LEAF – Lion and Unicorn Theatre

In London theatre, Opinion, Plays, Reviews by Shanine SalmonLeave a Comment

Lion & Unicorn Theatre, London – until 25 July 2017
Guest reviewer: Oliver Wake

Leaf is hard to categorise – part comedy play, part sketch show, part mess. Its publicity tag-line likens it to “the bastard child of Monty Python and the Mighty Boosh”, which proved surprisingly accurate. Like these suggested antecedents, Leaf is weird, chaotic and intermittently very funny.

The story, as far as it has one – which isn’t very – concerns lonely young chemical engineer Mark (Matthew Biddulph) and teaching assistant Jane (Helen Potter, who wrote the script). Scenes advancing towards their meeting and decision to cohabit are interspersed with sketches entirely unrelated to the plot. These sketches are diverse, from spy pastiche to period drama and good old-fashioned mocking of foreigners with national stereotypes and comedy accents. Many of the sketches take as their inspiration a word or idea from a previous scene, but are otherwise unrelated to each other. Puns run through many of the sketches, with the audience at the performance I attended particularly enjoying a sequence of groan-inducing tree-related wordplay.

The young ensemble cast energetically assumes different characters, costumes and genders at the drop of a hat in a series of madcap scene changes. I didn’t count how many scenes or sketches there were, but with some lasting only seconds, a lot is squeezed into the show’s runtime of a little under an hour. It is this creative chaos that gives the occasional impression of a messy production, but perhaps that’s the point.

Needless to say, not all of the jokes hit home, but it would be unreasonable to expect them to, and with a mix of verbal and physical humour (plenty of silly dancing and slapstick fighting) there’s more than enough to keep the audience chuckling. Even so, a little trimming of some of the lesser sketches would serve to tighten the whole and concentrate the laughs.

The play was rapturously received at the Lion and Unicorn but ran for only two performances. It will be interesting to see whether Leaf continues to flourish across a longer run in the more competitive environment of the Edinburgh festival next month.

Shanine Salmon on RssShanine Salmon on Twitter
Shanine Salmon
Shanine Salmon was a latecomer to theatre after being seduced by the National Theatre's £5 entry pass tickets and a slight obsession with Alex Jennings. She is sadly no longer eligible for 16-25 theatre tickets but she continues to abuse under 30 offers. There was a market for bringing awareness that London theatre was affordable in an era of £100+ West End tickets – Shanine’s blog, View from the Cheap Seat, launched in April 2016, focuses on productions and theatres that have tickets available for £20 and under. She is also quite opinionated and has views on diversity, pricing, theatre seats and nudity on stage. Her interests include Rocky Horror, gaming, theatre (of course) and she also has her own Etsy shop. Shanine tweets at @Braintree_.
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Shanine Salmon on RssShanine Salmon on Twitter
Shanine Salmon
Shanine Salmon was a latecomer to theatre after being seduced by the National Theatre's £5 entry pass tickets and a slight obsession with Alex Jennings. She is sadly no longer eligible for 16-25 theatre tickets but she continues to abuse under 30 offers. There was a market for bringing awareness that London theatre was affordable in an era of £100+ West End tickets – Shanine’s blog, View from the Cheap Seat, launched in April 2016, focuses on productions and theatres that have tickets available for £20 and under. She is also quite opinionated and has views on diversity, pricing, theatre seats and nudity on stage. Her interests include Rocky Horror, gaming, theatre (of course) and she also has her own Etsy shop. Shanine tweets at @Braintree_.

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