Tag Archives: Freya Sharp

“Cratchit” at the Park Theatre

‘Tis the theatrical season for Christmas carols. If you’re looking for something a little less traditional, then Alexander Knott’s new play is worth treating yourself too.

Cratchit is a spin on the Dickens classic. It uses the same characters and there are still ghosts. Bob, Scrooge’s clerk, is the focus. While the miserly master is haunted, Cratchit has his own problems to deal with.

Expanding on the poverty Dickens has already written about with legendary skill isn’t wholly successful. But taking a minor role in the original means there’s plenty of room to expand and Knott takes advantage of this.

We see an avuncular Bob at first. The surprise is that he likes a drink. John Dagleish is excellent with the audience and has fantastic charm. As Cratchit’s problems grow, the character darkens. The “painted smile” puts on as part of a cowering servility hides a good deal of anger. There are powerful moments dealing with fear and depression. And it’s a shock to see him contemplate suicide.

The role is an excellent showcase for a performer. Taking on other characters, including Scrooge, Dagleish’s acting is of the highest quality. Likewise, his co-star Freya Sharp who offers admirable support in a variety of roles.

John Dagleish and Freya Sharp

The script is competent, it holds attention. Knott’s own clever direction helps a great deal. It’s all going very well until the ghosts arrive. They are more future focused, fair enough, and come with surprises I won’t ruin. But the glimpses at life that restore Bob’s faith in Christmas are so rushed, they become nonsensical. Knott doesn’t give himself, his audience, or his ideas enough time.

Dagleish keeps up the good work. There is more for Sharp to do – and she does it well. And Emily Bestow’s set comes into its own – the design gets a big tick even if I’m not sure about why we visit the places evoked. If some parts of Cratchit disappoint, there’s a lot of enjoy.

Until 8 January 2022


Photos by Charles Flint

“Nuclear War/Buried/Graceland” at the Old Red Lion Theatre

This trilogy of plays, marked by diversity and connected by a morbid streak, is an uneven but bold effort at very serious theatre for this Islington venue and its artistic director, Alexander Knott.

First up, Buried is the true story of the playwright David Spencer’s father, who was buried alive during World War II. And you do need to know that before you sit down. Presenting a stream of consciousness, recounting a tough life in horrific circumstances, the monologue ends up more confusing than powerful. The performance, by the subject’s grandson James Demaine, is impressive. With quick changes of accents and emotions, the skill is clear. Directors Knott and Ryan Hutton show considerable resourcefulness. But there’s an air of a talent showcase that creates a barrier to being involved in this powerful story.

James Demaine in "Buried" (Credit Charles Flint Photography)
James Demaine in “Buried”

Next is a short sketch, with a mention of war, by Max Saunders-Singer, that shows a teacher having a suicidal breakdown in his classroom. Anthony Cozens takes the role and does well with the audience participation that proves essential to the piece. But relying on the crowd to feed lines proves painful. Despite a firm hand from director Sonnie Beckett, the piece is unclear as to how serious it wants to be. And it’s in questionable taste. Some people don’t want to see a pornographic film projected in the theatre – no matter how blurred.

Anthony Cozens in Graceland (credit Charles Flint Photography)
Anthony Cozens in “Graceland”

The lead attraction, thankfully, makes a superb finale. The first revival of Simon Stephens’ Nuclear War since its premiere at the Royal Court in 2017 reminds us of this exceptional piece. A meditation on grief and mindfulness, it takes in ideas theoretical, astronomical and balletic! Equally cerebral and earthy, it’s mind blowing and moving. Marked by experimentation and abstraction – in stark contrast to the others, which have plenty of biography – the emotion it engenders is remarkable. And the biggest praise is that I liked this production more than the original!

Knott’s decision to present a two-hander (Stephens doesn’t specify the number of performers) makes the action clearer, while retaining a fluid rhythm. Assisted by Lewie Watson, and with movement direction by Georgia Richardson, the precision and musicality of the text is brought out – a tap dancing section is quite brilliant. The performances, from Zoë Grain and Freya Sharp, are flawless. Often speaking in tandem and using the venue’s intimacy to great effect, this is expert work. It’s not a case of saving the show – the play makes up the bulk of the production – but Nuclear War is more than enough all on its own.

Until 21 March 2020


Photos by Charles Flint