Tag Archives: Angus Castle-Doughty

“Tobacco Road” at the Pleasance Theatre

Part of the Caledonian Express season that brings highlights of the Edinburgh Festival to London, Incognito Theatre’s tale of London gangs in the 1920s is hugely entertaining.

It’s a story of self-proclaimed “scum” in South London rising up the ladder of the criminal underworld. The piece is devised by the company and careful preparation has resulted in characters all successfully delineated. There’s a touch of the committee about the plot, which is sometimes predictable, but it is always engaging. The biggest twist is to include two women, Freda and Elsie, admirably performed by Atlanta Hayward and Jennie Eggleton, whose reputation for violence is never questioned. Joining forces with a trio of friends, Alfie and Tommy, driven by the ambitious Felix, they make a formidable five. In the male roles, Angus Castle-Doughty, Alex Maxwell and George John work exceptionally well together. An interesting undercurrent between them all is the aftermath of the First World War, ripe for further exploration.

The dialogue is occasionally clunky, a lot of historical background is added clumsily. But the physicality that the company brings to the stage makes up for any shortcomings; these crooks start out slap stick and become menacingly slick. Aided by Roberta Zuric’s direction, and choreographer Zak Nemorin,with only tea chests and a rope for props, the show is atmospheric and exciting. Castle-Doughty is particularly strong in a boxing scene; indeed several fight scenes are handled well by all. As the gang’s success brings on drunken reveling, it is the performers’ skill with movement that conveys a sense of hedonistic escape carrying danger with it.

The ending is not satisfying. It’s clear the gang is trapped in their lifestyle, which makes a morality tale of sorts, but the conclusion arrives too abruptly; cliff-hangers seldom work well in theatre. When the houselights come up, it’s a shock and a shame. But ending the story too soon goes to show how engrossing Tobacco Road is – addictive and well performed, go see.

Until 17 November 2018


Photo by Tim Hall

“I am of Ireland” at the Old Red Lion Theatre

State of the nation plays have their admirers but the aims of large narratives and big claims can backfire horribly. Seamus Finnegan’s new play, presenting a history of the troubles in Northern Ireland alongside contemporary politics in the Republic, falls victim to its ambitions on both counts. The collection of brief vignettes are unsatisfying in isolation and fail to cohere into a big picture.

Amongst many plots mangled we meet old friends at a funeral, a family coming to terms with their daughter’s vocation as a nun and a priest stabbed in a racist attack. All rammed together in a breathless effort to examine history, sectarianism, the church and immigration. Arguably any of these stories could be developed, but each contains improbabilities, most notably a former terrorist surprised by the amnesty in the peace process.

It’s a shame the brief scenes deny the cast the chance to shine. In particular the hard work of Shenagh Govan, entering and exiting at speed, is wasted. Angus Castle-Doughty and Richard Fish do well playing various psychopaths and Euan Macnaughton struggles valiantly recounting a life as a terrorist. But these are brief moments not worth the wait. All the performers take on many roles but rather than impress, several casting decisions come across as desperate (if Jerome Ngonadi as a Mother Superior was supposed to be a joke I am afraid nobody was laughing).

Ken McClymont’s direction does nothing to aid the play. Adding songs and constantly moving around chairs between scenes becomes interminable. And some cheap costumes don’t help either. A final problem is Finnegan’s dialogue: full of facts characters must know and downright nonsense, Finnegan can’t even reveal a location without being florid. The vocabulary is unconvincing – someone uses the word harlot sincerely. When all else fails, a character is made to scream. The subject of Ireland and religion should be a fruitful one for a playwright but this is theatrical purgatory.

Until 30 June 2018


Photo by Michael Robinson