Tag Archives: Dave Spencer

“Window” at the Bread & Roses Theatre

I live opposite a big hotel, so I’m careful to draw my curtains in case the view of me spoils anyone’s holiday. But the couple who live opposite two uninhibited youngsters in Ron Elisha’s play aren’t so lucky. From an initial frisson watching their neighbour’s sexual gymnastics, using opera glasses, then bringing in the popcorn, their voyeurism ultimately has distressing consequences.

Idgie Beau plays Grace, whose unbalanced empathy with the young girl across from her leads to neglect of husband and daughter. Beau gives a convincing depiction of mental angst and her character’s developing pregnancy. She and Charles Warner make a great couple that it’s hard not to care about. Warner makes the support his character offers believable and the injections of common sense a dramatic relief.

Director Dave Spencer has secured strong performances but has a misplaced faith in Elisha’s text. Some pretty obvious questions are ignored to look at the ideas around living vicariously and mental health – it’s hard to credit the couple opposite are so ignorant they are being observed – but the concerns feel both forced and undeveloped. And the play’s structure is frustrating: tiny scenes mean we end up watching the cast repeatedly putting on and taking off T-shirts.

Window has a neat idea behind it and is well acted but the themes aren’t given their due and the ending is flat. Like the voyeurism in the play, it may feel worth watching at first but is ultimately unsatisfying.

Until 16 September 2017


Photo by Greg Goodale

“Lovett + Todd” at the King’s Head Theatre

Given the fame of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, It might seem brave, possibly foolhardy, to make another musical about the same subject. I’m no pushover – Sondheim’s masterpiece is one of my favourite pieces – but the Another Soup company has managed to create its own take on the tale of the demon barber admirably. Although it’s hard not to, making comparisons feels unfair; let’s just say Lovett + Todd is sensibly different to ‘that other musical’, with a blissful brand of wicked humour ensuring the work stands happily on its own.

The focus is on the villainous Cornelia Lovett… and her sister, Amelia. Starting with their impecunious lives before London, we discover Amelia has a baby farm that provides infant meat for Cornelia’s cannibal pies. On Fleet Street, Sweeney Todd is captivated by lust for Cornelia and becomes her co-conspirator, puppet and, eventually, fall guy. This neat retelling provides two great female villains. Rachael Garnett is wonderfully sinister as the nefarious baby farmer and Louise Torres-Ryan glorious as the world’s worst baker. Daniel Collard has a more serious job, and provides tension as the confused, sensitive shaver, who is almost redeemed by his remorse.

It’s not just the story that feels freshly reheated – it’s the also the telling. Dave Spencer’s book and Jo Turner’s music grab attention any which way. The lyrics bring laughs and the music is even funnier: a mix of accordion, guitar and keyboards with a barbershop quartet, a faux-romantic ballad and even a tango. A previous version of the show was promenade and you can see vestiges of this in some audience participation (beware the front row). Along with the always welcome opportunity to hear singers unmiked, this show surprises – not least in that it hasn’t bitten off more than it can chew.

Until 1 August 2015


Photo (c) Another Soup