Review: Cover Her Face, Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club

“In what a shadow or deep pit of darkness doth womanish and fearful mankind live”

Gemma Arterton may have the part of the willowy ingénue down pat in The Duchess of Malfi at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse just now but over in the earthier environment of the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, something much more radical is happening. Cover Her Face is a new version of John Webster’s 1613 work which relocates the play to the queer subculture of 1950s London, Malfi being the club at the centre of the scene, and third gender writer/performer La JohnJoseph its transgender Duchess.

Daniel Fulvio and Martin Moriarty’s reworking for Inky Cloak is a bold move but one which pays richly evocative rewards. The shifting of the narrative onto a trans focus possesses an aching urgency – JohnJoseph’s Duchess longing for love and marriage and the freedom to live as a woman, yet cruelly constrained by the conservatism of her two brothers – malevolent twin Ferdinand and the closeted Minister. Their uneasy arrangement is shattered though by arrival of the handsome Antonio. with predictably tragic consequences. Continue reading “Review: Cover Her Face, Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club”

Review: The Deep Space, Old Red Lion

“People look their most beautiful when they’re about to cry…”

Lancashire-born Lila Whelan’s debut play The Deep Space follows in the steps of last year’s extremely well-received Mercury Fur in identifying the Old Red Lion as an excellent theatre to put on claustrophobically intimate and emotionally intense pieces of drama. And whilst this is ostensibly a subtler affair than Ridley, Whelan has constructed a perceptively layered play which unwinds and uncoils with a measured precision as a conversation between two women in a nondescript interrogation room somewhere in the north of England delves into the depths of genuine psychological horror.

The sharply-suited Caitlin is a New York-based lawyer-type figure meeting with Sam, a mother whose family has died in a house fire but as she slowly teases the story from her reluctant client, terrible secrets come tumbling from the closets of both women. To say much more is to get dangerously close to spoiler territory, but it isn’t saying too much to say that it is upon this crucial relationship that the show hinges and it delivers it well. Whelan takes on the insistently probing Caitlin, impatient but inescapably drawn to the case and convinces of her crumbling composure and as Sam, Abbiegale Duncan nails the sullen demeanour of a young woman dazed from the considerable amount that life has thrown at her. Continue reading “Review: The Deep Space, Old Red Lion”