Writers: Katie McCullough &M.J. Starling
Director: Ellie Pitkin
Reviewer: Deborah Klayman
Sometimes, in order to uncover a theatrical gem one has to go a little further afield. This is one such time, as unless you make the effort (or happen to live near The Selkirk in Tooting) you will miss out on a rare chance to see some outstanding new writing. Both plays on the double bill are brilliantly written and superbly acted, with ingenious staging that seems a practical impossibility in the confines Selkirk’s upstairs room.
First up is Katie McCullough’s London Pride, a three-hander set – conveniently – in a London pub. Fiona Skinner’s Shelly is every inch the loveable landlady, played with sincerity and depth while hitting every comedic line on the nose. Tom Slattergives a buoyant performance as her employee, Pavel, and Martin Behrman is convincing as Joe, the resident bar-fixture. The relationships between the three are interesting and believable, with telling exchanges between Shelly and the boys that allude to a darker story behind her smile. The dialogue is fluid, and the episodic nature gives the piece pace and drive. The only drawback comes in its rather abrupt ending, which is a little unsatisfying given the promise delivered in terms of character. It felt somewhat unfinished, which only raises the question of whether or not the play could be developed into a longer piece – one can only hope.
The second half was Audience with the Ghost Finder by M.J. Starling, an original play starring William Hope Hodgson’s classic character Thomas Carnacki. Adopting the tone and style of the 1900s, Starling’s piece deftly wove Carnacki’s existing persona into the tale at hand, a story of his struggle to understand and effect the ab-natural world. Engaged to save a young woman from a family curse, Alexander Pankhurst’s Carnacki is intriguing and terribly funny all at once, giving a performance both entirely convincing and extremely enjoyable. Pitkin’s extraordinary direction adds to the thriller aspect of the piece, while the multiple uses of the same prop for innumerable purposes was a stroke of genius. So too was the casting of Ceridwen Smith as, in addition to her faultless performance in each of her three rôles, her costume and character changes were both convincing and seamless.
Without doubt the entire Blackshaw team have devoted a lot of time, effort and skill to staging these plays – and all of the hard work has certainly paid off. Whether you are an avid supporter of new writing or just enjoy an entertaining night at the theatre, this is an evening that will make you very glad you made the effort.