[Review:] NSFW, The Lion and Unicorn Theatre, London.

Presenting themes of feminism, violation of the law, and discriminative and abusive treatment of employees by business-owners, NSFW is an engaging and prosperous play. Written by Lucy Kirkwood, and directed by Matthew Neubauer, this play was performed at The Lion and Unicorn Theatre in London.

I will first consider set and aesthetic. Nearly every element of this set was interacted with at some point during the play, proving an efficacious and decisive choice of design, and those that were not interacted with textured the stage with informative subtext. For example, The ‘Get Shit Done’ slogan as part of the Doghouse sign, hinting well at the very type of company the fictional Doghouse is, or the notes made on the flip-chart, underlining humour and raunchy details behind Doghouse projects. Symbolism was even to be taken from within the transitions, such as the page-turning of the calendar by Sam (Joe Callanan).

Transitions, however, seemed somewhat too energised. Whilst I understand that Neubauer perhaps wanted to keep the energy of the busy magazine companies flowing throughout the duration of the play, these transitions would have worked better, I feel, without the rush. That is to say, a constant high energy was somewhat difficult to handle at some points, and a series of transitions where the audience have time to relax a little and take in what they’ve just watched would have been better. The rhythmic music and running across stage just after a manic realisation in the first scene, it all seemed too high an energy to uphold.

Another thing worth revising is the use of props. There were many moments involving drinks during this performance, and every drink proved to have an awkward quality to it: the coffee cups, the water for Mr Bradshaw, all cups were clearly empty whilst they flew across the stage, and performers’ mimes of drinking were awkwardly quick and unrealistic. This seems like a petty area of focus, but these moments of awkward mime removed a certain illusion from the play, especially with Miranda (Grace Arnold)’s champagne glass then being contradictorily full in the last scene. Tiny moments like these, though petty, cause for discontinuity and awkward speciation.

Characterisation for this performance was good. The outlandish characters of the play provide a difficult array of personae to get to grips with, but performers met this task well with comprehension and energy. The momentum of the play was never lost. I would like to note, however, that in comparison to all other performers, Laura Pieters, playing Charlotte, was inarguably lacking. There were even moments where I questioned whether Pieters was acting at all; for example, during the first scene, it is clear that Charlotte is egotistically demonstrating a sarcasm or acerbity towards other characters, chiefly Rupert (Chris Alldridge), but this sarcasm was made extremely unclear by Pieters due to complete lack of expressivity. Another of the moments that caught my attention most harshly was her exit during the second scene. It was only inferable by other characters’ influence on the scene, and by the physical act of her leaving, that Aidan (Alexander Lopez) had upset Charlotte with his remarks. This, among many moments, was completely missed in Pieter’s performance.

Perhaps some performers over-performed during certain scenes, creating a series of animated caricatures, namely Sam and Miranda, which conflicted somewhat with a more realistic energy from Lopez and Matt Aldridge (playing Mr Bradshaw), but, on the whole, nearly all performers were coherent and engaging.

One moment that stood out sorely for me was Miranda’s dance/ritual towards the end of the last scene. In Kirkwood’s script, I feel that the reason this moment is so integral is in the normality in which actions are executed. To elaborate, whilst singing and dancing plays a part in Kirkwood’s script, I feel more attention should be drawn to the products Miranda is using, as opposed to highlighting a goofy and musical side of Miranda’s character. Playing the music aloud would have been better, in my opinion, for this takes away from the spectators having to imagine the song she is listening to and deciphering it from her movements. Whilst she should dance and sing at points, this should not be made the main focal point of the scene. Moments of watching her, in silence, apply the products with the music playing aloud from the computer would have been more poignant for this. Again, referring to what I said about transitions, this also enables the energy to calm, to sit well with the audience, a break from Miranda’s exhausting eccentricity. The choice of music for this scene, however, I felt appropriate and had the potential to be very poignant, once I had deciphered what song it was.

“A good interpretation and execution of dramatic text but needing polish in places.”

3.5 Stars

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