Tag Archives: Charlotte Pyke

“Muswell Hill” at the Park Theatre

A comedy of manners, Torben Betts’ play may strike you as not particularly original. Set at a middle-class dinner party, with more faux pas than food on offer, the action takes place (again predictably) in the kitchen. But fear not, Muswell Hill isn’t as safe as it sounds. In a world where well-connected N10 locals check their mobile phones constantly, this entertaining piece has an assiduously observed and contemporary edge.

Mat and Jess are the hosts, an endearing married couple with problems. Their guests are their oddball friends Karen and Simon, plus Jess’s foster sister and her new fiancé Tony, who throw up even more issues. The observations on class are spot on. Delving deeper proves problematic (a connection with the Haitian earthquake doesn’t do the work it’s supposed to) but Betts’ script is neat and careful, with plenty of plot twists and lots of laughs.

Muswell Hill at Park Theatre. Nicole Abraham (Annie) and Gregory Cox (Tony). Photo credit Boris Mitkov (6)
Nicole Abraham and Gregory Cox

The characters are intriguing and developed with great skill. Jack Johns and Annabel Bates take the leads, giving subtle performances that anchor the show. Charlotte Pyke and Ralph Aiken bring out the dark humour in the grieving Karen and angrily anti-social Simon. Nicole Abraham has the toughest role, as the troubled younger sister, and acquits herself well, while Gregory Cox is great value as the thesp Tony. All combined, Muswell Hill has some fabulous residents – if you want to see some great acting talent, pull a chair up at the table.

Until 14 March 2015


Photos by Boris Mitkov

“The Seagull” at the Arcola Theatre

Dalston’s an unlikely place for a dacha. But Joseph Blatchley’s fine new production of The Seagull at the Arcola Theatre takes us to the Russian countryside in a fresh and exciting way. Working with Charlotte Pyke and John Kerr on a new translation, Chekhov’s text seems funnier and more dramatic than ever.

The new adaptation takes the young writer Konstantin’s advice to heart, creating a script that “flows freely”; full of naturalism, with judicious use of modern idioms, it is clear and pacey. In a play so crowded with art and performance, the histrionics and famous Russian gloom take on a comic twist – yet when sincerity comes forth it packs a punch.

“So much anguish, everyone in love” announces Roger Lloyd Pack’s excellent Dr. Dorn: mostly to himself since Chekhov’s characters are solipsistic despite their self-awareness. Their selfishness is played for humour by the ensemble cast. In the star role of Arkadina, the successful actress who can’t stand the spotlight being on anyone else, Geraldine James is wonderfully intense.

Arkadina’s battles are tremendous set pieces, none more so than her confrontations with her son Konstantin. Al Weaver takes the part, funny as a petulant artist, and then deeply moving as he becomes a tortured young man.

Konstantin’s love for Nina, the girl next door who wants to become an actress, is so convincing it gives the whole production a romantic air. Yolanda Kettle, in a professional debut to be proud of, plays the role charmingly, making her character’s demise all the more moving.
Nina’s downfall comes via Trigorin, in Blatchley’s version a more than usually fascinating character. Played expertly by Matt Wilkinson, the startling accusation he has been “grooming” Nina adds considerable tension, making her seduction relevant to a modern audience, and preparing the ground for a traumatic conclusion that becomes as appropriately tormented as the good doctor predicted.

Until 16 July 2011


Photo by Simon Annand

Written 16 June 2011 for The London Magazine