At the beginning of last night’s performance of Crushed at the King’s Head the theatre’s artistic director, Adam Spreadbury-Maher, came on stage with a bucket. He told us that at 45 years old London’s longest-lasting fringe theatre (strictly speaking that honour belongs to Pentameters) received no public funding at all and therefore, if we wanted to keep the theatre going then please become a Friend or help to fill the bucket with ‘loose change’ at the end of the show.
The King’s Head lost its Arts Council funding in 1999, under a different regime. It seems a shame that a theatre of such long-standing that is going to such lengths to present new writing has to struggle, even beg for support, bearing in mind it benefits not at all from the takings of the pub itself (a separate entity that last night was packed to the rafters).
Tim Cook’s award-winning hour-long play features three young people: Sam, Hannah and Amy. In a series of separate scenes and occasional direct address to the audience – presented for some reason non chronologically – we see them meet at university, attend a protest march in London, fall in love, then enter the outside world where they find jobs fundraising for UNICEF and selling mortgages, creating pharmaceuticals and working as a freelance journalist, getting married (Amy) and becoming a single mother (Hannah).
Tim Cook (who plays Sam) is an endearingly likeable writer and actor and he writes for the most part with a light touch and on occasion an appealing self mockery, especially in the scene where in the midst of the protest the three of them tie themselves to railings and stage a five-hour sit-in that nobody notices. The best scene of the play happens towards the end when his girlfriend Hannah, unable to confront him directly, requisitions her friend to deliver the double whammy – that she is pregnant and is leaving him – for her, causing the unsuspecting Sam no end of confusion.
The acting, from Cook, Amani Zardoe (Hannah) and Hatty Jones (Amy) is excellent. The staging is a tad static and characters on occasion are oddly placed so they have their backs to us unnecessarily and are forced to twist awkwardly to address us. But overall this is a warm-hearted, enjoyable evening, if ultimately frustratingly insubstantial. There is nothing particularly remarkable about any of these characters, or about their dreams and strategies to escape repetition and make a better world. But then perhaps that is exactly the point.
Review by Patsy Trench
Broken Silence Theatre
CRUSHED by Tim Cook
The award-winning play by Royal Court Young Writer Tim Cook, transfers to the King’s Head Theatre, after a critically acclaimed run at Brighton Fringe. Set during the 2010 London student protests, Crushed combines elements of direct address with spoken word poetry.
Directed by Paul Macauley
Cast: Amani Zardoe, Tim Cook, Hatty Jones
Synopsis: When three university students join a student march, they hope to have their voices heard and change the future of the education system in the UK forever. But as the protest intensifies they become lost in a violent storm. Set during the London student protests of 2010, Crushed forms a striking evaluation of modern day higher education.
The King’s Head Theatre
115 Upper St, Islington, London, N1 1QN
27th October- to 1st November, 2015