Review – How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found, Southwark Playhouse

Sunday 12 October 2008

It is rare that upon visiting the theatre the Whingers’ dearest wish is merely not to get punched on the nose.

And on those rare occasions it is rarer still that they end up not only with their noses unbloodied but actually having a good time.

In a nutshell: playwright, blogger and WEW party stalwart Finn Kennedy found himself on the wrong side of the Whingers’ artistic prejudices over Unstated, his previous play at the Southwark Playhouse.

So it was with some trepidation that Andrew (who is less of a coward than Phil, but only slightly) made a trip to the Southwark Playhouse on Thursday to see Mr Kennedy’sHow To Disappear Completely And Never Be Found. Supposing he should bump into Mr Kennedy? So, just to be on the safe side, he took Helen Smith along for protection.

Actually, they were supposed to go on Wednesday but the performance was cancelled due to the non-arrival of something or other. “It’s a very technical show,” confided the woman at the box office who rang Helen to inform her of the cancellation. Which sounded very promising.

And, indeed, it was.

HTDCANBF tells the story of a young advertising executive for whom work pressure, cocaine debts and the death of his mother prove too much. He has a breakdown and on learning how to create a new stolen identity sets out to disappear and create a new life for himself.

The dozens of roles are played by a cast of five but unfortunately we can’t tell you who they were because there didn’t seem to be a programme and they aren’t mentioned on the Southwark Playhouse’s website. But anyway, they are all excellent – in particular the very tall, thin actor who plays (among others) the man in the Lost Property office at Embankment and the expert in identity theft. Helen says she’s pretty sure he was in Plague Over England if that helps.

The walls of the bare, almost triangular set contain drawers which excitingly pull out to reveal things such as a toilet, a bed, lost property and a morgue drawer. There must be an awful lot of running around behind the walls for the stage hands whose wrists can occasionally be glimpsed as they push and pull things through.

Indeed there is a lot of technical stagecraft to admire too including a bloody nose (not Andrew’s) and the cutting up of a necktie.

At 2 hours 20 it’s rather chunky but it rarely drags – the plot is swift, the characters are engaging and the performances vibrant.

Quite a relief for Andrew who, on bumping into Mr Kennedy after the show, was able to hold his head up high and say that he enjoyed it. Unfortunately further chat was rendered impossible by the appearance of a “comedy” act in the bar.

Highly recommended, but repair to another bar for your post-show chit chat.


How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found won the 38th Arts Council John Whiting Award for New Theatre Writing and the Peter Brook Empty Space award 2007.

The West End Whingers have never won anything in their lives. Oh, except this of course.

One Response to “Review – How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found, Southwark Playhouse”

  1. Helen Smith Says:

    It was the other tall, thin man I thought I recognised from Plague Over England – Steve Hansell – wasn’t he the policeman in that, among other roles?

    How funny that in our earnest post-show discussions about the magnificent performance of the ‘tall, thin man’ we might have been talking about two different people. According to the Facebook events page, Richard Bremner is the actor who played the Lost Property man.

    All the actors were brilliant, and I feel sorry for Luke Norris (the man who disappears) that his face doesn’t appear on the publicity posters for the show. If he was a relative of mine, I’d be down at the Southwark Playhouse trying to make things right for him with a Spotlight photo and a tube of Copydex.

    It was a marvellous evening. A bloody nose, glitter, cheap tickets, front row seats, theatrical trickery, a brief informal Q&A with the writer and your lovely company throughout – can’t go wrong, really (although we so often have, in the past).

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