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Review of London Calling at The Hen and Chickens Theatre

London Calling cast: (left to right) Alex Walton, Eloise Oliver, Richard Houghton-Evans and Saha Ellen.
London Calling: (left to right) Alex Walton, Eloise Oliver, Richard Houghton-Evans and Saha Ellen.

Developed for this year’s Camden Fringe Festival, London Calling promised to be a delightfully entertaining evening. Directed by the acclaimed Charles Savage this was the performance I was most excited to review during the Fringe Season. Written by Lost City Writers, the collaborative sketch show showcases eight burgeoning artists. London Calling is centred on a madcap day in the life of a ramshackle London Radio Station. With what promised to be an hour of laugh out loud comedy including talking buildings, royal staff recruitment, a free trip to Barcelona, two giraffes, the most helpful man in London, and much more. It fell short of my expectations.

Sixteen sketches are linked together through the medium of a London Radio Station. Presented by five eclectic hosts, we are introduced to the reoccurring character of Harry (Richard Houghton-Evans) a frequent caller to the station. Harry is self-reported to fall in love with any woman in two minutes, regardless as to whether or not they return his affections.

Through several sketches featured throughout the hour Harry phones in to regale the “London Calling” DJs and listeners with his experiences in the perilous London dating scene. The scenes were good and well acted by Houghton-Evans but the relationship between him and the DJs seemed disjointed at best.

The highlight of the show for me was a sketch towards the end of the play, featuring Zari Lewis and Sasha Ellen as a woman and her future mother-in-law day tripping in London. The two were paired up for several skits and had a natural chemistry that really shone through. The only let-down with Lewis, making her professional debut in this performance, was a lack of elocution. With further professional stage time, and experience under her belt, she will definitely be one to watch in the future.

The cast is a mix of those old and new to the world of theatre. Sheraz Yosaf has moved into acting from a solid comedic background. His portrayal as a gay man struggling with his father’s opinion on his lifestyle opposite Houghton-Evans, was relatable, and an excellent start into the world of drama and theatre. Alex Walton played an excellent supporting role, but wasn’t until the last act that he had a chance to shine in his portrayal of a slight xenophobic giraffe alongside Sasha Ellen.

Experienced actress Eloise Oliver drew the short straw to play the shows unlikeable characters, and it is to her credit that I liked none of them. From the silly radio show contestant, hoping to win a trip for two to Barcelona, and unable to name the title character of the novel Carrie, to the uninterested women of Harry’s affections, Eloise portrayed a broad range of characters.

The stand out performance of the evening for me, had to be Sasha Ellen, who was a delight to watch. Her performances, including that as Rosie, “the 3rd oldest pub in London” was one of the best sketches of the evening.

I feel that several things about this performance were not as good as they could have been. My overall impression was that it felt under rehearsed. There were several long pauses in the flow of two or three sketches, leaving me questioning if they were intentional or actor error. With further polishing, London Calling has potential to live up to its comedic hype, unfortunately given the short run of the play during the festival I am unsure that it will be able to fulfil that promise.
3 Star Review

Reviewed by Lisa Shaw in collaboration with Rebecca Walsh

World premiere of an hour of ridiculous London tales, by a multi-national writers’ group.
Expect talking buildings, Buckingham Palace staff recruitment, a terrorist above the laundrette, day trippers from Bolton, London Zoo giraffes, a three-part city romcom, an overdose, a free trip to Barcelona and more, all unleashed in a frantic day’s broadcast from a rickety community radio station.
16 short comic plays with a London theme; six brilliant actors.

Directed by: Charles Savage (very experienced director stepping down to take charge of a production by a group of former MA students, simply because he liked the writing).

Author

  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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