You know when you’re waiting for a bus and a really annoying person starts talking to you…? Or when that first date gets more complicated as the evening goes on…?
Or when you come up against an overly officious authority figure whose uniform seems to be a license to by-pass common sense…? Or – and I grant this may be a tad further from common experience – you are visited by Death whilst dodging bullets on a battlefield…?
Well you can undergo/experience/re-live (delete as necessary) all these things at the end of the Victoria line in Ye Olde Rose and Crown – a lovely pub theatre in Walthamstow. Where We Stand is a collection of four 15 minute sketches thematically linked by that standard catch-all phrase “contemporary issues”.
Personally, I’m not bothered whether they are thematically linked or not: the four pieces, written by Barbara Lindsay, stand alone and they provide a witty and, at times, thought-provoking commentary on situations that we, mostly, find ourselves in. In fact I thought we were in for a much more convention-breaking evening as the first character stepped through the fourth wall onto the stage area with a jaunty “Hi, thanks for coming – please turn off your mobile phones”. But after that we had the standard format for sketches with linking interludes reflecting modern day rush-and-hurry with projections of, yes, you’ve got it, news items of contemporary issues.
But apart from the nut/sledgehammer feel to the links this was an entertaining evening and whilst it might not make you think for very long there’s enough personal recognition factor in the sketches to make you shift, maybe even squirm a little, in your seat.
The enterprising troupe of five actors play various roles with Tanny Britts taking the eye as the annoying bus queue botherer (“The Great Whatever”); then, as the insensitive jobsworth security guard in “Here To serve You”, with her american accent, she was like a kind of Donald Trump in an afro. Ross Martin Kernahan, in that bus queue, has a wonderful anti-God rant before literally seeing the light; and he returns to be confounded and frustrated by prick-tease Marla on their first date: Georgie Matthews is just a bit too shouty-crackers in this piece – “Fighting Mr Right” – and underplaying it might bring out the humour more. Sari Shrayteh treads that thin line between totally innocent and slightly suspicious in “Here To Help” with Rory Keys as the rather gauche innocent-bystander- trying-to- do-the- right-thing; he returns as the Angel of Death in “Burn In Heaven” and is suitably sinister before cleverly morphing into an everyone-hates- me-innocent- victim persona.
Where We Stand is good, intelligent writing by Lindsay and the show is slickly directed by Youri Kim but the programme gives no credit to Lighting/Sound/Projection designers (what are you thinking, people?). Whilst the lighting is effective and the projection suitably grainy the sound under dialogue – traffic noise and Christmas muzak – was often too loud.
Where We Stand is well worth seeing and is the kind of show that will work well in festivals – particularly the Edinburgh Fringe. One thing I learnt: I had no idea that Death is Irish. As he haggles with the unfortunate soldier (Georgie Matthews) you get the distinct feeling that he’d be totally up for letting her live in exchange for a pint of Guinness. As contemporary issues go this seems to be right on the money: I should write it in and then seek sponsorship for the show’s next outing.
Review by Peter Yates
Where We Stand
11th to 14th May 2016
Ye Olde Rose and Crown
53 Hoe Street Walthamstow London E17 4SA