‘Oh sod you, you slimy middle aged fart…’
Sat comfortably in Nottingham’s New Theatre, West did well in transporting me (myself a West Londoner) back home. Missing home is always a factor of university life, so it was wonderful to be fully immersed by the feel of the city- from Hoxton to the familiar Piccadilly Line- thanks to West’s brilliant production.
By coincidence, nature also set up its own fitting backdrop to the play last night. Not only was it a gloomy Wednesday evening, raining and bitterly cold, but as I rushed towards the theatre I was surprised to see everyone assembled outside, making me think that the performance was going to be an outdoors one- before I realised that the fire alarm was ringing. That alarm was one of many and it fittingly preceded the atmosphere of West which was thoroughly charged with danger.
When we were finally admitted into the theatre (clothes slightly damp and anticipation extremely high) we were immediately absorbed by London life via a projection of events onto a blank canvas that made me feel like I was more in an archaic cinema than a theatre. A cohesive gang, fuelled by violence, crude jokes, violence, determination and more violence, punctured with betrayal, unrequited love, hints of gin and a set of aggravated parents, I felt as though I was caught in a minefield of angst, emotion and a stream of loaded rhetorical questions that pierced me in a figurative sense.
Now, you would think coming from London would give anyone a privileged understanding of Cockney-ness, especially one that threw you a curveball as it incorporated Shakespeare; well, alas, no. I must admit I was rather dumbfounded at times which in turn made my imagination go into overdrive, churning its own interpretation of the slang employed. Nevertheless, the action explained what words could not. Overall, it was really quite something to hear ‘the voice of Cockney London’ coming through thick, fast and tangible.
Whilst each member of the cast performed with relentless vigour, it has to be said that Mike (Shannon Smith) and Sylv (Becca Jones) utterly stole the show. Whilst I was amazed by the team spirit of West’s men and the tangibility of the defeated parents, I felt as though Smith’s solo moment was utterly phenomenal. Never before have I seen, believed and been fully transported into accepting that someone was engaged in a fight on their own. I was utterly captivated by the way Smith, equipped only with a bottle of red-coloured-blood-liquid, acted out his fight with the ‘imaginary’ King of Hoxton in order to prove his pride. I was in awe and wholly applaud Smith’s talent in conveying such a difficult task.
Sylv’s monologues offered illuminating insights into her mind which were both hilarious in their comic relief- ‘clear skies mind you, like it was washed in Daz’- but also devastating in their portrayal of her desperate desire for Mike’s love. I was drawn in by her sheer animation and how she appeared to exist independently, almost as if we in the audience were encroaching upon her personal space.
West’s riddles and rhymes successfully made a night of giggles and fright as it swung from violence and vehemence to comedy and crashing chests in an unceasing dance. I guess on that note I ought to wrap it up with a poignant line from the show: ‘so without further ado, I make my leave of you…’
West is running at The Nottingham New Theatre until Saturday 21st November.
For more information and how to book tickets:
Edited by Georgina Varley