Quick quiz for you today. What is better than one seriously good and funny one-act play? Answer two seriously good and funny one-act plays and luckily Theatre N16 in Balham is currently presenting both with Red Cape, Black Cape’s excellent production of Hell + Other People and A Fistful of Hunny.
Hell + Other People by Reece Connolly takes the audience from their nice comfy existence to the depths of Dante’s Inferno itself, in particular it takes Evan (Reece Connolly) from his not too wonderful life to a world that, well really isn’t that different to our own in many respects. After crossing the threshold from life to death, Evan finds himself in an office where he is warmly greeted by Rachel (Sophie Walker) and Kane (Jack Ridley). The greeting from Alec (George Readshaw) is slightly more half-hearted than the other two. Understandably bemused – like most people, Evan believed he was automatically off to the Pearly Gates when he kicked the bucket – by the turn of events, things are not made any easier for Evan as he realises that he is dressed identically to the other three (with the addition of a rather fetching tail and pair of horns). Things so from bad to worse when Marty (Aiden Peppin, who also Directs) bounds in and introduces Evan to the team. Marty is very bouncy, enthusiastic and keen to move up the corporate ladder so takes a lot of time to ‘inspire’ his team in their work which essentially, is to monitor incoming dead people and make judgements on which level of hell they should be sent to based on their time in the living world. Evan tries his best but really has trouble fitting in. He isn’t great at the work – making what appear to be quite major mistakes sending souls to the wrong place – and continually antagonises Alec – with whom he is in a competition for the romantic attentions of Rachel. Eventually, after various informal and formal meeting with Marty, Evan comes to the attention of The Legion (Livvy Lynch) who realises that Evan is a bigger problem than he first seems and so involves the ‘Boss’ – That’s Lucifer (Vimbai Gavure) to you and I – who comes to visit Evan and his co-workers and explains the true nature of Hell in a way that will profoundly affect everyone involved.
After a quick break to recover from our trip to Hades, the second show A fistful of Hunny hit us full throttle and took ‘whatever happened to Christopher Robin’ to a very dark but utterly hilarious place. Christopher (Luke Higgins) has grown up. He has changed his name to Christopher Calvin and is a young, handsome, successful corporate lawyer. His days in the 100 Acre Wood with Winnie-the-Pooh are long gone and he has pretty much forgotten his time there. However, Christopher is not the only one for whom the years have rolled by and the animals of the wood have also got older and wiser to the ways of the world. So Tiggs (Brendan Jackson), Lil P (Meghan Hodgson) and Grumpy (Chloe Borthwick) Under the leadership of Big O (Christy Connorton) set off to meet up with Christopher and tell him a few home truths. The animals are united in their approach and have a plan to make all of them, except Christopher, very happy and able to enjoy their retirement. However, as is so often the case with the best laid plans of mice and men – or in this case, owls, pigs, donkeys and tigers – things don’t go as expected but luckily the wise old owl has a trick or two, not to mention a masterplan – up his feathered sleeves.
I really enjoyed both Hell + Other People and A fistful of Hunny, two really great shows with some very skilful writing and lovely characterisations throughout. Both casts delivered spot on performances and I would like to single out Aiden Peppin’s Marty – a kind of David Brent of the afterlife – and Chloe Borthwick’s Grumpy – who made Marvin the paranoid Android from HGTTG seem happy and full of joie de vivre – for special mention as they were my own favourite from each show. Of the two shows, my favourite was A fistful of Hunny but this was only because I thought that Hell + Other People was slightly too long and could have been cut down a little to make it even sharper. The direction on both was really good with great use being made of the performance space, which was lit very effectively – particularly in Hell + Other People.
Ultimately, Red Cape Back Cape Theatre have put together two very strong shows that left me laughing, entertained and feeling my trip to Balham had been really worthwhile.
Reviews by Terry Eastham
HELL + OTHER PEOPLE
Written by Reece Connolly
Dir. by Reece Connolly and Aidan Peppin
Evan: Reece Connolly
Marty: Aidan Peppin
Rachel: Sophia Walker
Alec: George Readshaw
Kane: Jack Ridley
Legion: Livvy Lynch
Lucifer: Vimbai Gavure
A FISTFUL OF HUNNY
Written and Directed by Reece Connolly and Aidan Peppin.
Christopher Robin: Luke Higgins
Big O: Christy Connorton
Tiggs: Brendan Jackson
Lil P: Meghan Hodgson
Grumpy: Chloe Borthwick
Both plays are produced by Red Cape Black Cape Theatre as part of a double bill at TheatreN16. Red Cape Black Cape are a young theatre company born out of Queen Mary University’s drama department and the award winning student theatre company QMTC. The double bill is their independent debut in London.
TheatreN16 4th – 8th October, 2015
The Bedford, 77 Bedford Hill, London SW12 9HD