Lucky 8 – Online@TheSpace

Written by Stephanie Silver

Directed by America Lovsey

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Sometimes it’s just not your day, right? We all have days where every little aspect appears to go wrong – worse though, what about a whole life born under the wrong star, a whole life where luck seems to pass you by in favour of others.

Without cluttering the narrative, Stephanie Silver’s Lucky 8 takes the simple premise of telling the tale of a work-place week, but from two perspectives. Despite moments of interaction, the prevailing make-up for the show is two monologues – first from Marcy, a superstitious queer woman who struggles in her day to day life. From awkward encounters at work, bad relationships and caring for her adoring mother, who suffers from MS, Marcy very much considers herself unlucky.

After colliding (quite literally) into a new colleague she has a thing for, a quick succession of feelings overflow as Silver’s language paces itself with emotional intensity. What follows is an engaging series of tender moments, with Silver nabbing the laughs throughout Lucky 8 through her scattered, nervous performance as Marcy, balancing out the more serene, controlled stature of her co-star Velenzia Spearpoint.

Spearpoint takes a more intense, mature approach to their character’s self-esteem and life with far better-concealed anxiety. A wife and mother pushed to breaking point following her husband’s affair, Spearpoint’s unnamed character finds herself seeking answers from a magic eight ball – a pretty low point for any of us. There’s no skirting or airs and graces to the production, which happily embraces the characters’ choices and nature. It is an honest depiction of fluid sexuality as Marcy’s crush struggles, not with her feelings for another woman, but rather with the realisation that her marriage is no longer one of love but for convenience.

This secondary story, told from Spearpoint’s perspective ties together the loose ends, but eats up more time in explanation and ultimately sacrifices closure, or at least a sense of where the narrative will continue rather than simply ending. Where an open-ending offers promise, Lucky 8 leaves the fates of the two up in the stars, offering the audience less to takeaway.

The pair keep their roles grounded, with motions of ‘quirkiness’ feeling natural for the role of Marcy, which speaks volumes to America Lovsey’s direction. Things are kept clean, without overstepping the mark or attempting to shoehorn emotion. Silver’s writing is genuine, blunt and pushes for humour in droves without feeling forced. Lucky 8 flows naturally, and with tightening in places, there’s heaps of potential for a fully-staged performance.

Review published for The Wee Review

Under Heaven’s Eyes – Online@The Space

Written & Performed by Christopher Taja

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Nearly three months on, the murder of George Floyd still sparks debate, fury and aggression on all sides of the conversation. While many have hoped and prayed that his murder marked a turning point, others are realising that the death of another black man at the hands of white police officers is merely another false dawning which will ebb into history.

Under Heaven’s Eyes, a new piece of writing by Christopher Tajah, is a solo production which directly challenges institutional racism forcing black and minority communities into tight corners. Tied directly into issues surrounding COVID-19 – where black people are four times more likely to contract the virus than their white counterparts – Under Heaven’s Eyes is additionally a father’s plea for his children’s safety.

Racial profiling, systemic racism and institutional racism are real, no matter how loudly some people claim otherwise. Beyond the atrocity of George Floyd’s death, Tajah’s work offers a glimpse into a potential powerhouse of a production. Though the work’s current structure is frayed and requires staging, what never wavers is Tajah’s skilful use of language. His powerful writing possesses a balance of logical premise with emotional and inventive creativity.

Just as Tajah’s script begins to feels stilted – needing an infusion of movement, for instance – the narrative strays back to a more personal touch. Under Heaven’s Eyes speaks with a righteous and raw voice, though Tajah’s reliance on statistics to emphasise the poignant notes already made is where the performance really hits home. The inclusion of a family dynamic emboldens the audience’s connection, though could be forged quicker to secure the plot. Tajah’s performance is an eloquent and articulate account of the blatantly rotten foundations of many public and elite institutions. 

Charles WottenEmmett TillRashan Charles and Breonna Taylor. Hopefully, these are names people will remember. If you don’t know them already, then they are ones to research. Through Under Heaven’s Eyes, Resistance Theatre Company Ltd illustrates the stagnant, rife root of racism in the world. Tajah’s ability to admirably convey a myriad of emotions in a 45-minute solo-show is a testament to his artistic talents.

Review published for The Wee Review

Until The Ad Break – Online@TheSpace

Written by Hugo Lewkowicz

Produced by Jack Dalziel

Directed by Emily Fitzpatrick

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The apocalypse may be upon us, but there’s always time for some day-time telly. In the lead up to the end of days, there’s not much else to do but sit back, watch crap and indulge in train videos, skateboarding budgerigars, and our favourite presenters – oh, and wait Until The Ad Break before tweeting our opinions of course. 

Hosts of ‘The Hello Show’ Francine Quick and Dale Maxton have the difficult task of entertaining the nation as the world crumbles around them. Difficulty? They don’t know the world is ending. Between climate change, murder hornets and quinoa, the hosts struggle to keep their cool as fellow doom-and-gloom spouting weather correspondent Gabriel Spring (played by director Emily Fitzpatrick) is preparing for doomsday.

Complete with unnecessary cutaways, segments and interviews, Until The Ad Break plays out like any other day-time chat show format, but where the real crux concerns itself is the behind-the-scenes action. The drama, the lies, the panics, and the sex, oh yes, all those times we paired off presenters? Well, they’re all at it. 

These transition sequences, where the show moves from a sickly over-the-top parody into a notably more brutal exchange of insults and emotions, demonstrate the makings of a strong production. The concept is far from new, but this back-stage setting before the apocalypse adds an enticing dynamic which the sadists among us can latch onto.

The opening moments, drenched in phoney smiles and over-the-top humour leads to concerns of fresh out of drama school performances, which are quickly gut-punched by Francine Quick’s (Ellie Stewart-Dodd) dark retorts to co-host Dale Maxton (Bradley Pascall). What follows is a layered format which swings between grim comedy, absurdist plotlines and visual gags.

This comedy takes bold leaps, and the gamble pays off when the cast refrain from shying from delivery – but it’s uneven across the whole production. Expectations of a skit-based show will inevitably have their strengths and weaknesses, unfortunately for Maverick Charles Productions, the digital format means that editing takes it’s toll in slowing momentum on occasion, with transitions to and from the ‘studio’ set up jarring pacing.

From Gabriel’s lyric dropping of BBC children’s classics to the forcible control of the scheduling from the producer, Until the Ad Break reeks of nostalgia for the late eighties right up to end of the nineties television. Stewart-Dodd’s revolting BBC grin pairs well with Pascall’s controlling lead mechanic, which amps up the tension between the two as the facades drop, the truths out themselves and the three work off one another as the energy builds into a climax.

Lewkowicz plays their best chips early though, cashing in the Armageddon angle early into the show which drags it out, before being lifted back up as Pascall and Stewart-Dodd lead into a sobering moment as the realisation of things to come dawn on the pair. There’s a wealth of material, an entire season or staged production’s worth, which dips itself too heavily into the revolution aspect too soon, peaking.

With some superb performances, principally from Stewart-Dodd and the brief, memorable irritations of producer Haris Nabi, the team manage to emulate a quintessentially British success in the vain of Dominic Brigstocke & Caroline Norris’ Horrible Histories programming with minor hints of Python influence. The world may indeed be ending, but at least we have some solid entertainment to see it through.  

Until The Ad Break is available to watch until August 30th here