Tag Archives: Funlola Olufunwa

“Someone of Significance” at the Vault Festival

Playwright Amalia Kontesi wants a debate and she wants one badly. Someone of Significance frames a discussion about capitalism around a romance – an idea with potential. Unfortunately, there is too little behind the conceit.

Brad and Rosie are bankers, in America, who start an affair. Their careers and ambitions diverge but their affection, somehow, remains. The problem is that, despite fine performances from Simon Bass and Funlola Olufunwa, and convincing chemistry between them, neither the characters nor their arguments quite convince.

It’s hard to believe that the couple are high powered, or even that they work in the corporate world. What little detail Kontesi provides is predictable. Despite establishing how bright she is, Rosie seems surprised at what her job entails and how much money she earns. The different backgrounds that lead to their divergent opinions need elaborating.

As for the arguments, which should provide some weight to the play, they are too simplistic and unchallenging. The script needs more humour. Credit again to Bass and Olufunwa, who both make the dialogue sound natural. But two super-smart bankers going over basic economics is a struggle: both use terms like gentrification and trickle-down as if nobody had ever heard them before.

Matters don’t improve when Rosie’s ambition to be President becomes the focus. The ideas about politics are just as brief and share an easy, cynical shorthand. Maybe there are too many scenes in Someone of Significance? Could richer detail could come in fewer, longer scenes?There’s certainly too much time wasted with costume changes, and director Sam Tannenbaum could pick up the pace to add some tension.

The love story is better written. Interestingly, the play doesn’t get waylaid by the initial power imbalance between the couple. Rosie has autonomy and is a positive role model. And Kontesi does well to make Brad slightly more sympathetic, despite being to the political right of Rosie. The sweet conclusion is neat. The romance is a good container for the play. The trouble is that container is too empty.

Until 5 March 2023


Photo by Vasiliki Verousi

“The Time Machine” at The London Library

Inspired by the HG Wells novel, this immersive show has the huge benefit of being staged in The London Library. Playwright Jonathan Holloway’s new story unfolds in the gorgeous reading rooms and wonderful bookstacks. Admittedly, it’s a slight on the show that its main attraction is a bibliophile’s dream locale, but director Natasha Rickman and her team at Creation Theatre really do showcase the building magnificently.

Small groups are led around by an individual time traveller and mine – performed by Paul (PK) Taylor – was excellent, being good at engaging those who wanted interaction and leaving alone those who did not. Injecting a sense of urgency, even spookiness, he even managed to cover up a technical hitch for a good while. Joined for a couple of scenes by Graeme Rose as a computer who reminded me of a Gilbert and George artwork, the two did well with an anarchic streak that is the best of Holloway’s script.

The Time Machine at The London Library
Graeme Rose

There’s a cheeky humour to the show that I felt growing on me. With the idea that things are being changed constantly – including our socks – by illegal time travellers, there are plenty of smart lines. Playing with the past, especially with famous authors, should appeal to the audience, while claiming that the first instance of time travel was in New York nightclub Studio 54 (and playing Donna Summer in the library) is a great idea. It’s a shame it all gets more serious.

The Time Machine has a lot of important things to say. Wells would no doubt approve. But doom and gloom about the future mean this machine stalls. A “torrent of information” we’re exposed to is delivered well and bite-sized gobbets of science and philosophy are digestible enough. But too many scenarios of Armageddon arrive – each a cliché and fuelled, you guessed it, by conspiracies. Maybe we just don’t need more talk of epidemics right now but, rather than feeling topical, the show feels tired.

The Time Machine at The London Library
Funlola Olufunwa

Taylor keeps up the energy (joined by Sarah Edwardson and Funlola Olufunwa with two underwritten roles that they try hard with), and there’s a real effort to introduce passion and urgency. But a lot of what’s said becomes silly and the show’s originality evaporates. When it comes to imagining the future, this feels like old news. The only safe prediction should be an increase in membership for The London Library.

Until 5 April 2020

Photos by Richard Budd