Tag Archives: Matt Mella

“Checkpoint Chana” at the Finborough Theatre

With its topical subject matter and sharp dialogue, it’s easy to see why, having started at this venue’s ‘Vibrant Festival’ of new writing, Jeff Page’s play has graduated into a full production. It’s a shame that questionable decisions have resulted in underdeveloped potential.

Bev is a poetry professor whose latest work has provoked accusations of anti-Semitism. While this should provide plenty of debate, none of the issues around censorship, Zionism or social justice warriors gets much airing. Bev isn’t clear why comparing an Israeli soldier to a Nazi upsets people. Really? Why make her blunder so black and white? And, even if her position is indefensible, defending it poorly makes for bad drama.

The play focuses instead on Bev and her problems. Her father dies (a plot line that goes nowhere) and she’s an alcoholic with mental health issues. All rich material for Geraldine Somerville, who takes the part and does very well with it. It’s a brave move to make Bev so unsympathetic, but don’t her boozed-up delusions of grandeur also make it too tempting to just feel sorry for her – and then dismiss her opinions?

Bev’s interactions with others present further gripes. The intense relationship with her PA (do poets have PAs?) is clichéd and unconvincing, although Ulrika Krishnamurti tries her best with it all. Bev is interviewed, far too briefly, by possibly the worst journalist in the world, then has a heart-to-heart with a lighting technician at a poetry gig. Again, credit to Matt Mella and Nathaniel Wade in these parts, but both roles are too truncated.

The biggest frustration comes from glimpses of the dry wit within the text. There are some lovely acerbic observations on life in north London, leading up to an explosion from Bev – why all this fuss about a poem? My sympathies if you were thinking that all along. For whatever reason, director Manuel Bau stamps on any humour and the play is duller for this. Maybe the subject matter was deemed too serious for laughs? But, as Bev points out, artists should take risks, and Checkpoint Chana is puzzlingly timid all around.

Playing Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays until 20 March 2018


Photo by Samuel Kirkman

“In The Dead Of Night” at the Landor Theatre

Flushed with sweat and sex, Claudio Macor’s fringe oddity features a crazy assortment of love-struck prostitutes, male and female, in a crime-infested South American brothel.

The play’s billing as an uncensored film noir on stage is a bit of a red herring. This is a thriller pure and simple, with crooks, conspiracy and more than enough tango, twists and turns to tickle the fancy. While the tale is steady, it’s a shame the characterisation doesn’t match the plotting – back stories are fussily elaborated, and the dialogue might be sharper.

But there’s no doubting that the show is racy. The boyz in wet T-shirts (is spraying them someone’s job?) include handsome heroes Jordan Alexander and Matt Mella, while ravishing Susannah Allman and her suspenders guarantee fluttering pulses.

Judith Paris and Susannah Allman

It may be ungallant to highlight the age of Judith Paris as the play’s fine femme fatale, but experience counts and her assured performance stands out amongst the young cast. Some roles cry out for older performers. But, despite flaws, the gorgeous players acquit themselves well, creating a stylised atmosphere full of camp appeal. So what if there’s more sex than suspense – this quirkily entertaining show wins with its brashness.

Until 16 May 2015


Photos by PND Photography