The Best Of The Rest 2010

We all know the big un’s to watch out for in the first few months of 2010; Red, currently running at the Donmar Warehouse, the West End transfers of Enron and Jerusalem, Peter Brook at The Barbican which also houses the eclectic Bite Season for 2010 and work by the legendary Pina Bausch, Trilogy at The BAC and of course the London International Mime Festival.

But what about the smaller venues – not just the BAC’s or The Riverside Studios’ who consistently punch above their weight, but the truly off-piste theatres – The Blue Elephant Theatre, The Royal Vauxhall Tavern and The Cock Tavern to name but a few.  Unlike the big theatres these small houses can only programme up to 3-6 months so no need to book miles in advance – these are things you can see in the very near future so check your pre-planned nature at the door and get a little trigger happy.

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Hello! And the first review of 2010

So….you kinda know what I’m going to say – there was no ‘The Best of 2009′ which in a way is sad because it means I didn’t get to mention It Felt Like A Kiss, Mother Courage, Found In The Ground, Kristen Schall and Kurt Braunohler, Spring Awakening or Cat On A Hat Tin Roof.  But on the other hand it’s always nice to start with something new – and so along with a preview of the New Year and a deeply heartfelt blog on identity in theatre – here is the first review of 2010.  A suitably tub thumping endeavour, LADS is a very pleasant way to start the New Year.

Written for What’s On Stage 09/01/10

In the land of fair Wetherspoons, four rowdy Knights of the Pub Table share their stories of beautiful (if a bit drunken) maidens and battles between (brawling) brothers. Flying under the stylistic banner of the distinctive Steven Berkoff, their tale is a full on ‘wham bam thank you mam’ production, with grotesque physicalization taking centre stage.

Jobless, Actless, Faithless and Dependable, otherwise known as Nick, Jimmy, Paul and Rich are four disparate youths bound inextricably together through the ties of friendship. Whilst heading out for a night on the tiles, they encounter all of the usual obnoxious suspects whilst embarking on a huge amount of drinking – so a standard night out in London then.

But this is not to say that this is a standard piece. Raucous and bombastic LADS is an exhilarating ride, not to mention hugely funny. Writer and director James Kermack’s spot on observations are extended into sharply crafted and theatricalised moments of chorography. The energy of his direction carries you away on the whirlwind of affectionately mundane excitement that everyone feels at the promise of a night out on the town with your pals.

Our four lads are played with great verve by Geoff Breton, Drummond Bowskill, Josh Boyd Rochford and Danny John Noonan. As they embody the rabble that these boys encounter we see greasy bosses and nasal gaggles of girls float caustically in front of our eyes. As they banter with one another the brotherly bond that ties these four Knights together is tangibly there.

Of the four it is Bowskill who steals scenes however, giving a comedy performance that would rival that of all the great buffoons. Infinitely charming Bowskill seems to sit more within a Commedia Dell Arte tradition than the Berkoff that surrounds him.

As with the autocratic Mr Berkoff however, in the midst of all this revelry it all gets a bit much. This company are forcefully leading their audience by the hand instead of inviting us to follow them and awkwardly, at points, it feels a little like an edition of Nuts with the agony aunt page at the end.

But even if Kermack falls down in the more naturalistic scenes, LADS is still a textured and confident piece of theatre which shows the emergence of a strong talent. Shakespeare it’s not, but for pure balls out entertainment, LADS is guaranteed to blow away the January doldrums.

Runs until 23rd January 2010. For more details go to the Canal Cafe Theatre