BWW Reviews: SPINACH, The Kings Head Theatre, June 15 2012
Is it a good or bad thing to wake up roped to an attractive member of the opposite sex? There are times in Spinach (at The Kings Head until 7 July) when that situation seems life-threatening and times when it seems life-affirming - like most challenges. Tom and Kate squirm physically at first, and then squirm psychologically, as their memories of how they got there slowly return, while on stage, an opera morphs into a whodunnit and then into the craziest "date movie" you're likely to see this year.
Janine Waters' all sung play is a rollercoaster ride of fear and fun in the unlikely setting of a cellar in a North London house. Tied to a pair of chairs as their memory-impeding drug wears off, Tom (Ben Gerrard) pieces together his memory of work in a pharmaceutical packing plant and Kate (Cassandra Compton) slowly recalls the events of the previous evening when she took in a homeless man. Tom's workplace is brought to life by the introduction of cleanliness obsessive Maureen (Claire Greenway) and pal Darren (Craig Whittaker), as unsuccessful as Tom at "pulling the birds". We learn more about Kate too - and that she and Tom might not be quite as unknown to each other as they suspect.
The singing styles vary but, importantly for sung-through theatre, the words are always clear and, when Ms Greenway is performing, beautifully rendered. Equally importantly, the singing and rhymes quickly lose their gimmicky quality as the plot, acting and humour take over. Ms Compton is winningly winsome as good samaritan Kate and Mr Gerrard terribly charismatic and charming (casting some doubt on Tom's lack of success with "the birds"). Mr Whittaker rounds out a very impressive cast as the enigmatic Darren, all muscles and slightly deranged eyes.
Though it's easier to say what Spinach isn't - it's not an opera, not a musical, not a love story, not a thriller - but it is a gloriously theatrical experience and ultimately heartwarming, with a coda that sends the audience back into the world outside a North London cellar with a spring in their steps.