views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

The Probleming
Tristan Bates Theatre
28th July 2014

★★★★☆

Adam Joselyn, Emma Stirling and Ellen Gallagher as Dave, Cynthia and Nicole

Photography provided by Bat Bat Productions

Ooh, we feel sorry for Steve Jordan on this website. Two years of frankly hilarious and oddly heartfelt shows and all everyone seems to say is "Did you see that Red Dwarf thing?" Dead Static and Pilgrim Shadow were much more than that. And then it happens again, this show timed within a few months of Inside No. 9's The Harrowing by horror/comedy legends Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton. But this piece has as much in common with those chaps' shows as his original did with That Show With a Hologram and Cat. Some may say it's just an easy way into a review. I say: "Shut up if you can't see the nuance!"

Here's a story of two bored uni students - Cynthia (Emma Stirling) and Nicole (Ellen Gallagher) who then go on to join a ghost-hunting society led by Dave (Adam Joselyn). Granted, it doesn't sound like the most high-falutin' stuff. But the quality of Jordan's writing has always been in his characterisation, ensuring each is given just as a particularly well-crafted arc as the plot. Here, the trio are unravelled in just three, well-considered and tightly-crafted scenes that do justice to the whole piece.

Don't get me wrong, this is no drama - it's a horror comedy, which immediately puts writer/director Jordan up against the big boys. Just round the corner, you could plonk your cash down for Reece and Steve's pal Jeremy Dyson in Ghost Stories. Yet if the audience on my evening is anything to go by, you could save a good £30 a ticket. The laughs come thick and fast, in all different varieties. Whether you love the cheesey, slightly nerdy references Jordan seems to revel in or the swears intelligently placed like landmines across the place, this has 'em all.

Adam Joselyn, Emma Stirling and Ellen Gallagher as Dave, Cynthia and Nicole

Photography provided by Bat Bat Productions

Gallagher grabs most of the laughs as an infuriating and gobby gal in the first scenes, with Joselyn propping it up latterly. He continues his nervy, slightly dim everyman from Jordan's previous pieces while managing to be an entirely different character. That's not to discount Stirling, but as the natural straight woman fights for her place in the trio valiantly. Jordan too gives them nowhere to hide, with minimal props, carrying emotion and laughs front and centre. The scares come too, especially in the final third, but why would I telegraph any here? See it yourself!

Whether it's a pair fighting and dying in space, or a trio on the ground, there's always a satisfying arc for each of the characters - and one that's ultimately sincere both inside and outside of the production. Jordan cares for his characters, well-evidenced throughout, and juggling a trio well. Scripts are, frankly, impeccable, but were let down in this instance by timing. Some blackouts, despite creepy music, ran too long, and a grand reveal was over in seconds, giving the audience no chance to bathe in revelations.

I'm deliberately trying not to give much away, as it needs the full focus of the audience. Miss once sentence and you could as well not bother at all. But it's this continued attention to detail that makes Jordan's writing such a great investment at any level.

The Probleming ran from 28th July to 2nd August 2014, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Leicester Square (Piccadilly, Northern)



Follow us on Twitter

Leicester Square

West
End

Southbank

London

comedy

theatre

music

performing arts

culture