Review: Laundry & Bender – Waterloo East ****

The Waterloo East Theatre Rep Season, produced by Equinox Drama Production, presents a truly eclectic mix of characters, story lines and subtextual themes. On occasion, the repressed experiences of these characters threaten to reach the surface, revealing a deeply disturbing undercurrent of unhappiness, loss, and abuse that clearly and cleverly contrasts with the ostensible facade of daily life.

Bender, written and directed by Anna Jordan, is presented as the first play of the evening, having been revived from its successful stint at the Old Red Lion Theatre. This witty, fast-paced, hour-long production cleverly interweaves real-life experiences and stories posted to the writer by over 200 Facebook users, and focuses on the escapades of its three central characters – Billie (Matthew Gammie), Fibs (Chris Urch) and Lizzy (Natasha Campbell). The comical and, on occasion, hilarious antics and witticisms of the protagonists take place at breakneck speed, aided by some slick choreography and well-placed technical moments, such as the use of strobe lighting and EuroTechnoPop, are both exhilarating, and, at times, confusing, given the flying pace of the piece. Greater enunciation would have perhaps saved the few moments that were lost on the audience – yet given the fractured, tangential nature of Bender, the story, if easily lost, could be just as easily picked up again in a heartbeat.

Isolated, poignant moments with each of the characters as they seek to frankly and truthfully describe their innermost thoughts, concerns, and experiences to the audience builds up a complete, 3-dimensional world which draws the viewer in and, just as quickly, spits them out again as the action unfolds. The performances in the play are superb, with notable credit to Gammie for his exceptional portrayal of the inwardly forlorn Alpha male, although none of the actors can be faulted for their realistic characterisation of the drunken-yet-damaged revellers. The technical design of Bender includes a moveable, minimalistic set, slick scene changes, and some apt music which is appropriately and amusingly reminiscent of nights out in Wetherspoons – yet another feature of this production which is sure to get the heart racing and toes tapping.

an entirely raucous journey which sweeps the audience up in its stead

Laundry, by contrast, presented a seemingly sensible ‘night in’. This second and final play of the evening provided the pause for breath which, after watching Bender, the audience appeared to be craving, exhausted as they were from the previous hour-long rollercoaster ride of drug-fuelled theatrics. Written by Jo Stokes and directed by Caitriona Shoobridge, this 20-minute tale sees American Kate, played by an entirely believable Lucy Roslyn, ironing her shopping bags, old t-shirts and tea towels – anything to take her mind off the mental disturbance she experiences as a result of recent events in her past.

The monologue, also delivered to the audience, as is Bender, should be lauded both for its simple yet effective direction, and the tumult of complex emotions and trials facing the protagonist Kate, played with subtlety and honesty by Roslyn. Both plays, with their portrayal of characters that have trouble finding words to express themselves on encountering the many obstacles of life, present different ways of coping – through denial and hibernation, as in Laundry, or through escapism, a central theme in Bender. It is the Ying and Yang of these two coping strategies that makes this first set of plays in the WET Rep season so enticing, resulting in an entirely raucous journey which sweeps the audience up in its stead, whilst simultaneously reminding them that once the curtains go down and the viewer travels home, one’s own demons are apt to creep out of the woodwork. The applicability and urgent relevance of the universal themes presented in both Laundry and Bender ensures that these two plays make for very good viewing indeed.

**** (4 stars)
Runs until 4th March
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