Review: No Picnic, Tabard ****

Greg Freeman’s play is one that will both rattle and potentially disturb the thoughts. Discussing controversial, heavily political and suddenly surprising ideas through the medium of children’s toys – two bears, one weird doll and a clown – this piece serves to confuse and provoke. Although an enjoyable piece of theatre, it leaves the mind  bruised and battered from the mental beating it has received, if performed clearly enough, which in this case, predominantly, it was.

Ken McClymont’s design is tremendous. The first glimpse is of a large book, perhaps ten feet tall, standing  just off centre stage. The cover of the book reads ‘No Picnic’ – no surprises there, but as the lights fade and the performance commences, new words appear, illuminated in the dark, that read ‘Are you sitting comfortably?’ This sets up a conceivably chilling production, although it is soon juxtaposed by the entrance of two bumbling teddy bears. As the actors open the book to discover that it is an enlarged child’s pop up book, the different locations within the play literally pop out of the pages as the story moves along. Not only is this a wonderfully resourceful and imaginative way of using the very intimate space that is The Tabard Theatre, but it is also perfectly apt for the script and portrayal.

this very unorthodox teddy bears’ picnic  is certainly one to witness

The two main protagonists, the teddy bears Ludovic and Julius, played by Dan Frost and James Sygrove respectively, both give fine performances. Their innocent and lost personalities, gradually corrupted throughout the course of the play, are, interestingly, comparable to those of Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Sygrove is delightfully naive and suitably maladroit for a cuddly teddy bear and is nicely contrasted by his slightly sharper, slightly harsher companion, Frost. Helen Russell-Clark as Greta, the weird doll, has a high energy, albeit which at times seems misdirected. The stand out performance is given by Rhys King as Clown. He has a strong presence on entering the space; cold, analytical and quietly psychotic. He portrays an extremely intense, polluted inner feeling, which is painfully repressed behind a calm guise.

If you are looking to query your own mind, have your musings muddled or even to ponder politics, then this very unorthodox teddy bears’ picnic  is certainly one to witness. It inspires us to question how often we tell ourselves the truth, how easily the truth can be manipulated, and even whether we can identify truth.  Crucially, it reminds us that ‘…truth is always a story…’

**** 4 stars
Runs until 7th April
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  1. No Picnic – Greg Freeman – The Tabard, London, (****) | davidrichardsreviews

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