|"Punchy, slick, intelligent, heartbreaking, Mesmerising"|
by remotegoat reviewer for remotegoat on 01/07/11
It is not often one goes to the theatre and in the space of 70 minutes experiences stomach wrenching laughter and tear stained cheeks. What a treat Chris Urch's Vote of No Confidence is for the audience.
The play was being shown at Theatre 503, a small black box theatre, perfect for this intimate and gutsy piece. At the start, the stage was scattered with scrunched up bits of newspaper, a few upturned chairs and not much else. Immediately, one was drawn into the cold, cruel, empty atmosphere which was the old derelict flat of the family in this play and as it turned out, synonymous with how they had been left feeling after the loss of their mother and eldest brother. Straight away it felt as though we were all sat in the flat with them and over the remainder of the play would feel every bump and slap as we were dragged through this emotional rollercoaster with them.
The first character on stage was Jamie, played by Katie West. West immediately took the space and made it her own. It's always a joy to see a performer fully take ownership of the stage with a familiarity that assures the audience this really is their habitat. As Josh McCord, who plays Koby and Jamie's younger brother entered (dragging a body wrapped in bin liners and smeared in blood and excrement) the energy and chemistry between the two of them immediately rocketed and the audience were gripped from the start, right through to the end.
Jamie and Koby proceed to have a series of amusingly realistic brother and sister exchanges which culminates in Jamie explaining that their mother is dead following her suicide. Jamie goes on to have a rather cutting emotional outburst aimed at Koby, beautifully acted I must say, as we realise both these kids are incredibly cut up by whatever circumstances have brought them here.
Just as the piece threatens to become a little too intense a little too soon, enter Dee played by the dynamic Sohm Kapila. Straight away Kapila brings a much needed dose of comic relief. This vivacious performer immediately stakes her place in the drama and it is clear she has a loving and lovely relationship with both Jamie and Koby. Heavily pregnant she still manages to have an infectious energy about her and at one stage breaks into a full on dance routine with Jamie! Bravo!
There is another very funny moment as the hostage (who was dragged on earlier in bin bags...) starts to come round and Dee and Koby attempt conversation with her. Another moment of sparkling humour.
Enter the last character, older brother Craig. There is a rather tense moment as his (as we now know) ex-girlfriend Dee tries to leave and Craig fires a shocking gunshot at the ceiling. I felt the impact of this was very slightly undermined by Dee simply placing Craig's hand on her pregnant tummy (he is apparently the baby's father) and spitting in his face. I felt a slightly sharper response would've been stronger, particularly from such a brilliant and skilled actress as Kapila.
Once Dee has gone and the three remaining siblings begin to explain to their hostage (a local MP) why she is here, the sad story of their older brother's death finally becomes clear. But again we are left as much in the dark as the hostage as to what they intend to do about it. This only serves to keep us firmly on the edge of our seats.
The story then hurtles towards a psychologically wired and dramatic ending and the audience are stunned into silence as the final sequence to this exciting firecracker was fast, frightening and achingly emotional. The whole audience was glued to the action, wishing for a different outcome but unable to suggest one. I was genuinely shocked by the ending and as the house lights came back up, I was not the only person who still had their hand over their mouths.
Katie West's portrayal of Jamie was powerful yet endearing. She was totally believable as the broken young girl trying desperately to keep it together without really knowing how or why. Her fidgety physicality worked perfectly and all throughout the play one wanted to reach out and hug this poor child. A beautiful translation of a sometimes dumbed down character type. A little quiet at times vocally but otherwise faultless.
Josh McCord as younger brother Koby, fizzes with potential throughout the play and his aching youth only serves to draw the audience to him. An extremely skilled actor, adept at handling a complicated character whilst managing to avoid obvious character choices. His portrayal of young Koby was frighteningly open. This actor is clearly capable of huge emotional extremes.
Lynn Howes was very convincing as both local MP and hostage to the young family's grief. Despite her being the political 'enemy' of the piece, one couldn't help but feel strong empathy for her frustration, fear and heart pumping desperation to exit her frightening situation.
Sohm Kapila was simply brilliant as larger than life character Dee. Obviously talented, Kapila manages to achieve great variety throughout her role. She has an impressive inner strength and yet maintains underlying warmth. She has superb comic timing and is clearly an extremely confident performer.
Alex Papadakis is good as the domineering Craig. It is clear to see why his siblings look up to him and why they are quite so afraid of him. Despite his apparent gruffness and threatening demeanour it is obvious he too is broken and hurting and that he genuinely believes he has made the right decision for his remaining family.
This was a cast of 5 indisputably brilliant actors. Not a weak one among them. I kept waiting for the moment where I could find something to genuinely criticize but it never came!
Anna Jordan has indeed proved her brilliance as director. This superbly executed piece was an excellent showcase for her and together with Urch's bold, gritty and squirm-in-your-seat honesty as a writer; they have certainly left me wanting more. I would love to see this explosive piece transfer to another venue.
This was a wonderful but fresh interpretation of the devastation left behind when a family member is killed - let alone by a war they didn't want to be fighting. A very topical, brutally honest unmissable play, full of heartbreakingly moral truths.
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