I sample the King’s Head Theatre’s Springboard festival with Grey Widow and Babydoll
“Whatever this is, I like it”
There’s something so pleasing about the way London fringe theatres were able to jump into the gap caused by VAULT 2022’s necessary cancellation, venues from Clapham Omnibus to the Park rapidly putting together seasons that at least some of the companies left high and dry have been able to put on their shows. The King’s Head Theatre have also got in on the act with Springboard, an early careers theatre festival wth a queer bent that has also been able to rehome some of the VAULTless.
Grey Widow is one such show, and we should all be grateful that it lives on as it is an absolute corker. A one-man-play? No ma’am, this is a one-queen-comedy-of-horrors and wickedly enjoyable. Writer and performer Lady Aria Grey (AKA Callum Tilbury) is marking the death of her husband of 27 years, except although she’s in black, she’s hardly in mourning and she proceeds to spend the next hour telling us why through a refreshing take on the monologue genre, enlivened with lipsyncing and some lascivious humour.
Grey emerges as a fabulously outré performer, her entrance here is to die for and quite frankly, I could have watched her just work the line for the entire show it’s so well done. But as she settles into her chair and starts to reveal the secrets behind their marriage, there’s a devilish glint in her eye which tells us there’s a lot more in store here. Alex McCarthy’s direction keeps things tucked tight for the most part but I will need a spin-off about Victoria though, love that b*tch and her Waitrose wine!
Also running this week is Meg Wilson’s Babydoll, a tenderly interesting new play and a queer love story with a difference. Zeena’s meet-cute with Billie is most unexpected as it comes when the former’s boss books the latter as an escort. But there’s a connection there that the pair decide to investigate and thus a rather sweet relationship develops, one which has to navigate a world of trouble, not least in Zeena’s own hang-ups about Billie’s work.
Wilson co-directs with Kitty Fox Davis and I LOVED the 50 shades of pink aesthetic of Imogen Melhuish’s design which facilitates the many rapid scene changes. The play starts well with its premise engaging and connecting well but its energy flags just a little towards the end as it rehashes its arguments a little. Demi Wilson-Smith and Dylan Morris perform wholeheartedly though and I am going to start pronouncing dividends the right way now.