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.

Rob lal the one.jpg

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.

2 Become 1 @ King’s Head Theatre

Kerri Thomason and Natasha Granger’s 2 Become 1 is an upbeat musical exploring female friendship and the evolution of dating, set to a 90s soundtrack. Bursting with nostalgia and girl power, the play perfectly captures the pop-culture of the era, and the talented cast present some truly hilarious renditions of these classic songs.

Jess (Granger) has just been dumped by her boyfriend, and to stop her from wallowing in self-pity, her friends decide to take her on a night out. From speed dating, to using Cosmo tips to impress men, to singing in the ladies loos, the girls do their best to cheer up Jess’ broken heart. But in the end, after a quick stop at the chippy, Jess realises she doesn’t need a man when she is surrounded by girl power.

blog

Photo: Liam Prior

The chemistry of the cast is exquisite on stage and it genuinely feels like these women have been friends for a long time. Granger captures the distressed dumpee’s character perfectly, and her physical comedy is brilliant. The stand-out performer of the piece is Jessica Brady, who plays the obsessive and fickle-hearted Amanda. Her powerful voice is the perfect fit for Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas is You,’ and along with the audience participation, this is the highlight of the piece.

blog2

Photo: Liam Prior

While presenting a female-centric view through their characters, Thomason and Granger split the action with real-life recordings of men and their opinions on dating. Contrasting the 90s action with the contemporary recordings highlights just how much dating has changed in such a short period of time, especially with the internet. We see the character Molly (played by Thomason) muse about this at the end of their girls night out, commenting on just how ridiculous it would be to form opinions of people based just on the way they look.

Thomason and Granger have created a short and energetic piece, full of laughs and great throwbacks. Though their is an overarching theme about modern-day dating practices and how unorthodox they are when compared to 20 years ago, this is a very light-hearted show. With just the right amount of cheesiness, 2 Become 1 is a delight, and a great alternative Christmas treat.

2 Become 1 is at the King’s Head Theatre until 7th January.

Laughing Matter @ King’s Head Theatre

Written by Paul Lichtenstern (who also directs) and James Thomson (who also stars), Laughing Matter is a verbatim piece that focuses on understanding the death of a parent, and it is theatre company End of Moving Walkway’s first devised play. While at times the concepts explored can get slightly intense and hard to follow, the funny and very touching aspects of the show make it a great hour of theatre.

While working on a theatre project he was developing, Thomson was secretly recording day-to-day conversations between his own family. When his father passed away, these recordings were the only things Thomson had. These mundane interactions suddenly became significant to him. Using one of these fragments, Lichtenstern and Thomson attempt to find meaning in the world.

Laughing Matter - James Thomson, Keith Hill (1).JPG

Thomson’s performance is energetic and engaging at the beginning, and when speaking to the audience directly his sincerity is comforting. However, once he begins to repeatedly focus on colour perception, physics and the universe in order to gain a profound understanding of our place in the world, the story becomes very hard to follow. When he first appears on stage, he says he has come up with a list of three things that will help defend his choice of subject matter. Whether or not he actually lists these things at any point gets drowned in the lengthy chat about space and the number of stars and planets that exist in the universe. The points that the first part of the piece tries to are swallowed up in this dominating dense discourse, and it is consequently hard to follow and make sense of.

However, once Thomson’s father Simon (performed brilliantly by Keith Hill) joins him on stage, the interactions between the father and son are touching to watch. Their conversation highlights the ups and downs presented in all relationships, especially those between parents and children. James is short-tempered with his dad and even insulting at times. When the scene is played over and over again, he attempts to engage with his father in slightly different ways, aiming to gain a different perspective from his speech, trying to make the moment last. Thomson and Hill are brilliant on stage together, and their interactions are moving, which creates an emotional atmosphere in the space.

Lichtenstern and Thomson have created a piece of work that makes the audience consider their own relationships with their loved ones, while also questioning their existence in the universe. The subject matter is poignant, and even though some of science talk gets boring, the humour and warmth of the show makes it enjoyable and well worth a visit to the King’s Head Theatre.

Laughing Matter is at the King’s Head Theatre until 16th July.

Trainspotting @ King’s Head Theatre

In Your Face Theatre’s critically acclaimed Trainspotting has now found a home at the King’s Head Theatre after its sell out runs at the Edinburgh Fringe last summer. Full of drug-fuelled antics and glow sticks, this show brings to life Irvine Welsh’s cult classic in a very vivid and exhilarating way.

The story doesn’t need an introduction, especially since Danny Boyle’s film adaptation, which arguably gave it its cult status. Directors Adam Spreadbury-Maher and Greg Esplin (who also stars as Tommy) have created a condensed version of the story in order to fit the action into a short period of time. Consequently some of the characters do not appear, and some individual stories are merged together. For someone who has seen the film, it takes a few minutes to work out who some of the characters are because of this. But that’s fine as the directors include the best elements of the story in this play, and that helps keep the pace up.

Rory Speed as Sickboy in TRAINSPOTTING. Picture credit Andreas Grieger

Photo: Andreas Grieger

As you walk into the auditorium, a glowstick is handed to you and you are invited to join the rave happening inside. The strobe lights and pumping music is rivaled by the energetic performers, who pull audience members onto the dance floor to join them. What’s more impressive, however, is that the ensemble manage to keep this energy up throughout the performance. Gavin Ross gives a stand-out performance as Renton, and his narration is extremely engaging. He manages the comedy in the piece well, but is also able to present the desperation of Renton’s addiction perfectly.

Gavin Ross as Renton in TRAINSPOTTING. Credit Andreas Grieger

Photo: Andreas Grieger

As an ensemble, the cast work well together. Their energy during the comedic scenes make their performances very enjoyable to watch. They move around the space, jumping in between the spectators, and including everyone in their conversation. I truly felt like I was a part of their lives. This involvement also makes the more sombre scenes feel very intimate. In particular, Sickboy’s (Rory Speed) and Alison’s (Erin Marshall) discovery of the baby was a very tragic and upsetting moment, and their performances were perfect.

Trainspotting is a very fun and enjoyable piece of theatre. The constant movement and the switch between narration and conversation keep the energy up throughout. The performance is very hectic, with the performers weaving their way through the audience, and shit flying everywhere (just think toilet scene). But this never becomes overwhelming, and on the contrary is very exciting to see what is next in store. Just prepare to be a little uncomfortable during it – sitting on the floor for an hour and a bit gets difficult after a while. Overall, I had a very good time at the King’s Head, and I would definitely say you should choose to see Trainspotting.

 

The Long Road South @ King’s Head Theatre

Written by Paul Minx, The Long Road South was first performed at the Hope Theatre in 2014 as part of the So-and-So Arts Club’s Hopefull Rep season. Now at the King’s Head Theatre, director Sarah Berger brings to life this play exploring themes of race and family during the 60s in the American South, and does so in an interesting and enjoyable way.

Andre (Cornelius Macarthy) and his partner Grace (Krissi Bohn) work for the Price household as their hired help. It is now the end of summer, and the two want to head to Alabama to play their part the Civil Rights movement. While Andre waits patiently for the end of the day to receive his pay from Jake Price (Michael Brandon), Jake’s teenage daughter Ivy (Lydea Perkins) does all she can to prevent Andre from leaving. With Jake’s wife Carol Ann (Imogen Stubbs) getting increasingly drunk throughout the evening, Ivy attempting to seduce him, Grace  calling him a weak man, and Jake doing everything to avoid paying him, Andre increasingly gets frustrated, which leads to a complicated departure.

(l-r) Cornelius Macarthy as Andre (1)

Photo: Truan Munro

Minx’s writing enables Andre’s characters to develop throughout the play, which is what makes him so interesting. He begins as a man comfortable in his surroundings, attached to the house he has worked in for so long, and the family he has served. Unlike Grace, who is headstrong and willing to head to Alabama as quick as she can to help the cause, Andre is more contemplative. By the end however, he is stronger, encouraged by the thought of his daughter and the power of freedom. Macarthy is brilliant as Andre. He is very engaging and brings to the stage a very dignified character. Equally Bohn is great on stage as the smart and passionate Grace. She was my favourite, and I wish Minx would have developed her character further alongside Andre’s.

(l-r) Imogen Stubbs, Michael Brandon, Krissi Bohn, Lydea Perkins, Cornelius Macarthy

Photo: Truan Munro

Stubbs is terrific as wife Carol Ann. She is hilarious as she stumbles across the stage holding a rum and coke, dressed only in a slip and lime-green robe. Her portrayal of the drunk housewife is hilarious but also quite sad. Her drinking is due to her son who is absent from the play, and we are told he is in a home. This was another aspect of the play I wish Minx could have discussed further. While we were told the Price’s son was away, we were not told the circumstances in which he had to leave. All we saw was an empty chair Carol Ann still insisted was served a plate of dinner. I really wanted to find out more about their son, but I feel like this narrative was unfortunately abandoned towards the end of the play.

(l-r) Krissi Bohn as Grace, Cornelius Macarthy as Andre

Photo: Truan Munro

The Long Road South is a good piece of writing with some amusing and some striking characters, and Berger has successfully directed an enjoyable piece of theatre. However the text does need development in some of its characterisation, but the best part of this play is Andre’s story and Minx tell this in an engaging way. Combined with Macarthy’s brilliant performance, Andre as a character is spectacular, enough to make this play worth a watch.

The State vs John Hayes @ King’s Head Theatre

A part of King’s Head Theatre’s upcoming #Festival45, which showcases new writing, The State vs John Hayes is a brilliant one-act piece written and performed by Lucy Roslyn. The show explores identity and insanity in a disturbingly spectacular way.

We are introduced to Elyese Dukie, who is alone in her prison cell on death row. She tells us about her husband, and her girlfriend, and her relationships with other women in the prison. She also tells us about John Hayes, her other, more violent persona. It seems that Elyese finds it easier to accept the murders when she feels like John has committed them.

Roslyn has written a great piece of work. The dark and poetic language is made even more appealing by her fantastic performance as Elyese. She effortlessly draws people in, talking directly to the audience, listening to everyone’s reactions. Especially as her persona changes to the very charismatic John, we hang onto his every word, eager for him to like us too. But Roslyn is quick to remind us that Elyese is still there. There is a beautiful moment when she remembers her child and giving him up for adoption, and the we see a glimpse of the real Elyese hidden behind her conflicting personas.

The State vs John Hayes is tremendous from start to finish. Roslyn is extremely engaging and delivers a captivating performance. She has created a psychological roller coaster headed by a charismatic murderer who easily manipulates the audience. 60 minutes is not long enough for this show. It left me wanting more.

Autobahn @ King’s Head Theatre

The last time I went to watch a performance at The King’s Head Theatre was not a pleasant experience, as I was faced with the worst adaptation of The Duchess of Malfi I have ever seen. Luckily this time around (thanks to the lovely officialtheatre.com) I was fortunate enough to see the theatre company Savio(u)r’s performance of Autobahn, which was actually quite great.

The play, written by Neil LaBute, is made up of seven different dualogues and monologues, all set in the front seats of different cars, in different parts of America. The darkly comic scenarios are explored perfectly by LaBute’s language, who lets the stories of the characters unfold quickly, so we are drawn in to the scenes straight away. We are introduced to a mother driving her daughter home from rehab, we go on to watch a woman trying to explain to her husband that she may or may not have been unfaithful to him, and the play concludes with a middle-aged couple who reveal a darker side to their seemingly normal lives.

Photo: Scott Rylander

The Savio(u)r team are a brilliant ensemble. In particular, Zoe Swenson-Graham’s portrayals of her characters was very entertaining to watch. She is a great performer who was able to switch effortlessly between each of the roles, without losing the audience’s interest. I loved her as the crazy stalker teenager who was afraid of being dumped by Tom Slatter’s College student. The two were actually hilarious. I also really enjoyed Sharon Maughan manipulate language in order to prevent Henry Everett from finding out the truth about her stay at a hotel, where she definitely, possibly, maybe didn’t cheat on him.

Photo: Scott Rylander

What made Autobahn so enjoyable to watch was the small bursts of energy each piece brought. I haven’t seen a play that combines a series of episodic stories since watching university performances, so this was very refreshing. I think this device made the play engaging from beginning to end. This, combined with the great cast made the show superb. The only downside to this night was the incredibly hot auditorium. My advice is take a few bottles of water in with you to see this show, or even a mini fan. When you move past the heat, Autobahn is hilarious and very enjoyable, a definite must see.