The umbrella is an all-powerful symbol of protection. In rain, sleet, snow or even bright sunlight, we instantly turn to our trusted brolly to keep us safe from the elements. I’ve even once seen someone hiding under one while stealing a neighbour’s milk. The Lion and Unicorn Theatre’s current production “Night Of The Umbrella” is a celebration of all things brolly. Produced by the Bonnington Playwrights and described as four para-plays (para, parasol, umbrella – nice word play there) the evening is a showcase of new writers with four separate one-act plays around the theme of the mighty umbrella.
The first, “Raining in My Heart” by John Thane, was my personal favourite of the night. A middle aged TV reporter takes pity on a young chap caught out in the rain with a broken brolly and invites him to wait for his friend to return. After accepting a cup of tea, the young man initially flirts with our heroine then moves it up a pace making it fairly obvious that he would like to keep warm in a more intimate way than just bonding over the Earl Grey. As many people would, the lady is at first flattered by the attentions and the fact someone considers her a bit of a MILF and is tempted by the advances of the handsome stranger. However, a phone call from her MP husband brings her back to her senses and she realises that the Cougar life is not for her and asks the boy to leave. The chap changes immediately and turns nasty and things start to get out of hand until the lady summons the police to sort things out. What follows is a descent into madness as the young man, in many respects aided and abetted by a policewoman and the husband, manage somehow to turn things round so that the woman changes from victim to accused, leading to a final twist that completely blindsided me with its audacity and surprise.
Richard White’s “The Cure” was a very surreal play taking as it’s a central theme a disgruntled ex-ballroom dancer with a nagging wife and a series of growths (remember the umbrella theme) that are unusual to say the least. A visit to his doctor is embarrassing in the extreme as instead of his regular male GP, there is a female locum from Eastern Europe who doesn’t entirely understand the problem until faced with physical evidence. Passing the man on to the next level of doctoring, we get a bit of an insight into the way the NHS works and, more importantly, the power of personal ambition amongst medical professionals. Senior Doctors (“call me Mr”) who want to advance are always looking for that amazing new disease or, in this case growth to show off to their colleagues. In the haste to make a mark, the medical professionals basically miss the most important question – what is the cause of the problem, physical or psychosomatic? There is never really an answer to this but given the ending, the audience has the opportunity to make up their own minds.
Following the interval, we were back for the “On a Dark and …” by Tom MacAskill a spine tingling tale of a city financier – Nathan – who has been caught out in one fraud too many and run away from London to a hotel on the South Coast where he contemplates his future. Unbeknown to him this is not an ordinary hotel but for Nathan it is his final opportunity to decide where he wants to be. A walk along the coastal path on a wet and windy day with a borrowed umbrella leads to an encounter with two ghostly ladies clad all in black who initially ignore him, as if they are in a different time and place, but finally let him see the story of one of them and how she comes to be in the hotel causing Nathan to stop and consider – does he go on to carry out the deed he first considered or does he go back and face his fate head held high and ready for whatever the world throws at him?
The final play “Camille’s Parasol” by Ros Conford is a lively comedy piece involving the apparent loss of a parasol belonging to the wife of Monet which has been lent to a fine arts student by her boyfriend’s grandmother. The boyfriend starts his search in a lost property office with the most friendly but unhelpful clerk in the world suggesting that if it had been handed in it was likely to have been blown up as a suspicious parcel. Leaving empty handed, he visits his mother who reminds him that his grandmother is picking up the parasol the next day. The boyfriend has a troubled night in bed and is visited in his dreams by the ‘ghosts’ of Camille, Maigritte and Picasso who talk to him about the importance or lack thereof, of the parasol. The next day, assisted by the ghost of Camille once more (or is he?) he finds a packaged up parasol and takes it to his mothers. Farce develops involving the grandmother and not 1 but 4, possibly 5 parasol packages and a final revelation that turns everything upside down.
Four very different but linked plays made for a lovely evening’s entertainment which seemed to be really enjoyed by the very mixed audience. The cast – Margaret Ashley, Rebecca Bell, Richard Ings, Liran Nathan – were amazing not only performing in all four plays but at times playing more than one character in the same play. Richard Ings in particular really stood out playing everything from a stuffed shirt politician with a secret, to a creepy Scottish hotel barman to a wonderful piece of drag work as the Grandmother. Katerina Jugati directs all four plays and really uses her all her actors skills to bring the playwrights vision into reality.This is not a spectacular show but I would definitely say it’s worth a visit. One word of advice though, don’t forget your umbrella, just in case.
Review by Terry Eastham
Night Of The Umbrella
John Thane, Richard White, Tom MacAskill and Ros Cornford (The Bonnington Playwrights) are presenting their show Night Of The Umbrella for a limited season in January at the Lion And Unicorn Theatre, Kentish Town. The play stars Liran Nathan, Rebecca Bell, Richard Ings & Margaret Ashley in multiple roles, some characters will be familiar, others less so….
Night Of The Umbrella
The Lion and Unicorn Theatre
42-44 Gaisford Street
London, NW5 2ED
Monday 12th January at 7.30 pm
Tuesday 13th January at 7.30 pm
Sunday 18th January at 7.30 pm
Monday 19th January at 7.30 pm
Sunday 25th January at 7.30 pm
Monday 26th January at 7.30 pm
Matinees: Sunday 18th January at 3.30 pm Sunday 25th January at 3.30 pm
Tickets: £15 (Adults)/£12 (Concessions)
Box Office: 08444 77 1000
For more information, please visit:
Wednesday 14th January 2015