Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Put That in Your Pipe and Smoke it – review

Etcetera Theatre, London

The ‘Pay Nothing, Play Anything’ festival at the Etcetera Theatre offers a fantastic opportunity for small and/or upcoming companies to experiment, to show something new and original, to showcase some incredible talent. Latissimus Productions don’t quite manage to take advantage of this with their double bill of short Chekhov plays, but they do manage to provide a neat little production, which should provide a few chuckles. 

First on the bill is On the Harmful Effects of Tobacco, where Nyukin (Marcio Mello), a geeky Clark Kent sort, nervously discusses with the audience his relationship with his wife and daughter under the pretence of giving a lecture, the subject of which being the play’s title. Mello handled the part well, although occasionally the nervousness he portrayed resulted in what felt like him rushing through the piece. The climactically violent fight he had with his jacket was suitably entertaining, capably straddling the line between comedy and tragedy as he broke down.

The other piece of the evening, The Bear, showed the grieving widow Popova (Lisa Stuart) as she tries to settle (or not) her late husband's debts with Mello’s second character for the evening, Smirnov. The highlight of this piece, and indeed the evening, was Jodyanne Richardson’s performance of Luka, Popova’s maid. Richardson’s Vodka-guzzling, flustered, and loveably doddery physicality was a delight to watch, and her out of time singing in the opening was comically brilliant.

Stuart and Mello competently played on an underlying sexual tension, although in comparison to Richardson, their movements felt very rehearsed and didn’t allow for a good flow; Mello’s pacing to portray his anger as an example. The piece just didn't have any strong direction, for a play that is supposedly an exploration of human nature it was quite two-dimensional.

This was an enjoyable enough duo of performances; they just lacked any originality. For a festival that invites the new and exciting, a simple performance of Chekov’s scripts was a bit of a let down, and lacked any real relevance.

This production was part of the PNPA festival which runs throughout January.

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