"New York comes to Camden"
by Andy MOSELEY for remotegoat on 03/08/12

To review Savage in Limbo and only talk about the play would be to do Planktonic Players a disservice. This is an ambitious group with a refreshing manifesto, to develop bespoke and immersive performances, introduce fresh writing and make it accessible and affordable for everybody. The play and the production deliver on this.

From the moment you begin climbing the stairs to the theatre, you leave London and enter a downtown New York bar, several blocks away from anywhere tourists go. The 80's retro-feel continues inside, with a small bar and a vast collection of record sleeves and Americana decorating the walls. While the open windows occasionally make it hard to hear, the outside noise adds further to the ambience. This isn't a company that just sticks a stage at the bottom of a room. The attention to detail highlights the ambition of the director (Michael Pratt) and the whole company.

Of course, this would count for nothing if the performances weren't up to scratch, but thankfully they fulfil the promise, as four disillusioned New Yorkers gather in the bar run by a fifth and try to escape the reality of their lives. The Savage of the title is Denise, a 32 year-old, who has come to see her continued virginity as a unique selling point. Linda, in contrast, has three children by different fathers, but her fragile sense of glamour is shattered by boyfriend Tony declaring he wants to sleep with ugly girls after discovering intelligent conversation as a new form of foreplay. Completing the group are April, who dreamed of being a nun and now hovers permanently on the verge of an alcohol-fuelled breakdown, and Murk, the barman who watches proceedings with a largely dispassionate eye.

None of the five are high achievers. They move through despair, depression and defiance as they dissect their lives, and show that their attempts to escape them will prove futile. Not that this is depressing, there are wonderfully humorous moments and fantastic exchanges within the self analysis. The debate on the merits of ugly and attractive women is a highlight, and Melissa Palleschi gives a fantastic performance as April pulling humour out of every situation including the death of her mother after four Brandy Alexander's.

The play and the actors are at their best when they reach rock-bottom, and are forced to face the truth. Denise (Grace Kennedy) in particular, shows real vulnerability when she realises her unique selling point is something no one wants to buy. There are a few too many proclamations of 'this is my life and I want out' than are strictly necessary elsewhere, and when the characters confront each other, rather than themselves, a default mode of shouting doesn't always convince, but these are minor points.

Planktonic players are one of a small group of companies raising the bar of fringe and not settling for the usual constraints that low-budgets and small venues dictate. They deserve success for their aims and for realising them in this production.

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