Review: Macbeth the Musical, White Bear Theatre

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸

Stage Splinters are a vibrant theatre company who premise their work as the telling of ‘untold stories’. Whether that be an old tale in a totally new way, or the staging of an entirely new narrative. They intend to be definitive storytellers who create worlds for their audiences and most importantly, provoke thought. Well it can’t get more fresh and exciting than a boldly re-imagined version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The narrative here, is presented congruently in puppet and song form by only four actors, the adaptation taking on a unique perspective by determinately focussing on how the other characters are affected by Macbeth’s actions. It sounds bonkers and let us be there first to tell you, that it is!

Adapted by Chuma Emembolu and Ruth Nicolas, this new musical-comedy is wonderfully self-aware. It juxtaposes satire, smut and profanity with a largely operatic score and classic tale, condensing the narrative to cover the main plot points. Instead of dwindling on Macbeth himself, it explores the non-speaking, (or barely-speaking) characters such as the women and servants. Not only does this make the story more accessible, (the narrative arc of Macbeth‘s ascension to corruptive power remaining simplified and easy to follow), the characters developed behind the crown provide an abundance of depth and weight to the story, engendering more empathy than Macbeth ever could as a man who was tempted to kill by fate and subsequently falls into descent. A clever and enigmatic concept taking Macbeth from tragedy to comedy.

Stylistically, the work seemingly pays homage to the puppetry and essence of Avenue Q. Firstly in the phenomenal design of the puppets. Much like the Lyon Puppets servicing the many productions of Avenue Q around the world, the puppet design here, showcases vibrantly coloured, geometric, human-like figures, their shape and features fiercely resembling the residents of Avenue Q. These, like Lyon’s are operated by a single rod with one arm posed, as a double rod, or instead, they are a live hand puppet. Additionally, much like Avenue Q, the piece is a conundrum of versatile actors successfully multi-rolling. With assistance, they occasionally even change characters whilst onstage. Furthermore, as aforementioned there is an abundance of satire, wit and profanity making the production as outspoken and unapologetic as Avenue Q is. This devised work blisteringly not shying away from the problematics of the source material. Instead it cleverly pokes fun at the moral ambiguities or rashness of the character’s decisions and their variegated motivations. The result is a severely modernised production that allows for a comparative view between then and now to be drawn, another wonderful step closer to making Shakespeare accessible to all. It wittily touches on topics such as toxic masculinity, rape culture and the corruptive nature of power. Design-wise, much like Avenue Q, television screens are hung and utilised to present various cartoon storyboards, helping to situate scenes or move the narrative along. These intricate, sketched animations are also underscored well by the sound design.

Unfortunately, what Macbeth the Musical doesn’t have from Avenue Q, is it’s score. This is practically none existent. Which is kind of an issue for a piece billed as a musical. There is an abundance of songs, but unfortunately no stand-out or remotely memorable compositions materialise. In fact, most of the numbers sound exactly the same and though there are moments of glimmering harmony, for the most part it regrettably sounds like operatic wailing with no real purpose or structure. The operatic style, does however give a charming nod towards the story being a timeless classic. Subsequently, this style doesn’t particularly show off the actors voices well either. Although it is apparent Eloise Jones and Red Picasso have exceptional vocal talents. However, this isn’t to say the performances weren’t strong. The cast prove themselves to be wonderfully versatile and adroit performers. Eloise Jones’ Lady Macbeth is formidable, she is a powerful and expressive performer displaying beautiful intricacies in her physicality and demeanour. Whilst Elliott Moore’s comedic timing shines, he is a smart and emphatic actor. Alongside them, Bryony Reynolds and Red Picasso are exceedingly dexterous performers, able to instantaneously switch between personas whilst adding a vividness to their delivery. Reynold’s Rose, the servant girl is an especially enchanting character, delivered beautifully and brilliantly written/directed. 

Macbeth the Musical certainly needs a lot of work, it felt a little rushed in parts, somewhat diminishing the humour and meaning-making and definitely lacked a sizzling score. However, it has moments that are incredibly humorous or poignant and is a good concept. All it needs is a little development. The show runs at White Bear Theatre until Saturday 7th September, click here to book now.

 

 

Creatives:

Director: Chuma Emembolu

Adaptation: Chuma Emembolu and Ruth Nicolas

Stage Manager: Sophia Start

Assistant Director: Gwenan Bain

Music: Stefan Potiuk

Lighting and Sound Design: Chuma Emembolu Animation: Lizzy Rogers

Movement Director: Eloise Jones

General Manager: Faye Maughan

Associate Producer: Laura Shoebottom

 

 

Cast:

Elliott Moore: Macbeth, John

Eloise Jones: Lady Macbeth, Madison, Agnes, John

Bryony Reynolds: Rose, Breanna, Duncan

Red Picasso: Macduff, Conleth, Banquo, Agnes

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Review: Hansard, Lyttelton Theatre (National Theatre)

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸

Simon Woods’ brand new new play Hansard is a wonderfully visceral and self-aware masterpiece. Delivering a gripping portrait of the governing class, it is an emotive and witty tragedy. Humanising politicians, Hansard intriguingly dips into and critiques Tory ambitions and motivations, that are often defined towards personal gain or at a moral cost.

Providing both a witty commentary on, and an anguished examination of, the current political climate, Woods, situating his work in the home of Tory politician Robin Hesketh on a summer’s morning in 1988, makes politics strikingly tangible and personal. As the title suggests, (Hansard being the professional report of all Parliamentary debates), he prophetically and personably comments upon political legacy. A large part of the determining legacy of the 1988 government remaining that on the 24th May they passed Section 28, a clause that banned the “promotion of homosexual” by local government. Woods thus presenting, through the lense of the 1988 government, the opportunity for his audience to bleakly imagine what the legacy of our current government will be, a tangible notion when both a no-deal Brexit and Boris Johnson’s attempt at Proroguing looms. Will the current government be known for allowing something oppressive, catastrophic to our economy, or worse to happen? Reminding us that whatever decisions our government makes, it’s politicians will ultimately be held accountable by history. Though perhaps only in a few lines in a file, if that. Whether that is a comfort or not is, in its totality, debatable.

The piece with bold and dynamic direction by Simon Godwin is cuttingly direct. When Hesketh returns home to the idyllic Cotswold house he shares with his wife of 30 years, Diana, what ensues is more than a little turbulence. Marital bliss is no more and has seemingly been dead for years, what starts as gentle prodding and picking at each other, (elements of the familiar rhythms of marital sparring), quickly turns to blood-sport. Not only is this format comedically rich, as a fairly liberal individual, Diana is a wonderful vehicle of opposition to the Conservative ambition demonstrated through Hesketh. The commentary made, thus unmasks Conservative ambitions that often have personal focus and aim to make them, (the rich) richer, whilst going against the interests of the masses and even their own personal beliefs. It therefore, rivetingly examines how personal beliefs can often reside against the party line.

As the fiery couple, Lindsay Duncan and Alex Jennings are phenomenal. Their on-stage chemistry is electric, whilst their performances remain devastatingly raw and impassioned. Godwin draws out an emboldened tug-of-war between the two actors. With incredible tension and power, they deliver dramatic, heart-rendering and realistic performances. Cementing themselves as two of the best British actors of our time. Alongside them, the design, creating the grandiose and rustic, quintessential nature of the pair’s rural home, is wonderfully layered and complex. A hallway and anti-chambers leading to bathrooms and the kitchen, do much to create the feel of a large and spacious home. A comment in the dialogue refers to it as a home with nine bedrooms, demonstrating that the couple truly are the elites, the 1%. However, the corruptivity of politics in their relationship is visibly creeping in, shown not just by their sparring, but by cracks and dull stains on the ceiling. It is clear they have lived there many years and that it is, like their marriage, not in its prime condition.

To conclude, Hansard is exceedingly relevant to today and reflective of our own government and its choices, a beautiful and personable dissection of Tory ambition. The production runs until 25th November, click here to book now.

 

Alex Jennings – Robin Hesketh
Lindsay Duncan – Diana Hesketh

Director – Simon Godwin
Set and Costume Designer – Hildegard Bechtler
Lighting Designer – Jackie Shemesh
Music – Michael Bruce
Sound Designer – Christopher Shutt
Movement Director – Shelley Maxwell
Company Voice Work – Jeannette Nelson
Video Content -Isaac Madge
Associate Director – Emily Burns

Review: Fleabag, Wyndham’s Theatre

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸

Fleabag’s limited and last-ever West End run sold out in what was an astonishing and stressful matter of minutes, leaving the only possible channels through which to now secure tickets as: by daily returns, on-the-day standing places or via the Today Tix lottery. However, we are here to tell that you should believe the hype that has evidently ensued, if you can beg, borrow or steal tickets, do it! The entire hour and five minutes are irreverently important and so very worth it from an entertainment perspective.

As the inspiration for Waller-Bridge’s television series of the same name, the piece is almost a verbatim of the first few episodes. (We are so very glad she kept all of the iconic one-liners and boldly awkward moments in her televised version). Here, Phoebe Waller-Bridge is quite simply a master storyteller with both the brains and the balls to pull off Fleabag and it’s premise. The piece follows ‘some sort of woman living her sort of life’. Struggling to keep a float a failing Guinea Pig Café that she has no real passion for, all that remains is an emotional tie and a guinea pig she bought on a whim. Alongside this, she is plagued by complex and crumbling relationships with her friends, family and lovers, meaning she doesn’t have much to lose. The result is an enigmatic and tragic character who is unfiltered, unapologetic and wonderfully universal. Her perspective and journey provides something that is both a cuttingly brutal and rip-roaringly funny look at today.

The writing is sublime, it presents a unique tragicomedy bolstering wondrous levels of hilarity and dexterity as well as remaining incredibly raw. Enacting much like a stand-up routine, the wit, the pacing, elaborate through-lines and sheer tenacity of the story presented, means an extraordinary level of emotional investment and empathy towards Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag is fostered and sustained. We tragically laugh both with and at her, whilst willing her on to find happiness again. Similarly Waller-Bridge’s delivery is equally as poignant and gritty. She is incredibly malleable, able to instantaneously switch between personas, beautifully giving a sense of the various individuals that her character encounters throughout the work. Fleabag is potential the best one-actor show we’ve ever seen. The performance is both emotive and effervescent, she with distinct power and clarity, effortlessly reaches each seat of theatre, (which is by the way 747 seats strong). The result is a piece that is an honest, smutty, female-lead exegesis on the ‘some sort’ of human experience that is exceedingly well acted and wonderfully relatable. Vicky Jones’ direction should be commended, it is intricate, energised and strong. Allowing Waller-Bridge to truly shine and perfectly showcases her intelligible writing.

Recent articles from certain newspapers have alluded to the work as being ‘grotesque’ or ‘too sexualised’. Let us set you straight, Fleabag is not filth. Waller-Bridge does much to systematically normalise female sexual urges, something women are far too often shamed for. The work essentially screams ‘everyone gets horny, grow up’. It’s empowered feminism like you’ve never seen it before! Elsewhere, Waller-Bridge adds charming lightness to and unflinchingly, (in her own way), highlights many issues still prevalent in the female struggle for equality and self-assurance from sexual assault to mansplaining and so much more.

As far as the production goes, the design is an intrinsic tempered balance. Holly Pigott’s work is excellent, it combines with Elliot Griggs’ Lighting and particularly Isobel Waller-Bridge’s delicate Sound Design to perfectly accent the dialogue. For instance office-esque strip lights beat and flicker in time with the screeches of a tube carriage. These tender droplets of detail add depth and dimension to the piece and atmospherically drive it to a new level. Whilst the small square island within which Waller-Bridge acts and resides, is the perfect physical representation of her character’s isolation and despair.

To conclude, the hottest ticket in town is in fact the hottest ticket in town. But don’t fret, an NT Live screening is due nationwide on 12th September, but if Liveness is your jam, better get on Today Tix or queue as early as you can!

 

 

Cast – 

Phoebe Waller-Bridge – Writer and Performer

 

Creatives –

Vicky Jones – Director

Holly Pigott – Designer

Elliot Griggs – Lighting Designer

Isobel Waller-Bridge – Sound Designer

Review: Truth After Murder, The Etcetera Theatre,(Camden Fringe)

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸

Fresh, fast-paced, stirring and raw. Truth After Murder takes part of an epic Greek trilogy and thrillingly reimagines it for the modern audience, with effortless meaning-making and intent.

Presented by To Be Creative the piece is a modern and dystopian adaptation of The Orestia, set after a Fourth World War leaving mass devastation and a cut in international communications. It enigmatically frames the events from Orestes’ resurgence from exile and his reunification with his sister Electra, up until the murder of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus, within the concept of a talk being given by famous author Orestes Carter on his new book Truth After Murder, a ‘fictional’ and thrilling retelling of the events. The result of this, is a pacey, relevant and thrilling reimagining, that is both reflective of the modern society and presents many questions on identity, morality, truth, financial greed and social justice.

The actuality of the plot is centred within a mental institution that Electra has been held in for 15 years. Orestes returns from Spain in the guise of an appointed psychiatrist to clinically evaluate his sister. Without revealing himself, he urges her towards sanity. His plan being to present himself and Electra as the rightful inheritants of their slain father’s assets and, (as the sibling guided strictly by his moral compass), to calmly and lawfully ask his mother and step-father to obey, leaving the island they rule behind. However, as this plan falls apart so does Orestes’ morality. Resulting in an interesting exegesis on whether we are defined by our actions, motivations or both? Examining greed, revenge, sought justice and trauma as determinants towards action. And whether we all could be, should we ever be given the chance, capable of murder? Particularly if we could get away with it.

Ricardo Carollo (Orestes) and Mariana Elicetche (Electra) are phenomenal performers. Carollo adeptly switches between his fourth-wall-breaking dialogues with the audience – explicating on the character’s  ‘new book’ and reading out various passages, into his vulnerable narrative-enacting scenes with Elicetche. He is an adroit and strong storyteller with excellent pacing and clarity. Whilst Elicetche is an exceedingly emotive and expressive performer, able to realistically convey incredible amounts pain and anguish. She is effervescent on stage. The pair are sublime counterparts for each other and should be commended for their powerful deliveries. The music by Catarina Dos Santos  is incredibly divisive, it builds tension wonderfully and quickly and effectively moves the piece on, keeping a good pace it divides scenes up perfectly. Alongside this, the writing itself exquisite, it is impassioned and bold. Arif Alfaraz get this adaptation so very right. Creating two layered and complex characters, their differing and pained experiences provides a dialogue on many prevalent cruxes in society such as homophobia, sexual assault, how we handle mental health, financial greed, corruption of power and the criminal justice system. It is impressive that Alfaraz is able to curb so many topics in one short show.

There is however, not much development on the year being 2099 and why this choice has been made or why this is significant. It is simply mentioned in a few fly away comments. As the work is so relevant to today, perhaps 2019 would have been more apt and striking. Furthermore, there is a little confusion over mobile phones. Orestes mentions the limited nature of communications as a result of the war. Necessary to explain why the siblings haven’t spoken or even seen each other on social media. Yet Orestes goes on to use a smartphone in several scenes alongside an old fashioned dictaphone. If he has a smartphone  an app would replace this bulky equipment, yet according to the dialogue he shouldn’t really have one at all. However these are minor technicalities that do not spoil the overall delivery.

Truth After Murder is a Camden Fringe must see! There’s only one performance left on Sunday 25th August, book here.

 

Playwright and Director: Arif Alfaraz

Producer: Montse Carrasco

Cast: Riccardo Carollo and Mariana Elicetche

Costume Designer: Ruth Chesterton

Music: Catarina Racha

Review: The King in Yellow, The Lion and Unicorn Theatre (Camden Fringe)

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸

Presented by GayInnocentHeartless Theatrics, (a relatively new and exciting London-based theatre company), The King is Yellow is an intelligent, darkly enchanting, totally unique and deliciously decadent adaptation, based on the Victorian cosmic horror anthology by R. W. Chambers of the same name.

This suspense-driven work by Josephine Czarnecki and Darwin Garrett, beautifully takes inspiration from and pays homage to, The King in Yellow, Chambers’ aforementioned anthology of surreal and macabre tales. The collection is an unusual, supernatural fiction set in a dystopian 1920s America and was inspired by a play of the same name, (referenced in several of the stories and said to drive the reader to madness by the second act). GayInnocentHeartless tackles the dystopian writing by staging their adaptation in a Brechtian and highly representative manner. Their ambiguity in era does much to aid the understanding and drawing of various parallels to today. Whilst the original play retains much of the significance it holds in Chambers’ text, representatively featuring in many scenes, (a strikingly yellow copy of Chambers’ book enacting as the place holder here). The yellow cover is thus intrinsically highlighted against the backdrop of the monochromatic set, costume and props.

The prime appeal of Czarnecki and Garrett’s adaptation is however, the format. Though the pace did drop at points, their version effortlessly with both wit and charm, interweaves the narrative between re-enactments of Chambers’ first four interconnected stories; The Repairer of Reputations, The Mask, In The Court of the Dragon and The Yellow Sign. The production commands its audience to bear witness to a group of young bohemians, artists and decadents who fall under the influence of the sinister play. This demonstrated indoctrination is melancholically coupled with hints towards imperialism, (in both the dialogue and the execution), making for a deeply striking comparison to Donald Trump and other world leader’s own seemingly imperialistic intent, (hello Greenland) and of course, his indoctrination of a large proportion of American citizens who unwittingly support him.

The resulting work is wonderfully ensemble-led, stylised and episodic. It darkly explores the thematic of sanity against madness and investigates the infectious nature of an idea. On par, the piece is superbly well acted, Ashton Spear, Robbie Heath, Owen Clark and Nina Atesh are all particularly emotive and strong performers. Whilst Charlene Segeral and Zuzana Spacirova are stand outs, they both display clarity, prosaic passion and certain subtleties in their delivery.

Despite this, the ensemble nature of the piece does cause some confusion. The multi-rolling converging with the interwoven stories makes it difficult to keep up with the characters and who exactly is who. Whilst the relatively niché nature of the stimuli means those who aren’t familiar with Chambers’ work can be left struggling to understand the significance of particular moments and overall plot, at least until some of the later scenes.

Overall, The King is Yellow is unique and well thought out. It does need some tweaking, but is reasonably insightful and has certain striking and witty moments. The King in Yellow runs at The Lion and Unicorn Theatre as part of Camden Fringe until Sunday 25th August, book here. 

 

WRITTEN BY: Josephine Czarnecki & Darwin Garrett

DIRECTED BY: Josephine Czarnecki & Darwin Garrett

ENSEMBLE: Ashton Spear, Robbie Heath, Owen Clark, Nina Atesh, Charlene Segeral and Zuzana Spacirova.

Review: Blue Tights, Red Knickers and an ‘S’ on her Vest, Lion and Unicorn Theatre (Camden Fringe)

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸

Laura Shoebottom’s Blue Tights, Red Knickers and an ‘S’ on her Vest presented by Thematic Theatre is a personable, touching and intriguingly realistic dissection of the pressures surrounding anxiety. Way to shatter the stigma!

This witty monologue delivered by the writer herself, recounts the tribulations of Jenna, a young professional who is silently drowning as she tries to free herself from the solitude that is her own anxiety, a powerful and affecting reminder that it is okay to take off the costume every once in awhile. It follows her from the initial devastation of her friend David moving out – blaming it on Jenna’s condition, to the bullying she receives in her workplace, on to her coping sessions that seem to be getting her nowhere and to top it all off, to her unsympathetic mother and their endless phone conversations. Shoebottom’s writing is wonderfully raw and genuine, this, coupled with her enigmatic delivery, means the work has an instantaneously warm feeling. We can all find a bit of ourselves in Jenna.

The design collectively achieved by Chuma Emembolu, Daniel Foggo and Phil Matejtschuk is particularly invigorating. In the moments that Jenna’s anxiety is heightened and at its worst, the design beautifully reflects this. The volume of the sound increases as sound bites overlap, whilst the lighting harshly brightens, shining from a rig at the back of the stage directly into the audience, the effect of this is to recreate the overwhelming sensation that Jenna is feeling, desensitising and allowing the audience to share in it and experience the paralysis anxiety engenders. Furthermore, the sound throughout is particularly slick, the piece employing a series of voiceovers to manifest the various figures in Jenna’s life, from her phone conversations, to the voices inside her head. The staging is also wonderfully representative of Jenna’s character journey. The stage starts out with a cluttering of boxes scattered, the remnants of her move from the house she shared with David, him leaving being the point Jenna notes as her worst. As she battles through various obstacles from her lowest low toward a moment of clarity, she moves the boxes away, we physically see her struggle with her own demons and eventually carry them away. This is an inspired choice and wonderful direction from Liam Ashmead.

The only element holding this back is the format. The writing is gritty and strong, yet the piece employs present tense scenes intermittently amongst Jenna describing in the past tense, whilst occasionally acting as if she is in the present tense. Culminating in a confusing understanding of the concept of time within the work, as well as some of the genuine anguish being lost and coming across as melodramatic and exaggerated, which of course is far from the piece’s intent. The actions either need to happen in the present moment and Jenna comment using asides, (in kind of Fleabag-esque manner), or Jenna needs to wholeheartedly adopt the role of the storyteller and cleverly recount her tale. With a little work we are sure it wouldn’t be difficult for the narrative to be streamlined and clarified in this way.

To conclude, Blue Tights, Red Knickers and an ‘S’ on her Vest is a fun, enchanting, one-woman show with a lot of heart and a lot to say. Does it need work? Yes. But it’s still worth the watch? Yes. Pop down to the Lion and Unicorn to see it this week as part of Camden Fringe. Click here

 

Laura Shoebottom (writer and Jenna)

Liam Ashmead (Director and David voice-over)

Georgia Richardson (Clare voice-over)

Natasha Calland (Trish voice-over)

Connor Maxwell (Tom voice-over)

Ela Yalçin (Mum voice-over)

Chuma Emembolu/Daniel Foggo (Lighting and Sound)

Phil Matejtschuk/Chuma Emembolu (Sound Designer)

Review: Darknet, Union Theatre

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸

Originally presented at the Southwark Playhouse in 2016, commissioned as part of Potential Difference, Rose Lewenstein’s Darknet returns to the London stage for a limited run. Performed by an exceedingly talented collective of Advanced Diploma in Acting students from LSDA (London School of Dramatic Art), Darknet is an urgent, gritty and provocative, Black Mirror-esque synthesis of stories tracking several coinciding narratorial arcs, following internet users and those profiting from the data market, as they navigate the web and its many uses, nefarious and otherwise. Riddled with perhaps too many clichés: (an Eastern-European sex worker, a tech savvy teen boy who becomes a hacker, a teen girl addicted to her phone and a heroine addict mother referred to as junkie), too many coinciding plot lines and one-dimensional characters, despite all of this, the company do a remarkable job of keeping the piece relevant, engaging and strong.

Directed by Samantha Robinson, Lewenstein’s play explores below the sea level of the iceberg to the ‘unknown’ internet, the dark web. Set in a world where a fictional internet-giant corp, Octopus Inc. models it’s company on trading user’s personal data for currency, using their information to help online services ‘tailor’ themselves to the user’s needs, (a new age of digital marketing), the work questions how much do we value our data and our identity beyond that? Data being a commodity that many of us today freely share without thinking about who is profiting. Making for a witty and intelligible exploration of the social implications of what it would be like if we relied on and were confined to continuously selling our information as a means by which to live. The corporation ceaselessly scoring us based on the value of our data, and that thus affecting how much we earn, as well as our social standing. With anonymity becoming a non-option, Darknet navigates the morality of subverting the system to hide your identity, as well as those protesting the organisation, so called ‘hacktivism’. Thus the piece provides an interesting look at the individual’s online presence and its danger as well as the ethics and stability of the online economy in a startlingly plausible look into what the commodification of our data could be heading towards. Of particular relevance in a world riddled with oversharing online, GDPR and multiple digital marketing tick boxes, as well as the invention of Crypto currency, a venture through which, in recent years, many millionaires have been made and then symbiotically destroyed as currencies plummeted.

Robinson’s direction is adept and invigorating, as the piece sustains several sporadic and interweaving narratives, it is particularly difficult to keep pace with the various location and scene changes. However, Robinson, along with the commitment of her cast and several artistic technical choices, makes sure this able to happen with ease and fluidity. She stages the piece within a malleable set that has three important sub-sections; the home, the bedroom and the boardroom. The home is stage right, a sofa and small arrangement of furniture representing the abode of Kyla and her mother, Kyla being a teen who seeks a methodology by which to anonymously purchase treatment for her mother’s drug addictions, an attempt at avoiding any score damage. This physically situates them on the one side of the story as the victims of the system, score damage would affect their income and ability to survive. Next the bedroom, a table, chair and lamp stage left demonstrate Jamie’s bedroom. Jamie and Kyla’s stories interact as she, knowing him from school and his reputation, asks for help in ordering the treatments. Jamie, (spoiler alert) turns out to be a hacker, he sits on the other side as the protester of the system. And in the middle, slightly upstage, the table and chairs form of a boardroom, utilised by the executives of Octopus Inc., they are the system and thus reside at the centre of the piece as they affect each individual’s narrative. The rest of the action interjects, surrounds and at points engulfs these locations reminiscent of the porous nature of the online world in everyday life. Many moments happen behind hung frames demonstrative of digital screens, this connecting the characters behind them to other characters, who else where on stage are meant to be watching or interacting with them through their own computer screen. This manner of staging allows various pieces of action to happen congruently and leave room for engineered shifts of the audience’s attention, as various lighting states and sounds become suggestive of where the focus should lie. These overlaps in action are expertly performed and allow the piece to continue its fast pace, sustaining a certain level of energy and power. Overall the direction allows for an eccentric piece that though comedically rich and filled with vibrant characters, still provides a piercingly real mirror to our own online habits with characters that are raw and emotionally connective with today’s audience. The ingenious use of masks and wigs, not only beautifully nods toward terrorism or cyber terrorism, it further perpetuates the thematic embedded within the piece of identity and the concealment of it. The work also bolsters some wonderful movement sections and repetitive motifs, demonstrating the cast’s ability to quickly scale set pieces and deliver choreography sharply and in synchronicity.

As mother-daughter duo Taighan Melloy, (Kyla) and Sorcha Dawson (Stacey) are a tumultuous paring. Dawson’s representation of an addict is heartbreakingly accurate, her conviction is wondrous. Whilst Melloy’s comedic timing is enviable, her abrasive edge, mixed with childlike innocence provides excellent chemistry with Hugo Gray, (Jamie). Gray remarkably conveys Jamie’s internal anger towards the world in a metered and passionate manner, he is able to not only display the character’s tensions and frustration, but allows for small flickers of thoughtfulness and compassion to shine through as the character, despite his conviction to his cause, still manages to let Kyla in enough to help her, he is a smart and adroit actor. Melloy similarly demonstrates feisty chemistry with Orlando Muse, who amused all as Jamie’s try-hard father with a short fuse for his too-intelligent-for-his-own-good son. Whilst Kristyna Rasova and Valeria Bello were exceptional as Octopus’ strong and seemingly unstoppable visionary female execs. Often exchanging knowing looks, their interpersonal dynamic is electric. Rasova is the epitome of clarity, whilst Bello is stunning as a women who just wants a real human connection. Her innocent exchanges with Kelly Wokke (webcam model Candy/Natalya), are delicately executed. Wokke’s Candy is exceedingly lamentable, engendering an innumerable amount of pity as her character is exposed by a deplorable trash TV host, exuberantly and hilariously portrayed by Katerina Gadis. Estelle Halabi is a joy, portraying various characters and demonstrating a wonderful ability to instantaneously switch personas, she most shines as a journalist questioning the execs over the morality of their work and exposing their shortcuts, her exhilarative facial expressions are phenomenal. Amy Wolfe is another example of perfect comedic timing, as the robotic PA to Bello’s character she is unbelievably funny, whilst also displaying wonderful movement abilities as the entity representing the dark web. Alongside her, Johnny Li Gotti, Frederico Hu, Aziz Alemdar and Damyan G Nollton all display brilliant ensemble abilities, able to work dextrously as part of the collective and blend with the rest, but also able to convey a multitude of characters when required. The entire company are thus serious team players.

To conclude, Darknet is a wonderful display of talent, a fast-pace one stop tour through the a fictional internet economy that is perhaps not too far away from our own. Originally underdeveloped, Samantha Robinson and her team do much to make the piece relevant and deeper than it perhaps seems. As this review is being released it is the last day to catch Darknet at the Union Theatre. If you are reading this and it’s Saturday 13th July 2019, go, go go!

Cast: Amy Wolfe, Aziz Alemdar, Damyan G Nollton, Estelle Halabi, Frederico Hu, Hugo Gray, Johnny Lo Gotti, Katerina Gaddis, Kelley Wokke, Kristyna Rasova, Orlando Muse, Sorcha Dawson, Taighan Melloy, Valeria Bello.

Writer: Rose Lewenstein
Director: Samantha Robinson
Lighting Design: Sam Thomas
Lighting Assistant: Ryan Day
Assistant Directors: Natalya Micic & Zuzana Spacirova
ASMs: Georgie Halford & Camille Wilhelm
Lighting/Sound Operator: Natalya Micic
Production Team: Misha Arntsen & Jake Taylor
Artwork: Jake Taylor