by Zahid Fayyaz
This is the first show in the Jermyn Street Theatre’s Encounters season, and they have certainly started it off on a high note. This is a production of one of Alan Ayckbourn’s first plays from 1965, a comedy and farce set around the misunderstandings between two couples. It begins when Greg, keen to propose to his new girlfriend Ginny, decides to travel down to ask her parents for permission, having gleaned their address from a cigarette packet in Ginny’s flat. However, the couple at the address, Phillip and Sheila, are not Ginny’s parents, but Greg fails to cotton onto this – hence the comedic miscommunications.
by guest critic Meredith Jones Russell
Princess the dog is pregnant, and someone needs to stay in to look after her, but father Bo, mother Boo and daughter Pickle all want to go out.
So far, so straightforward, you might think. But the chaos that follows in One Green Bottle, including but by no means limited to a chair through a TV set, a key down a toilet, Mickey Mouse, a disembowelled sheep and an awful lot of chains, might suggest otherwise.
by guest critic Kudzanayi Chiwawa
Director Marianne Badrichani brings us this adaptation inspired by Sacha Guitry, a 20th Century playwright, actor and director. It includes short plays and extracts of his works, performed by an ensemble of three – Edith Vernes, Sean Rees and Anais Bachet.
by an anonymous guest critic
To honour the 50th anniversary of his death, this is the first time we get to see Orton’s original version of the script before the Lord Chamberlain censored it prior to the 1966 production.
Hailing from LA, Waitless is a semi-autobiographical play about newlyweds Shelly and Trent, from the American south but living in New York. Trent works in finance and Shelly in TV production, but when Trent’s job transfers him to London, Shelly gives up her career to go with him. Told through heightened, contemporary farce with moments of sincerity, Waitless shows that the cultural gap between the UK and US is bigger than you think.
Actors Jessica Moreno and Andrew Boyle play all of the stereotyped characters, with the primary focus on Shelly’s emotional struggle and adjustment from career woman to housewife. Moreno seems to be the stronger performer here, but she has more to work with. Because they are using such a heightened performance style, moments of truthfulness are rare. A more naturalistic performance style would better serve the story’s message and give the actors meatier roles to explore, however both performers are extremely energetic and they have some lovely stand-alone scenes together.
These scenes make nice set pieces, but as a cohesive whole, the play could use a bit more substance. Shelly needs more intimate, honest moments alone with the audience when Trent is away for work to give the script a bit more weight. The ending is also abrupt and open, which doesn’t show a completed character arc. There is certainly scope for the play to be lengthened. There are heaps of jokes and references that I appreciate as an American who also relocated to the UK, but this narrows the play’s target audience down to a small demographic. It’s telling that I was the only person in the audience who chuckled at some of Shelly’s digs at British culture: British people won’t relate to her frustration, and neither will Americans who have never lived abroad. Any immigrant will be able to empathise with her situation though, at least in part.
Overall, it’s a great issue to look at onstage. Immigration is a hot topic in many countries, and the immigrant experiences in the news focuses on an entirely different demographic. Those who quietly relocate to work or study largely go unnoticed, often battling the cultural adjustment alone and unsupported. The script needs some adjustment in order to truly capture the emotional upheaval and rediscovery that comes from this momentous life change, but it is heading in the right direction.
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