by Romy Foster
First things first – finding the Network Theatre at The Vault Festival feels like going on a secret mission. Coincidentally or not, the venue perfectly suits a play about post-war, underground organised crime in South London.
The production uses a fairly minimalistic set in a black box venue. It consists of five boxes, a single rope and three hanging lightbulbs. A lot of props are mimed and physicalised, creating a distinctive style maintined throughout.
The strength in this piece is derived from the smooth ensemble work choreographed by Zak Nemorin and Lisa Connell. Using creative physical theatre sequences, they flit between 1920s dances, slow-mo bar fights and boxing matches, as we are told the journey of five young men and women trying to make a name for themselves in the crime-ridden streets of London.
Jennie Eggleton and Atlanta Hayward play fearless, ballsy women Elsie and Frida wading their way through a heavily male-dominated world. They both showcase incredible, fast-paced multi-rolling abilities as the two of them create vivid characters in the busy, bustling bar and boxing audiences. Eventually joining forces with failing gangsters Tom (Angus Castle-Doughty), Felix (George John) and Alfie (Dan Whitlam), the five of them make an unlikely but exciting troupe. Castle-Doughty particularly shines as Tom battling some sort of underlying trauma. His performance is honest and gripping as he stands centre of the boy trio and head of the ensemble.
The only disappointing moment is the ending, which feels a little empty after building up such a strong story. It just fizzled out in the last small scene, but overall this is a promising performance.
Tobacco Road runs through 17 February.
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