Friday, April 12

Who You Are and What You Do – Bread and Roses Theatre

A children’s birthday party-cum-carnival is the vibe the audience gets as they enter a room full of confetti, balloons and streamers. You’re in for a rollercoaster ride of clapping away to Pharrell Williams’s ‘Happy’ before holding your breath as unexpected events unfold, bursting in sprouts of uncomfortable laughter and circling back to a joyful singing of “Happy Birthday.” Written by Hugh Dichmont, the play was the Top three winner of The Bread & Roses Playwriting Award 2019.

Opening with an energetic clowning act, the show quickly turns the mood around and dives into darker themes. Five stories, seeking happiness in different ways, unfold part by part as a montage, except they never fully come together. The fragments are played in a different order in each show. They seem generally connected thematically but the links between the narratives aren’t always clear. There is just one character, Patricia (played by Kate Sketchley) who appears as a consistent figure across three stories. Sketchley also plays two other characters, and her performance stands out, particularly with the several many types of laughter she attempts. Valeria Rodriguez is charming with her storytelling as a Spanish-Columbian cleaner and an energetic Clownier.

The entire cast of six is in full view throughout the show. While two or three are in the spotlight, the others covertly change costumes (designed by Villemot) for the next characters they are to play. Director Tom Ward emphasises sudden shifts within and between segments with strong vocal, light (Anfy Shum) and sound (Sassy Watkinson) choices, that keep the audience on the edge of their seats. Some other choices of dialogue and audience participation, however, seem random and don’t quite land.

With a mix of heart-warming, heart-breaking, comedic and horrifying moments, the play has potential to deeply move audiences. A stronger narrative throughline and slicker production operations would make the show punchier. For now, it scratched the surface and stopped before the wounds were fully exposed and experienced. I’d recommend it as a breezy watch of heavy themes that’ll stir the heart without ripping it apart.

Playing until 2nd April,

Reviewer: Aditi Dalal

Reviewed: 24th March 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★