Reviewed by Hannah August.
Waterloo East Theatre is a stone’s throw from Waterloo station – sitting in the auditorium, you can hear the trains rumbling overhead. It’d be just as easy to walk from the station to the National Theatre or the Vics (Young and Old), but a trip to WET (admittedly not the most appealing of acronyms) will be equally rewarding, as well as easier on the pocket. The theatre’s very new (it opened in September last year), and they’ve started out as they mean to go on, hosting productions of some of the freshest and most exciting new writing London has to offer.
On Friday night I saw a revival of Bender, a one-act play by Anna Jordan (who also directs), and Laundry, a short, one-woman show by Jo Stokes. Bender follows housemates Lizzy (Natasha Campbell) Billie (Matthew Gammie), and Fibs (Chris Urch) – respectively a phone sex operator, a Cornish pasty wholesaler, and a scaffolder with vertigo – on the night they decide to break a lengthy period of self-imposed abstinence from alcohol and drugs. It’s a great piece – fizzing dialogue, enough sadness beneath the comedy for it not to seem flippant, skilful performances (particularly from Campbell). Best of all, it’s not moralistic – for a play that is at its heart about the uncertainties of the future and of leading a meaningful existence, it is refreshingly realistic that Fibs’ response on waking up in the final scene to survey the previous night’s carnage is simply to crack open another can of Red Stripe. Jordan is unequivocally a writer to watch.
Jo Stokes may be less so. While Laundry – a monologue about a woman who has developed agoraphobia in response to a break-up – benefited from a strong performance by Lucy Roslyn, I felt the script wasn’t sufficiently developed for the premise to seem anything other than a cliché.
Bender and Laundry are in rep with two other plays (Shortstuff, also by Jordan, and Tatchell, by Jonathan Bonfiglio), until the 4th of March – the night I went the only other people in the audience seemed to be friends of the director, so do try and catch these performances which are very worthy of a bit more public exposure.