Tag Archives: George Fletcher

“Spur” at the Vault Festival

There is a particular excitement about seeing a play on the fringe that has the potential to expand. Spur is already a five-star show. But it is also constrained by its hour-long duration and by the venue. This is the kind of theatre that, for me, is what the marvellous Vault Festival is all about. Spur is great, and it also has room to grow.

Matt Neubauer’s script is strong – a poetic and imaginative exploration of love and catharsis. And it’s novel. Spur is framed around the re-enactment of a Western, just the kind you’d comfortably watch on a Saturday afternoon. The film was a favourite of a deceased father, and the actress ‘starring’ in the movie breaks character to tell us about her family relationships.

There are stories, too, from her ‘co-stars’ – that I can’t think of a better word indicates how involving the connection between memories and the ‘film’ we see performed are, and how well the cast and creatives play with the link between the two. Two other cast members also play more than cowboys, they have their own tales of loss and grief as well.

As for these extra stories – note how much deception there is. Each is unsettling, there’s plenty going in the background and there’s a sense of humour to disappointments that proves alluring.

The only caveat is that the script is too compacted. While the play thrives on ambiguity, it is frustrating to see how easily it could be unpacked. The show is crying out for another scene from both George Fletcher and Benjamin Victor. I’d bet a silver dollar they’re already written.

A deal of the piece’s success is down to the actors. It’s hard to fault the performances from Fletcher, Victor or Maddy Strauss, who plays the lead protagonist Sadie. Strauss gives my favourite performance of the festival so far, investing the show with great emotional power. And she really could star in a Western!

Bringing the piece close to a tearjerker, the projected film that Sadie watches/performs is interspersed with a home movie. Alberto Lais’ video work is touching, the traverse staging is handled well by director James Nash and the lighting design by Ben Kulvichit is superb. But the technical difficulties of working in a tunnel (oh, those trains) are painfully easy to appreciate. All aspects of the production could be improved with ease.

It’s tricky to write about what a play could be rather than what is on stage – and any observation doesn’t detract from what has been achieved here. But it would be good to see Spur again with a little more polish in a better space. It could have a bright future.

Until 9 March 2023


"Eigengrau" at Waterloo East Theatre

This welcome revival of an early work by Penelope Skinner, which premiered in 2010 at The Bush, boasts an excellent cast and strong direction from Georgie Staight. It’s a text that’s difficult to pin down – playing with the audience while making serious points – and Staight appreciates the piece’s changes of tempo. There are laughs, handled well by the cast, as well as plenty of ideas and gruesome moments that require a strong stomach. All in all, Eigengrau ends up a challenge, but the play and this production are a definite go-see.

Skinner sets up some straw men and women for us to meet. It’s pretty easy to get a laugh out of them… but it’s still funny. There’s feminist Cassie and her new flatmate “off Gumtree” Rose, the latter’s one-night stand, smarmy successful Mark, and his school chum Tim, who isn’t doing so well. The cast take it all in their stride, with Staight controlling some of the exaggerations. Isabella Della-Porta makes a believable activist, you admire her convictions, while George Fletcher’s marketing man Mark is suitably revolting! The satire is almost genial, a kind of comedy of matters, with points about modern life to debate during after-show drinks. Given the seriousness of some topics, it’s more fun than it should be.

Katie Buchholz and Callum Sharp in Eigengrau at the Waterloo East Theatre
Katie Buchholz and Callum Sharp

As the play’s title, which refers to the colours seen when the eyes are closed, indicates, there’s darkness, too. It comes from the unexpected source of hippyish Rose, superbly performed by Katie Buchholz, who has even painted her toe nails in character. At first, Rose is enormous fun, Skinner makes you laugh at her even if it is cruel. But Cassie’s observation that Rose “scares me” brings forward the text’s mental health issues. Romantic obsession is only part of Rose’s fantasy life; her lack of vision, endearing at times, becomes dangerous. By the end of the play, it’s an open question as to how much the seemingly sweet Tim – with a professional debut in the role that Callum Sharp should be proud of – succumbs to Rose’s flights of fancy.

Eigengrau gets bleak quickly in the second act. There are loose threads: Skinner is heavy handed at times, the “happy ending” too double-edged. Above all, the sexual submission from both female characters is not for the faint-hearted. Be warned. Without spoilers, Cassie’s disappointments in life are painful (and well delivered by Della-Porta). As for Rose, who becomes a twisted Cinderella stand-in for her own fairy tale; never mind the shoe she loses, what she does with the one left is awful. Intrigued? I hope so – this is a play and production that should be seen by many.

Until 22 September 2019


Photos by Lidia Crisafulli

“Frankenstein” at Wilton’s Music Hall

This potted production of Mary Shelley’s tale makes for an entertaining evening. In this somewhat ruthlessly adapted version by Tristan Bernays, the skeleton of the story remains, while casting one performer as both the eponymous doctor and his monster puts flesh on the bones of ideas about their relationship. Adding only simple props – lamps, buckets and a flight case – establishes a strong story-telling feel of considerable charm.

The show is a star vehicle for recent graduate George Fletcher, who plays both creator and creature. We see mostly monster – racing through ‘infancy’ efficaciously with admirable physicality, while creating possibly too much sympathy. He is joined as The Chorus by Rowena Lennon, who takes on some extra speaking roles admirably and even more impressively creates visual and aural echoes of Fletcher’s actions and emotions.

The show comes fromThe Watermill Theatre. Might it have been scarier if its genesis was the atmospheric mid-19th century Wilton’s? The Victorian loved to be spooked, after all. Director Eleanor Rhode brings clarity to weighty questions, but there could be more tension here. Nonetheless, the performances are strong, while excellent effects (light and sound by Lawrence T Doyle and David Gregory) ensure the show impresses, even if it is cerebral rather than creepy.

Until 18 March 2017


Photo by Philip Tull