by Jon Welch.
Pleasance Theatre (Upstairs) Carpenters Mews North Road To 29 November 2014.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7609 1800.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 23 November.
Well-acted relationship gives life in low-energy storyteling.
Anyone who knows Cornwall only through its holiday sunshine advertising may find Jon Welch’s new play, brought to Islington by the county’s Pipeline Theatre, a surprise. For it shows a grey area, without even the romantic after-glow of shut tin mines. Here, instead, is the economic poverty that sucks young women into the sex trade, found in the most depressed of depressed-image towns anywhere in Britain (or beyond).
When Rosa’s high-earning mother dies her dad Toby cannot cope. His business deals go awry and the cheery manner soon blows off like froth when they move down-market. For Toby, vodka replaces water and bluster curdles viciously. He’s on as downward path as their young neighbour, the ashen-wigged Candy, whom Toby, in one of the play’s many Wizard of Oz references, calls the Wicked Witch.
His contempt runs alongside middle-aged lust, prompted by learning the still-hopeful Candy makes a living from webcam sex. Unfortunately, Angus Brown has little to do within the script beyond solo ’phone-calls and drunken knocking on Candy’s door. Welch’s production treads lightly into physical and puppet theatre as masked visions of his dead wife intermix with Candy, and imagined arms reach through his armchair with imagined embraces.
The play’s stronger element is the gradually developing, never intimate relationship between the two young women. Kyla Goodey’s Candy might be a drug addict as she scratches at her arms, though it’s actually nervousness faced with 15-year old Rosa. Yet, as she takes to the role of Dorothy for web sex, it’s evident that, while Candy might survive, Rosa is the one who’ll thrive.
Though the direction might have pushed for more varied tone, energy levels and pacing, both performers create the reality of urban dullness and humanity cramped in the semi-transparent boxes where they are repeatedly on display. Anna Munden, in particular, combines a surface teenage mix of caution and vulnerability, watching events from the sidelines, embarrassedly answering questions about her situation from the neighbour who wants to be friends but starts with no point of lifestyle contact, while trying to handle the father who’s lost control of his life.
Toby: Angus Brown.
Rosa: Anna Munden.
Candy: Kyla Goodey.
Puppeteer: Nix Woods.
Director/Lighting/Sound: Jon Welch.
Co-director/Dramaturge: Benjamin Symes.
Co-designer: Alan Munden.
Co-designer/Puppets/Costume: Jude Munden.