I was a bit concerned at the start of this. During the audience-entry intro-scene performer John Seaward was engaged in a frenetic, frenzied, close-to-manic non-stop club dance routine which was exhausting just to watch. I was sitting there for three or four minutes but was one of the last to arrive so goodness knows how long he’d been at it. Fortunately he was in holiday garb – shorts, vest, open shirt and er… flip-flops – so at least he was handily dressed for this cardiovascular mini-marathon workout. And did I mention he had a large suitcase strapped to his back? Which later turned out to be not empty? Hey, full respect, man. My concern was that he’d be completely out of it by the time the lights came up on the play proper. But no such worries. Seaward embarked upon a fifty minute, one-person tour de force that was totally riveting, immersive and entertainment of the highest order.
Part one of The We Plays is a kind of rap-esque mood-poem delivered by Seaward with panache, energy and, ultimately a moving pathos that clutches at our heart-strings. Writer Andrew Maddock’s poetic structure and mesmeric rhythm are features that Seaward and director Phil Croft both get and the resultant diatribe subtly draws the audience in with amusing snippets about Brits-abroad holiday-makers before engaging in full-rant about the cards Life decides to deal us. Seaford’s character, Me, in this half of the show – Cyprus Sunsets – rides a psychological roller-coaster from his flippantly-funny persona through the sentimental memory-merchant right down to the depths-of-despair suicidal wreck who is dragged back from crossing the Styx by a young girl.
We are at one with Seaward as he takes us all the way on this white-knuckle ride and by the end we are hanging on for our lives.
The second of Maddock’s plays, Irn Pru – another monologue – is performed by Jennifer O’Neil and directed by Ashley Winter. Pru, a tartan-skirt-clad Glaswegian with red hair and potty mouth, sporting Viking head-gear and main-lining Irn Bru, is at war with the world and lets the world know it. O’Neil begins strongly and we expect another full-on rant to disturb us out of our interval lethargy. But the natural rhythm of Maddock’s poetry soon dissipates and O’Neil doesn’t seem to have the energy to sustain the full force of the brutal story that is unfolding. The most sensitive moment appears to be a mere recital of the lines rather than an emotion-memory charged dialectic.
As in the first play Maddock’s theme is unborn children and it’s an absorbing piece but the constant repetitions appear laboured as the rhythm becomes subservient, apparently, to the need to get to the next line. The play should be an exploration that the audience is invited to be involved in rather than a “Look, this is what I can do” showcase. The result is that Irn Pru never achieves the pulsating rhythm of Cyprus Sunsets but I am sure that this aspect will develop as the run continues – O’Neil does show us glimpses of being an accomplished performer.
There are some nice lighting effects by Tom Turner though some of the cues need to settle down and the interesting soundscape included several Club classics: there was a palpable audience frisson as Scooter emanated from the bass bins.
It’s always a delight to go to the wonderful Hope Theatre which has an eclectic programme combined with a warm welcome in a lovely space. The We Plays are definitely worth a look if you are in Upper Street.
Review by Peter Yates
Following the critical success for IN/OUT (A Feeling) including an Off-West End Award nomination for 2016’s best new play. Writer Andrew Maddock returns to the Hope Theatre with a double bill of monologues and a further stand-alone instalment of the also Off-West End Award nominated The Me Plays.
The blistering heat of the island of Cyprus is the backdrop into the psyche of a man retreating to the island after a bitter breakup. Package holiday woes, screaming children, Keo Beer & Madonna all factor into his challenge to witness just one perfect sunset, before we discover all is not what it seems.
With another local business closed because of a new Waitrose in nearby Bearsden. Drumchapel native Pru desperately needs a job, she also needs tae stop swearing. And why is she wearing a viking helmet? Irn Pru is a love letter to the city of Glasgow as our heroine follows the mantra of Michelle Mone, plays us some Salt-N-Pepa and battles the elements, herself and the prejudice of other people in order to come out on top.
The We Plays are a celebration of love, life, loss and the daily struggles we all face, no matter where we come from..
the we plays
writer: ANDREW MADDOCK / directors: PHIL CROFT & ASHLEY WINTER
27 Sept – 15 Oct 2016
Tues to Sat. No shows Sun/Mon.
207 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 1RL