, great direction.
Cons: The incessant drilling and hammering outside the venue was distracting.
Coming to New Diorama is always such a treat. This still relatively new theatre space, just a stone’s throw from Warren Street, is hidden away in the heart of Fitzrovia and is one of my favourites. I had the pleasure of taking one of my dearest friends along with me and introducing the space to her and she, much like I upon my first sighting, was blown away. New Diorama has very friendly staff and a stunning open-plan design, and it always puts on powerful work. Its new offering, Plastic Figurines, is yet another testament to this venue’s ethos of nurturing new writers and putting on solid productions.
Plastic Figurines, written by Ella Carmen Greenhill, is a delight — which is odd seeing as the subject matter explores death, living with autism, sibling rivalry and loss. The plot is simple, fine-tuned and beautifully heartfelt. Inspired by Ella’s own life, Plastic Figurines analyses the relationship between the responsible Rose, struggling upon suddenly assuming the role of mother, and autistic Mikey who is more concerned about Bruce Willis and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Both hate change, and when their mother is diagnosed with leukaemia and then dies, their world is plunged into chaos; herein lies the seventy minutes of pure dramatic magic that is Plastic Figurines. The storyline and Greenhill’s fast-paced, moving script is compelling.
Vanessa Schofield as Rose is hypnotising. Schofield was already on stage as we took our seats, and as the lights faded I was instantly drawn to her as she paced up and down the stage. After her mother’s death she returns to her family home, and she has several hurdles to overcome; Schofield portrays these difficulties beautifully and is a joy to watch. There are several heartbreaking moments throughout the play, with Rose’s occasional monologues, beautifully lit by Richard Owen, being personal favourites. Jamie Samuel as Mikey is spellbinding. I had the privilege of seeing Josh Hartnett’s West End debut with the 2008 production of Rain Man; while Hartnett’s performance as the brother was panned, Adam Godley’s Raymond was astounding — and Samuel’s Mickey surpasses. He is pure, innocent and real. We were in the front row so we saw every eyebrow raise, felt every twitch, and sensed every awkward uncomfortable hug. Samuel and Schofield together on stage are a dynamic duo who weave between the past, present and future of the plot with such wondrous care and emotion it’s transcendent. The only thing to break this intensity was a relentless builder outside the venue who thought it was a good idea to be drilling at 8pm. I appreciate this is not the venue’s fault, and the actors carried themselves throughout which solidified my love for them both.
The set, beautifully designed by Katie Scott, is essentially a hospital waiting room. Under the watchful eye of director Adam Quayle, however, it naturally evolves into a lounge or empty cinema. The attention to detail in the direction throughout is wonderful. The final scene, and indeed the final five seconds, not only had me bawling my eyes out but also left me speechless.
Plastic Figurines is a funny and moving new play and an absolute must see!
Director: Adam Quayle
Writer: Ella Carmen Greenhill
Producer: Box of Tricks
Designer: Katie Scott
Lighting: Richard Owen
Booking Until: 22 October 2016
Box Office: 020 7383 9034
Booking Link: http://newdiorama.com/whats-on/plastic-figurines