Review: Dangling, Southwark Playhouse

“If I knew…
If I knew that…
It’d be ok.”

Telling the contrasting but complementary stories of two young women who have gone missing – one from t’north, one from the capital – Abigail Hood’s Dangling is a brutal, at times harrowing play to watch. The London-based strand is the stronger. Not-quite-16-year-old Carly’s disappearance has left a huge hole in her parents’ lives and Hood explores the myriad ways this impacts on them with a real questioning intelligence. In a devastating scene, Tracey Wilkinson’s Jane finds herself driven to entertain thoughts of the worst kind about her husband and the fact is that Jasper Jacob’s Greg does have touches of a moral queasiness about him. 

He’s paying young women to dress up as his daughter and roleplay conversations with him, and he’s under investigation at the school where he teaches for potentially inappropriate conduct with female pupils. He’s also distraught about his inability to look after his child, haunted by dreams of her in some painfully authentic writing. Wilkinson and Jacob are superb together and those notes of ambiguity from the latter are beautifully effective, especially in his scenes with Hood’s Charlotte – the lookalike – who has her own emotional issues with which to deal. Continue reading “Review: Dangling, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: Fred’s Diner, Theatre on the Fly Chichester

Whereas Chichester Festival Theatre should most definitely be applauded for stretching its artistic remit with the construction of the temporary Theatre on the Fly to give it a much-needed shot in the arm of contemporary drama, it could still do with a look at the scheduling. By putting shows on at 8pm, especially ones which run for nearly 2 hours 30 minutes, they’ve instantly nixed any chance of people coming to see it via public transport unless they make it to a matinée performance. As it was, I was headed this way(ish) en route to Brighton Pride and I love me some Cush Jumbo so I was willing to make the effort to see Penelope Skinner’s latest play Fred’s Diner.

Fred’s is a 50s-themed motorway restaurant, a failing slice of Americana in the West Midlands in which acts as a cul-de-sac for troubled souls. On the staff, Heather is an ex-con desperate for the opportunity to prove herself, Chloe’s a bit of a drifter even at 30, work-shy and only really there to pay off her debts and the bills from her late ‘gap-year’ to Thailand, and Melissa dreams of studying law at Oxford. But Melissa is the daughter of Fred, and as the play evolves, we see the horribly tense dynamic that exists between father and daughter and realise how trapped all the women, but particularly Melissa, are beneath their matching uniforms. Continue reading “Review: Fred’s Diner, Theatre on the Fly Chichester”

Review: My Dad’s A Birdman, Young Vic

“I don’t need you to be a birdman, I just need you to be my dad”

Written by David Almond and with music by the Pet Shop Boys, My Dad’s A Birdman is the Christmas offering at the Young Vic this year, suitable I’d say for children from the age of 5 upwards. Set in a house on Lark Lane somewhere on Tyneside, young girl Lizzie Crow lives with her dad Jackie, who is obsessed with becoming the Human Birdman. Auntie Doreen who lives nearby, tries to keep things in order, cooking dumplings for everyone and making sure Lizzie does her homework, but when The Great Human Bird Competition comes into town, all attention turns to who will be able to fly right across the river Tyne and win the big prize.

For Dad, who has already built himself a nest and a pair of wings, it is the perfect opportunity to get closer to his dream of flying and by the time the competition starts with a great big ramp being constructed in Giles Cadle’s simple design, there’s a brilliant scene with several people trying, and failing, to make it across in all sorts of manners, all introduced by the organising Mr Poop who might just be a little more bonkers than everyone else. Lizzie seizes the chance to get closer to her father but has to deal first with the interferences of Auntie Doreen and headmaster Mr Mint. Continue reading “Review: My Dad’s A Birdman, Young Vic”