Posts Tagged ‘ Alex Farrow ’

Red, Black and Ignorant, Cock Tavern Theatre: review

Edward Bond, Red, Black and Ignorant

Photo by Richard Hubert Smith

Dir: Maja Milatovic-Ovadia

The final play in the Cock Tavern’s Edward Bond season takes aim at the atrocities of war. The storyline – in so far as there is one – revolves around a character called Monster and charts, according to the flyer, “man’s decline into greed and despair”.

Maja Milatovic-Ovadia’s production is thoughtfully staged and it was nice to see a more adventurous set in the theatre, courtesy of designers Julia Berndt and Vanda Butkovic. Melanie Ramsay is arresting as a fresh-faced, wide-eyed mother caught in the fray while Andrew Lewis delivers even the most overblown lines with weight and conviction. Alex Farrow is chillingly vacant as the granite-faced soldier who shoots his own father.

These highly accomplished performances, however, struggle to make sense of a bewildering script. The action takes place in a dystopian parallel world in which sons are sold to the state to join the army and there are murders on the street. Bond’s text (re-written for this performance) is highly stylised with some memorable lines – “There’s nothing wrong with him a good post-mortem wouldn’t put right”. It’s surreal and angry but you come away unsure what it is Bond’s exactly angry about.

He has several axes to grind: about the West, world leaders and the technology and machinery of war. How it dehumanises, numbs us and strips life of any value. These are vital points but Red, Black and Ignorant is too preachy, too pleased with itself and too moralising to make them well.

3 Comedy Masks




This review first appeared in the Willesden and Brent Times on 11 November 2010

Hotel Sorrento, Cock Tavern Theatre, Kilburn: review

This review first appeared in the Willesden and Brent Times on 2 September

Dir: Adam Spreadbury-Maher

I know it takes a long time to get to Australia. But this is a little extreme: Hotel Sorrento, by Australian playwright Hannie Rayson, had its UK premiere at the Cock Tavern Theatre last Friday – twenty years after it was first written.

Although the play has won awards Down Under and features on the Australian school syllabus, it is practically unknown in the UK.

The play tells the story of three grown-up, Australian sisters – Meg, Pippa and Hilary – who are reunited and forced to come to terms with their past after one of them tells all in a semi-autobiographical novel. The publication of the novel is the catalyst which brings the family back together again, unearthing issues of loyalty and cultural identity. We “pommies” feature quite heavily too.

Adam Spreadbury-Maher’s production in the tiny Cock Tavern Theatre is intricately and cleverly staged but he fails to elicit sympathy for the central characters.

Meg, the novelist, is played as a larger-than-life, over-earnest “artist” by Alix Longman. But though the story revolves around her, Longman’s Meg is hard to warm to with her tantrums and po-faced piety. Disappointingly, for a play which claims to interrogate cultural assumptions, her husband Edwin (Alec Walters) is little more than a stereotype of an Englishman – who enters, for goodness’ sake, with a tea cosy on his head.

Sister, Hilary, on the other hand – “the parochial one” – is created tenderly and convincingly by Maggie Daniels. The relationship with her son, Troy – a boyish Alex Farrow – is the emotional heart of the piece. Farrow manages to capture that essential teenage vulnerability and the scenes between him and Daniels tremble with unspoken suffering. Elsewhere, Shelley Lang’s Pippa is engagingly angular and moody while Martin Bendel’s Wal, the gruff father-of-the-family, brings comedy to the proceedings.

Overall, however, the piece lacks a clear identity. The first half is more soap-opera, the second half, attempts cultural philosophy: Hotel Sorrento tries to do too much and would have benefited from some editing. A sub-plot following two holiday-makers, for example, (played by Edmund Dehn and Ania Marson) feels cursory. Their continual bickering, rather than informing the main plot, soon begins to grate.

Australian literature should undoubtedly be better known here – for that reason, the Cock Tavern deserve credit for their decision to stage Hotel Sorrento. But this felt like an essentially Australian piece of drama. Staged in the UK, Hotel Sorrento feels like a play in exile and seems to be suffering from the malaise of its characters – an identity crisis.

Hotel Sorrento runs at the Cock Tavern Theatre, Kilburn until 11 September