Ostensibly because they know so many people (but in fact because they increasingly struggle to dredge up names) the Whingers have evolved a language to aid conversation.
For example: to be clear which Paul is under discussion one refers either to “Toaster Paul” (who won a toaster at the first West End Whingers party) or to “Salad Spinner Paul” (can’t remember quite why now).
So it was a shame that Phil (“Anal Phil” due to his neurotic fastidiousness vis a vis hygiene in particular and life in general) was unable to make Bryony Lavery‘s More Light at the Arcola because the main characters are all named according to a similar schema: Moist Moss, Playful Kitten, Love Mouth and so on.
So it was left to Andrew (“Fading Grasp”) to venture yet again to the urban wilds of Hackney to the Arcola to see this very well received curiosity. Thankfully he was not alone, having “More Beer” and “Hurting Tummy” in tow to keep him company.
Anyway. Picture it:
Entombed in his vast underground necropolis with his body are his terracotta army, the cleverest of his advisors and his concubines. Alive.
It is the tale of these seven women from the moment of their incarceration to their death that forms the play’s narrative and what a charming, engaging, playful and short (one hour!) journey it is.
It is also rather gruesome as the women embrace cannibalism and murder to prolong their survival.
Even more shockingly, there is even some origami in it which – as far as Andrew can recall – is a theatrical first for him.
Full marks to Catrina Lear who not only plays the paper-folding principal character and narrator “More Light” (left, with Coronation Street‘s Phil McGinley as “Man”). She also directs and with a lightness of touch and a self-consciousness which magically makes all the drama school business (choral speaking, sound effects, mime, those sorts of thing) not only bearable but positively enjoyable. A minimal set (two admittedly very grand doors) and some atmospheric lighting conjure up the tomb very convincingly.
All the performances were enchanting but our favourite character of the evening turned out to be “Hopeless Usher” whose admittance of a latecomer and subsequent ushering to a seat in the middle of the row almost stole the show.
Again, the West End Whingers curse the Arcola for being in Hackney and putting on interesting, compelling, high quality things which cannot be overlooked. This closes on Saturday (30th May).
Congratulations also to co-producer Jasper Britton (“Nagging Emailer”) for persuading at least one of the Whingers to turn up.