Tag Archives: Rebecca Humphries

“Pomona” at the National Theatre

Alistair McDowall’s loopy, plot-fuelled drama is structured like a Mobius strip, as we join a frightening search for a missing girl in a dystopian Manchester. Propelled by an HP Lovecraft role-playing game, which the characters all join and where it’s never clear who is in charge, what might have been confusing keeps you intrigued throughout.

The people of the sinister urban wasteland of Pomona fascinate as they search for obliteration in a variety of nasty ways. The cast is superb, including Nadia Clifford’s Ollie, looking for her sister, along with Sam Swann and Sean Rigby as two security guards getting deep into trouble. Rochenda Sandall plays a frightening brothel madam and Rebecca Humphries is outstanding in the most fully formed role of Fay. Presiding over all are Guy Rhys as Moe – a commanding presence despite his claim to be “neutral”, which is saying something since he spends the entire play in his underpants – and Sarah Middleton’s spooky Keaton, a part urban myth, part autistic anime character.

The idea is simple… deep down. A mesh of genres, including thriller and sci-fi, is skilfully woven with plenty of conspiracy theories to examine society’s complicity with moral injustice. Do we ask or ignore awkward questions? The play is a moral maze in more ways than one. I guess there had to be a dose of determinism as well, nicely embodied with gaming dice. Along with all the tension and supernatural overtones Pomona is plenty cryptic and could be frustrating, but instead it’s thoroughly entertaining.

Director Ned Bennett’s skill in bringing this often downright peculiar vision to the stage is remarkable. With a fraught atmosphere he avoids pretentiousness by bringing out the humour in the script and emphasising action. Above all, it’s a game that will keep you guessing. Short, sharp scenes along with creepy touches (much credit to designer Georgia Lowe) can be described as a nightmare that is a puzzle to you upon waking. And puzzles, after all, are great fun.

Until 10 October 2015


Photo by Richard Davenport

“Temple” at the Donmar Warehouse

An exercise in erudition, Steve Water’s fictional account of 2011’s Occupy London movement is accomplished but unsatisfying. Remember how a cluster of tents formed outside St Paul’s? Water’s focus isn’t on those camping – you learn little of their political aims or ambitions – but on those running the cathedral and how they feel about their unwanted guests. It’s an angle that might strike one as oblique. And, while the central dilemma – hinging on a Dean asked to put his duty above what he may actually feel – is interesting enough, the play is stubbornly devoid of tension. Scenes of intelligent talking heads (I could have done with a dictionary) make Temple feel like a worthy radio play. The idea of the meeting chamber, where all the action takes place, as a “panic room” is almost laughable, given the lack of excitement.

The show is saved by the central performance of Simon Russell Beale as the Dean, convincing us of his turmoil as a good man blessed with a prodigious amount of self-knowledge. Unfortunately, the Bishop of London and his too obvious counterpart, a radical Canon, are sketchily drawn – one too comic, the other overly sincere – for Malcolm Sinclair and Paul Higgins to show us their talents. Likewise the role of a secretary on her first day in the job is a crude device that Rebecca Humphries struggles valiantly with. The central problem is the tenet of Church as ‘the establishment’. Although such presumed power is questioned, by the time a couple of choir boys come in to cheer the Dean up, it’s all too much like something from Anthony Trollope. Religion’s shaky relevance to lives today makes for a stumbling block that Waters doesn’t get over.

Until 25 July 2015


Photo by Johan Persson

“I Am a Camera” at the Southwark Playhouse

It’s hard for a critic to consider I Am a Camera without recalling American reviewer Walter Kerr’s brickbat one-liner, “me no Leica”. Indeed, John Van Druten’s 1951 play, based on Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin, is an undeveloped affair. It doesn’t help that the story went on to become Cabaret, as comparisons are inevitable and this script is a long way from anything divine or decadent. All the more credit, then, to director Anthony Lau and his cast who make this evening at the Southwark Playhouse such great entertainment.

Van Druten’s text is dated – there is barely a nod to Isherwood’s homosexuality, nor any real sense of Nazi threat. The supporting roles are also weak, although Joanne Howarth’s landlady, Fraulein Schneider, is an intriguing, developed presence. Lau’s focus, therefore, is on our heroes: the narrator Isherwood, struggling with “obscene laziness” in rented rooms, and the “young and savvy” Sally Bowles. Their relationship, a marriage of sorts that almost becomes the real thing, is touching and tremendous fun.

Van Druten’s Isherwood isn’t an entirely likeable character. He is petulant and pretentious, and Harry Melling plays him with an engaging intensity. But it’s when Sally Bowles, portrayed by Rebecca Humphries, is on stage that things really take off. Melling and Humphries create a chemical formula not to be missed. Humphries is a natural comedienne with a deadpan delivery, keeping the audience on its toes as she dips between spoilt child and worldly sage. More opera diva than cabaret artist, her Sally Bowles is the star of the show.

Until 22 September 2012


Photo by Nicolai Kornum

Written 7 September 2012 for The London Magazine