Sunday, July 21

Draft 23 – Old Red Lion Theatre

Somewhere between Waiting for Godot and waiting in a mile long bathroom line behind the two most annoying people at your college while they slowly figure out they don’t actually even like each other, Draft 23 is set in a shifting landscape of tottering piles of laundry, watches, belts, and ashtrays. This play follows the slow and inevitable demise of a fictionalized relationship that cannot maintain itself without the structure of a functional script. The stakes are low and the characters themselves are lower, alternating between various tableaus of languidity as they mope about the playing space without any vestige of playfulness in them. Self-important but unable to self-articulate, the text is under-rehearsed and both actors’ performances are pervaded by a self-consciousness that undercuts its attempt at exploring themes of identity and intimacy and ultimately forces audiences to meet it at the level of its own disinterest in itself.

About as bold and iconoclastic as the ACAB tattoo that adorns one of its character’s most upper thighs and is busted out only when the stakes are at their lowest, this play has a lot more bark than it does bite. The incessant yapping of its two unmotivated non-leading and untenable characters is split between an interminable first act and a cumbersome conclusion. While waiting for their “main character” to arrive Angel and Ray get stuck, unstick themselves, re-stick themselves, and make themselves as well as their audience sick with ennui.

There’s nowhere to go in this messy new play and no room to breathe in the airless room it unfolds itself in. In addition to misplacing their main character, co-directors Sunny Poppy and Charlie Froy (who also respectively wrote and performed the piece) seem to have lost the plot somewhere in the scenographical heap that the play’s two characters are reduced to slithering about in. This topographical mass of mostly teeth-numbingly quirky clothing and a few other odd bits of debris is well designed by Miel Celeste and does not go underutilized but rather like the play’s central themes is pitiably underexplored. There is a great deal of material in Draft 23 that over its 95-minute run time is somehow both laboriously and lackadaisically built up like a bonfire and then is much to audiences’ disappointment never set alight. Without a spark of life in it this production sputters and fizzles out leaving nothing but the faint scent of second-hand clothing behind.

Reviewer: Kira Daniels

Reviewed: 5th May 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.