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A review by Cezar Rozmus for EXTRA! EXTRA!
Brockley Jack Studio Theatre
The Laundry is centred on Ben (Sam Millard), a runaway who escapes London on his seventeenth birthday and finds himself working in a Liverpool laundry alongside a widower named Terry. Although they don't seem to have much in common, they soon realise each has something to offer the other - Ben has never had a father figure he could trust and Terry has always regretted not having children.
For a play that ultimately seems to aim for a deep and powerful message, it also has a lot of heart and fun, with ample laughs, cheeky one-liners and a strange obsession with dead pigeons. There are some particularly memorable moments, as Terry attempts to goad Ben into engaging with him.
Although the two characters rock back and back forth, they eventually find they enjoy each other's company. The friendship at the core of The Laundry provides its' best moments, as Ben and Terry realise that they can confide in each other. As their bond grows we are taken through their pasts, and come to grasp a deeper understanding of the significance of this relationship to both of them.
If there is one possible shortcoming with The Laundry, it could be that Ben seems too likable to be a runaway. Initially too solemn to talk, when he opens up, he shows a thoughtful and kind nature, which seems to clash with the difficult past he has left behind him. Maybe this charm results from his new friendship, but it seems at odds with the difficult background he comes from.
The Brockley Jack is used very effectively for this production, with the audience on all three sides of the stage of the intimate theatre. This allows for an immediacy that enables us to better understand the characters and what they are going through.
Mark Leipacher directs the piece with imagination, capturing its rhythm, leaving enough pauses to allow the characters to bond and interact through the silences. There are a few powerful moments of stillness as the moody lighting casts shadows over the two.
The piece is a fitting analogy for Ben's attempt to emerge out his past and ultimately aims for a powerful message. Although it may not be entirely successful in this, it does leave an impression of the bond the two characters develop.
Chris Bearne's performance as Terry is particularly moving and he manages to channel Ben's rambunctious nature, which includes his own rendition of the Stones' classic "Satisfaction". But there are plenty of hilarious ditties sprinkled throughout this play, which playwright Munrow utilises to capture the nuances and absurdities of life, including one particularly memorable conversation in which Ben explains why he loves flying night and day. It is in these tiny moments that The Laundry hits its peak, managing to ask some of the questions we have for Ben and Terry, as well as ourselves.
Although the piece becomes quite sentimental after the interval, it still provides enough genuine moments to capture a moving portrayal of their relationship.
As a winner of the Write Now 2 competition, playwright Joe Ward Munrow shows talent and maturity and in championing the competition, this important opportunity gives aspiring playwrights in South East London something to aim for.
Edited by Mary Couzens
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