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Review of Product at Arcola Theatre

Olivia Poluet
Photo by Richard Davenport

This is my first foray into reviewing for LondonTheatre1.com, so a memorable moment for me.

Product by Mark Ravenhill, the critically acclaimed writer of Shopping and Fucking, Some Explicit Polaroids and Mother Clap’s Molly House. Originally, Product premiered at the Traverse in 2005 being performed by Mark himself. For this production the sole cast member is Olivia Poulet – The Thick Of It, In The Loop, Outnumbered, and Sherlock.

Product tells the story of Leah, a producer, pitching a dire script about a 9/11 widow who falls in love with a Muslim suicide bomber: a beautiful wounded man, a dark stranger, a sublime passion, a nightmare and a suicide pact. Ravenhill’s perfectly observed satire of Hollywood’s worst clichés spikily undercuts the producer’s sycophantic pitch.

Olivia Poulet plays Leah the desperate producer and delivers the script fantastically. Her portrayal of the different characters works excellently. Keeping the audience engaged throughout the entire play with no other cast members was a masterclass in acting.

I fully believed the one-sided conversation that was taking place, as Leah tries to get an unseen and unheard actress to play the part of Amy in her “career saving” script. Leah pitches the concept of the script by explaining some of the ideas behind it and what is wanted from the unseen actress, mixing in and acting out sections of the script. During these sections of the play, Leah steps out of the character she is portraying and delivers some great one-liners such as “We got a theatre writer in for that” – the comical timing of these moments was excellent. It was clearly a deliberately terrible script-within-the-script from Mark Ravenhill, and it was hilarious to watch Leah trying to deliver it. Does Leah know it is terrible? I left thinking not, which would completely explain this last ditch career saving attempt. The delivery of this script within the script – which we later find out is called Muhammad and Me – was brilliantly conveyed by Poulet and superbly written by Ravenhill.

The set is minimal but functional and is all that is needed. In such an intimate venue, the lighting was used well throughout to convey location and mood, which for me is a sign of a great lighting engineer.

Should you go and see Product? Ultimately that’s up to you but if you have the chance I would certainly have no problem recommending you do.
4 stars

Review by Lee Cogger

Ravenhill vs Hollywood. Torrid scenes of passion; the dark spectre of international terrorism; big, big explosions. Julia is a hot young starlet looking for her next big role. Has Leah (Olivia Poulet ­- The Thick Of It, In The Loop, Outnumbered, Sherlock) got the perfect script to save her from B­movie hell?

Inside Intelligence’s 20th anniversary season kicks off with this first revival from the critically acclaimed writer of Shopping and Fucking, Some Explicit Polaroids and Mother Clap’s Molly House. Product premiered at the Traverse in 2005, performed by Mark Ravenhill himself.

Robert Shaw for Inside Intelligence presents Product by Mark Ravenhill
Directed by Robert Shaw
Designer Gillian Argo
Lighting Designer Tom White
Photographer Richard Davenport
Stage Manager Sarah Rhodes Cannings
Cast Olivia Poulet

Ticket Information and Times
Monday – Saturday evenings at 8pm
£17 / £12 concessions
Saturday matinees at 3:30pm
2 May, 9 May – £14 / £12 concessions
16 May, 23 May – £17 / £12 concessions
Opening performances (27 April – 1 May) – All tickets £12
Pay What You Can Tuesdays (tickets in person from 6pm – limited and subject to availability)
Tickets are £10 or less with Arcola Passport
Running time: 50 minutes approximately (no interval)

Friday 8th May 2015


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