Home » London Theatre Reviews » Dennis of Penge by Annie Siddons at Ovalhouse | Review

Dennis of Penge by Annie Siddons at Ovalhouse | Review

Dennis of Penge by Annie SiddonsFor the first five minutes as I sat watching Dennis of Penge at the Ovalhouse, I was wondering what exactly I had got myself into. Annie Siddons story had started with a strange Prologue followed by an even stranger sermon to chicken. Now I’m no stranger to the bargain bucket but I don’t think I’ve ever been moved to write about it let alone share my finger licking good experiences with a theatre audience. Unlike Annie and her co-performers Asaf Zohar and Jorell Coiffic Kamal.

So, there I was, sitting there thinking this could be a very long two hours when we moved on to “Introducing Wendy” and without realising it, I was completely hooked on this tale of Wendy, Dennis, Neil, Hortense, Clovis, Deb, Sylvie and the other denizens of SE20. All of whom, Annie breathes life into through her writing.

Now don’t go thinking Dennis of Penge is a regular play, because it definitely isn’t. On the Ovalhouse website, it is described as “part gig, part poetry, part theatre performance, all transcendent” and that pretty much sums it up. I would also say, it an experience like very few others you will encounter in a theatre. The story contains so many elements, many of which are totally surprising, and as I believe in writing spoiler-free reviews, I’m not going into too much detail. But Dennis of Penge is a show where the words ‘expect the unexpected’ are fully justified. My only personal criticism of the writing was the ‘alternate universe’ ending which, I felt wasn’t needed and didn’t really add anything to an ending that had already been pretty darned impressive for me.

The performers really work hard under Director Laura Keefe with no set and, let’s say, very interesting costumes – particularly in the second act – courtesy of Melanie Brooks. Good use is made of sound and lighting (credit to Mike Winship and Andy Purves respectively) to give a sense of space and enhance the emotions of the moment. Annie and Jorrel have the majority of the spoken/sung elements of the performance and work extremely well together in bringing the character and story off the page and into our hearts. Asaf, who composed the original score, plays various instruments and also takes on the difficult role of Neil, a character who could easily turn into a pantomime villain by a too OOT performance. All told, the three performers work together like a well-oiled machine, each with their part to play in contributing to a very enjoyable whole.

So, I may have had my initial misgivings about Dennis of Penge but looking back I think a lot of that was to do with my own expectations of a night at the theatre. By the end, I was totally captivated with the story. I knew the people and was completely drawn into their world where almost anything can and does happen. I may not have totally liked the ending but that didn’t stop me enjoying the overall experience, and you will have the opportunity to decide for yourself which ending you prefer.

4 stars

Review by Terry Eastham

“No matter how shit your day has been
No matter how low the world wants to make you
No matter if the money came from the back of the sofa
No matter if no-one respects you
No matter if you haven’t been touched in a sex way for a while
No matter if your ideas go unheard, or even unspoken cos you’re shy Fantastic Melly’s Chicken is a church that welcomes all, salves all, in its delicious opiate salty battery wings.
Its cross, the fluorescent perky cock’s face
you see it, you know you’re welcome and will find solace.
You won’t be judged. You will be redeemed. Ready to face the next bit of the shit that life spits.
You’re a small god.”

Dennis of Penge
Written and performed by Annie Siddons
Composed and performed by Asaf Zohar
Performed by Jorell Coiffic-Kamall
Directed by Laura Keefe
Produced by Emma Bettridge and Jen Smethurst
Movement by Daniel P Cunningham
Lighting by Andy Purves

Performance schedule and box office
Ovalhouse
52-54 Kennington Oval
London, SE11 5SW
Wednesday 26 September – Sat 6 October
RUNNING TIME: 2 HOURS INCLUDING INTERVAL
http://www.ovalhouse.com/

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