Tag Archives: Rose Wardlaw

"Conspiracy" at the New Diorama Theatre

A hit at the Edinburgh Festival and the winner of an Untapped Award, Barrel Organ’s new piece is a comedy gem. With three fantastic performers, a topic ripe for satire is handled with wit and intelligence in a show full of surprises.

Rose Wardlaw takes the lead. As the audience sits in on a presentation about a famous photograph, she’s brilliant at muttering asides, her character too uptight for her own good. The picture hides a conspiracy that just keeps on growing – to Wardlaw’s exasperation. As the project gets more ridiculous, ignoring efforts at serious research, she gets funnier and funnier.

Azan Ahmed is the first to elaborate a further conspiracy. With a penchant for movie quotes, his character is downright sweet, and it seems cruel to laugh at his enthusiasm. The gullible energy and sheer joy at thinking he has discovered something new is utterly convincing and Ahmet manages to convert these qualities into something more serious as the action develops.

By the time we get to Shannon Hayes, we are in spoof territory. It isn’t a plot spoiler to say that the moon landings make an appearance. Best of all is the Elvis impersonation from Hayes, who gradually increases the mania in her performance with skilful calculation. It turns out she’s been playing a different game, the precursor for which is a streak of mischief that has added to the fun all along.

Devised by the company, with a text from Jack Perrin, pretending the trio are amateurs is a great idea to get a lot of laughs. Of course, delivering such fumbling around is tricky stuff and Dan Hutton’s direction is really as pin sharp as you could wish. The only problem – clearly indicated – is that conspiracy theories don’t finish, they just get bigger.

Trying to be serious too close to the end of the show seems a mistake. And a final tableau, where the characters inhabit their fantasy (well, that’s my guess anyway), proves too strange a change of key. Both give rise to the suspicion that the team didn’t quite know how to end things. I’ve no proof of that, of course – maybe photos or recordings of rehearsals will surface? Maybe someone overhead something? There must be a reason… Still, nothing can detract from a whole-hearted recommendation for a show that shouldn’t be kept a secret.

Until 5 October 2019

www.newdiorama.com

“Outlying Islands” at the King’s Head Theatre

Theatregoers should give thanks to Atticist Productions – and get a ticket, of course – for this new production of David Greig’s 2002 work, last seen in London at its Royal Court première. Carefully directed by Jessica Lazar, it delivers a quartet of fabulous performances. And what a play! Lyrically beautiful, intellectually stimulating and full of the unexpected, this is a long overdue revival.

It’s exciting not to know what’s coming next and makes avoiding spoilers important. Especially given a plot that seems so simple: two ornithologists studying on a remote island before World War II. Greig doesn’t make it clear how big a part the owner of the island and his niece will play – at first, they seem amusingly stereotyped (Ken Drury does a lovely job here). But, by wittily toying with expectations of a period piece, the play consistently surprises as events and characters develop with a magical touch and delightful richness.

Suffice to say that there’s plenty of sex and death in this Edenic location. Tom Machell gives a suitably magnetic performance as lead toff twitcher Robert. The character’s free thinking results in plenty of challenging statements. His colleague and chum John may play second fiddle – reminding us of decency and that a boat will be coming to collect them at some point – but Jack McMillan’s performance is first class. It’s a wonderful study of confused youth and contradictions. By no means least is Rose Wardlaw’s sensitive portrayal of Ellen, a woman who finds herself connected to life and the future in an unexpected manner.

Rose Wardlaw

Isolated from society and with work-altering body clocks, the play moves to examine love, time and limits. That emotions develop is seen by Robert as a scientific phenomenon, something to take notes on, while John reminds us how painful romance can be. Lazar allows the chilly observations and warm emotions they’re due, ensuring both of the text’s temperatures can be felt. Greig’s insights into time are philosophically invigorating, while the boundaries of convention, temporarily absent, lead artfully to yet more questions.

Take religion, Christianity vs Paganism, a theme Drury does so well to explicate. The theme gives an ethereal feel to the show, aided by strong sound and lighting design from Christopher Preece and David Doyle, respectively. Or the parodic forms of ritual we encounter, such as those surrounding feeding (there’s only one table on the island and let’s just say it’s used for more than one kind of communion). Compared with the birds being recorded, Outlying Islands asks how rooted in the animalistic we all are. Like a scientist studying nature, the same precise control allows Greig to examine men. An attempt at natural history in the form of theatre, it makes for fascinating viewing.

Until 2 February 2019

www.kingsheadtheatre.com

Photos by Clive Barda