Monday, 30 April 2018

Another green world… Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Michael Smith and Company, St Leonard’s Church, Hertford

The fascination of medieval literature is in truly understanding the mind of those who wrote it; we may not know the name of the person who wrote Gawain but we know a lot about how he thought and what his preoccupations were.

Tonight, what better place to reconnect with the medieval mind than inside an 11th Century church that predates the Conqueror and which opened its doors three hundred years before Sir Gawayn and þe Grene Knyȝt was composed. In this place there’s a Saxon window beyond an exquisite Norman arch and the walls are covered with frescoes of Christ and crucifixion drawn by hands in fear and wonder. St Leonard’s is Hertford’s oldest building and has lived a life, from the time of King Cnut the Great to Cromwell using it to keep horses during the Civil War and its modern-day restoration.

It is a beautiful, slightly pagan place and the perfect venue for tonight’s performance. Michael Smith is a man of Cheshire and he has spent years crafting a new translation of this alliterative poem written by that unknown hand from the same county. These words run deep and for the Warrington-born medievalist, writer, performer and print maker, there’s a connection with soil and soul.

This was the second performance of Smith’s new translation and the production has advanced very quickly into a tightly-wrought folk-theatre. The director is Mike Ashman, who in addition to a CV including stints directing at the Royal Opera and Welsh Opera, is Hertford born and grew up opposite this very church. His direction saw the players use the full length of the church to superb effect, pulling in a packed house to this wondrous but not necessarily immediately-accessible world.

Jon Banks and Mike Smith
Musical accompanist Jon Banks has an international profile too and is a medieval multi-tasker playing countless arcane instruments whether as Musical Director of the Globe Theatre, a member of the Burning Bush (who did the music for the BBC series Inside the Medieval Mind) and the Dufay Collective. Tonight, Jon’s improvisations weaved around the words, under-scoring with practiced precision as well as adding dramatic weight to the swing of axe and the fall of head.

Michael Smith took the lead role as speaker and was ably supported by Stuart Handysides (now there’s a name with some ancient heritage!) as second speaker and the mighty Alex Young as Narrator, a role created to bridge parts of the original narrative in order to enable more concise word play.

The three were fascinating to watch as the poem flowed between them and I really enjoyed the overlapping segments of the original (and enjoyably impenetrable) Middle English (North Western dialect) and the new translation: you felt the translation was happening afresh in front of your very eyes. The audience was face to face with the actors as they read mostly underneath that Norman arch, which was bathed in bright green lighting for the evening. With Jon Banks set up behind them it created a focused poetic momentum that pulled us in and drove us on.

Stuart Handysides and Michael Smith
The story involves the testing of Sir Gawain, the youngest of King Arthur’s knights who takes up a deadly challenge when the imposing Green Knight arrives in Camelot on New Year’s Day. The Green Knight weilds a huge axe and, refusing to fight any of the knights on the grounds that they are too weak, he offers to exchange a single strike of the axe in exchange for a return blow in a year’s time. Sir Gawain duly slices the axe down clean through the Knight’s proffered neck but, still standing, he picks his head up and, climbing back on his green steed, tells Gawain he will see him at the Green Chapel to complete the exchange.

Sir Gawain sets off in search of the Chapel and has many adventures en route, travelling through North Wales, Anglessey, “Holy Head” (not Holyhead but more probably Holywell near Flint) and from there across the wastelands of the Wirral (have you seen some of the fairways on Heswall Golf Course?!).

It’s not hard to imagine how treacherous these paths would have been for a single traveller, even one armed with sword and on horseback: Gawain is all alone and his real trials have yet to begin. Eventually he arrives at the estate of Lord Bertilak de Hautdesert (possibly Swythamley near Macclesfield) who tells him the Green Chapel is close by and that he can stay as his guest until his appointment with green. Also present is Lady Bertilak and a mysterious old lady. Soon there is much sport as Gawain goes hunting with the Lord and is sorely tempted by his Lady… these are tests of chastity, chivalric honour and Christian faith; in the Fourteenth Century there was little more important.

Michael Smith
How Gawain conducts himself give fascinating insights into the rules of the game and his life and his soul, will depend on it.

Mr Smith’s translation brings this language and its true eloquence to life and the vigour of the performance brought a visceral edge to medieval mannerisms. The three speakers worked very well as they took turns in carrying the narrative and I was particularly impressed as Messrs Handysides and Smith handled the amorous teasing of the good Lady B. It’s a play with humour as well as honour which, together with faith, were pretty much the whole world for men and women of the 1300s.

Michael Smith’s illustrated translation featuring his unique linocuts, is published on 26th July and is available from Unbound (where you can still get the high-quality collectors first edition), Penguin online and Amazon – I look forward to reading the full story and relishing this uncanny tale.

Hopefully there’ll be more performances though as this is language that really must be recited and performed – a living link to ancient concerns that drive us still!

IThankYou Theatre Rating: ***** A visceral meeting of modern and medieval mind.

Green light through yonder window glaze...
Three watchers without
Frescoes drawn from fear and faith

Monday, 23 April 2018

Truth and consequences… Moormaid, Arcola Theatre

“You followed the fear of being forgotten and so did I…”

Theatre in the Arcola can often have a more visceral edge given the intimacy of the playing area but when a shirtless Moe Bar-el swung round at the audience slicing a real knife through an imaginary canvas well, you could feel the collective twitch. Bar-el is a very physical presence and that moment of rage was a key point in Marion Bott’s impressive new play.

Bott is a French-German writer, working in four different languages and she wrote Moormaid after learning that two of her former classmates had become radicalised and gone off to fight for ISIS, never to return. This is a now familiar tale but Bott was shocked by the banal views surrounding the issue: what really makes educated European men go to war in this “godless” age? Her solution to crafting an answer or at least an examination of the questions is ingenious and will live long in my memory.

Walnuts are cracked, knives are wielded, there’s dancing and body painting… as three characters go in search of their truth amidst the background clatter of faith, blinding routine and fear.

Sarah Alles and Moe Bar-El  - all photos courtesy of Anika Wagner
Sarah Alles is an experienced young German actor making her UK stage debut and, she is exceptional, able to convey so much through huge eyes that well-up with tears in an extraordinary physical display of micro-managed emotion. She reminded me of Isabelle Huppert in this respect and her grace, whether contemplating hanging herself with her favourite scarf or being, literally, flung around in the mighty arms of Moe Bar-el.

She plays Melissa, a disaffected artist who has run out of passion and is slowly killing herself teaching bored students in a Berlin college, whilst being married to someone called Simon (sorry Simons, but it doesn’t sound exciting…). She hasn’t painted anything worthwhile for two years and decides to end it all.

At eleven minutes past eleven (remember…) just as she’s about to fall from the living room table, there’s a knock on the door and she opens it to find Mehdi (Bar-el) a former student who she hasn’t seen for two years. Their relationship was more, and there are issues still rankling as Mehdi explains he felt he had to see her now, following a premonition: “you always said, you believed in signs…”

Melissa lets Mehdi sleep on the couch and as he prays he’s joined by his “brother” Khan (Ali Azhar – a French-Moroccan actor also making his UK theatre debut) who has somehow followed him. The two bicker over something as yet unspoken and before long we realise that Khan is dead or as they both say, “in-between” life and heaven with no sign of the virgins promised to martyrs. Whether Khan is a real ghost or not is immaterial (much like him…) as he is on Mehdi’s conscience and he’s not the only one.

Ali Azhar and Moe Bar-El - photo courtesy of Anika Wagner
Melissa wakes Mehdi up at 3:30 AM and gets him to start painting getting him to name his brush, hers is Calypso and his is Al Pacino. They paint each other’s faces and dance to modern music, aligned and alive for the first time in a while…

Khan appears again, Melissa doesn’t see him and the boys muck about like kids impersonating the great Pacino in Scarface: “you need people like me…” And, they are indeed people like Scarface having fought and, in one case, died, along with members of their family, in Khan’s case his seven-year old son. Khan was an architect and could have gone on to make his mark, instead he gave his life…

Melissa and Mehdi finally acknowledge their romantic interest in a superbly choreographed dance in which he lifts her up around and under in alarming fashion as they exchange panted dialogue: it’s very effective and dramatic proof of the beauty they can make. Only after this intimate connection can the two engage in the most heated of arguments. The truth will out, and you will just have to see the play to find out what that is.

Zois Pigadas directs with energy and invention and her three actors are full of humour as well as exuberance. This is a difficult subject and whilst Bott’s language dances its message around what could be an ugly confrontation the actors pull you in and you care about all of them. And, you have to, because all outrage aside, its only through the effort of understanding that we can make sense of destruction and alleviate the misery of constant negativity as all round we’re bombarded with mixed messages and attempts to create and channel hatred.

Sarah Alles is transfixing whether breaking walnuts with a whisky bottle, dancing or despairing and her physical/emotional interplay with Moe Bar-el is so very effective – a highly potent mix in the Arcola’s intimacy. Ali Azhar has most of the best jokes even though his character is dead; this ghost has a twinkle in his eye and a route to redemption.

Moormaid plays at the Arcola Theatre until 19th May and it’s not to be missed.

Ithankyou Rating: **** Guaranteed to make you feel, a wondrous cast.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Kendra and Betty go boating… The Gulf, Tristan Bates Theatre

“I’m going to build a big wall between us right now baby and make you pay for it!”

There are long sections of this play that just ring so true. In the cinema of Michelangelo Antonioni there are frequently couples in the midst of an almost unsayable bewilderment as, say, Alain Delon tries to connect with Monica Vitti or Marcello Mastroianni tries to bridge the deep spaces between himself and Jeanne Moreau through sexual contact, words failing him.

Anyone in a long-term relationship has had moments like this and it doesn’t matter if it’s Marcello and Jeanne or Betty and Kendra: sometimes we are not aligned, sometimes we “hate” the one we love and sometimes we just don’t meet in the middle. So it is in this European premier of Audrey Cefaly's unflinchingly honest and compelling play.

Betty (Anna Acton) has lots of things to say, she has a lot of questions but her taciturn partner Kendra (Louisa Lytton) is not easily moved: “I’m not the answer, baby. I’m not. I’m just me.” Betty has dependency issues and Kendra is tough on the outside and pretty tough on the inside too, lounging back on their fishing boat drinking Bud Light and batting back most of the conversational gambits thrown her way.

Anna Acton and Louise Lytton (photographs Rachael Cummings)
Their boat is moored in Alabama somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico, a favourite spot for Kendra as the fish get more traction in the shallows and the hunt is commensurately more fun. Kendra’s the one with the rod but Betty is also fishing… for compliments, for a reaction and for reassurance: she’s having about as much luck as Kendra with only a tiddler to show for her efforts.

The pace is slow but it’s a sunny day and there’s six years of shadow boxing to allow for as our two lovers also show they’re fighters. Betty has to fill the spaces with seemingly inane talk about Delores Pedaway’s fifteen cats and how a woman on welfare can possibly afford to feed so many felines. Delores and her cats are a recurring theme as is Betty’s attempt to get Kendra to think about a different career than her current occupation as a sewage worker. Betty has a “self-help” book she refers to as a career-path workbook… it’s helped her decide to take up social work and she’s turning its life-changing light onto her girl.

It’s an attempt to engage which Kendra feels is a part of Betty’s condescension… they both under-rate the other’s feelings for them and whilst this makes Betty reach out, physically and emotionally, it sets Kendra on defence mode. But, as they pick away at each other’s weaknesses, it’s only a matter of time before the barriers are down and the two engage in more heated discussion of well-worn themes. Sometimes an argument is the only way and I say that as the guilty one in many a dust-up caused by practiced inattentiveness.

Then, as the day wears on, there’s a real crisis as the boat’s motor is tangled in weeds and the prop pin is snapped; the two women work together to fix the problem, Kendra calming the panicky Betty and the two warming up to act as a couple: we see why they are.

Louise Lytton and Anna Acton (photographs Rachael Cummings)
But it’s not the end of it… there are issues still to unfold and we’re as unsure of the relationship as the women themselves. Whatever the future holds for these two, you’re rooting for them. This is in no small part due to excellent performances from the two leads who are both so subsumed in their characters. Their timing is perfect and that’s the hardest part to get for a convincing relationship – Betty and Kendra think they’ve heard it all before but they either have and not listened or they’ve been deaf to the gradual evolution of the gulf between them.  The accents are spot on and the emotional turns are deftly made and it was only during the rapturous applause at the end that we saw the Lytton smile on full beam. Job well done both!!

Matthew Gould directs well, intuitive relationship spats take much hard work and the setting is irresistibly intense: we’re stranded on that little wooden boat with them… You have to hope for the best and that’s the best you can hope for.

The Gulf plays at the Tristan Bates Theatre until Saturday 5th May and I reckon you should buy a ticket to share in an experience as universal as it is personal. Tickets availablefrom the box office and I would expect this one to be a hot one.

Ithankyou Theatre rating: **** Makes you go home and really want to talk.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Circular briefings… Devil with the Blue Dress, Bunker Theatre

New York City, Times Square the spring of 1992… walking with my girlfriend (now wife) we came across a rally for presidential hopeful Bill Clinton accompanied by his wife, Hillary. They looked so impressive in the cold April sunshine surrounded by cameras, a phalanx of local Democrats and a growing body of the curious, some not so impressed with this Arkansas upstart this “slick Willy”. Suddenly Bill smiles and points, apparently recognising someone in the crowd, “Hi Bob!” he shouts, pointing directly at the attractive redhead standing next to me – called Catherine by the way. It was a bit of showmanship, a flash for the camera’s in NYC and, biased as I am, I always felt his eye just landed on the prettiest person in our section of the crowd.

That’s my Clinton Story and for a while two years ago I really felt we’d double up on having seen a US president in the flesh – vote Clinton and get two for the price of one, as their old campaigning had it - but it wasn’t to be despite her winning the popular vote by over three million.

In Kevin Armento’s smartly constructed new play, Monica – or Hillary’s construction of Monica – suggests that she gave birth to her political career, forcing the Clintons to play a much tighter game with the more controlled and intelligent, Hillary driving the bus much more. But the seeds for eventual defeat were also laid at this time: “No one bothered to measure how the stain of it might stay with me; how it might make people feel like I’m corrupt, even if they can’t quite put their finger on why…”

Emma Handy, Kristy Philipps, Daniella Isaacs, Flora Montgomery and Dawn Hope (Photo Helen Murray)
Hillary stood by her man and, in the absence of the full details – in this version at least – went out on a limb to defend him. The defence and offence were full on and whilst there’s a reason this particular political scandal is name dafter the woman not the politician, it also somehow fell on the presumed cold shoulders of the woman who became Crooked Hillary.

Armento focuses on the five women at the centre of the scandal and, whilst the play is ostensibly Hillary’s, Monica is given full voice too along with the Clinton’s daughter, only a few years younger than the then 22-year old intern with stars in her eyes.

At various points the other women play Bill’s part – Kristy Philipps (playing Chelsea) catching his drawl with uncanny precision: he like his good buddy Tony, were men of charisma and startling self-belief but… no one’s perfect.

Flora Montgomery makes for a striking Hillary, intelligent and regretful, hoping for the chance to, eventually, just be herself and keen to put the truth across through “her play”. Daniella Isaacs is also good as Monica taking her from greenhorn fan girl to a woman left devastated by the political process – betrayed by lovers and friends alike, especially her confident Linda Tripp.

Emma Handy plays Republican Tripp and even gets a small cheer for her proudly stated conservatism and its practical creed of trusting no-one and never throwing any potentially useful evidence away. She quotes Ayn Rand saying the greatest sensation of existence: not to trust but to know… and reckons that the woman who gets ahead here will be the one who trusts the least.

Daniella Isaacs and Flora Montgomery  (Photo Helen Murray)
But both Hillary and Monica trust Bill and both are let down by him.

So too the President’s Betty (Dawn Hope) whose vast experience has seen four Democrats in the Oval Office and taught her that loyalty is the most important asset, and, in this case, loyalty is very much like trust. Hillary talks of the difference between naiveté and trust: “naiveté is an inability to see everything in front of you, trust is choosing not to…” Then we have Chelsea who knows what her father has done but who cannot help but love him: perhaps that’s trust and knowledge combined.

The Clinton scandal impacts them all and the key piece of evidence, that stained blue dress, is literally hanging over them all, alongside Bill’s famously disingenuous statement that he “did not have sexual relationships” with “that woman”. It sounded too carefully worded, far too awkward, to mean what it said… Fake; it wasn’t invented by The Donald, even though he’s a specialist provider, and the nature of belief over evidence is central to our current disintegration.

It’s an absorbing, play and held us rapt as the women/the women as Bill, talked of a scandal that has been surpassed by almost everything in politics: decadence rules the day and, more than ever, we prefer to select the words that suit our preferences. We all trust far too much and the Republican’s belief that only the Right has access to the “truth” is yet another delusion.

Flora Montgomery and Kristy Phillips  (Photo Helen Murray)
There’s a dislocated almost dreamy tone throughout reinforced by lone saxophone player Tashomi Balfour, playing soulful wisps of Charlie Parker, Coltrane and more in sardonic tribute to Bill’s favourite instrument. But Balfour’s cool is something you could listen to all night.

Joshua McTaggart directs and there is constant motion as performers change character and position and the stage design (from Basia Bińkowska) and lighting (props to Jess Bernberg!) is superb throughout. It’s an atmospheric and very good-looking play that will haunt me for days.

This is the Bunker’s first production of an American play and it made its World premier at a time when another philandering President – one with far less political ability and no moral compass – takes the World closer to disaster. Trump makes Clinton look so classy; the latter may have liked a wander, but he had beliefs and wanted to fulfil a public duty as indeed did Hillary.

But scandal rules are still different for women and this play is a fascinating exploration of just why.

Devil plays at the Bunker until 28th April – ticketsavailable at the box office and they will be hot!

Ithankyou Rating: **** Sparkling script, top-notch performing and much food for thought.

Emma Handy, Daniella Isaacs, Flora Montgomery, Kristy Philipps and Dawn Hope

Friday, 13 April 2018

Cream Punk… Cream Tea and Incest, Hope Theatre

“Remember what it says in the bible: aim for the stomach and he’ll bleed heavily but won’t die straight away.”

That time when someone slipped PG Wodehouse a little something in his tea.

A battle for the nation’s very soul between Lord Lord Wiggins and his, marginally, more-evil brother Lord Biggins Wiggins against that dynamic duo Eddie “The Mangler” Spangler and his loyal butler Jeffrey. It’s a fight involving Keynesian multipliers, the full Marx, free-market opium production and being beastly with the best intentions as well as the best Edwardian inventions. But most of all… incest and tea with cream: you just cannot say fairer than that. It’s national. Also, WAR!

Setting his arms against a mill of troubles is Benjamin Alborough who this play did both write and perform despite no doubt gracious advice from the kind of people who wouldn’t do this sort of thing. They were all wrong and he was all right on the knight.

I can’t keep this up, but this play leaves you giddy, all shook up from close-proximity silly and the ever-present danger of song, direct eye and even actual contact; in a play in which death by cuddling is all too frequent, being in the front row takes its toll. There’s also magnificent double, triple, quadruple, round-the-back and forth again, word play in which the simplest phrase can mean some-think else: imagine Lee Mack had he gone to Christ Church or Balliol. Relentless. Funny. Charming.

And what’s more; it’s all done with cardboard. Yes, beware even your Amazon packaging for cardboard is flexible and believable… cardboard can kill, especially in the careless hands of Spangler. The backdrop is cardboard, his waistcoat is cardboard, breakfast, knickers and a fully functioning gun are all cardboard. Quite rightly they say, this is the World’s first 2.5-dimensional show.

But the characters leap out from the beige, Lord Lord Wiggins (Aidan Cheng) dressed in a splendid silken suit – all the rage for tailored-trousered philanthropists – has an accent so far beyond plummy that you’d have to call it jam. It’s a wonderful turn from Cheng, certainly one of the four hardest working men in showbiz (on Upper Street at the very least).

Spangker has a plan!
Wiggins has inherited his father’s wealth and is looking to marry Rhodesia itself in the form of Emily Rhodes. But he is having a crisis of capitalism and isn’t sure whether to seek trickle-down solace in a free market or to appropriate the means of production and, damn it all, he isn’t sure Emily is the one, yes, he’s not convinced that Rhodes-is-her.

Important government types send the indefatigable Eddie and his valiant valet (excellent Eoin McAndrew) to the rescue. All they have to do is ensure that Wiggins doesn’t falter – the fate of Empire rests on it and much more besides as Spangler’s opium production will be compromised by any Rhodes-exit and subsequent tariff impositions. AND, War!!

But it’s not that simple, how could it be… Enter a hail of rhetorical ferocity in the form of unlucky Wiggins sibling, Lord Biggins (a spectacular Edward Spence), who wants nothing less than the restitution of his rightful inheritance after Dad favoured his more gentile brother. He means murder and we quite believe it.

Now the card really hits the board as all these unstoppable objects meet in an irresistibly hilarious conflagration.

Benjamin Philipp directs his fantastic four exceptionally with a script packed full of enough words for a play twice as long. The actors’ verbal dexterity is matched by their ability to dance and, yes, sing, in the Hope’s intimate space. What I love about this place is the closeness between audience and performers, there’s nothing for it but engagement and whilst others talk of “immersive” the Hope has always been involving from the very first power chords in its basement to the latest excuse me in eth queue for the loo. A great pub and an exceptional theatrical venue.

 Eoin McAndrew, , Edward Spence, Aidan Cheng and Benjamin Alborough
By the end we were all singing along to the play’s theme tune, clicking our fingers in time as the players summed up – I even had a go at matching Eoin McAndrew’s higher register but he knows what he’s doing!

Cream Tea and Incest plays until 28th April and tickets are available from the box office… then it returns at the Edinburgh Festival, follow the play on Facebook and Twitter for more details.

Ithankyou Theatre verdict: **** Call me a cardboard lover!*

All Production photography by Olivia Rose Deane.

*Things are – possibly – taken a step further in The Cardboard Lover, a 1928 silent film featuring the brilliant comedienne Marion Davies and scandi-smoulderer Nils Asner.

Further watching for those who the board of card do love...

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Mothers and daughters… Reared, Theatre503, Latchmere Theatre, Battersea

What do the birds do when it’s raining, do you think? Do they have somewhere to go?

John Fitzpatrick’s new play is packed with powerfully rendered characters and asks difficult questions about family and motherhood. At one point elderly Nora’s daughter-in-law asks why she should protect her and yet we know she has no other choice having been both protected herself and overwhelmed by the woman whose intelligence and strength are ebbing away eroded by dementia and simple old age.

It’s a terrifying thing getting old, a tragedy as my own grandmother once called it, that turns the carers into the cared for in ways that are never convenient, nor welcomed. Nora (superbly played by Paddy Glynn) is a former business woman who is now reliant on her son Stuart (Daniel Crossley) and his wife Eileen (Shelley Atkinson) to help her daily routine. She enters their kitchen at the start of the play with toilet paper stuck to her heel after a incident in the bathroom: Eileen picks up the sticky remnant and fibs after Nora doesn’t hear her reference to poo. It’s a mark of how far she has fallen; she’s either unaware or in denial and it’s that tipping point so many will know.

Eileen is the main carer with Stuart busy being busy and requiring micro-management to do anything other than maintain a cheerful confidence in crossing that bridge when and if it comes… She wants his mother to live in a granny flat in their garden but Stuart has taken a long time doing nothing on it. He’s in denial and takes refuge in his work.

Danielle Phillips, Daniel Crossley, Rohan Nedd and Shelley Atkinson (All photographs courtesy of The Other Richard)

There’s an extra urgency to this plan as their 15-year old daughter Caitlin (Danielle Phillips) is pregnant by unknown hand… and for various reasons left it too late to raise the alarm. Her baby needs a room and Eileen can’t deal with both first and second childhood all at the same time.

The dialogue is well wrought, and the actors deliver with quality and precision. You can totally believe that Eileen and Stuart are married – they know each other’s weaknesses as well as their own and there’s humour to be had here as well as the routine niggling of the passing decades.

Eileen is fed up of being the one mailing things happen and berates both husband and daughter for pulling away from Nora whilst at the same time ignoring the signs that she needs help. There’s particular poignancy in Nora’s lucid moments, she is probably the brightest of them all and nails so many home truths in her smiling Wicklow accent, laughing at the ridiculous of it all.

“It’s only the Irish who walk into the sea. You wouldn’t see an English woman walking into the sea…”

Paddy Glynn and Danielle Phillips (Photo The Other Richard)

Nora tells Caitlin of her aunt who lived long enough to tell her of the potato famine and the cruel tragedies of a world turned to ash and a million Irish deaths all but engineered, in her mind, by the British. It’s a reminder of how cruel things can become and how we need family, community and kindness.

Caitlin begins to draw closer to her nanna as her own story is revealed. A one night stand with her pal Colin (Rohan Nedd) has led to her predicament but she’s keeping him quiet. Colin wants to help but he can’t give any more than he already has for, whilst he was Caitlin’s way of ticking off the box of experience she was his confirmation of his true sexuality. Caitlin loves Colin though and he tries to be a steadfast friend… bringing her ancient library books on maternity.

They’re both so young and even though their mistake could cost Caitlin her ambition to be an actress, she is growing up quickly as a result, recognising her importance in helping both her mother and grandmother.

It’s a good set up and the narrative doesn’t take the easy way as we delve deeper into Eileen’s past – now she appears to be the strongest character and yet it wasn’t always so and once Nora held everything together after post-natal depression almost finished her and her daughter off.

The story is well revealed and maintains a light tone between the sledgehammer blows… these are maintained right until the final punchline as things go a lot like life.

Daniel Crossley and Shelley Atkinson (photo The Other Richard)
Sarah Davey-Hull directs her strong cast well and brought out the best from the two younglings. I almost stood and clapped after Danielle Phillips’ Caitlin performed Lady Macbeth’s soliloquy in which she calls for the strength of a man to do what must be done. In reality men draw their strength from women like Lady Mac and, in kinder ways, from Nora, Eileen and Caitlin.

Paddy Glynn is great a twinkle in her eye and pure fear as her world retreats into a dislocated fog. Daniel Crossley I’d seen before in Lizzie Sidall at the Arcola (and also The Bill!) whilst Shelley Atkinson showed all her stage experience as the pitch-perfect woman squeezed between obligation and love: she owes Nora more than she wants to admit.

It’s disconcerting when the actors look out into the audience at the Latchmere, they can see us just as well as we can see them and for parts of this play I was cast in the role of a potential granny flat in the garden: typecasting... but who am I to argue with such a forceful cast.

Reared is a Bold & Saucy Theatre Company presentation and plays at the Latchmere until 28th April, you’d be daft not to see it and you’d have to have a heart of stone not to stumble out into the rain-sodden streets of Battersea as I did and give your Mum a call.

IThankYou Theatre rating: **** First class home truths.
Paddy Glynn