THE FALLING SICKNESS
Devised by James Blakey, J.C. Marshall and Tom Mansfield
Theatre in the Mill, Bradford, 2011
Tales from Bradistan
“An intriguing production…really unique…a brilliant production” [read in full]
OH WELL NEVER MIND BYE
by Steven Lally
UNION THEATRE, LONDON, 2009
**** Critics’ Choice
June 25 – July 1 2009
“Steven Lally’s new play rapidly builds into a relentless, meticulous critique of the British media. At the same time, it’s got proper characters and a cracking storyline…Tom Mansfield’s excellently acted production astutely uses the Union’s intimate theatre-in-the-round – the very closeness of the action and proximity of fellow spectators makes the piece all the more urgent and shared…an epitaph for British journalism. This is essential viewing for anyone who cares about the future of our newspapers” Andrew Haydon [read in full]
22 June 2009
“This lively, pugnacious play…raises vital issues about a world in which journalists rely on official handouts rather than investigative reporting…Lally’s arguments hit home: not least the desk-bound nature of modern journalism, the supine dependence on press releases and the subordination of truth to job security…Tom Mansfield’s production is ebulliently acted by Susanna Fiore as the defiant Charlotte, Benjamin Peters as the blackmailing news editor, and Matthew Duggan and Charlotte Flintham as the hacks caught in the middle. It’s a play guaranteed to make journalists twitch uncomfortably in their seats.”Michael Billington [read in full]
“Oh Well Never Mind Bye is a searing indictment of the current state of British journalism, examining the trade when it is stretched to its limit and finding it unable to deal with complexity, controversy or the basic reporting of facts. The realism of the play is brilliantly brought out by a confident cast, each of whom have doppelgangers in the newsrooms of the Telegraph, Mail and Mirror…the events, emphasis, characters and overarching analysis of the play are too painfully based on the truth.” Brendan Montague [read in full]
The Guardian Arts Blog
23 June 2005
“To some reporters from some newsrooms, the scenes and the characters will trigger a sense of deja vu: in this fictional newsroom, initiative and a search for the truth is secondary to toeing the line, with the news editor using a mix of passive-aggressive bullying and humiliation to neutralise dissent…Those who believe news journalism has to have a future for our democracy to function should be pleased people still care enough to write and stage such a play…it’s a production deserving of a wider audience – something that applies to proper news journalism too.” Vikram Dodd, Crime Correspondent for The Guardian who has covered the de Menezes case since 2005. [Read in full]
29 June 2009
“Steven Lally…provides urgency and force through his sharp, spare dialogue. Every journalist should see this play, and most will squirm with embarrassment. Anyone interested in the media should also spend a couple of hours underneath the arches. It’s a play with a point, but it’s also funny and entertaining.” Daniel Nelson [read in full]
The Electronic Intifada
“A genuinely brave piece of writing…A play dealing with these weighty topics could easily be tedious, didactic and hectoring. But Lally’s great achievement in Oh Well Never Mind Bye is to write something which is also very funny.” Sarah Irving [read in full]
THE 22ND JULY PROJECT
VARIOUS, LONDON 2006-2009
“Current Accounts: Upstart, terrorism, and Tom Mansfield”
Nick Awde, 20 April 2006
Difficult issues surrounding terrorism are being addressed head on by a theatre company determined to bring those affected together, discovers Nick Awde.
With countless questions still unanswered over the fatal shooting by police of Jean Charles de Menezes last year, a London-based theatre company has committed itself to developing a provocative piece of urban drama. Upstart’s 22 July Project examines London’s response to the latest wave of terrorist bomb attacks and asks how can an event such as the killing of the Brazilian electrician happen?
Though the project is a continuously evolving work, director Tom Mansfield says the underlying theme will remain unchanged. “We are looking at the context of London after the 7/7 bombings as well as after 9/11 and the way life has changed for Londoners, particularly ordinary Londoners who don’t look like nice, white, middle-class people.”
WATER SCULPTURES / ZOO
by Dawn King
UNION THEATRE, LONDON, 2008
Time Out – Online Reader Reviews
“2012. The Olympics are in town and London is drowning. An interesting (and topical given the current downpour) premise for Water Sculptures leads to an exploration of self for three very different characters. Well acted and tightly directed, this play is worth an evening out.” K Singer
“Zoo and Water Sculptures sit very well together and make for an extremely enjoyable evening’s entertainment. Both scripts are tight and well-written and the performance standards in both plays superb.
My favourite of the two plays is Water Sculptures and I can see why the Production decided to save the best until last! Spend the money, go see the two plays and you’ll have a fun evening out.” Christopher Nicholson
“Zoo and Water Sculptures are powerfully written and effectively realised, acerbically funny and unexpectedly poignant. King shows a biting and relentless wit in her plays about self preservation and the nature of survival. See them before it’s too late!” Will Davis
“Water Sculptures and Zoomake for a well-matched pair of darkly funny, unsettling pieces about a pre and post-apocalyptic world. The eerie design transforms the Union Theatre into a kind of postmodern hell while the writing and wry performances still make us laugh despite ourselves.” Sarah Sigal
“I really enjoyed both of these totally original plays. The direction and acting of both were refreshing and engaging. A very different experience to the usual and conventional London theatre out there.” Laura Hennessy
“It is so refreshing to see work that is willing to go to the extremes and not pull any punches. A definite must see.” Joseph Coelho
“Great writing, fast paced, humorous but most importantly, thought provoking. Talented crew and cast make this night one not to be missed.” Jason Piper
London SE1 Online
Leigh Hatts, 16 May 08
Water Sculptures is very well cast with three characters reflecting in August 2012 on the just opened Olympic Games. The weather is hot and London feels on show and good. The national flags fluttering in the breeze impress Ryan, played by Luke Owen, who works in a Croydon office. There staff are glued to the television coverage.
Athlete Jo, played by slim Rebecca Kenyon, looks really fit as she recalls her years of training. Only success seems possible. Kumar, played by Shash Lall-Williamson, is an artist finding sucess and also dreaming of coming recognition.
Suddenly the Lee Valley is hit by a mega flood forcing these three characters together at the top of a building. They are not the only survivors but as with small groups in disaster-hit Burma today they are not priority for the emergency services.
Jo is recognised as famous by Ryan and Jo recalls reading about Kumar’s controversial art. The flood means disaster for Jo robbed of a race and Kumar who sees his artworks disappear into the water. But Ryan has been robbed only of a boring job. There is frustration, hurt and flashes of optimism which means that they don’t sit around waiting for ever.
The play is preceded by another Upstart Theatre company production called Zoo. This is set in a closed zoo during another national emergency which has seen the city’s population drop. The best actors are the three animals who with a minimilist stage have a huge task in conveying the idea of caged creatures.
They are required to make animal noises, remain on stage and in character all the time and only occasionally speak. Martin Pirongs is a great tiger along with Nathalie Pownall as a nut-eating slow loris and Jenny Harrold as a chimp happy for freedom. The animals have the last word.
CHICKPEA SICKDAY PICASSO SABOTAGE
by Dawn King
ETCETERA THEATRE / UNION THEATRE, 2006
Chickpea Sickday Picasso Sabotage has to be one of the earliest works on stage to deal with the terror of the London bombings. Four very different commuters give voice to their internal monologue as the train hurtles towards chaos. Author Dawn King creates a powerful scene of twisted bodies writhing in pain and shock, visceral and very human.
Chickpea Sickday Picasso Sabotage is a poignant play about the 7/7 bombings written by Dawn King. Four characters crowd on to a tube preoccupied by their various thoughts and problems but when a bomb explodes their current worries are put into sharp perspective.
by Ethan Lipton
SMIRNOFF UNDERBELLY, EDINBURGH, 2005
Guy Woodward, 27 August 2005
* * * *
This hugely energetic production of Ethan Lipton’s Meat is visceral and startling. Superbly physically directed and frequently hilarious, the play survives its abridgement necessitated by Underbelly schedules and more than succeeds in delivering a hefty kick to the audience’s collective pants.
Until the play’s bloody conclusion, the action is split between two animal communities. Half concerns a trio of dogs, eking out a paw to mouth existence on the mean backstreets of an anonymous American metropolis, scuffling and fighting over slabs of meat, slaves to their pure animal lust for food and sex. We meet Heinz, a troubled and confused ex police dog, Willy, his intemperate and high pitched accomplice, and Poopsy, a deceptively tough female pitbull. The other half concerns three female gazelles in the city zoo, engaged in a complex game of social one- upmanship as they attempt to secure the affections of Buck, the herd’s alpha male. These are: queen bitch Babette, her long standing stooge Evelyn, and large bottomed Clara, a new gazelle on the block, initially rather unsure of herself in the face of taunts and jibes.
The contrast between the two groups is brilliantly rendered, and this is testament to an extraordinarily physically skilled cast. The dogs yelp, scream and roll around the stage, crashing into dustbins as they scrap and curse; the gazelles preen and pose on an elevated area like Stepford wives. The message may be writ large – either you eat meat or you are meat – but the real achievement of this production lies in the subtlety of observation. This is an unfairly talented ensemble, but special praise must go to Katrine Bach, who plays Babette with ruthless and sickening fragrancy, the Mary Archer of the gazelle world, and Rebecca Hunter whose boundless energy as Poopsy enlivens some of the weaker moments in the scenes set in the alley. Succulent.
Sally Stott, 24 August 2005
* * * *
Deliciously dark and painfully pleasurable, MEAT is an aggressively intelligent play more about the backstabbing nature of human beings than the “dogs, gazelles and dinner” it uses to represent this. It’s an imaginative idea, where concept never overpowers characters. Best of all, Damien Hirst is nowhere in sight.
When a group of starving dogs attempt to quit eating meat, the extent of their addiction becomes clear and leads to the breakdown of their “humanity”. In contrast, a group of over-fed socialite gazelles create their own bitchy dramas in a zoo, particularly the marvellous Babette, played by Katrine Bach, who uses sex and popularity to do over all her friends.
This is Animal Farm for a consumer generation, where meat ceases to be a lump of flesh and becomes an analogy for money, food, sex and anything else that can be used to control other beings. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, sometimes literally.
The ensemble cast work together with an ease that is a credit both to their acting talent and to the director, Tom Mansfield. Mansfield’s bold style gives the piece a physical energy that is as uncompromising as the play’s title.
Unfortunately this luscious script has been cut to fit the standard hour-long festival slot and really needs longer to explore its multitude of ideas – a lamentable problem, but one that many Fringe shows can but aspire to.
Paul Mitchell, 12th August 2005
* * *
Inspired by the true story of dogs that broke into a zoo in Florida and wiped out the gazelle population, MEAT is dished up as a tart parable of status and society, with a welcome dose of humour on the side. The unwanted dogs reside in the dark back-alleys – with wry regret, they observe how the overwhelming desire for meat distorts their true personalities. The snooty, class-obsessed gazelles are social carnivores, prizing self-promotion and pre-eminence over friendship, blissfully unaware of their place in the food chain. Fine acting ensures this platter has indeed been served “well done”.