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Acorn is hilarious, creative, and beautiful at the Courtyard Theatre

Acorn at the Courtyard Theatre
Acorn – Credit Hannah Ellis

I take issue with the description provided in the programme for Acorn: “funny, dark and rude”. Okay, yes, it is laugh-out-loud funny – the creatives can have that one. But it didn’t come across to me as ‘dark’, and unless ‘rude’ is to be read as ‘forthright’, I must disagree with that adjective too. I cannot for the life of me recall anything uncivil, unpleasant or offensive in the content of this short two-hander unless one is offended by the odd expletive here and there. I am not, and it still wouldn’t be accurate to describe the show as a whole as ‘rude’ even on that basis. Indeed, my greatest disappointment with this production is that it was all over so soon, with a running time of an hour that felt like 10 minutes or even fewer. It’s more than a little clichéd to say this, but I didn’t want it to end.

A strong rapport is immediately established with the audience as Persephone (Deli Segal), a no-holds-barred but nonetheless affable character, waxes lyrical about her working life in the medical profession. Hers is a complex frontline role, made all the more difficult by having to deal with the general public and all of their eccentricities and idiosyncrasies, some of which the audience comes to know about through straightforward description and others through scenes with Eurydice (Lucy Pickles), which swing from the sublime to the ridiculous and back again.

Don’t be put off by the character names. No familiarity with ancient Greek mythology is required to understand proceedings, which are firmly set in contemporary London. There’s a teeny weeny bit of context subtly supplied in the play to explain the most pertinent parallels between this play and the religion and philosophy of the Greek Empire, and it doesn’t come across as a lecture, and it, like the play as a whole, is short and sweet.

Largely devoid of sentimentality – in a good and refreshing way – I found it to be highly informative in parts, as nuggets of medical advice are thrown into the mix. A number of themes come to the fore, and it is a surprise that the show covers so much ground in so little time. It’s a carefully researched script, written for a modern audience, and the cultural references embedded within the dialogue range from Shakespeare to Dumbledore to the BBC Television series Gavin & Stacey.

I liked the dual monologues – a contradiction in terms, I know, but it involves both characters speaking as though their voices were in a dance. I am not sure what to make of a second narrative involving off-stage characters who are heard but not seen, Sam (Luke MacGregor) and Dave (Trevor Fox), and to be blunt, it could have been taken out without making an iota of difference to the main plotline. Back to the positives, the subtlety of this piece is also praiseworthy: this inventive production held my interest from beginning to end. This could, given the headstrong female characters, easily have become something rather aggressive, and indeed ‘rude’. But an excellent script from Maud Dromgoole and assured direction from Tatty Hennessy combine with highly engaging acting. The result is something too short but nonetheless hilarious, creative, and beautiful.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Acorn
a new play by Maud Dromgoole.
I am not going to live happily ever after. That’s not my story.
Acorn is a two-hander with an all-female cast, a radical re-imagining of two mythic women that explores the power of stories, and how we come to write our own. How is myth preserved in modern culture? How does it still shape our lives? What power do these stories still have over our ideas of life, death, and what it means to be a woman? How can they be re-written? Combining dark humour with lyricism, fury and wit, projection and an original score, Acorn is an underworld myth for a modern age.

Director: Tatty Hennessy
Eurydice: Lucy Pickles
Persephone: Deli Segal
Designer: Phil Lindley
Composer: Matthew Strachan

4th October 2016 to 29th October 2016 – 19:30
http://www.thecourtyard.org.uk/

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