Theatre & music reviews from around Islington

END OF THE PIER at Park Theatre until 11 August 2018

When comedy gets serious

End of The Pierby Danny Robins, playing at the Park Theatre until 11 August 2018, definitely gets people talking. If only he could have overheard the book group halting discussion about All Quiet On The Western Frontwhile three of us debated his play’s pluses and minuses. Soon the other five members were split about wanting to see it, or not.

End of The Pier showcases the different ways funny men (and women, if there had been any that were acting funny) can go when they want to get laughs out of an audience. What we learnt is that comedy always has a victim and getting a laugh is addictive. It reminded me of a friend in the 1990s who always took anti-depressants before she went to a comedy club, just in case…

I was fascinated by the ideas this play thanks to being coaxed to give up my dog walk the previous Friday evening and watch free comedy at T-Bird on Blackstock Road (on every week, starts at 8pm). We actually went into the show with the dog who I swear rolled his eyes before falling asleep on the wooden floor.

Free comedy every Friday, 8pm at T-Bird, 132 Blackstock Road, N4 2DX. I’ll definitely be going again – maybe without the dog. (c) islington faces

That hot night in June (blame the football) there were five acts, and slightly less audience. This meant that the turns who relied on audience participation were forced to dissect my husband and myself for humour. This wasn’t that funny for us… (nor for them).

Still it did transform Pete and me into comedy critics, which was good timing before End Of The Pier. Nice as it is to get people laughing, I’ve no hunger to tell jokes, do stand-up, observational comedy or the next big thing that gets the giggles. Playwrite Danny Robins has found a neat way to try every form of comedy by piling it into this mostly well-crafted play. The first half is old-fashioned fun – tension between father (played by Les Dennis) and son’s methodology. The second is much more shocking (for those who identify with what seems to be becoming an old-fashioned liberal lefty viewpoint), but is lifted by an extremely funny section (acted by Nitin Ganatra).

It’s the shocking bit that got the book club talking. Is this a racist show? It shows bad behaviour and characters telling it (from their point of view) like it is. I was reminded by the way people will say, “I’m not a racist, but…” and invariably then speak a sentence that is surely racist. As a result, there were times when I really wanted to heckle.  But this is theatre not stand-up, so I kept quiet. A lesson well learnt from that walk-in comedy night.

Perhaps End of The Pierisn’t pushing (or even identifying) some right wing agenda. Perhaps it is better to believe that Danny Robins is an extremely sympathetic writer who can transform characters so that we can both laugh with them and loathe their actions. There is also no doubt that he’s cruel to the Director of Comedy – it’s not spoiling the joke to point out that she has no sense of humour or irony (played by Tala Gouveia). But to keep the plot moving some of the characters do very strange things that don’t seem in keeping with who we’ve got to know, particularly in the second act.

I think you should go see and report back.

  • End of the Pierby Danny Robbins is at the Park Theatre until 11 August. Tickets parktheatre.co.uk 020 7870 6876. Nearest tube is Finsbury Park.
  • Free Comedy every Friday (8pm) at T Bird, 132 Blackstock Road, N4 2DX. FREE. Plus you can try two comedy cocktails for ÂŁ10.

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Deny, Deny, Deny by Jonathan Maitland is at the Park Theatre from 2 Nov-3 Dec 2016. Definitely go.

Deny, Deny, Deny by Jonathan Maitland is at the Park Theatre from 2 Nov-3 Dec 2016. Definitely go.

DENY, DENY, DENY at the Park Theatre from 2 Nov- 3 Dec, 2016.
By Jonathan Maitland
VERDICT: Go!
Islington Faces *****
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Deny, Deny, Deny is a play about a sprinter (Eve/Juma Sharkah) who wants to win a particular championship. When she meets a forceful coach (Rona, played with aplomb by Zoe Waites) she begins to realise just what she has to do to get that gold. The play works incredibly well because it’s posing a huge moral question. What would you do to get what you want? And if it was legal (because science and sports doping hadn’t caught up with it yet) would you cross the line to get that gold?

Allegedly the first rule of the doper is to “deny, deny, deny” – that’s where the title comes from. It’s a great play because the audience cannot resist working out what their ethical position would be. In the interval after the first half the audience was buzzing with conversation as complete strangers tried to grapple with what was acceptable, or not.

All the actors did a great job – but the two athletes sparkled (Eve’s rival/training partner Joyce was played by Shvorne Marks). There’s even an attempt to untangle the rules by a legal pundit (played by Sarah Finigan) which helped remind the audience just how much sport is willing to make use of science in the quest to shave off an extra second at the championship.

I went to Deny Deny Deny with my husband – a sports journalist who thoroughly enjoyed the poison Rona-the-coach threw at his profession while attacking Tom/Daniel Fraser who is both love interest and investigative hack. I also took my teenage daughter who loves to debate – she was riveted by the writing and also really liked the futuristic feeling, so different from the texts she is studying for GCSE (Jane Eyre, Macbeth and An Inspcctor Calls). Two days on the three of us are still discussing the play, surely a result.

If you decide to go to see Deny, Deny, Deny do let Islington Faces know. Hope you enjoy the show.

Don't miss The Roundabout at Park Theatre with Bessie Carter (c) Robert Workman

Don’t miss The Roundabout at Park Theatre with Bessie Carter (c) Robert Workman

THE ROUNDABOUT – at the Park Theatre until 24 September 2016 (published 29/8/16)

Review by Nicola & Saira

Review by Nicola & Saira

Thanks to J B Priestley’s wit (and the fact that An Inspector Calls is on the GCSE English syllabus) he is a well-known playwright. But now that one of his lost comedy of manners, The Roundabout, is showing at Park Theatre expect renewed interest in this early 20th century wordsmith.

Ideally book tickets to see it for yourself, not just because The Roundabout has some fabulous laugh-out-loud lines, but also to enjoy seeing the talented Bessie Carter.

The Roundabout cast pose for pix after their first performance at Park Theatre (c) Islington Faces

The Roundabout cast pose for pix after their first performance at Park Theatre (c) Islington Faces

The plot (without spoilers)

Bessie Carter – daughter of Archway-born Imelda Staunton and her husband Jim Carter (from Downton Abbey) – is a perfect Pamela. It’s the 1930s – cue ace set at the Park 200. Pamela has just returned from Communist Russia bringing a nauseating comrade (Staggers played by Steven Blakeley who you might know from Heartbeat) to stay unexpectedly with the father her mother left 10 years ago.

Fab 1930s set for The Roundabout at Park Theatre

Fab 1930s set for The Roundabout at Park Theatre

For her father (Lord Kettlewell played by Brian Protheroe) it’s a nightmare weekend. Problems beset him including a demanding mistress, his failing business, staff unrest (because it’s the 30s and things are changing in Britain) plus his efforts to get to know his stroppy adult daughter. All rich comic seams.

The audience loved it.

My friend Saira, who grew up in Delhi, was delighted by the money-making schemes of Lady Knightsbridge (a well-cast Richenda Carey) in particular her “is there any money in it” quest to find a planting job in the far East for one of her protégées in rubber, tea or – growing desperate – curry.

And I relished the fabulous one-liners Priestly gives to the professional country house weekender Churton Saunders (played by Hugh Sachs) who loves the good life of Cuban cigars and expensive brandy.

Saira gets a selfie with Bessie Carter at the after show party for The Roundabout. (c) Islington Faces

Saira gets a selfie with Bessie Carter at the after show party for The Roundabout. (c) Islington Faces

VERDICT:

Islington Faces thought this was great fun, ideal for any age from 11 up.

Cast includes: Steven Blakeley, Lisa Bowerman, Bessie Carter, Richenda Carey, Charlie Field, Derek Hutchinson, Annie Jackson, Ed Pinker, Brian Protheroe, Hugh Sachs and Carol Starks.

Tickets available from https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/the-roundabout