Review by Hunter Shanahan
Waiting In Soho by Christopher Morgan is a commendable directorial debut from Alicia Badger. Set in a small Soho, London bar for the duration of the show, Waiting in Soho sees 7 characters of varying ages and occupations finding common ground in the space, voicing the experiences which led them there.
The communal setting of the Emerging Artist Sharehouse, located in central Erskineville, felt ideal for the show, where audiences of varying occupations and ages also assembled. The informality of Ella Grinberg’s set and seating uniquely created the atmosphere of a crowd congregating at a bar, enhanced with a few actors sitting drinking and the bartender Bernadette (Zahara Jithoo) frustratingly sweeping. The jukebox constructed of cardboard, bright paint and a lit up border instantly grabbed attention, as well as a concoction of bright pink streamers scattered across the floor and a banner of silver streamers.
The play remained engaging for its full duration, many of the characters entering and exiting via the aisle throughout, keeping us on our toes. I was intrigued to see how the cast would go working as an ensemble in a monologue-based play. The use of music however successfully brought the actors together, singing along with their individualistic mannerisms to the same songs. This reassured that though they lack communication with one another, the characters find themselves in a common location. The jukebox also was inventively used as a motif paired with a warmer lighting design (Alicia Badger) to transport characters back to certain memories of their past (also causing the silver streamers to glimmer which was enjoyed).
The performance of all actors was incredibly engaging, all of different social backgrounds and jobs. The one key aspect that seemed to bring them to the same place were their unresolved issues, all in seeming refusal to change them. The British accents and the single American were fairly well executed, a few weaker moments, but not enough to distract from the narrative.
Brett Watkins as Nigel took on the tough task of playing a man completely hammered the entire 45 minute duration of the show. I was intrigued to see if this would be done well, as that has every potential to get old very quickly. However, the charisma his character exuded, as well as the sympathy garnered from the audience from his isolating story, allowed for it to be a nicely developed character that remained engaging throughout.
The character of Vivienne (Theo Lockwood) remained oblivious and air-headed in the best way. Her portrayal had the perfect balance of comedic delivery and lack of self-awareness that left me excited everytime it was her turn to speak. She could have simply tossed her hair and seductively stared into the audience and I’d still be entertained.
Gordon the gambling man (Warren Paul Glover) had an accent that was obnoxious, funny and well done. However maybe slightly too well, as I struggled to understand a lot of what was said. Whilst obviously an intentional trait of the character, it made it harder for viewers to resonate with the humanity of his character as much of his storyline was lost. Despite this, his characterisation was consistent and made me laugh on several occasions.
Notable performances also included Zahara Jithoo as Bernadette and Aaron Okey as Daniel. Both gave very professional performances, remained engaging the whole time and stayed convincing in characters even when reacting or simply not speaking. One of my favourite moments of the show involved Daniel dancing to ‘Believe’ by Cher with the others singing along in the background. As well as Bernadette discussing her big appearance as the star, literally, in her school nativity play. Both gave a playfulness that was thoroughly enjoyable.
Penny’s character (KJ Pringley) had a heartwarming story, holding an innocence that was well conveyed. Her characterisation was well done, however lines were sometimes lost due to a pacing of them that was too quick. It didn’t allow for audiences to completely resonate with the beauty of her story as there was a lack of time for it to be processed.
All in all, the short but sweet Waiting in Soho had an element of community and playfulness whilst also fairly heartwarming and fascinating. Looking forward to seeing more directorial work from Alicia Badger.