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A review by Vanessa Bunn for EXTRA! EXTRA!




Theatre503, Kuleshov and Etch present




Photo by Tani Van Amse


Director – Dan Pick

Designer – Georgia de Grey

Lighting Designer – Christopher Nairne

Sounds Designer – Kieran Lucas

Composer – Ned Roberts


Theatre 503


4 – 29 November 2014



Graham O’Mara is Uncle Len, a crestfallen, middle-aged man in a shoddy Mr Happy t-shirt, with a penchant for cider and a determination to make himself the go-to guy for his grieving niece. Jen (Jennifer Clement) is an angst-ridden twenty-something year-old that has lost not only her father, but also her will to go on. The two sit in festival chairs in a dank garage hopping off cider while attempting to bring a series of onerous tasks to a conclusion. Jen’s unseen mother has taken the death of her father poorly and her nerves are bad. This results in Len and Jen teaming up to perform feats ranging from drowning trapped mice to piecing together an ornamental ‘wankycat’ and a Virgin Mary statue. To say the two work harmoniously together would be a lie, but through their rows and revelations, Stuart Slade’s five-act debut explores grief, forgiveness and friendship in a thoroughly contemporary tragicomic manner. 

Costumed in threadbare, grimy clothes and with generally unkempt appearances, one could be forgiven for imagining the play opens on two wandering vagrants. The concept of external appearance vs. internal secrets is cleverly played on many levels as the story progresses. Jen’s Dad, Len’s brother appeared to be the kindest man that ever lived. In his brother’s clothes, Len inhabits an aura of respectability unimaginable without them.  O’Mara employs a range of facial expressions I’ve scarcely seen rivalled in London; he is able to portray the manic sides of Len without any obvious contrivance. Whether steeping himself in tipsy self-loathing or dancing around the garage in a state of abandon, he is entirely believable.  Clement is similarly accomplished in her portrayals of anguish and bitter disappointment.

Scenes change very slightly in darkness and begin again under the flickering industrial light bulbs on the garage roof.   As much as the script blisters, the occasional, considered silences between the two are charged and deeply affecting. In a world where neither is comfortable, the fact that they reach a place where together they can sit in a shared silence is a poignant reflection on both the intimacy of their friendship and their shared pain. Slade’s reference material, ranging from classic through the ’90’s to popular culture is honed and peppered with the blackest of humor so that when it’s uttered by Len or Jen they’re faced with an audience who at times aren’t sure whether to giggle, weep, or both. In one such example Jen, morosely reminiscing about the extravagance of her father on the night of his death declares, deadpan and monotone – YODO.

Slade’s humor cuts and tickles and stings in varying degrees. This play is not for the faint hearted or for those with ears sensitive to blue.  On the other hand, for those who like their theatre raw, passionate and dynamic, it is a revelation. Theatre 503 continues to make bold and brave, but never ever bad choices.


Photo by Tani Van Amse
Theatre503 at The Latchmere
 503 Battersea Park Road, London SW11 3BW
Box Office: 020 7978 7040
Tickets: £15/£12 (pay what you can Sundays.

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