Saturday 23rd October

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The Jack Studio Theatre: Rocks & Hard Places

| Comedy, Culture, Hidden London, Theatre | 01/08/2013

Rocks
Rating:

Breaking 30

It’s always worthwhile taking a few stops on the Overground from Canada Water. Just a short and pleasant walk and you’re at the Jack Studio Theatre in Brockley. This terrific fringe venue sits adjacent a smashing pub that will be even better following refurbishment. For now, we have a Pop-Up Bar and the background tinkling of ivories. Excellent!

‘Rocks and Hard Places’ is a cabaret-ish two-hander of non linking ballads and dialogues. It kicks-off with the nervy ‘Blizzard of Lies’. An alternative title could easily be ‘He Done Her Wrong’ whilst an original Dietrich song proves a highlight of the night. Are you getting the picture…?

Lights go-up on a switchboard operator – no gender-stereotype on my behalf – who turns-table on her berated caller. It’s funny, ghastly, in-your-face hysterical. ‘Busy Line’ is just one of a consistently cracking choice of witty ditties. Great to hear the expert delivery of each tune with faultless projection and enunciation. Programme notes nod to Colin Sell no less. Alex James Ellison provides sympathetic musical accompaniment although greater interaction, cranking-up the machismo, would be amusing.

Two very talented actors, Tanja Mariadoss and Susanna Goldsworthy, demonstrate their enviable range. Tanja convincingly portrays an East End girl who rocks-up at a Reality TV audition. This celebration of sexuality turns horribly serious for all the wrong reasons before incongruously bursting into song in the most macabre ‘let’s-do-the-show-here’ style. It is a clever number though. The evening is packed with teases, turns and tricks like this.

The evergreen ‘Way Over Yonder’ is a tender introduction to a poignant scene about bereavement with some of the best writing of the evening. “The birds just keep on singing…” observes a woman coming to terms with her mother’s death; Goldsworthy evocatively tackling the eternal question of what we need from our parents and what they need from us. Thereafter Mariadoss comes into her prime, in classic Victoria Wood mode, as the desperate wedding-crasher pursuing the most embarrassing speech ever.

The best is saved to last with two ‘Uni’ friends reconnecting via FaceBook over lunch. Black-peppered with the driest humour this saucy skit arrives at an abrupt false-ending, immediately returning to the same table an hour or so later… and again… before reaching another level altogether: flat on the pavement.

Only, could we have had something positive to say about love? Each scene is specifically related to the disaster of a mis-matched partnership. Surely broads can define themselves in broader terms. The poster depicts sad-looking dolls limp on slack strings. Maybe I am missing the point.

Otherwise brilliant writing by Tanja Mariadoss and excellent direction by Amanda Hill. I would recommend this show and – dare I admit – any of my female friends would adore it.

 

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