Tag Archives: Matthew Wells

“The War of the Worlds” at the New Diorama Theatre

Rhum & Clay’s clever new show isn’t based on the titular novel by HG Wells. And it only takes the famous 1938 broadcast by Orson Welles as a starting point. Instead, the show is a stellar theatrical adventure about fact and fiction. A parallel is drawn between the radio play that caused chaos by presenting itself as live reportage, and fake news in the present, exploring both with wit and intelligence.

This is a devised piece, written by Isley Lynn, but stressed as a collaboration, and a high percentage of the ideas work well. There may be a superfluous incidental character or two, maybe even a scene? But the show coalesces well and keeps an audience guessing. As the focus moves from a microphone to a radio and then a recorder for a podcast, interest increases. Throughout, Benjamin Grant’s sound design, which plays such a key role, is commendable.

All four cast members, including Rhum & Clay originators Matthew Wells and Julian Spooner, play to their strengths and impress. Everyone puts in a good turn as Orson Welles, performers of his show and terrified members of the public. But it’s the play’s female characters that stand out: Amalia Vitale and Mona Goodwin do a superb job in their central roles as Lawson and Meena, who encounter one another just before Donald Trump’s election as the latter makes a podcast about a family history that started on the night of that panic- inducing broadcast.

It’s the reactions to Welles’ show that interest this talented team. Reports of hysteria are well known – but are they an urban myth? And what are their contemporary parallels? Enter Trump. With our modern-day journalist travelling to America, and the small town Welles that based his broadcast around, the show gets really smart. It would be easy to identify with Meena, but care is taken to show she is too fond of clichés – Goodwin is excellent here – and she stoops to cheating to get her copy. It’s a brilliant move adding credibility, as Rhum & Clay play with alienating their audience a little! That we end up suspicious of everyone here is healthy. But, trust me, it’s no fake news to say that you should see this show.

Until 9 February 2019


Photo by Richard Davenport

“Hardboiled: The Fall of Sam Shadow” at the New Diorama Theatre

This fun show brings film noir vigorously to the stage. It’s a detective adventure story that combines the gumshoe genre’s humour and sentimentality, updates the sexual politics and finds time for a conspiratorial twist. As the power goes out in Los Angeles, the theatre fills with atmospheric shadows. But what exactly is going on at Addison Electric to make all the filaments flicker?

This is a production with plenty of light-bulb moments. The staging, devised by the Rhum and Clay Theatre Company with director Beth Flintoff, sparks with invention. A case of smoke and sliding doors, props are used perfectly, including e-cigarettes. And as you’d expect, Nick Flintoff’s lighting design is essential. The dialogue might disappoint, given the show’s antecedents, but the focus is on movement, with long stretches that show the cast’s prowess and an impressive soundtrack.

There’s some fantastic talent here. In the title role Julian Spooner manages to convey a surprisingly complex hero. Inheriting the job from his father, this little-guy P.I. becomes his own man with satisfying subtlety. Christopher Harrisson and Matthew Wells take on numerous roles faultlessly, as well as gracefully moving around the props on wheels. Showing the mechanics of the staging, down to carrying around the smoke machines and filters for the lights, isn’t new but it’s seldom done with such understated charm.
Hum & Clay present Hardboiled at The New Diorama Theatre. 9th Feb 2016 Photo Credit: Richard Davenport 2016 richard@rwdavenport.co.uk
Stealing the show is Jess Mabel Jones, who plays all the female parts, including Shadow’s secretary and the obligatory femme fatale, using tiny costume changes and great vocal skills. Even a ditzy secretary is given her due, showing a knowing nod to the role of women in film noir. All indicative of a fresh eye on a beloved style, performed with care and creativity.

Until 27 February 2016


Photos by Richard Davenport