Review: A WOMAN WALKS INTO A BANK, Theatre503

A blazing production, rammed with pathos, humour and a fabulously comedic cat.

By: Nov. 29, 2023
Review: A WOMAN WALKS INTO A BANK, Theatre503

Review: A WOMAN WALKS INTO A BANK, Theatre503

Entering the theatre, you feel as though you’ve stepped into an abstract rendition of your grandma’s old lounge. The set consists of beige retro patterned carpets filling all sides of the stage, leaving two chairs as the only offering to break up the picture. It almost confuses, which turns out to be a running theme.

Set in Moscow, post 2018 World Cup, the play is concerned with social apathy, aging and ethics. The writer and director Roxy Cook is the winner of the 2023 Theatre503 International Playwriting Award and also The Carne Prize for A Woman Walks Into a Bank. Cook’s play is inspired by the experiences of relatives and concentrates on memory deterioration.

It’s no spoiler to say that the character of the Old Woman does indeed walk into a bank, over and over again, as the threads of this beautifully complex and whip-smart story begin to weave, attach, break, rethread, re-tread and come back together again. It is a challenge to keep up at times, but the best kind of challenge- as you are tasked with working out where the truth lies. Who is in fact telling the correct version of events and who is masking it behind smiles, to achieve their own nefarious goals?

One of the stars of the show is a wittily crafted and wonderfully collectively acted character of Sally, the 18-year-old tabby cat. Sally’s hilarious and at times touching journey never fails to have you on the edge of your seat. Her animal mannerisms are a credit to associate director and movement director Sam Hooper, who showcases consistent and bold creations, not only in the brief transitions but embedded beautifully throughout.

Photographer: <a target=David Monteith-Hodge @Photographise" height="400" src="" width="600" />

The breakneck speed of text and movement are expertly carried out by actor trio Giulia Innocenti, Sam Newton and Keith Dunphy, who work tirelessly to bend the tale to their will with charm, skill and a sense of playfulness, that could only come to fruition under a director who has encouraged creativity and humour. It is because of this that the softer, more poignant moments shine through. Shafts of light cutting through the pandemonium create a realisation of just how well written and evocative this play really is. 

Jaunty Russian punk rock, keeps the energy high, including Pussy Riot-style music, expertly designed by Hugh Sheehan. Set and costume designer David Allen has brilliantly created the panelled carpeted set, which is at first look rather twee, but is metaphorical of a money box, which contains openings as segments of life, revealing compartments, much like memories being awakened.

The exploration of memory loss is not overwhelming. It merely makes it the occasional focal point within a story that is about a culture we rarely get a peek into - modern day Russia. From its hyper and chaotic youths, to our perception of their aging population, a perhaps older society who wish for simpler days and to shield themselves from fear of those who present danger.

Whilst the three characters could easily have become stereotypes, Director and Writer Roxy Cook’s clever writing makes them multi-layered, motivated and magnetic. A Woman Walks into a Bank is a blazing production, rammed with pathos, humour and a fabulously comedic cat.

A Woman Walks into a Bank runs at Theatre503 until 9 December 2023.

Photo Credits: David Monteith-Hodge