Living a Little @ King’s Head Theatre

Produced by Riot House Theatre, and In Your Face Theatre – the same guys who staged the ridiculously enjoyable Trainspotting Living a Little is a show about zombies, friendship and love. Full of brilliant comedy, as well as some heartbreaking scenes, writer Finlay Bain (who also performs) and director Jordan Murphy have created an entertaining piece of work.

Paul (Paul Thirkel) and Rob (Bain) are two flatmates stuck amidst a zombie apocalypse. It’s not clear how long they have lived under these conditions or how the human population even started turning into zombies, but the two have a comfortable arrangement in the flat. That’s until Penelope (Pearl Appleby) bursts in through their door – the duo’s first ever contact with another person. She’s clearly been through some tough stuff, and Rob’s “live a little” attitude isn’t helping. But when the three let loose in a drug fuelled evening, true emotions are revealed, and they’re forced to deal with the consequences.

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The cast is absolutely terrific. Thirkel is instantly likeable as Paul. His physical comedy is on point, and each of his movements is calculated to hit a punchline perfectly. Opposite him, Bain’s Rob is obnoxious with his misogynistic and laddish behaviour. But the character’s brashness is balanced well by the writer’s ability to still make him sympathetic with the love he shows for his friend. Appleby’s performance is strong, and a particular highlight is Penelope’s hilariously extreme and completely valid opinion of the X Factor, which understandably received a round of approving applause from the audience.

The show is very fast-paced, and the back and forths between the actors are almost constant, but never tiring to watch. This tempo emphasises the emotions present in the more touching and intimate scenes, which are neatly and rhythmically placed into the piece. There is a lot of information to digest in 60 minutes, but Bain has successfully managed to create a story that’s easy to follow. The ambiguity surrounding the conditions in which the zombies have appeared is intriguing, and allows for some grotesque speculation by the characters (which is great), but also doesn’t fully remove the fictitious aspect of the situation – by that I mean there could very well be a zombie apocalypse one day, you just can’t ever know.

This is an energetic and funny show from beginning to end. With its pop-culture quips, impressive set, and a cast who genuinely look like they’re enjoying themselves on stage, Living a Little is a zombie apocalypse you’re definitely going to want to be a part of.

Living a Little is at the King’s Head Theatre until 14th May.

Threads @ The Hope Theatre

Written by David Lane, Threads is a story about the pressures and expectations of moving on from a break-up and the struggles that come with it. Lane weaves supernatural concepts into the this  kitchen sink drama to look at the characters’ relationship breakdown. And while, at times, the snippets of comedy and individual performances are engaging, the use of metaphor becomes very hard to make sense of, convoluting the piece as a whole.

Vic (Katharine Davenport) arrives to see Charlie (Samuel Lawrence). It’s been 5 years since they broke up, and she’s moved on and made herself a new life. Charlie, on the other hand, has stayed put, unable to leave “their” flat, almost becoming a part of the building itself. He hasn’t eaten or had anything to drink since Vic left, and doesn’t feel pain anymore. As the two talk, their surroundings strangely change, while they reveal things that are unknown to one another.

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Photo: Lidia Crisafulli

The play starts off with intrigue. Charlie is pacing, looking out of the window, and Vic’s appearance is shocking and unexpected for him. Their dialogue is engaging from the start. Yet once Lane introduces the fantastical elements to the piece, it’s difficult to keep up with them. It appears that the house the two characters once shared wants them back together, but this theme does not fully carry all the way through. On top of this, Lane adds more layers of metaphor which is hard to keep track of.

Lawrence’s performance as Charlie is one of the more enjoyable aspects of the piece. His lengthy speeches are fully engaging, and he presents Charlie’s sense of vulnerability well. Davenport’s performance is mild, until the very end when her over the top acting is, unfortunately, funny instead of emotional in any way. While Lawrence does give a good performance, as a pair the two lack chemistry.

Rachel Sampley’s lighting design is intriguing and elevates the paranormal additions to the piece, which is balanced nicely with Jo Jones’ set of old technological objects. But Lane’s writing makes the story hard to follow, and overall, Threads is just not a very memorable piece.

Threads is at The Hope Theatre until 29th April.

Sex Workers’ Opera @ The Pleasance

Created by sex workers, their friends and their families, Sex Workers’ Opera is a show that brings together a collection of verbatim performance, some very funny sketch scenes, dance, poetry, song, video and much more. It is bold and sexy, and although it can feel awkward at times, it has some very touching moments.

Co-directors Alex Etchart and Siobhan Knox use a mother-daughter relationship to frame the action on stage. The mother serves as a tool to question the actions of the daughter, a sex-worker, and comes to represent the voice of ordinary people: those who can never fully understand sex-workers. Presenting the mother in this way allows the action to be naturally guided by questions the mother would like answers to about sex-work, helping audiences understand the characters and their stories.

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Photo: Julio Etchart

The piece brings up legitimate and important points raised by those who do sex work as a profession, bringing to light stereotypes and perceived expectations. There is humour in the piece, such as a scene depicting different types of pornography, and what the government deems “acceptable”. But serious issues are also discussed, like the disadvantages of criminalisation, the effects sex work has on people and their families, and the safety of sex workers themselves. Etchart and Knox tackle these issues lightly, with humour and sketch, as well as  with some very intimate and touching moments.

The delivery of the stories is authentic, and the sincerity of the performers draws in the audience. For example Vera Rodriguez’s touching story about her life as a sex worker, her abusive partner, and the consequences of their relationship. Her interest in photography shines through the stunning photos projected on the screen. Rodriguez was also one of the strongest performers, the skit between her and her client asking for relationship advice was the funniest moment in the show.

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Photo: Julio Etchart

The interactions between mother and daughter were a chance for the audience to question the scenes before and reflect on what they had witnessed. However the repetitiveness of the dialogue in these transitions felt uncomfortable at times. It would have been better if they were kept shorter , which would have helped with the awkwardness of the performances. Additionally, the technical elements of the transitions as a whole were very weak and felt under-rehearsed. This meant there was a lot of waiting and watching people move things around on stage. If they were slicker, this would have cut down on the running time, which at 3 hours (including the interval) feels too long.

This isn’t to say, however, that the show isn’t worth watching. The intriguing characters, their lives, their stories, and how they deal with adversity is the Sex Workers’ Opera‘s soul. The cast is comprised of those who identify as straight, LGBTQI, have disabilities, and hail from around the world, and their diversity is celebrated. The show tackles a serious issue in a very theatrical way, making it accessible, enlightening, and a great show to see.

Sex Workers’ Opera is at The Pleasance until 29th May