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As Real as Anything

by on 6 July 2022

Break Down Recovery

As Real as Anything

by Andrew Cartmel

Thursday Theatre at the Hen and Chickens, Highbury until 9th July

Review by Heather Moulson

Things looked promising as we came in to a set dominated by a sofa, surrounded by vibrant art on the walls, and an inevitable drinks table, reminiscent of Abigail’s Party, an emphasis that this was someone’s home, and a backdrop for tension.  The home in As Real as Anything is that of theatrical professionals, Duncan and Gwen.  The setting also gave a promising entrance by the highly watchable Alasdair Shanks’ Duncan, a floundering theatre director bickering with his wife, Gwen, a producer … and also on shaky ground.  Gwen was played by Rosie Edwards, who despite giving a skilled performance, seemed too young for the role.  However, this did not hold back her strong stage presence   

We were joined by weekend guests, Jake and Rosie, a playwright and actor respectively.  This couple of characters were also on shaky ground. All four stars were dimming and desperation was passed round like canapés.    Denim-clad Jake, played by Jamie Hutchins, went all out to be an enfant terrible working-class writer, while his spouse, played by Kelsey Short, was the actor desperate to recapture former stardom.  However while this was beautifully done, it bordered on hardness.     

Things unravelled alarmingly fast, and Duncan’s and Rosie’s past affair came to light, against the background of Gwen and Jake forming a strong bond.  There was a nice build-up of tension as Duncan fell into his role as director and worked as such with Rosie, the actress who had to rework her role, now as an older woman.  Bringing both relationships to the cusp of ruination, the transformation and its breaking down was tangibly felt and the actors truly excelled. 

The penultimate scene was a calculated stripping away of personal artefacts carried out in blackness by the cast.  However this made the ending a bit flat more than symbolic.  The only ending it could be perhaps, but anti-climax was in the air. 

Lighting by Edmund Sutton was moody and sensitive, especially during Rosie’s acting scene, and the soundtrack was apt and enticing.  The set was nicely designed, with stunning artwork by Sarah Jane Docker.  Strong dialogue and real human situations written by Andrew Cartmel and detailed direction by Jenny Eastop, who has an impressive background, made As Real as Anything one to look out for. 

Heather Moulson, July 2022

Photography by Conrad Blakemore

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