Reviews of 'Torn' and 'The Pitchfork Disney'.
Review of 'Torn', Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, The Royal Court
As part of our Year 12 Drama students' research for the devised unit of their A Level, we have been going to see a variety of plays written across different time periods and directed in a variety of styles. One production that struck a particular chord with many students was Nathaniel Martello-White's new play 'Torn'. Prior to the performance, we had the privilege of participating in a workshop delivered by the Royal Court's education department and Jamael Westman - one of the actors from the cast.
Savannah from Year 12 writes:
In this vital new play, recently directed by Richard Twyman for the Royal Court, Nathaniel Martello-White tells the story of a mixed-race family who have come together to resolve the complicated conflicts that still haunt them today. The set, designed by Ultz, is simple: a room that resembles a community centre with a wooden floor and plastic chairs, on which the audience sit at the same level as the actors. The actors and audience are locked into the room. Through this, the audience is drawn into Angel, the protagonist’s, struggle as she seeks to force her family to confront the secrets that have divided their family.
The play is portrayed by the cast in a realistic style, which is at times painfully heartbreaking and raw, but also hugely compelling. Adelle Leonce, playing Angel, gave a powerful depiction of both the vulnerability and determination of her character. She moved seamlessly between the young and innocent Angel, confused by her mother’s rejection, and an older, fiercer woman, desperate for her family to hear the truth.
Martello-White takes the audience into the very depths of the family’s story, subtly revealing truths through frequent flashbacks and overlapping conversations and events that link to a more expressionist, episodic genre of theatre. Despite being sometimes confusing and hard to follow, this non-linear narrative form means that family relationships unfold slowly, allowing audience members to come to a decision about the credibility of the horrors that Angel describes in their own time.
This was a highly poignant production that successfully captured the life of a family torn apart by its complex past and the conflicts that can arise from the memory of the past.
Review of 'The Pitchfork Disney', Shoreditch Town Hall
As part of our research into expressionist theatre, Year 13 Drama went to see Jamie Lloyd's immersive revival of Philip Ridley's controversial first play - 'The Pitchfork Disney’ - at Shoreditch Town Hall. The production was staged in traverse in an ancient vault under the town hall, perfectly capturing the claustrophobic environment described in the play. The seating was unconventional: audience sit on chairs, filing cabinets, sofas and ruined objects in the flat belonging to Hayley and Presley - the dysfunctional, orphaned twins at the heart of the play.
We were all mesmerised and horrified by both the intense, brilliant and disturbing performances and subject matter. Strictly 16+, this production is not for the faint-hearted, but a must-see for those interested in the 1990s genre of 'In Yer Face' theatre.
'Once sat in my seat, I realised almost immediately how much I had underestimated the intensity of the play I had come to see. The contrast between the carefree banter I was having between friends before going into the theatre, and the shocking cockroach-eating I was then witnessing ten minutes later was simultaneously amusing and horrifying.
Jamie Lloyd's revival of Philip Ridley's 1991 play, 'The Pitchfork Disney', was utterly astounding in its unique and grotesque way. The characters in the play are all unusual to say the least yet each evoke their own specific reaction from the audience. Cosmo Disney, for example, was personally my favourite character. Relentlessly narcissistic, astoundingly charismatic and yet absolutely psychopathic, Cosmo Disney enacts moments of animalistic cruelty on those around him. Played magnificently by Tom Rhys Harries, this was a dazzling performance allowing the audience to sympathise with this damaged young man but also despise him for his actions.
I truly recommend this production to those who are able to withstand some very graphic content. It addresses the themes of childhood, the loss of innocence, sexuality, nightmares and the idea of trying to have control within your environment. I was captivated from the outset and both relieved and upset when it ended.'