The Emoji Project, Hen & Chickens Theatre

By Diana Miranda

The Emoji Project runs through 14 August, and is live streamed on 15 August.

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The Passion of the Playboy Riots, Hen & Chickens Theatre

by guest critic Maeve Campbell

Backstage during three momentous Abbey Theatre productions, W.B Yeats’ Cathleen ni Houlihan (1902), J.M Synge’s Playboy of the Western World (1907) and Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars (1926), Yeats and Lady Gregory ponder the state of the Irish nation, and are every time interrupted by future revolutionary Patrick Pearse. An interesting idea, but not fully realised in Neil Weatherall’s The Passion of the Playboy Riots.

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Britannia Fury, Hen & Chickens Theatre

2015-05-07 20.33.52 (2)“Never meet your heroes.”

This stark warning from one character to another foreshadows the absurd, disappointing story about to unfold. Part satire, part pantomime, part superhero spin off, Britannia Fury introduces us to Britain’s only real superhero. He is now an elderly alcoholic living in a council flat after his epic rise and consequential fall into obscurity, but a young reporter has located his address and is determined to share his forgotten story with the world. A mix of performance styles and a story that can’t quite seem to determine what it wants to say prevents the concept from developing into a strong script.

Mr Jameson (Kit Smith) is the exaggerated stereotype of an editor of The Daily London Leader. Loud and abrasive, he provides complete contrast to the nervous Charlie (Ethan Loftus), a young reporter not even on Jameson’s radar. Charlie has the scoop of the year and negotiates with Jameson to let him interview 70s and 80s superhero Britannia Fury, who saved the nation from villainy only to mysteriously retire and disappear. Charlie wants to share the story of this forgotten hero with the nation. Loftus plays Charlie naturalistically, with a quiet, geeky passion for Fury. Whilst both Smith and Loftus embody their characters respective styles well, they clash and cause the production concept to look like it lacks direction. The other characters add to the soupy style mash up rather than siding with one of the earlier, established performance styles. Fury (Geoffrey Kirkness) is a mix of stereotype and naturalism, which adds depth but only further confuses the production’s identity. This is an issue with the script and direction rather than the performers, but one that can be solved by the playwright choosing one approach and sticking with it across all the characters.

The storyline, with its clear premise, becomes convoluted as Charlie and Fury meet and delve into his past. There are some predictable plot twists that lead to a tragic end; again, the initial idea has good potential to explore the human condition through Fury’s story but this is glossed over and made light of with comedy and exaggeration. Charlie’s initial shock of meeting his fallen hero is underplayed, then forgotten, but his emotional journey hits some good points. Their interview occasionally drags, as if the play is trying to buy time rather than following the natural narrative arc and getting to the point. As Charlie delves deeper into Fury’s twisted Tory past, it becomes clear that Jameson’s initial warning rings true.

The idea of the fallen hero in modern times certainly has mileage and Hillcrest Artists begin to solidify interpretations of the theme but they don’t quite come to fruition. Is the play about politics? Is it about society’s short attention span? Or, is it smaller and about the relationship between two people? Is it making fun of superheroes? Is it about Fury’s humanity? Really, it is all of these things and more, but for a play not much longer than an hour, this is too much to try to address. There are some touching moments and witty dialogue but underlying substance doesn’t quite materialise in Britannia Fury.

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