Tag Archives: Sarah Berger

The Ever HopeFull Rep Season

A pop-up theatre in the heart of the city, the rather swanky 6 Frederick’s Place has been commandeered by the So And So Arts Club for an ambitious repertory season of new plays. Established by actress, director and producer Sarah Berger, its membership of industry professionals aims to create its own paid work (much produced on the fringe fails to pay), and it’s a valiant effort deserving support.

If the play I saw is anything to go by, So And So is a club to keep an eye on. American Venus, by Leslie Mildiner and directed by Berger, gives a glimpse into the life of silent film star Louise Brooks. It’s an excellent vehicle for the acting talents of the superb Susan Penhaligon. Much is made of the aged Brooks sex-obsessed foul-mouthed selfishness, she would “make a saint spit”, but there’s clear potential to expand this hour-long play. The stories of those around her are interesting, especially her primary carer, Phyllis, performed commendably by Mary Keegan. And her early life, with snapshots performed by Angharad George-Carey as a young Louise and Tim Walton as Charlie Chaplin, who are both captivating, leaves you wanting more.

There are three more plays this season, written by Claire Whitehead, Shelley Silas and Brian Parks, and a musical from Stephanie Smith and Monica Sik Holm – so plenty of talent to spot. Next up is an international festival (the club has members in nine countries), Women And War, from 25 October to the 7 November. Follow them on twitter @soandsoartsclub or, if you are in the business, get in touch to see what you can do for each other.

Until 27 September 2015


Photo by John Swannell

“The Charming Man” at Theatre 503

“The country’s buggered.” So declares David Verrey as political guru Marcus in Gabriel Bisset-Smith’s new play, The Charming Man. In a delicious performance, Verrey lectures on the problems of politics in 2015 in language so colourful that it goes beyond Tory blue, Labour red or Lib Dem gold – into green. Politics has reached such a nadir that the Greens are the only party that might possibly win power.

What the Greens still need is a leader with charisma. Enter youth worker Darren, played so endearingly by Syrus Lowe that it’s easy to imagine him as the political phenomenon he becomes. The public may want the honest, open character Lowe portrays so wonderfully, but is it really ready for a black, gay Prime Minister who used to wear gold hot pants and dance to The Smiths?

If the answer to that seems pretty obvious, you might wonder at the compromises Darren undertakes in order to try and change minds. Yet his well-trodden path to corruption is both funny and moving. His party colleagues, played terrifically by Sarah Berger and Kate Sissons, who lose ideals but get plenty of laughs, tutor him. Their clever performances suggest passion and melancholy in turn. Darren’s partner Luke is left by the way, of course, which seems a shame given the great comedy Sam Pamphilon brings to the scenes he is in.

Much of The Charming Man might seem like a ruder, current take on Yes, Minister with comedy more suited to our times, but a similar eye to conspiracy that doesn’t convince. The idea that those in power can manipulate to such a degree seems to inflate their abilities beyond credulity. Business backing for politicians occurs, of course, but surely never to the extent of Kenny Fox (Christopher Brandon), the arch villain who takes over the Green Party as a plaything.

But there is more to the night than this. Director Paul Robinson is also joint artistic head of the theatre itself and he can spot them; the venue’s reputation for ‘fearless’ new writing is sure to be enhanced by Bisset-Smith’s achievement.

Moving past standard political satire, The Charming Man reaches realms of fantasy that are inspiring. The sillier the play becomes, the funnier it is and the truer it rings. As Fox’s insults against the English increase in pace, Brandon injects a mania that is gleeful. The idea of a TV show called Liberal Democrats on Ice is genius in its absurdity. But could anyone ever really have imagined Tory stalwart Ann Widdecombe on Strictly Come Dancing? Maybe the future really does wear gold hot pants.


Until 13 November 2010

Photo by Graham Turner

Written 25 October 2010 for The London Magazine