Tag Archives: James Meteyard

“Tempest” at the Pleasance Theatre

You can see why the Wildcard’s gig-theatre style has its fans. There’s a raw energy to its take on Shakespeare’s Romance that has an anarchic appeal. Director and adapter James Meteyard’s show has lots of ideas, some of them interesting. But there are also lots of problems.

One strength comes with comedy. Shakespeare’s subplot of shipwrecked sailors who join with Caliban to take over the play’s island setting is seldom funny. But with plenty of ad-libs, Eleanor House’s trombone-playing Stephano and Gigi Zahir’s drag queen Trinculo are a lot of fun. Zahir’s “Shutteth the fucketh upeth” is a long way from Shakespeare – but it works. Throwing in a catwalk show is a brilliant twist.

Meanwhile, both the romance and the revenge in The Tempest get lost. Kate Littlewood’s restrained Prospero and Ruby Crepin-Glynne’s savvy Miranda feel like additions rather than central characters. Alexander Bean, so impressive as Caliban, gives a shadowy Duke Alonso. There are too many stumbles from too many of the performers. And of course, when pauses or fumbles start, the atmosphere becomes uncomfortable.

“The isle is full of noises”

The production is notable for boasting Jasmine Morris as its composer. Not so much for the few songs that are included (Meteyard’s lyrics for these are poor) but rather for the soundscape, created with plenty of invention and hugely atmospheric. Yet what should be the show’s triumph also stalls. Whether this is Daniel Balfour’s sound design or technical faults isn’t clear. But the numerous sound effects (which aid Loren O’Dair’s strong performance as Ariel) stop and start abruptly. Audibility is poor.

Meteyard and movement director Jade Hackett work hard to make sure the actor-musicians aren’t stuck with their instruments. There’s a revolving stage and even some aerial acrobatics as well as ambitious lighting from Sherry Coenen to create dynamism. But, yet again, this is uneven. Moments that impress, with a lot of thought behind them, jar with the cast wandering around. The final scenes are far too static.

That the show is too messy for me might be a matter of personal taste. But while only inspired by Shakespeare – with favourite scenes picked out – the truncated approach makes Tempest difficult to follow. The result is a niche affair that shows the original as a piece that needs balance and a play that’s surprisingly easy to wreck.

Until 3 April 2022


Photos by Lidia Crisafulli

“After Party” at the Pleasance Theatre

Like Edward Albee’s Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, James Meteyard’s play explores a (metaphorical) hangover from years of trauma and delusion. Opening with a debauched celebration, nicely summarised, we join a group of mid-twentysomethings slowly discovering their grief over a tragedy that happened at college. In this drama about adult friends living together, the ambition is impressive, but the results are uneven.

The humour is on one note but delivered well; especially by Atilla Akinci, whose character is the only one removed from past events (using him more could have aided exposition). A bigger problem is the dialogue around those big sex and death themes – horribly stilted and painfully long winded. Will is the troubled lead with a secret – credit to Jamie Chandler for dealing with some clunky lines. One analogy – something to do with a scab – is so laboured that I glazed over. Chief culprit in the bar-room philosophy stakes is Will’s “bro” Harlan, who has an attraction for abstractions that Alex Forward braves valiantly. Injecting some much-needed realism into the group is Megan Pemberton’s Phoebe – the only character even trying to act her age. Cat Robey’s direction needs to speed this indulgence up considerably.

James Meteyard and Callum Cameron
James Meteyard and Callum Cameron

Tiresome heart to hearts, accompanied by far too much forehead slapping and exasperated sighs, are in stark contrast to scenes of tension. The group’s old friend Max’s release from prison and arrival ‘home’ are superb: the mood changing instantly and the suspense terrific. It’s a small role for Callum Cameron, but he steals the show and brings out the best in his colleagues, particularly former partner and unforgiving ex-pal played by Eleanor Crosswell and Olivia Sweeney respectively. Meteyard also performs here – well, it should be added – arguing the case for Max while his own character’s agenda creates a tense undertow.

There’s a suspicion this confrontational scene was the kernel for the play – it’s strong enough – but it takes forever to arrive. Too much effort is expended on giving time to each member of the ensemble. There’s a bold end, but it’s a shame this scene is the only one that feels hurried. Overall, a work with potential that needs polish.

Until 26 March 2017


Photos by Isaac Whittingham