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Deadwood Productions Ltd presents

Beak Street


by Greg Freeman


Directed and Designed by Ken McClymont


Tabard Theatre


May 11-29 2010









A review by James Richards for EXTRA! EXTRA!

Over-elaborate staging has been the bane of several major productions in London this year. When the rest of the nation is bracing itself for a round of serious belt-tightening, it’s hard to see where all the money thrown at sets and costumes is coming from. But I’m not just trying to score points with the Puritans. From my seat, the performances and the direction have both been pushed to second place. Yes, I’ve been dazzled (Woman, Beware Women) but increasingly I seem to be leaving the theatre feeling slightly stunned and yet unmoved. Ask me the next morning what happened in that last scene and I wouldn’t be able to tell you, no matter how lovely/freakish/sparkly it all looked.
I’d rather watch Beak Street by Greg Freeman, with its iron-rod narrative and polished script. Here, we find a detective-noir genre piece with a furry twist. The gals and the hoods are all cats - bipedal, walking, talking, singing, smooching and shooting cats. Beak, our narrator, hard-bitten cat kingpin (cats don’t have names here, they’re known by the name of the street in Soho they control) tells us he’s down on his luck. A scam’s gone wrong - his prize-fighting mouse has vanished. Was it eaten? If so, who by? Who can he trust? David Haydn’s Beak prowls the stage hell bent on revenge and discovering the truth, accompanied during his narration by a purr-fectly alluring feline chorus (Laura Pradelska and Natasha White) who echo and question his sentiments in hissing couplets.
Haydn is the anchor here, looking every inch the cat that didn’t get the cream and is pretty sour about it. His stubble, boxer’s nose, and large frame compliment, you feel, a natural propensity to menace. Perhaps his hands were glued a little too firmly in his pockets, but you have to say that Bogart would have approved. The jazz-singing, flaky PrettyPretty (Alice Tranfield) looks and sounds great as the bombshell playing with Beak’s heart. In her best moments, there was gleam in her eyes that looked like defiance, but betrayed a fear that gnawed on all sides. Elsewhere, a sharp turn from James Sygrove as the jittery Weasel offered a stringy contrast to Haydn.
The dialogue is limited to the necessary per scene, but it’s absorbing listening to Beak’s psycho-analysing himself and the code of the cats as he wends his way deeper into moral abrogation. The imaginative staging keeps throwing up treats – there’s a shadow play, a scene in a jazz club with a live band, a shower scene and a boxing match, which all makes Beak Street excellent value for money. But the staging never invades on the plot, which is as serpentine and smoke-filled as you would expect – just the right measure of stage magic has been used here. Out in the West London evening with gunshots still ringing in my ears from the dénouement, I reflected on how true that old adage, that, far from being the extremity, the Fringe is still the heart and soul of London Theatre.

Tabard Theatre
2 Bath Road

Box office: 08448 472264

Tickets £12-14




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