Structured as a series of five vignettes revolving around criminal scenarios, an inspiringly askew script by writer/director Charles Edward Pipe and a more-than-game cast sells the material for all it’s worth. Jack Gray, Flinn Andreae, and Jaz Tizzard blast through the scenes (and multiple characters) with a winning, determined abandon. The audience encounters would-be American tough guys, collection agents, septuagenarian smugglers, East End gangsters, and Western outlaws, all brought to vivid, pithy life.
Cinematic references abound-a whiff of the Coen Brothers’ sardonic genre exercises, Tarantino’s postmodern pastiches, Guy Ritchie’s rough-humoured, edgy laddishness and even, in one remarkable instance, the tortured whimsy of Woody Allen. Pipe expertly folds all the ingredients into his own original stew. It’s clear he has an abiding affection for those on the fringe, scrabbling for any piece of the good life.
Time after time, objectives are upended by interpersonal dynamics, unruly and boisterous. An intended bank robbery derails as the central couple, succumbing to nerves, squabbles over perceived slights and character flaws, collapsing into murderous accusation and acrimony. An agent for a loan shark discovers one of his targets is an old school acquaintance. The simmering discontent of long-standing marriage chafes under the exhaustion and anxiety of an extended nautical journey. A wise guy extortionist struggles with his thick assistant and uncooperative victim. Three survivors of a ten-strong gang, reeling from a robbery gone wrong, wrestle over the distribution of ill gains. All life bends towards the ruthless and the cutthroat.
In almost every sequence, Pipe manages a skilful queasy balance between implied violence and comic dialogue. The polarity provides continual tension and suspense to each section, an audience trepidatiously awaiting the fateful moment when the absurd will suddenly give way to the brutal. Pipe even manages to uncover, in some cases, real heartbreak under the bluster.
Gray gets the most mileage out of his array of characters, throwing himself heartily into the broadest reaches of his personality. He is fearless in showcasing the more disagreeable attributes. In the final passage, he manages to extract more comic gold out of a slowly-expiring gang member than should be humanly possible. All three performers play off one another beautifully, though, a tight-knit ensemble. Even a moment of corpsing (or what looked very much like it), when Gray and Andreae seemed to flub the delivery of a tandem line, was good-naturedly incorporated, expertly and endearingly sidestepping awkwardness.
While all scenarios are well-observed, a few are more focused and sharp than others, unavoidable in an anthology. For me, the first two blistering narratives best synthesised the hilarity with the danger. But all are delivered with brio and commitment by a cast whose enthusiasm breaks over the audience like a tsunami.
The infamous Sh!t Faced Showtime are back in London with a festive edition, they have taken Dickens’ classic and put a drunken spin on it. The formula is the same as other iterations of the Shi!t Faced shows, one member of the cast has been boozing, and this time it is John Milton who plays Scrooge. Before the show, half a bottle of Jim Beam, some wine, and beer have been consumed in the previous 4 hours. The rest of the cast, try to keep the show on track, also aided by James Murfitt as the compere, Charles Dickens. The … More A PISSEDMAS CAROL – REVIEW – LEICESTER SQUARE
Spine-tingling yet heart-warming, Mark Gatiss’s retelling of A Christmas Carol truly encapsulates the haunting atmosphere of a Victorian ghost story, balanced out with enough humour so as to capture the festive season. Led by Keith Allen as Scrooge, with Peter Forbes as Marley, this show is perfect for Christmas viewing. The set design by Paul Wills is instantly captivating, containing stacks of metal cabinets towering over the theatre, moveable by the cast to allow space for other central props like doors, beds and tables. In addition to this, the puppetry design by Matthew Forbes is incredibly clever, adding creepy elements to the show such … More A CHRISTMAS CAROL – REVIEW – ALEXANDRA PALACE
The title of this winner of Theatre 503’s 2023 International Playwriting Award by Roxy Cook may seem like the set-up to a joke, but the narrative that unspools is instead an affectionate, gently barbed and at base quite sobering portrait of three ordinary souls (and one restless feline) adrift in modern Moscow. There is much affable, satirical back-and-forth commentary on the accepted myths & stereotypes of the Russian spirit & soul. Beset by the indignities of age, opportunism, graft, fatigue, the characters orbit one another, doomed to play out their roles in an unjust, predatory and saturnine universe. The play opens … More A WOMAN WALKS INTO A BANK – REVIEW – THEATRE503
Peter Pan Goes Wrong first premiered in London at the Pleasance Theatre in 2013, and earlier this year the show made its Broadway debut. Now the production is back in the West End for the Christmas season. Following on from The Play That Goes Wrong, in this production, J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is staged by the fictitious Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society and goes awry, disastrously so. The meta-comedy is filled with slapstick comedy, sometimes the humour may be predictable and silly, but it’s universally funny throughout – there is something for everyone here, and the laughs come thick and fast … More PETER PAN GOES WRONG – REVIEW – LYRIC THEATRE
Drawing heavily from the classic canon of the British supernatural, HighTide’s trio of contemporary Gothic narratives uses traditional storytelling formats to address contemporary themes. Directed by Elayce Ismail, reverent musical interludes accompany tales of apparitions and nighttime conjurings that speak of women from the East of England. Unfortunately, the effect is less chilling and more lightweight, with conventional structures, predictable plot twists and an over-reliance on external forces to drive narrative shoring up some of the less relatable aspects of the genre. Nicola Werenowska’s The Beach House, perhaps the cleanest of the three tales, tells of a mother and daughter’s … More GHOST STORIES BY CANDLELIGHT – REVIEW – SAM WANAMAKER PLAYHOUSE