Lullabies for the Lost by Rosalind Blessed. The Old Red Lion Theatre, 418 St John Street, London EC1V to 1 February 2020. 4 ****. William Russell

Lullabies for the Lost
By Rosalind Blessed
The Old Red Lion Theatre, 418 St John Street, Islington, London EC1V 4WJ to 1 February 2020.
It is running in tandem with The Delights of Dogs and the Problems of People also by Rosalind Blessed.
Dates for Lullabies – 15,17,18m21m23,25,29,31 January at 7.30pm.
Mat: 11, 12, 19 January and 1 February at 3pm.
TICKETS: 0333 012 4953.
Review: William Russell 9 January.

A collection of people who face problems with life appear trapped in a room from which it is possible to leave once they have faced up to their problem. It could be a real room, or imaginary. But somehow they have been gathered together and in turn they explain what the problem they have so far failed to cope with happens to be. Rosalind Blessed’s play is basically a series of monologues with in between the eight people trapped arguing about their behaviour. It opens with the arrival of Larry (Chris Porter), who is cursed with an inability to meet people, to make up his mind, and inevitably chickens out at the last minute. He is amusing, interesting and infuriating and cannot understand how he has ended up with these people. In turn we discover someone is anorexic, bulimic, childless, addicted to hoarding, obsessed about being fat, but all have mental problems. Blessed has apparently firsthand experience and she has created a series of funny, sad, frightening tales delivered with considerable resource by a first rate cast, not least herself – she has a lovely diatribe about actors who mumble in Netflix productions which she delivers with a clarity clearly inherited from her Dad, and a gruesome one involving a Chinese take away and being bulimic.
The other play, which I did not see, is a two hander about domestic abuse and about how rescue dogs can help people overcome their problems. In Lullabies Andy (Chris Pybus) is trapped in his house unable to go out, staying in an ever increasingly slovenly bed until he acquires his dog, a bull terrier bitch who adores him, who has to be taken for walks and he must take her – he is the first to escape from the prison of his problem and this strange not quite a mental hospital room. Director Zoe Ford Burnett keeps her players involved in the stories being told, and what could have been simply a static collection of monologues becomes a shared experience – one worth sharing. It is a question of stopping seeing only the dark and turning to the light – and somehow all but one manage to escape when that locked door opens. It may well help people with mental problems, the kind one can have but still somehow carry on in society keeping them hidden, and man’s best friend may indeed be part of escaping from the problem. But as a piece of theatre, it certainly works very well indeed and what could have been didactic proves rewarding theatre.
Sarah: Helen Bang.
Jez: Nick Murphey.
Tim: Liam Mulvey.
Larry: Chris Porter.
Andy: Chris Pybus.
Nerys: Kate Tydman.
Ash: Duncan Wilkins.
Robin: Rosalind Blessed.
And on video – Hildegarde Neil.

Director: Zoe Ford Burnett.
Design: Anna Kezia Williams.
Filming: Patrick Myles.
Lighting: Mark Dymock.
Sound Design: Matt Eaton.
Production Photographs: AdamTrigg.
The Delights of Dogs and the Problems of People is performed by Duncan Wilkins & Rosalind Blessed & directed by Caroline Devlin.

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