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Lago Season: Revelation 1:18., No Help Sent, Wine (Susan Elkin reviews)

society/company: West End & Fringe (directory)
performance date: 20 Sep 2018
venue: Tristan Bates Theatre, 1A Tower St, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9NP
 

★★★★

One writer, three plays, six actors and three directors: it’s a lot to take in on a single evening as I did on press night but it makes for pretty arresting rep season for which this young company, founded by talented LIPA graduates, have worked long and hard.

I have seen both No Help Sent and Wine in fully staged productions before and I attended a rehearsed reading of Revelation 1:18 so none of it was completely new to me but, of course, each piece has developed and become more polished over time and it’s interesting to see them all together because you notice things you otherwise might not.

For instance, each play is set in a living room so they can more or less share a set. I am struck afresh by the accomplished naturalness of Jack West’s dialogue too and the skilled use these actors make of dramatic silences. Slightly less positively I also spotted, for the first time, that West’s characters say “Seriously?” far too often and once you’ve noticed it becomes a bit of an irritant. That’s a minor gripe, though.

The enigmatic, academic title of the first play refers to a not very well known verse from the Bible which runs: “I am he that liveth and was dead; and, behold I am alive for evermore, Amen”. The play presents – with a lot of humour – a three man rock band who have just hit the big time. Cause for celebration and joy? Well, possibly but how do you hang on to fame for ever? Directed by Jack West, actors Oliver Buckner, Rob Hadden and Joshua Glenister work beautifully together with Buckner being especially watchable as they slowly bend to each other’s point of view. It will be a while before I forget Glenister’s quivering, terrified face at the end.

Directed by Scott Le Crass, Buckner is also outstanding in No Help Sent (NHS – get it?) in which he plays a testicular cancer sufferer in a profit-driven Britain which has just privatised its health service. There is no money for further treatment. Buckner finds vulnerability, anger, distress, resignation in the character and is charismatically compelling. His flat mates, played by Glenister, Hadden and Peter Lofsgaard try to help but are, actually, helpless in every sense. There are some interesting ideas in this play although, of the three pieces, I like it the least. At times it strays too close to becoming a clunky political polemic and the doctor kidnapping incident simply jars with implausibility – good as Tobi Falade (very expressive eyes) is in the role.

Wine is a fine two hander in which Harriet Clarke as Sam and Tobi Falade as Mark try to rekindle their relationship, which ended a year earlier, and gradually reveal the huge, controversial issue which scuppered it in the first place. Both actors listen actively and play off each other with the sort of skill which makes the situation very convincing. The body language is striking too as their initial awkwardness subsides to be replaced by real conversation, mutual attraction and, finally, the issue. There’s a great deal of anguish here and, directed by Harry Blumenau, the play is powerful in its understatement.

All these plays are worth seeing either separately or together. Lago Theatre have achieved a lot in a relatively short time and I’m interested to see what they do next. I hope, for example, that West will create a few more female roles soon.

First published by Sardines: http://www.sardinesmagazine.co.uk/reviews/review.php?REVIEW-West%20End%20&%20Fringe-Lago%20Season:%20%27Revelation%201:18%27%20%27No%20Help%20Sent%27%20%27Wine%27%20-%20%E2%98%85%E2%98%85%E2%98%85%E2%98%85&reviewsID=3326
 
 
 
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Susan Elkin
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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