Tag Archives: Courtney Larkin

“One Write Stand” by the Front of House Theatre Company

Those who serve at the National Theatre have created a chance to reveal their other talents with their own company that shows us what they really want to do. Along with several productions under their belt, a night of new writing is becoming an annual event. There’s undoubtedly a friends and family feel – it’s a bit like gate crashing a good party – and an atmosphere this supportive has a special attraction.

The first half of the evening presents three short plays that struggle with their time slots. Gavin J Innes does best with his two-hander, a scenario of a drugs test for an athlete, which works well as a sketch. The next two efforts, Solicitation Games by Carl Blades and Selfhood by Aaron Gordon, take on bigger subjects – sex and race – and have lots of ideas but fall down when they introduce third characters, despite the valiant efforts of the performers.

Innes also directs his play. Along with Neil Gordon and Elliott Bornemann, who take charge of the other two, there is a common flaw here (easily corrected). Each play is just a little too slow: laughs laboured, drama drawn out, so problems in the scripts are elaborated rather than eased over. And it should be noted that quieter performances often have more impact: Omar Austin does well as the ‘Zen’-like character caught between two feuding sisters in Selfhood.

Omar Austin in Selfhood

On to the second half. Michael Ross’s Brutalism, set in a high-rise block and concerning gentrification, shows writing of the highest quality. Not a line is wasted, and the lead, Amy Beckett, knows it –she has great fun with the comedy in her role as a social worker-turned-propertydeveloper. It’s a delicious conceit that makes you want more. The twist is a surreal one that could have real bite. But it arrives too quickly, leaving the feeling of a fuller play truncated and puzzling. To end the evening on a real high is I Heart Mary by Emma Bentley. Director Courtney Larkin is full of ideas, while a trio of performers – Mauricia Lewis, Olivia Seaton-Hill and Tricia Wey – is boosted by the crowd. The trick is simple: this a sketch about working in the customer service industry. Plenty of jokes ring true and hit home, while the frustrations are depicted sincerely and the piece doesn’t patronise. Preaching to the choir maybe, but it’s contagiously effective.

4 November 2018


Photos by Alex Grey

“Good King Richard” at the White Bear Theatre

The market for Ian Dixon Potter’s play is clear. If you like your history, you’ll enjoy this show. As writer and co-director (with Courtney Larkin), Dixon Potter’s sense of purpose is dogged: to rehabilitate Richard III and set the record straight. If the monarch’s maligned reputation gets you riled, your passion should be satiated here.

For everyone else, the play has problems. Pretty much the whole script is exposition. We have Richard addressing the audience as troops, before the battle of Bosworth, as well as two sniffing soldiers, acting as a chorus – but no action. Too many facts and too much back story are compacted into the characters’ speeches. Some lines are so clunky, I felt like cheering the cast when they got through them. Credit where it’s due, though: the politics are clearly presented and the detail scrupulous. Unfortunately, it’s all closer to a history lesson than a play.

More seriously, Dixon Potter fails in his aim of making us think again about Richard, by recreating him as an unbelievable goody two-shoes. Nicholas Koy Santillo bravely tackles the title role, showing the king’s cold legalistic mind, but is given little to work with and a very bad wig.

It’s often said the devil has the best lines, which isn’t saying much here, but the most interesting characters are those who take over from the King as villains. There’s a vain and duplicitous Buckingham, who Ben Harper adds a fun camp touch to, and, better still, two great roles for women.

Catherine Dunne is superb as Elizabeth Woodville, running rings around the men who step into her path, with a sensual edge that adds tension to her scenes. Zara Banks gives a similarly delicious performance as a Machiavellian Margaret Beaufort, bringing her lapdog son Henry Tudor to heel. Whether these women really had the power Dixon Potter supposes is the starting point for another debate. Dunne and Banks certainly lift the play. It’s a shame that their scenes are the only time that you feel you are leaving the classroom.

Until 20 December 2015