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The Elephant in the Room

by on 5 April 2019

Kick and Punch, or Dance and Flirt?

The Elephant in the Room

Chronologics Theatre Company at The Hen and Chickens, Islington until 6th April

Review by Denis Valentine

Upon entering the theatre at The Hen and Chickens, the audience is straightaway given a sense of the 1920s. They are taken back to this time by the music and by a busy tailor, who greets each person as he tends to his shop. It makes for a fun pre-opening and sets the stage for the night’s events well.

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One of the standout features that The Elephant in the Room company has put together are the set pieces which are well worked and used to brilliant effect. At one point the way we see the two gangs going about their robberies in back to back scenes is striking. The male group use the rough-house tactics one might expect from such a gang – kick in the door, throw some punches and bully your way to the prize (the fight choreography and execution is excellent throughout) – whereas conversely in the next scene the audience is treated to a musical piece where the women dance and flirt their way to profit. The coordination and subtlety of the onstage pickpocketing is very well worked and serves to highlight one of the core themes of the play.

The multi-role playing is very strongly handled and there were moments where it genuinely seemed a brand new actor had entered the scene, even though they had been on stage seconds earlier. The changes that the players make in their voices and body postures so quickly is quite stunning at times. Adam Ralph Moysen as the poor robbed tailor, who begins the play as the plummy tailor who greeted the audience so eloquently upon arrival, suddenly transforms into street gang member Walter McDonald and is quite unrecognisable from the person we saw moments before.

Melanie Crossey as Alice Diamond grows into the performance and by the end is firmly established as the cunningly brilliant criminal boss she is. At points in the opening thirty minutes, she at times felt a little rushed in her delivery but by the conclusion of the play had settled into a strong performance. Her closing line of the play brings an end to proceedings and leaves the audience thinking not only of the story but of its bigger message and the way examples of stories like it can definitely be found throughout history.

Joe Cavendish as Harry Harcourt gives a strong performance, with a well measured and strong grasp of the character he is portraying. A steady presence as the leader, he really allows everyone else in the gang to play off of him well.

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Heather Smith, Jack Eccles and Martin Fox handle all their characters well and make the most out of each one they get to play. Each have scene stealing moments and it is testimony to strong character performances that the audience is left with a desire and interest to see more of the side characters if only the play allowed.

Bethan Barnard is very engaging to watch on stage as her character Baby Face Mags is a key figure for many of the themes of the play. It is poignant that her own love interest underestimates her ability and sees her as a damsel in distress in need of saving rather than a criminal of equal (better) ability, which leads to everything unravelling.

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The cockney accent is not an easy one to pull off and maintain, and although certain words have the wrong inclination and there were a few line slips, the world of the play is never broken as each player on stage is clearly relishing and living the character they are in.

Special mention must go to the wonderfully crafted scene in which the two gangs plan the heist. It is a setup that is slick and so well created that the play suddenly feels like it is channelling Oceans 11 at its stylish heist best.

The way the actors in the piece seemingly relaxed more into the performance is evident from how the jokes and moments seemed to land with the audience better as the play went on. Giving the setups and punch-lines to scenes that extra moment to breathe and land really led to a very fine show, which became more enjoyable the longer it went on.

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The Elephant in the Room is well acted, with a recognisable story that not only entertains but also educates. The company’s bold choices in staging and physicality elevate proceedings and make a stage with minimal set always feel full. A fast pace and tight running time make for a fun and enjoyable evening of theatre that keeps you thinking about its core theme afterwards.

Denis Valentine
April 2019

Photography by Josie Ship

From → Drama, Fringe, Reviews

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