Monday, 21 May 2007

Review: The London Plays

At the tiny, and obscenely hot, Old Red Lion in Islington, I caught the last (packed out) performance of a double bill of short plays by Ed Hime. Collectively entitled The London Plays, the first play, London Tongue, deals with a man on the edge in the big city, and the second, London Falls, is a double monologue of passengers having a biblically bad day on the Underground.

London Tongue stars Oliver Farnworth as Bloke, our antihero for the evening. He is almost manic, and able to change his demeanour from sweet to sour in an instant. Just like most Londoners you could say. But Bloke uses his anonymous metropolitan opportunities to the max; telling the Russian market researcher about his masturbation fantasies over her, having a gay one night stand and refusing to leave when his shag’s boyfriend is coming home, or an internet arranged rendezvous with an older woman as part of a fantasy role-play. His encounters are all brief and can be very funny; bluntly telling a teenage female neighbour that he’s just had gay sex elicits a reply of ‘I didn’t know you was a batty’ (he’s living with his girlfriend). The thing I overwhelmingly want to say about this play is, that it’s simply very entertaining, it is not portentous or pretentious (neither is it sex obsessed, despite my description). But it is a good, short, sharp portrait of a manic day.

London Falls is quite different, although also enjoyable, we almost enter the realm of poetry. Man and Woman are both on tube journeys, they don’t talk to each other, they’re not known to each other as far as we know, they tell their stories directly to the audience. We go into their inner monologue, the whys and the wherefores, the casual fantasies. An explosion in a train under The Thames causes the tunnel to flood, havoc is wreaked and horribly, effectively, described. But then we come out of that terrible event, was it real or an awful fantasy? Whatever the case, the play is not totally dramatically successful, the loose ending being the problem. But the delivery from Kate Colgrave Pope and Paul McEwan (who also featured in the first play) was excellent. Direction of the plays by Kelly Wilkinson was also good, but the design by Becky Gunstone was a horrible array of blinds hiding props. A simple bare set would have been much more effective than clutter in this tiny space. An enthusiastic young audience clearly enjoyed the evening, me included.

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