Tag Archives: Katy Daghorn

“Neck or Nothing” at the Pleasance Theatre

The idea behind Christopher Neels’ and Callum Cameron’s play has potential. Using an inventor to examine men’s mental health is a neat experiment. The agoraphobic oddball Jens makes an amenable hero, easily recognisable as a geek who attempts to deal with childhood trauma by creating an invincible suit and become a real-life superhero. It’s not a bad way to examine what might be thought a peculiarly masculine, yet distinct from macho, effort to escape from real problems and genuine discussion. Getting a laugh out of a serious topic is fine, but the jokes here just aren’t good enough. Ironically, the humour feels like a cop-out so that the play, like Jens, doesn’t engage with the big issues it raises.

Neels and Cameron also direct and are a little too indulgent with their text. This is a short show that drags at times and has too many tentative moments. But they are lucky with their cast, a trio of performers who manage to make the three main roles consistently appealing. James Murfitt takes the lead as Jens, likeable even during his delusions of grandeur, conveying his mania with refreshing subtlety. The support Jens obtains from his brother is credible through the efforts of David North, while his long-suffering partner becomes increasingly interesting in the capable hands of Katy Daghorn.

While the characters aren’t badly written, and are certainly well performed, the play’s structure is messy and there are too many questionable decisions along the way. Things are fine when we’re confined to Jens’ workshop/garage – his world is, by turns, entertaining and moving. But nearly all the other scenes are tacked on, a couple feel like sketches written for something else, and the cast are overwhelmed with extra roles that go nowhere. The action meanders and the conclusion is poor. You can bet that what the super suit should look like was a subject of debate with designer Sophia Pardon and the outcome is funny. But Neck or Nothing would feel much fuller if Jens had just a little more credibility and, as a result, his family more reason to indulge him. Pardon’s video projections, scenes from films and the bears that are the focus of Jens’ fears, are far more effective, but the show relies too heavily on them. It’s admirable that they provide structure and insight, but it’s unfortunate that they also highlight the script’s flaws.

Until 4 May 2019


Photo by Veronika Casarova

“Burke and Hare” at the Jermyn Street Theatre

It’s all out for entertainment with Tom Wentworth’s take on the historic villains, Williams Burke and Hare. While facts from their 1828 trial provide some chills, the overall aim is comedy. A mix of shameless bad jokes and great theatricality, with a few songs thrown in, means the show has something for everyone.

The ‘true’ story of murderers (rather than grave robbers, as is popularly assumed) who provided corpses for the medical profession in Edinburgh piques interest, and a period feel is well conveyed. Events are presented by Dr Alexander Monro, whose rivalry to the anatomist Dr Robert Knox – Burke and Hare’s main customer – is a great source of fun. Monro has hired a couple of actors to help him tell the story and much is made of their limited numbers. In the style of The 39 Steps, they take on all the roles: the murderers, their associates and their victims. The joke is overplayed, contrived, of course… but it works. The show is funny, with some good tasteless touches, while carefully suitable for the whole family.

Wentworth has done his homework, but dissecting what makes an entertaining show with such deliberation makes this one a little cold at times. It’s the production, from director Abigail Pickard Price, that injects life: balancing a sense of improvised chaos with a script that requires great timing in a very small space, and creating a camaraderie amongst the cast that is contagious.

Personalities behind the roles are quickly established, adding real warmth, and the cast look as if they’re enjoying themselves. Alex Parry gets a special round of applause for all his swapping of roles. Hayden Wood has an amiable stage presence that’s a real asset and deals with an episode of audience participation superbly – even if you hate it when people are called on to the stage (and I do), you can’t be annoyed with him. Finally, Katy Daghorn shines playing not only Monro but the love interests for both murderers. Her accents are a hoot, while differentiating the roles shows fantastic skill. This talented trio creates the atmosphere and energises the show, making it a lively treat.

Until 21 December 2018


Photo by Philip Tull