It’s Nicky’s annual work appraisal, but the boss seems more interested in practising his golf swing than putting in the appropriate preparation. You can tell from her body language that she’s not comfortable with his managerial style, but she goes along with it. Before long it becomes apparent that both characters have their own agenda, but which one will end up holding all the cards? Tim Marriott plays the boss in his own play and it’s a nicely underplayed, quiet, slightly unsettling performance; and Angela Bull plays Nicky, barely able to contain her annoyance and disdain for her manager. It’s an enjoyable play, perhaps slightly unbelievable that an appraisal would actually develop in the way that it does, but I did like the way it exposed how a bad boss can gaslight his employees by denying almost everything he has said – it’s just like the current government! Also, a complete hats-off to Tim Marriott for carrying on whilst suffering from a nosebleed for the first half of the show; that must have been tremendously difficult to manage but he was a super trouper!
Groomed, Pleasance Dome.
Patrick Sandford’s personal account of a childhood blighted by sexual abuse at the hands of his teacher; a blight that has never really gone away. It’s a very powerful and impressive piece of writing, and a very emotional performance; particularly memorable when he attempts to get into the mind of his own abuser and “justifies” his actions, as well as remembering himself as a boy wondering if it’s his own dirtiness that has somehow caused it. I had no idea that childhood sexual abuse is as prevalent as it is – he tells us it’s estimated that it happens to one in four children in Ireland, and in the UK one in three girls and one in six boys. What is particularly impressive is Mr Sandford’s drive to find a positive solution to the problem, to try to prevent paedophiles from committing their crimes by offering them non-judgemental, thoroughly professional counselling in an attempt to deter them from carrying out their sexual desires. There’s a helpful musical contribution from a saxophonist which both breaks up the tension and punctuates it, as well as revealing how Adolphe Sax also survived his childhood against all the odds. A memorable and important contribution to our understanding of paedophilia and the appalling scars it leaves.
Njambi McGrath was born in Kenya but now lives in London, and she takes us through the perils of colonisation and points out some humorous observations of what the British did to her homeland, whilst never losing sight of the seriousness of the issue. There’s some very good material here – and there’s also quite a lot to make a native Brit feel uncomfortable. She’s a strong storyteller with an excellent stage presence; perhaps the overall effect of the hour is that it’s a little too intense – there’s not a lot of light and shade, or an opportunity to take in and reflect on her observations before moving on to the next one. But it’s an entertaining show and I for one am not going to complain about white western privilege.
William Thompson: The Hand You’re Dealt, Pleasance Courtyard.
William Thompson has cerebral palsy and this show deals with how the condition affects him and the extent to which it affected his upbringing. But it’s not a sorrowful story of having to survive the hand you’re dealt, it’s a positive meander through a Belfast childhood, his caring adopted mum, his belligerent dad and his rough and ready schooldays. He has a terrific attacking style and some excellent original material. The show needs a bit more of a final punch, but he’s a likeable lad and he connects really well with his audience. Lots to laugh at and to recognise!
1984, Assembly Roxy.
The appropriately named Proletariat Productions’ 1984 takes Orwell’s novel and specifically concentrates on Winston Smith’s imprisonment and punishment at the hands of the self-styled Ministry of Love, including his treatment in his own Room 101. It certainly serves to disturb and terrify its audience with some ruthless stage-torture, although the excessive amount of the story that’s told on film – that you feel could be even better performed live on stage – outweighs the live action, so that it feels a rather lopsided and unbalanced presentation. The filmed content is also quite low quality (deliberately so, I feel) in order to add to the sense of detachment and unreality. So while it’s fairly successful at conveying some of Orwell’s message, it’s not that successful in providing that buzz that only a live theatrical event can create. Excellent live performances though – there’s no doubting the cast’s commitment to the production.