Tag Archives: Alan Mahon

“Caterpillar” at Theatre 503

Alison Carr’s new play is a finalist for this venue’s Playwriting Award – reason enough to recommend it. And it’s clear why judges were keen; this is a carefully written, cleverly modest drama of motherhood and mental health that poses important questions, albeit a touch too slowly.

Carr benefits from a classy production: a trio of strong performances, solid direction from Yasmeen Arden and skilful lighting design from Ben Jacobs. The story of Claire visiting her recuperating mother Maeve in the family-run B&B turns into a tale not about an elderly relative but the wellbeing of the younger generation. Both Judith Amsenga and Tricia Kelly depict Carr’s strong characters wisely: there’s just enough sassy humour in Kelly’s affable landlady, while Amsenga brilliantly controls Claire’s flares of anger and panic. These are strong, well-written roles.

Alan Mahon as Simon
Alan Mahon as Simon

Although the guest house is supposed to be closed, a competitor in the annual ‘Birdman’ hang-gliding competition arrives in the middle of the night. Simon comes with a backstory about his hopeful flight off a cliff being a memorial to a dead girlfriend. Impressively, metaphors are kept under control and the character serves as more than a foil to Claire’s depression. It’s a third role containing subtlety that, again, gets a superb performance, this time from Alan Mahon.

There are twists in Caterpillar that ensure you leave the theatre with plenty to think about. But the play spends too long pupating. Startling questions arrive late, so they can be little explored – particularly with Simon’s character. The finale is grim, but shocking rather than moving. While it’s commendable to tackle the subjects of suicide and self-harm without sensation, the structure of the play ends up uneven. Carr’s turns of phrase and a good deal of humour make these flaws easy to ignore, but they stop the play from really taking flight.

Until 22 September 2018


Photos by The Other Richard

“If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You” at the Old Red Lion Theatre

London’s fringe theatres have a commendable number of plays that appeal to a gay audience. But, let’s be honest, too many have a historical focus, while gratuitous nudity often compensates for a lack of imagination. At the risk of offending playwright John O’Donovan who may not welcome any such comparison – this piece is well written by any standard – the unusual gay romance his accomplished debut work explores is a more sophisticated affair with a strong, contemporary feel.

The action takes place on a roof, impressively rendered by designer Georgia de Grey, onto which two young men make a bungled escape after a drug-fuelled burglary. These aren’t your stock gay characters. Free of angst about sexuality, the story is about all the other things in their lives. O’Donovan skilfully reveals the extent of their troubles as working-class lads living in a small town in County Clare, while showing how profound their affection for one another really is.

Mikey is a fighter, maybe just a common thug, struggling to show emotion behind bravado. Alan Mahon brings out the roles charisma, delivers the jokes well and shows the writing’s subtlety. The object of Mikey’s affection is Casey, not quite the victim he first appears (there’s a lovely twist here), and a role that Ammar Duffus develops beautifully. Both actors make the offstage families that O’Donovan describes vivid – a sure sign of strong writing – and the chemistry between them, as they struggle to establish a partly covert relationship, is terrific.

The couple’s musings on life are frank, funny and, considering how much cocaine they snort, wise. There’s a strong dose of realism, well balanced by director Thomas Martin, and tension too, as the police circle the roof, Casey makes plans to fly away from his problems and Mikey has to come down to earth and face his future. It’s the tight dialogue around the potential and problems of escaping provincial life that ring true. This cleverly modest play will speak to a wider audience than you might suspect.

Until 24 September 2016


Photo by Claudia Marinaro