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The London New Play Festival

and the Cock Tavern Theatre present

the world premiere of


Three Minute Hero


Written by Phil Setren

Directed by Julie Osman

Designed by Martin Thomas

Lighting design by Steve Lowe


Cock Tavern


October 28-November 14, 2009











ary Couzens

A review by Chad Armitstead for EXTRA! EXTRA!


Phil Setren’s new play, Three Minute Hero, has a message.  But Setren has the good sense not to let that spoil a good show.

Dave (Paul Egan) is an accident-prone aspiring music promoter who has been stuck on the ‘roadie’ rung of the career ladder for years.  After sneaking his friend Amy (Sian Goff) into a gig, a technical gaffe gets him sacked.  Leaving the gig, the two end up with a ‘windfall.’  Spurred on by Amy, he uses the money to start a career in promotion and put together a girl band starring Amy.  Later, he finds and promotes Ash (Ramanvir Grewal), an inspired Muslim singer.  As success looks imminent, Ash’s brother Raz (Anil Kumar) becomes increasingly insistent with Dave about his own idea of the purpose of music.

Director Julie Osman and company find a rare formula in new theatre:  they keep the audience laughing in order to keep them listening.

Paul Egan infuses Dave with a warm comic energy that propels the show forward, periodically consulting his omniscient promotion how-to book.   Egan renders Dave irresistibly identifiable, from the boyishly vulnerable technician of the first act to the driven, next-big-thing-obsessed promoter of the second.  He provides a stark contrast to Ramanvir Grewal’s meek Ash.

From coquettish groupie and girl band singer to grounded champion of Ash’s spiritual song-writing, Sian Goff (Amy) also effects a remarkable transformation.

Rebecca Keane gives an impressive performance in her two roles.  She switches 180 degrees from Tracci, a fame-crazed, talent-starved singer who wears sex pinned to her front like a ‘for sale’ sign, to a high-power, no-nonsense record company lawyer.  The former proves an early target of Matt Butcher’s effectively slimy Vince, a club owner.

Rounding off the girl band trio, Suni La (Jayla) proves great comic fodder as the wistful modern dance choreographer whom Tracci batters at every turn.

Anil Kumar grounds this comedy in its most interesting conflict with his grave sincerity as Ash’s deeply religious older brother Raz.

Director Julie Osman, designers and cast use invention to transform the small space above the Cock Tavern into Dave’s world.  Their imagination finds ways for Dave to fall from great heights and Ash to perform to huge audiences.

Designer Martin Thomas is to be commended for capturing the industrial pomp of the music business, while at the same time creating at least seven different locations demanded by the script. 

Three Minute Hero stands out among the shows you’ll find above pubs and in basements in London—the pots where new work tends to get planted.   It tracks the journey of Dave from zero to hero (and perhaps back again) with a lot of comedic charm.  

Though the show’s real power lies in the conflict between Dave, Raz and Ash (never do with ten characters what you can do better with three), making the first half feel almost superfluous, it’s utterly forgivable.  Setren keeps the audience laughing with eccentric characters.  I would have perhaps left happier if that journey had ended with more of a showdown between Raz, Ash and Dave and less direct address of the audience, but I don’t know that theatre’s job has ever been to make us happy.

Setren’s work stands out because he understands we want to see characters facing dramatic questions and deciding how to act, not preaching characters telling us what to decide.  Sermons are seldom accused of being too entertaining.

Three Minute Hero dissects the notion that pop stardom or any other kind of fame will save us.  Dave and Ash show the cost of chasing that fabled three-minute track that will awaken a generation.  Setren mercifully keeps us laughing while we examine the generation that looks to a three-minute track for salvation.




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