Review: LADY DEALER, Bush Theatre

Allpress’ poetic language is light, funny and playful with a darker core.

By: May. 23, 2024
Review: LADY DEALER, Bush Theatre
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Review: LADY DEALER, Bush Theatre After a successful run at the Fringe, Martha Watson Allpress’ lyrically poignant show Lady Dealer now comes to the Bush Theatre. Dealing with loneliness, loss and mental health, it's a captivating and immersive watch.

Alexa Davies returns to the role of Charly, a drug dealer trying to convince herself that things are not falling apart around her. Charly wants to focus on her work; making deals and making money. We learn she is also trying to get over a break-up, so the girl-boss energy is undercut by empty pizza boxes and the fact she hasn’t found the motivation to take a shower for quite a while.

Davies has nowhere to hide in this one-woman show. She is energetic, rather chippy and ultimately incredibly lonely. Her confidence is a façade and her constant refrain of “I’m fine” becomes increasingly less convincing. Davies really takes the audience into her confidence, drawing us into her world and making us empathise with her situation hugely. Her energy is skittish; either running around the perimeter of the small stage or climbing the stairs into the audience or sitting in a nervous ball, shaking and trying not to cry. It's a mesmerising performance.

Review: LADY DEALER, Bush Theatre

Written in couplets, Allpress’ poetic language is light, funny and playful with a darker core. She gives Charly little significant to do; making her coffee, answering phone calls, going to McDonald’s, but these everyday details reveal a much deeper character arc. Charly is clever, unexpectedly having a pile of books by her bed as well as a pile of dirty laundry. She uses words such as "derogatory" and "assonance" and we find out she attended the very best of universities. 

When a power cut occurs, her phones stop going off and she must confront the solitude and seclusion of her world. The emptiness is profound and just because she is busy, doesn’t mean her life has fulfilment. Charly is damaged and lacks any semblance of self-esteem or confidence in herself. Allpress wrote the play in the isolation of lockdown and you can see the influence of the pandemic in Charly's claustrophobia and suffocation. The only aspect of the writing that doesn't quite work is (no spoilers) the inclusion of another story tangent towards the end: Charley's story is compelling enough on its own and this addition jars slightly.

Emily Aboud’s direction is fast-paced, immersing the audience in Charly's world and the 75-minute duration flies by. Set designer Jasmine Araujo uses a black palette, with three large speakers on the floor and red wires trailing around. The darkness adds to the core emptiness aided by Bethany Gupwell lighting, which jumps from blindlingly bright to the flickering fairy lights left behind by Charly's ex.

It's brilliant that this excellent play has found continued life after the Fringe. A deceptively simple concept that will remain with you long after you leave the theatre.

Lady Dealer is at the Bush Theatre until 15 June

Photo Credits: Harry Elletson


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