Review: Chapel Street, Old Red Lion

“If someone wanted to take me to the theatre, I’d go…if they paid”

Chapel Street is the debut play from Luke Barnes, a sharply written two-hander about Kirsty and Joe who tell their separate, but increasingly intertwining, accounts of a highly drunken night out with their respective friends. He’s getting hammered with his friends down the pub, she’s knocking back vodka at her friend’s house but when everyone goes into town to continue the evening, fate smashes them together.

Daniel Kendrick’s Joe, brimming with swaggering self-confidence, was a terrific performance – recalling Trystan Gravelle’s electrifying turn in DC Moore’s fantastic Honest in the way he totally engaged with the audience, I have never felt more like one of the lads as when he was talking to me! He also portrays the quiet desperation of a young man still living at home, barely able to get casual labouring work, his frustrations not quite driving him to action though. Ria Zmitrowicz has the slightly more difficult job with Kirsty, a 15 year old girl becoming aware of her burgeoning sexuality but not quite yet fully aware of the consequences of exploiting it in the way she does. She does find a nice likeability in amongst her naïve dreams and Barnes captures the brutal honesty of teenage speak well.

Together though, they work extremely well under Cheryl Gallacher’s direction, the back-and-forth of their interlaced monologues extremely well timed and feeling impressively natural. They both tell their own stories but there’s almost an element of banter to the writing as well which is highly amusing. But and as more and more drinks are knocked back, their evenings with their friends taking unexpected turns and their diverse journeys finally colliding, there’s no relenting of the grim messiness of their drunken behaviour.

The play isn’t without its little hiccups: quite how Joe is able to use Titus Andronicus as a reference point is beyond me and the ending, though perhaps inevitable, lacked a little inspiration – would not their paths cross more often? But the writing is tightly coiled, its two strands unwinding with increasingly entertaining and engaging wildness yet urging an ultimately cautionary note about the heavy booze culture that blights our towns and cities. Two great performances make this an enjoyable evening, but the decision to charge full price for 45 minutes of drama feels extremely misguided.

Running time: 45 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 20th August
Originally written for The Public Reviews

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