Tag Archives: Brad Birch

“This Must Be The Place” at the Vault Festival

I’ve waited a while to see another play by Brad Birch, and this piece, co-written with Kenneth Emson and presented by Poleroid Theatre, shows a writing team with strong ears, observant eyes and independent minds. Firmly rooted in the experience of young lives today, this story of family and friendship is full of recognisable stuff, even if most of us would fail to articulate it with such style.

Two couples, linked by the theme of home, weave a poetic dialogue full of wit. There are laughs, but a sense of anxiety is always present. Technology and the “shared, liked, commented on” of social media becomes a pressuring mantra. The everyman here, Adam, debates having a child with his girlfriend and tackles the legacy of an estranged father. Meanwhile, two friends, endearingly hapless desperadoes, are on the move to London. All four roles are well acted. James Cooney and Molly Roberts play struggling lovers: distant from one another in more ways than one, yet still emotionally attached. Feliks Mathur and Hamish Rush play mates with a fantastic chemistry – surely aided by both being recent graduates from the same college – and top-notch banter.

This Must Be The Place isn’t making revelatory statements. If you’re not on Facebook, after a feeling of smug self-righteousness, the relief you feel will only confirm a lot that’s expressed here. Barbs against hipsters, well, who is going to argue with that? Modern angst isn’t that original a topic and the sources Birch and Emson point towards are no surprise. But it’s all presented very well indeed, using the language of tech and a dissonance with “actual life” brilliantly. Writing this lyrical easily carries the show.

Until 12 February 2017


Photo by Mathew Foster

“Even stillness breathes softly against a brick wall” at the Soho Theatre

Unlike its title, Brad Birch’s new play, Even stillness breathes softly against a brick wall, which opened at the Soho Theatre last night, is a short, terse work. In a spirit of brevity, suffice to say – this is strong writing with much to offer.

A couple, “Him” (Joe Dempsie) and “Her”, (Lara Rossi) live recognisably modern lives – all about technology (Simon Slater’s accompanying soundscape is effectively annoying) and takeaways. There’s nothing new here and, although Birch writes about it well, it goes on a little too long.

The scenario develops with the couple rejecting consumerism and in so doing effectively turning away from the whole contemporary world. It’s a radical fantasy: just saying no. A dream, or nightmare, sure to divide an audience and a bold place for a dramatist to position himself.

It will either disappoint or reassure to find that this breakaway ends up being depicted as a breakdown: the squeezed middle turned screaming and mad. The pressure the successful young couple are under doesn’t move us enough, and reports of war on the news that obsess ‘Him’ are an opaque parallel.

But the play reads very well indeed. Birch started his work by writing a poem, and it shows; the text is layered and the language ripe. Taken off the page with great respect by director Nadia Latif, it’s staged skilfully in a carefully constructed set by Lorna Ritchie that the couple make a right mess off – I pity their landlord.

This is one of those works that makes an effective showcase for acting talent: demanding, intense and requiring intelligent performers. Making an impressive stage debut, Joe Dempsie seems very much at home, a great presence, appealing and charismatic with a natural ability to bring out comic touches.

As his companion, Lara Rossi’s experience, including her excellent performance in Philip Ridley’s play Tender Napalm, stands her in good stead. Rossi suppresses her character’s energy remarkably and deals with the sexually explicit content with the erotic nuance required. Like Dempsie, she establishes a great connection with the audience.

It’s when presenting a couple in love that Even stillness breathes softly against a brick wall is at its most appealing. Birch, aided by the fine performances, writes an engrossing internal dialogue for each character, combined with their conversations and occasional comments to the audience. It’s an exacting evening, but one with plenty of rewards.

Until 14 June 2013


Photo by Richard Davenport

Written 31 May 2013 for The London Magazine