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Review: UNDER THE RADAR, Bread & Roses Theatre

Review: UNDER THE RADAR, Bread & Roses Theatre


Review: UNDER THE RADAR, Bread & Roses Theatre In August 2017, a journalist named Kim Wall went to interview inventor Peter Madsen on his private submarine. She never came back. Most people seemed baffled as to why someone, especially a woman, would risk entering such an environment with a perfect stranger. If it had been another man, would we have reacted in the same way? These are just some of the many questions about gender stereotypes that are explored and challenged in this debut play.

Writer Jonathon Crewe uses the horrific news story as a loose stimulus, but Under the Radar is not so much a play about murder as it is about bias, misogyny and the idea of toxic masculinity. It's certainly a timely and relevant work in the wake of the #MeToo campaign, and although unsettling, it's laced with a strong undercurrent of black humour.

Eleanor Hill plays Lee, a reporter desperate to write an article that will establish her as a serious and credible journalist. She sees Captain Martin Christensen (Nicholas Anscombe) and his maiden voyage on a self-built submarine as her opportunity. Telling her he didn't think the journalist would be a woman is the first indication that these two aren't going to get along. Christensen quickly assures her he was joking, a mechanism he returns to time and time again to justify himself.

When Christensen informs Lee the journey will be longer than she had planned for, alarm bells start ringing, but quickly fade as she agrees. The door is sealed shut and so, it seems, is her future.

Hill bursts through the audience with a power stride and looks every bit the aspiring go-getter. Her costume, designed by Wan Yuan Teo, gives us a strong indication about who this woman is. Her first line involves dropping the 'F' bomb, so we're left without a doubt that she is a strong and assertive woman. The character is established economically, but cleverly the audience are forced into judging her from the off, a theme which resonates throughout.

Hill delivers a first-rate performance. The way she allows her body language to alter as she grows more intoxicated after Christensen encourages her to continue drinking is remarkably detailed. It feels incredibly authentic and as though it's all happening in real time, which adds to the intensity of the situation. There was an audible sense of unease in the audience with many shifting in their seats as things grew more and more uncomfortable.

Anscombie appears to veer towards caricature in his opening scenes. This actually makes his dark turning points even more disturbing. The more menacing aspects of the character are where the actor really delivers the goods. When sneaking up on an oblivious Lee while she's showering, a brief facial flicker alone oozes utter creepiness. The actor is able to balance light and shade. His comic timing is effective, but he uses his skills to flick like a switch, and we never know quite what he's going to say or do.

After a horrifyingly violent scene, which again generated audible repulsion from the audience, we expect the curtain to come down. Instead, everything is turned on its head, and all of the issues Crewe is confronting are brought to the surface. This is done in an unpredictable and surprisingly humorous way. After such a build-up, Crewe's talents as a director and writer really shine, with the actors also firing on all cylinders.

The play is very conversational, and at times it does feel like we are being presented with too much information and too many points. Much of the dialogue is sharp and witty, but some is stilted and could be filtered down a little. This occasionally reduces the pace, but overall our engagement is sustained.

The claustrophobic confinement of the submarine is only enhanced by the intimate studio space. We feel like voyeurs, struggling to take our eyes off the action whilst feeling we should be looking away.

This is an intense and disquieting play that cleverly takes us in a series of unexpected directions. Following the performance, audience members were vocal about not knowing how they felt. This reviewer was also left trying to process exactly what they'd seen. Theatre that provokes our thought, prompts debate and starts a conversation, even if it's not a pleasant one, must be seen as a good thing. Crewe will no doubt be on our radar from now on.

Under the Radar at the Bread and Roses Theatre until 16 November

Photo credit: Joe Gibbons



Review: BUTCHERED, VAULT Festival Photo
There are some shows that fit perfectly within the walls of The Vaults. Magic is made when old bricks and humidity meet the right production. Expial Atrocious’ Butchered is one of those that feel at home enveloped by the horrid architecture and the rumblings of Waterloo Station. The love child of Sweeney Todd and Hannibal, it’s a grim look at life and death in a dog-eat-dog world.

Review: THE LAMB DISAGREES, VAULT Festival Photo
It’s equally funny and stimulating, opening up a broader conversation about people’s use of foreign cultures and experiences to further their own goals. Wang only gives a taste of the issue in The Lamb Disagrees, but we hope her budding career will explore the subject in more detail.

Review: FOR A BRIEF MOMENT AND NEVER AGAIN SINCE, VAULT Festival Photo
It’s a missed opportunity to explore young parenthood and the effects of thoughtless actions on a couple.

UK Stage Directors Release Census 2023, Conducted By SDUK Photo
Stage Directors UK (SDUK) has released the findings of the 2023 Stage Directors Census. Over 500 UK based stage directors participated in the survey, representing all levels of the profession.


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