views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

There's No Place Like
The Crazy Coqs
8th November 2016


There's No Place Like

Photography provided by Althea Theatre

It's fair to say that as far as national identity goes, we've had a rough few years. First Scotland nearly left the UK, then the UK left - well, voted to leave - the EU. People who identified as British have been digging up mysteriously foreign ancestors and applying for new passports left, right and centre. Who are we and where do we call home? These are the sentiments at the heart of Lilac Yosiphon's play There's No Place Like in which a barmaid, Hannah (Yosiphon) serves a newly jobless fellow bartender, Jordan (Sam Elwin) and the chance connection makes them both question their sense of belonging. It's an encounter that remains vivid to them both even ten years on.

It's a hugely relevant concept howere the problem with staging a play in a bar in a working bar is that the environment demands the actors to up their game to the same realistic standard. Throughout the piece it's very obvious we're watching two actors rather than eavesdropping on a private moment. The language is sometimes awkward and Yosiphon's projection is off, with the actress often seemingly shouting at her co-star rather than holding him in normal conversation. The two performers need to relax into their roles more and the production would benefit from a more fluid fourth wall - perhaps Hannah could clear a few glasses and Jordan could follow her over to a table and try to engage with her whilst both moving around. There's a lot of potential to really exploit the setting more without necessarily becoming interactive and this feels disappointingly overlooked by co-directors Marianne Mayer and Cole Michaels.

Throughout the piece Hannah reveals a desperate wish to acquire a European passport so she can stay in England. This is a pre-Brexit play which hasn't been adapted to take account of the changing political landscape and again this feels like a missed opportunity. A few tweaks to the script to allow Hannah to express how much worse her position has become, her desire to instead marry an Englishman to acquire a British passport, amending some of the comments made by her punters who suspect her illegal status - these wouldn't demand a particularly intensive rewrite and would give the production a much more current feel. The content of the play currently sits in that mildly uncomfortable gap between cutting edge and historic.

The guitar accompaniment by Marcus Frewin-Ridley provides a welcome warmth to the piece and whilst some of the solo vocals aren't without their imperfections, the duet between Yosiphon and Elwin is far more forgiving and the Hebrew song is beautiful. The three performers come together to create something stronger than the sum of their parts. Yosiphon is also wonderfully expressive and we do catch a few moments where she silently gazes at Elwin and we truly believe that there is a connection of some sort forged between the two strangers. There are occasional powerful hints of something better.

There's No Place Like is a thought-provoking and fascinating production which is let down slightly by its rough execution. Identity is such an on trend topic to explore and it's a welcome idea from an emerging, international company. With more finesse and some amendments to the script, this charming piece could increase its impact.

There's No Place Like ran from 8th to 9th November 2016 at the Crazy Coqs.

Nearest stop: Piccadilly Circus (Bakerloo, Piccadilly)

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