“Powerful, unsettling drama about war"
Remotegoat on Hurricane Hill, 26/09/15
"One of the best visiting productions we have had the pleasure to stage."
The London Theatre on Hurricane Hill, 27/10/2014
"Hurricane Hill certainly remain in my memory for weeks to come. Should you get a chance to see this play in any potential future performances, you should look forward to it immensely."
Sebastian Gahan, Seba Rashi Culture Zine on Hurricane Hill, 19/10/2013
“A brilliant evening of live entertainment and theatre at its rawest best.” ****
whatsonstage.com on Slasher' Kincade 16/04/2010
"Slick production is a play of our times" Hackney Gazette on Slasher Kincade 6/5/10
‘moments to savour .....a personal and mature piece of theatre.’ Extra Extra on Slasher Kincade 4/5/10
“Leicester is also an accomplished director and blends clever lighting and physical theatre to bring his plays to life.” The Stage on Slasher Kincade 10/5/10
"Kevin Brannagan’s brilliant performance. Chris Carney as Robert and Gray Hughes as Daniel work well together and despite a complex narrative, maintain pace and interest.” The Stage on'Slasher Kincade 10/5/10
"impressive acting" Camden New Journal on Slasher Kincade 13/5/10
"The power of Leicester’s writing combined with the wonderful acting talent really carries the play through to the very end.’ Extra! Extra! on The Baby Box 2008.
“Naturalistic, gritty writing – reminiscent of Mike Leigh.”
Camden New Journal on The Baby Box
"Leicester's writing is confident and powerful.."
Hampstead and Highgate Express on The Baby Box
"Chris Leicester’s clever, acerbic, unpredictable play"
The Stage on The Fourth Wall 2005
"Beg, borrow or knee-cap for a ticket!"
The Scotsman on Mafioso 2003
Review of Married. But Lonely at the White Bear Theatre
June 26, 2017 By Chris Omaweng, www.londontheatre1.com
* * * *
The play’s title, Married. But Lonely, brought to mind an image conjured up by a comedian who asserted some years ago that it is possible, generally speaking, to tell single people from married people on public transport. Just look at them. The married ones, unless newlywed, look po-faced and miserable. The single people sit, or stand, fresh-faced and bright-eyed and, while still observing public transport etiquette, are at least open to the possibility of conversation with similarly poised people.
Jerry (Phil Gwilliam) is, frankly, more than a tad naïve. The man is grieving the loss of his wife, and some online dating sites have emailed him asking if he would consider trying out their services. Whether this was deliberate targeting (as the play strongly and repeatedly suggests), or whether he started paying attention to the sort of spam email that ordinarily comes through anyway, as he seeks to move on and move forward, is anyone’s guess.
There are a number of soliloquies in this play, most of which come across as a stream of consciousness. The introductory scene, for instance, is very broad, and a later scene mentions telescopes, Pluto and algebra (and more besides) in one breath. This, together with some superfluous details in subsequent scenes about Jerry and the two women he (separately!) goes on dates with, Clare (Miranda Benjamin) and Veronica (Cátia Soeiro), makes getting to grips with the play seem like homework. Focus and concentration is required but becomes difficult with the struggle to see the wood for the trees.
Thankfully, things settle in the second half, after a very busy first act. All three performers have engaging manners but there were occasions when it took a while to establish, in some of the monologues, who exactly was addressing whom. A lot of people, from somebody’s mother to an entire police constabulary are, at one point or another, being blamed for something. The script always gets there eventually, to be fair, and by the end of the show there is, ultimately, no confusion with regards to the plot. But somehow it still feels harder work than perhaps it should.
Both Veronica and Clare have their eccentricities, and there’s a danger of their characters being caricatured in the extremities of emotions expressed. An example: the play’s critical incident happens, and Jerry must leave the pub immediately and head down to the hospital’s intensive care unit. All Veronica can do is wail, “What about me?” despite the clear need to attend a medical emergency. Other moments are hilarious or irritating, dependent on your disposition. One of Jerry’s dates that he ‘met’ online won’t eat anything on the menu in a restaurant, before refusing even the still water because the brand the restaurant uses is “not from the right well”, whatever that means.
There are some serious points in the play, too. This is not the first show I’ve seen that highlights the ‘stranger danger’ element of online dating and is unlikely to be the last. Such warnings, done with a mixture of subtlety and dark humour in this production, simply cannot be issued too regularly.
Elsewhere, both female characters find themselves in compromising situations, one as a result of online dating and the other the victim of domestic violence. There are lots of ‘talking heads’ and descriptions of outside events, which mercifully spares the audience the horror of seeing abuse acted out on stage.
I take away two things from this play. The first is that life is complicated. The second is that life really is too short. This is a dense and intriguing production. One more thing: it’s been twenty years since George Michael and Toby Bourke released their single ‘Waltz Away Dreaming’. On a personal note it was pleasing to be reminded of the song after so long. Without giving too much away, the lyrics aptly sum up Jerry’s situation.
Waltz away dreaming, ‘til your day begins again
Free from the seasons and this state I’m in
And oh, I can’t hold it all under one love
It was so long ago when we danced in the streets
Now you fly like an eagle above, while I waltz away anyway
And I’m waltzing my days away
Searching for this woman I love
"intense bereavement and dating drama"
by Frank Hill for remotegoat on 17/06/17
* * *
Married. But Lonely.
Most of us have lost someone we were close to, and bereavement affects people in many ways. Coping is a process that can take us through many emotions - denial, anger, depression and a huge sense of loss.
In Chris Leicester’s play ‘Lonely. But Married’ (a ‘Too Write Productions’ presentation at ‘53two’ in Manchester), Jerry’s wife has died and he struggles to cope. Then, he is mysteriously contacted by two internet dating sites. But Jerry works for a consumer evaluating IT company and knows perfectly well how people are tracked and assessed like commodities by way of their phones, internet use and shopping habits. ‘We know who you are,’ he ominously states in one of the plays more effective monologues, and is amused when he sees people in the streets leafleting. He regards them as living in the stone age.
But although understanding the ‘Big Brother’ techniques these websites used to contact him, Jerry decides to take up their option and proceeds to meet a number of women. He seems to do this reluctantly and is immediately negative and aggressive to each person he sees. He still feels angry about the sudden death of Suzy, and is intolerant and abusive to the vulnerable, needy women he meets. Particularly in his encounter with an ageing hippy, in what I felt was the plays least effective sequence (in a cavernous venue like this, actors need to whisper loudly if they want to be heard). I didn’t like Jerry. Perhaps I wasn’t supposed to do. But these women weren’t responsible for his wife’s death, he wasn’t forced to meet up with them. My sympathy was with them, not him.
His two main encounters, with Veronica and Clare, were more interesting. They were both well developed characters and their personal stories of abuse and exploitation were gripping. Catia Soeiro and Miranda Benjamin brought these two women effectively to life.
Phil Gwilliam gives a powerful performance as Jerry - life on hold, three nights a week in the pub, Burger King for meals and returning to the Karaoke nights and George Michael songs he shared with Suzy in an attempt to revisit their life together. He also has two children to look after, though I wasn’t sure where they fitted into his one-bedroom-flat lifestyle.
All three characters seem needy and self-absorbed. When Jerry is threatened with another potential tragedy in his life, Veronica’s only response is, ‘What about me’. But as Clare points out, ‘You only go down the road once - and only one way’. So Jerry has to decide if he wishes to continue in his morose, empty, lonely existence, or wants to build a new life for himself. And would Suzy approve?
‘Married. But Lonely’ (both written and directed by Chris Leicester) is an interesting play looking at how people cope with disaster in their lives. Jerry’s soliloquies are often moving in their self-reflection and I eventually warmed to him a little. Certainly a play worth checking out.