Cockpit Theatre, London – until 24 September 2017
Written and produced by Artemis Fitzalan Howard and presented by Deadpan Theatre, Gate takes place on an average Thursday morning at ‘The Gate’ in Wapping and, like every first-born child in the generations before her, Eve (portrayed by Emma Dennis-Edwards) is guarding it carefully. It’s going to be a busy day – there are four new appointments booked in. The trouble is, none of the clients knew they were coming… because to reach the gate you have to be dead.
The piece is set in the round which immediately intrigued me. It made the piece more immersive and I was interested in how they were going to use the space and questioned: “will it be as open to each side of the audience than I initially thought it would be?”. To answer this question, I would say that the actors used the space very well and opened up to the audience as much as physically possible in the space. Dependant on where you sit in the round, some moments and visuals can be lost during certain scenes but it does open up again eventually once more.
There was stunning detail to the set, which really added to the production; from the waiting room tables to the cluttered computer desk, down to the Facebook pages that were made up purposely for the show. The use of levels was very clever and gave us a break from looking straight ahead of us and also added to the immersive feel.
The vocals of the ensemble, who were mainly situated above, really resonated throughout the entire theatre and added to the vibe of the piece- the sound was stronger and more precise. Vocals and harmonies were distinctive, precise and beautiful but sometimes got lost when some overpowered others, this, however, can be easily resolved. Overall the entire company had amazing musical timing and it was a pleasure to hear them.
The piece is very humorous and Eve, a character who stood out to me is very comical throughout. She held great power and status throughout the scenes especially in the opening; showed one of the strongest character developments throughout and was my personal favourite. However, as previously mentioned, the round space meant I was blocked from seeing her face and expressions at times but she tried her best to include the people in the back in a natural way that is still true to the scene.
Each actor crafted strong characters and kept the pace and commitment up throughout. There is a great contrast of characters and each actor bounced off each other very well which made the situation feel more real. Each is relatable in the fact that everyone in the audience would know someone like one of five of the characters and they all had their own defiant traits, quirks and personalities that were made clear to the audience exceptionally. The whole cast had excellent comedy timing and it really showed through the audiences reaction. The audience reaction/response seemed very positive and they all seemed to love the piece as well.
I found that the overall storyline was easy to follow and the piece is such a brilliant concept. It’s a nice fresh take on an afterlife/religious styled piece. The backstory of the characters was well presented. We learnt more about them as the story developed and it didn’t feel like an overload of information. The build up in some scenes felt a little rushed in but the tension and objective of the scenes were held well. There were a few prop and costume mishaps but the actors all carried on and played used them to add to the comedic effect.
I would definitely recommend to see this play and I would even go as far as saying that it’s one of the top ones I’ve see this year. The company are outstanding and give a spectacular performance of a brilliant play.
Gate runs at the Cockpit Theatre until September 24th
photo credit: Lidia Crisafulli