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Nuclear War, Buried & Graceland, Old Red Lion Theatre – Review

Triptych is probably one of the lesser known entries in the theatrical lexicon; it is a set of three associated artistic, literary or musical works intended to be appreciated together. Which is more or less what we got with this latest offering from the excellent Old Red Lion Theatre. Comprised of three plays; Nuclear War, Buried & Graceland draws together common themes exploring life and death in the very broadest sense. However, they are very distinct pieces but no less enjoyable as a result. Buried written by David Spencer is a very personal play both for writer and performer.…

Summary

Rating

Excellent

Three plays presented with an associated theme aren’t always obvious, but still provide a sterling evening's entertainment.

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Triptych is probably one of the lesser known entries in the theatrical lexicon; it is a set of three associated artistic, literary or musical works intended to be appreciated together. Which is more or less what we got with this latest offering from the excellent Old Red Lion Theatre. Comprised of three plays; Nuclear War, Buried & Graceland draws together common themes exploring life and death in the very broadest sense. However, they are very distinct pieces but no less enjoyable as a result.

Buried written by David Spencer is a very personal play both for writer and performer. David Spencer is the son of Max Spencer, the protagonist of Buried whilst actor James Demaine is his grandson. In 1943, north of Salerno, Italy Max Spencer (James Demaine) has been buried alive. Spencer contemplates mortality and his chances of survival; the rights and wrongs of a barely used life are played out as fate slowly takes its course.

Graceland written by Max Saunders-Singer proves the most accessible and relatable play of all. It tells the story of science teacher Mr Chrichton (Anthony Cozens) who is about to have the day from hell. It’s a wonderfully executed piece as the audience become class 9D and we all turn into giggly 14 year olds. Everyone remembers a flaky science teacher on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Mr Crichton begins a lesson on combustion and explains the importance of oxygen, fuel and heat in the process. The audience play their part as the lesson takes a disturbing turn; and it becomes obvious why today is such a bad day for poor, beleaguered Mr Chrichton. It creates a compelling mixture of humour and pathos that reaches a sobering conclusion.

Nuclear War, written by Simon Stephens, is an altogether more introspective piece that uses movement to carry the narrative. Two women (Freya Sharp and Zoe Grain) relate a story of life, love and loneliness in a seemingly desolate landscape. Freya and Zoe chant in unison and use the rhythm of body movement to express their feelings. They exploit solo spots that run to very dark corners of the story. Although challenging, it feels overly abstract and self-absorbed. However, it benefits from two engaging performers that maintain the viewer’s curiosity. All three plays are well written and superbly acted; they flow smoothly either side of a two act presentation that never feels uneven. They work as stand-alone pieces but draw from a common palette of human emotions. It’s an engrossing study with real moments of tension; but thank heavens for Graceland, placed in the middle slot providing a modicum of light relief.

Written by: Simon Stephens, David Spencer and Max Saunders-Singer.
Directed by: Alexander Knott, Ryan Hutton and Sonnie Beckett.
Movement Direction by: Georgia Richardson
Produced by: Bag of Beard, Grindstone and Boxless Theatre
Booking Link: https://www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk/nuclear-war-buried-graceland.html
Booking Until: 21 March 2020

About Brian Penn

Brian Penn
Civil Servant. Brian flirted with drama at school but artistic differences forced a painful separation. At least he knows what his motivation is. Now occupying a safe position in the audience he enjoys all kinds of theatre. He was bitten by the theatrical bug after watching a production of Tommy in his teens. Other passions include films, TV and classic rhythm and blues. He also finds time for quizzes, football and squash. A keen sports fan, his enthusiasm crashes to a halt whenever anyone mentions golf. A musical based on the life of Tiger Woods could be his greatest challenge.