BWW Review: OOPSY DAISY, Katzpace
Katzpace, the basement theatre of Katzenjammers near Borough Market, seems an ideal venue for a play about the dark underbelly of Hollywood. Sex, power and the sacrifices we make to achieve success are key themes in this dark comedy written by and starring Holly McFarlane.
Jo is a Hollywood starlet, seemingly slumming it in a budget hotel. Jamie is an actor still searching for his big break. They meet one another in an Uber but embark on a journey that takes them far further than either could have foreseen. As more and more alcohol is consumed, the pair grow increasingly intoxicated with one another, leading to devastating consequences.
The simple yet beautifully detailed set is Jo's hotel room, complete with those individually packaged biscuits and tea making facilities that make such places feel slightly soulless. With the audience positioned on three sides, we are close to the action and feel like voyeurs peering in on the private lives of our two characters behind closed doors.
When we meet her, Jo (McFarlane) is clutching a bottle of wine as if it's a precious newborn. Her slurring makes for a completely convincing and humorous depiction of a drunk. The actress is clearly having fun in the role she has penned for herself, embracing the heightened 'diva' moments while later showcasing the vulnerabilities and complexities of her character. There's much beneath the surface of this Hollywood star, yet she seems to thrive on the superficial, which comes at a cost to her happiness.
Rory Fairbairn as Jamie provides a pleasing contrast to McFarlane's character. Whereas she is brash, over the top and lively, Jamie is softer, gentler and more the everyman. His down-to-earth manner emphasises Jo's ridiculousness, which as well as offering comedy, further enables the duo to be captivating. Thanks to the carefully considered body language and facial expressions as well as the generally strong chemistry between the two, Jo and Jamie's infatuation with one another is engaging and believable.
The plot might not be wholly original, but it does take us in unexpected directions. It also provides a suitable platform for prevalent issues to be explored. Accusations of sexual misconduct have the power to destroy careers and ruin reputations. It has often been argued that the accused, as well as their accuser, should be granted anonymity. Here McFarlane has the accuser come face to face with the consequences of their actions as they are confronted by the victim of their slander. It's a refreshing take on the #Metoo movement that also makes comment on our gossip-obsessed media and celebrity-saturated world.
This is Mat Betteridge's first full-length play as director. He clearly understands the material and the messages McFarlane is aiming to convey. He is generous with his actors, allowing them to make the roles their own whilst ensuring a fast pace prevails. Smooth scene transitions and time jumps permit the high tempo to match McFarlane's sharp and snappy script. Michael Edwards adds to this with a pulsating soundtrack that injects energy into the piece, giving it a contemporary feel.
McFarlane is an assured actress who has demonstrated a respectable degree of range in this role. It's perhaps her writing, though, that makes the biggest impression and leaves us excited for this young talent's creative future.
Photo credit: Maria Shehata