London has an abundance of pub theatres, and the Old Red Lion in Islington is one of my favourites. The space is tiny with pew-like seating on two sides of the tea-tray sized stage.
If you sit on the front row, you are in constant fear of tripping an actor because they are so close. And that is part of the appeal, there is no separation between audience and actors; the drama is happening right there in your face.
One of the stand out plays/productions for me was Mercury Fur in 2012. I’m a huge fan of Philip Ridley’s plays and had heard a lot about the play but hadn’t seen a production.
Coincidentally, an early-career Ben Whishaw starred in the very first production back in 2005. Not that I’m trying to weave Whishaw into all my lockdown theatre walk posts. Well, I wasn’t, but I may challenge myself now.
Anyway, back to the Old Red Lion. Watching a Ridley play like Mercury Fur in such a small, intimate space means there is no escaping the horror and repugnance. Sitting in this small darkened room, the separation from the comfort of the real world yawns.
And it was the first time I saw Olly Alexander on stage, in fact, he got an honourable mention in my review. Just call me Stan, the star spotter.
The second play that really stood out was Lydia Rynne’s Hear Me Howl, performed by Alice Pitt-Carter for reasons of marrying fun with feminism. It was a play that challenged gender stereotypes about relationships and children and proved that it is possible to explore serious issues in an entertaining way. No one likes to be lectured to.
And then there was Talk Radio, a play about a shock-jock on the path to self-destruction. It was brilliantly staged and one of those plays that builds nicely over the running time.
Have you got a favourite play or story from the Old Red Lion Theatre?
The reviews if you want to read more:
Hear Me Howl
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