Memories are a curious thing, they are always there, lurking beneath the surface, ready to spring upon you in the most peculiar of moments, and rarely in chronological order. Watching Kieron Barry’s new play Spy for Spy reminds me of this phenomenon; it brilliantly uses the concept of shuffling, a most beloved feature in our music streaming apps, to create the gripping memory of a love story which plays out differently every night.
In summary, Sarah and Molly meet on New Year’s Eve and are immediately attracted to each other. They are as different as two people can be, but the chemistry is there. Spy for Spy shows the audience the highs and lows of their relationship, but not necessarily in the order they happened.
This concept of storytelling is not new. In the author’s note, Barry explains he has drawn inspiration from the un-sequenced order of the scrolls which make up the Bible. As a child, I loved mystery books where you could decide between two chapters to read next, which made up a variety of possible outcomes; however, I have not seen this device used in a theatre production thus far. The method of shuffling the scenes is carried out by asking random audience members to pick up a heart-shaped balloon which has a hidden scene title and song attached to it. It is a lovely way to ensure the audience is invested from the beginning. The cast and team then have about 30 minutes to prepare the scenes in this chosen order. Due to this method, over 700 sequences are possible, and I wonder if anyone will see the same play as we did last night, which is fascinating! In a way, this takes the memory analogy even further. If you and I were talking about the play, we would have different recollections of the same story.
The storyline is powerful and intense, and I appreciate that the stage is minimalistic in contrast. Bethia Jane Green gave us a bit of structure by using pastel-coloured walls and a matching chair, desk and footrest. The light by Holly Ellis complements the colour pallet and helped to create just the right mood. It allows Olive Grey (Molly) and Amy Lennox (Sarah) to shine without distraction – and shine they did! Spy for Spy is intense, but both actresses make their characters so individual, quirky, and relatable, that I could see myself being friends with them. They are brilliant in conveying the love that is required to go through everything life has thrown at them. Even though at first I wondered how these two people would ever end up with each other, Grey and Lennox made me see it. The direction by Lucy Jane Atkinson is subtle but just right.
After the show, my immediate questions were “How will that transpire to a bigger stage? A greater audience? And when can I see it next?”. It is fantastic to see something so refreshingly different and to witness a new idea coming to life as successfully as Spy for Spy accomplishes.
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