Home » London Theatre Reviews » Cockfosters at the Turbine Theatre | Review

Cockfosters at the Turbine Theatre | Review

Did you know, the London Underground is the oldest mass movement system of its type in the world? If you are a Londoner – or visitor to London, at some point you will find yourself, in the words of the song, going underground at least once in your time. And those who fly into Heathrow will start their London Underground journey on the Piccadilly Line which, throughout its 53 stations, meanders through from west to north, passing through Earl’s Court, theatreland, and then heading north to finally terminate at Cockfosters, which happens to be the name of the one-act play I saw last night at the Turbine Theatre.

Cockfesters at Turbine Theatre. Copyright by Slow Mojo Collective.
Cockfesters at Turbine Theatre. Copyright by Slow Mojo Collective.

On a train leaving Heathrow, James (Saul Boyer) and Tori (Beth Lilly) are two strangers returning to their respective homes from rather unsuccessful holidays. The train leaves the station, and they start a conversation and begin to get to know each other. The journey is long and, as you would expect, James and Tori are rarely alone in their carriage. Various people (Amy Bianchi, Charlie Keable, Ed Bowles, Kit Loyd, and Natasha Vasandani) get on and off the train and interact with each other and our pair of Tori and James as it trundles through the city, until some seventy minutes later, it reaches Cockfosters Station, its final destination and the two must go their separate ways.

Although I live and work in Central London, I do tend to avoid the underground when travelling around and I’m going to be honest and say that writers Tom Woffenden and Hamish Clayton have pretty much summed up most of my reasons for doing so brilliantly. Aside from our two main characters – more of them in a moment – the writers have populated the journey with a range of people and scenarios, many of which are not that far away from a normal commuter experience. The American couple for example, who after loudly consulting the tube map, point out how much the British like Ham – something I’d never realised before. Then there are the over-excited football fans, not to mention the enthusiastic hen party, along with other types guaranteed to bring fear into the heart of every tube traveller as they hide behind their Evening Standard. On top of that, the writers have added surreal moments of pure fantasy that take the audience, along with Tori and James, along tracks never imagined. A game show about the history of the tube, for example, even an estate agent trying to flog a carriage to someone – though with London property prices maybe that’s not so far-fetched. Though I have two say, one scenario was unbelievable. Two individuals not only bought the book “Spare” but were willing to read it in public, yeah right!

I loved all the cast in Cockfosters. Saul Boyer and Beth Lilly had the right amount of, and I mean this in a good way, normality about them to make both James and Tori believable as travellers to whom the various events just happen. They start in that rather pleasant British way that strangers do. A comment then a bit of an awkward silence then another comment slowly building to a full-blown conversation. They also took everything in their stride – which is so British on the Underground – right up until the moment James confronted his nemesis, which was a brilliant moment both for me and for Tori. There is a nice chemistry between the two actors so that when they finally arrive at Cockfosters, a bit of you wants them to walk out of the station and start something major. If they are the quintessentially British tube travellers then the other five cast members are the complete opposite being a whole range of people and characters from game show host, to busker (who knows the name of every tube station and has composed a song using them) a dodgy ticket inspector and even Charles Pearson – and no I didn’t know who that was before the show. Every character is alive and so different you occasionally forget only five actors are playing them. I did feel a couple were a bit too overblown and exaggerated but overall, the range of human life was impressive.

Gareth Rowntree’s set – a row of seats that, rather like the map of the Piccadilly Line above, look as if they could have been lifted directly from a train, gives the space an air of authenticity as does the lighting and announcements over the Tannoy. Everything was pulled together nicely by Director Hamish Clayton to produce a really fun night’s journey for the cast and audience alike.

4 stars

Review by Terry Eastham

Two strangers meet on the Piccadilly Line and travel across London on a journey they’ll never forget.

A brilliantly surreal take on the tube journey that we know and love (subject to delays), with larger-than-life characters that make every journey matter.

So top up your Oyster, mind the gap and hop aboard the tube trip of a lifetime to Cockfosters. Ever been?

Amy Bianchi
​Ed Bowles
Saul Boyer
Charlie Keable
Beth Lilly
Kit Loyd
Natasha Vasandani

Tom Woffenden – Writer, Producer
Hamish Clayton – Writer, Director, Producer
Jay Foreman, Richard Longdon, Tom Woffenden -Original Songs
Gareth Rowntree – Set Designer
Ben Sayers – Lighting Designer
Chris Mitchell – Production Manager
Ana Emdin – Producer
Edward Emdin – Patron

9th – 20th January 2024

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