Thirty One Productions, a new theatre company set on showcasing new London talent, stage a striking trilogy by Neil Labute called ‘BASH: Latterday plays’.
The theatre above the Old Red Lion pub in Angel is ideal for this intimate production. Jonathan Boyle directs a chilling atmosphere for 3 captivating, unsettling stories that are non related to one another (besides the fact that Mormonism is presented in some fashion). Each piece has the characters talking to someone unseen as if in an interview or a secret conversation. Underlying each play is a struggle in dealing with a world that isn’t so black and white.
The first thing we see when entering the theatre is the set. It’s basic but very effective. Sarah McCann designs a world with ordinary wooden chairs, some stacked in order and others seemingly sinking into the floor, creating the illusion that we are in a world that isn’t entirely stable and solid, much like the belief system of its characters. At the centre of the set is a doorframe from which the characters enter and exit, accompanied by blinding light and piercing sounds. The seating arrangement is a bit odd, with padded pews making a 90 degree angle in one corner, but sets the tone for an unsettling world. And considering the religious subject matter, it seems only right that we would be like any congregation, sitting attentively in our pews. But trust me, this was much more exciting than church!
The first play, ‘Iphigenia In Orem’, is a solo act by Philip Scott-Wallace. His character “young man” very likeable and complex. Out on the road for work, he accounts a story to a complete stranger he meets at the bar. Despite his disturbing story surrounding the loss of his baby daughter, we feel sympathy for the never ending guilt he carries and attempts to repress. This particular play is so well written, taking us through a cyclical story that will leave you gobsmacked. Lucky for us, Scott-Wallace keeps us charmed and engaged with his fine tuned and masterfully crafted storytelling.
Next is the two hander, ‘A Gaggle Of Saints’ performed brilliantly by Tom Vallen and Dani Harrison. This was the most riveting of the short plays. Dani’s Sue was the perfect counter balance not only to her scene partner but also to the piece prior. She gave the audience the much needed permission to laugh with her excellent delivery of humour. Her American accent was spot on! Vallen’s portray of John was also superb. He presents a cocky boy from Massachusetts whose knowledge of the ‘scriptures’ and almost giddy hatred justify his violence. He gives us a play-by-play account of attacking a gay man in New York. Vallen whole heartedly commits to this character and had us hating him for all the right reasons. I was so delighted to meet him afterwards and discover he’s actually a sweet English boy who wouldn’t hurt a fly!
The final piece, ‘Medea Redux’, is perhaps not as well written as the others – very linear and predictable. That being said, Rebecca Hickey handles her own and brings it to life with a sweet sensibility and a deceptive innocence.
For thought provoking theatre, this will offer you plenty to chew on. It’s certainly not a pick-me-up kind of show, but it will leave your head spinning and your jaw clenching.
Reviewed by Ruthie Luff