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The Speed Twins, Riverside Studio 3 – Review

Maureen Chadwick
Directed by Simon Evans

Pros: Creative, hilarious and unique, with a seasoned cast and great set.
Cons: The plot arc felt quite abrupt, characters didn’t seem fully formed.
Our Verdict: An innovative and thoughtful story of lost love as well as a relevant reflection on what it means to be a lesbian, a mother and a woman. It’s well worth your time!
Credit: Catherine Ashmore
Riverside Studios has a penchant for hosting excellent and varied new work, recently having offered its stage to Nirhybia and Meis Julie. This past Winter we reviewed their vibrant new production of Lysistrata. The venue strikes again this month with Maureen Chadwick’s The Speed Twins, which charmingly and hilariously depicts three women in a purgatory-like nightclub resembling Chelsea’s haven for femme and butch lesbians of the fifties and sixties, The Gateways, as they prepare for reincarnation.
If it sounds a bit absurd, that’s because it is. Maybe it was the static setting or the character Ollie’s bowler hat, but the play seemed to enthusiastically appropriate elements of absurdist and abstract theatre, and at times seemed practically Beckettian. The Speed Twins, from Big Broad Productions, makes a welcome addition to the canon of plays that deal with regret and facing one’s true identity, and is not one to miss out on if you have the chance to see it. 
As mentioned, the play takes place in what the characters decide must be purgatory. Each woman clearly has a sense of unfinished business left behind; Ollie, who wishes only to drown her sorrows in the unkempt tap behind the empty bar, struggles with loneliness and the outside world’s acceptance of her identity, while Queenie enters in obvious denial of her own death and sexuality. It is not until Shirley, an old and alienated friend of Queenie, arrives that Queenie must face reality, and much of the play revolves around her struggle to do so.
The three actresses that make up the cast are equally excellent, bringing variety and humanity to the stage with ease and energy. Mia Mackie, playing Shirley, rises to the challenge of playing opposite more experienced actresses, Amanda Boxer and Polly Hemingway, and proves to be one to watch in the future.
The design is another excellent element of the production. Special effects are used sparingly but well, and the stale, eternally 4am atmosphere created is perfect for the mood of the piece in which the women are physically and metaphorically stuck in time and space.
The only point of complaint is the occasional abruptness of the script, which contradicts itself often and fails to make the progress of each character quite as clear as is needed. Queenie’s identity ping-pongs back and forth incessantly, which is not a problem in itself, but within the script she completely changes her identity and views so many times and so completely, only to snap back again with no explanation or impotence, causing serious confusion and dislocation from the action. Some jumpy action aside however, The Speed Twins makes for another success at Riverside Studios, and is an excellent addition to the plethora of current runs addressing identity and sexuality.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!
The Speed Twins runs at Riverside Studios 3 Tuesdays – Saturdays until 28th September 2013.
Box Office: 020 8237 1111 or visit:

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