Even with half the year lost to lockdown, Everything Theatre visited 73 different venues in 2021. Considering those numbers, it’s always surprising to find ourselves at a venue for the very first time. But that’s exactly the case with Ealing’s The Questors Theatre. Why we’ve never been here before is a mystery, especially when you can even drive and park right outside!
There is so much to love about this venue, from the warm welcome at the box office to the lovely bar; and as for the theatre itself – tonight’s visit was to their studio space, so it makes you wonder just how good the main area must be! Comfy seats, ample leg room (quite the treat compared to some of our usual fringe venues) and enough rake that sightlines aren’t an issue; to be honest, the evening was off to such a great start the show really would have had to be terrible for me to leave disappointed. Spoiler alert: I didn’t leave disappointed.
LovePlay is an ambitious endeavour to undertake: there must have been far easier options for The Questors Student Group 74. This 20 year-old play by Moira Buffini, originally performed by the RSC, takes place over ten seemingly unconnected scenes set across two millennia. But they are bound together by love; or maybe lust might be a better description? Also by location, set on the same spot of land, which over the years changes from a latrine in Roman Britain of 79AD, through to a temple, an abbey, homes, and finally a dating agency.
Perhaps more could be done to emphasise this unmoving location, as even with the binding themes of love and sex, at times it feels somewhat like a series of shorts. But this is no doubt an issue more with the original text, and a minor complaint in what is otherwise a rather enjoyable romp through history.
It’s surprising, come the end, to realise that there are only seven actors throughout. This is testament to both their acting abilities as they switch from scene to scene and take on very different roles and accents, and to the wardrobe team of Anna Gilmour, Shaan Latif-Shaikh and Jenny Richardson. It’s all too easy to overlook the costume department, especially when there is little variation, but tonight it’s crystal clear how much effort has gone into outfitting actors ranging from a Roman legionnaire to nuns, Edwardian thespians, hippies practising free love, and everything inbetween.
On the stage some performances do stand out more than others, but to be clear, all are worthy of being on that stage. River Apparicio excels, especially as the Dark Age man impatiently ‘waiting his turn’ with the woman, triggering a scream that echoes through the ages. Elsewhere Lily Baker’s appearances make for delicious moments; her 18th century woman of science who has never seen a naked male is delicately portrayed, whilst as hippy Flynn, having doubts about the upcoming orgy of love, she is simply wonderful. The closing scene in the dating agency sees Baker and Apparicio play off against each other and the friction they create crackles.
Credit should also go to students from University of West London who designed the graphics for each scene’s timeframe. If anything, I yearned for a little more of this, maybe in a Monty Python style, as scenes transitioned.
For a first visit to The Questors Theatre, this really offered a great incentive for it not to be our last. Students and tutor/ Director Richard Gallagher should be proud of their efforts in putting on this difficult play and making for a highly enjoyable experience. I look forward to seeing more.
Written by: Moira Buffini
DIrected by: RIchard Gallagher
Lighting by: John Green
Sound by: Martin Choules
Graphic Design by: Amani Alshaya & Kornelija Kelpsaite
LovePlay is on until 2 April. Further information abd bookings can be found here.