Thursday 4 July 2013

Everything review June 30th 2013

In an age where the world is literally at our fingertips in the form of computers and mobile phones, it’s difficult to find solitude. Strangely however, it can be equally as challenging to feel one has a full, engaged, and connected life despite the endless information and communication constantly available to us. In a recent production at the Camden People’s Theatre, from the Uncovered Theatre Company, Sophia Kingshill’s script examines this paradox in an interesting and surprisingly funny manner. The one-act show features Maggie Gordon-Walker as Jean, an office manager for a real-estate firm, as she sets her affairs in order before she commits suicide

We are never told why Jean wants to end her life – in fact, the nature of her personal life is left much to mystery. All the information we receive comes from one-sided telephone calls and her dictation of her various short, detached, suicide memos to family, friends, and colleagues. It’s a creative approach by Kingshill, and offers the production distinction from many other solo performances which by nature require a lot of monologue and exposition. The refreshing slice-of-life nature in which the story is told allows us to observe Jean and understand her situation without really understanding how she feels or why.

This structure also allowed Gordon-Walker to give an excellent and realistic performance – her finest moments were often reactions to statements from the other side of the telephone, which of course the audience couldn’t hear so could only imagine. Her comedic timing was excellent, and it was a delight to have her guiding us through the laughs despite the awkwardly dark scenario. Gordon-Walker also deserves praise for her well-balanced portrayal of Jean’s natural self-consciousness and apparent eagerness to please others coupled with her newly-formed unquestionable resolve to kill herself.

There are no major theatrics and Jean is very down to business, making the whole scene quite private and interesting to watch. The set was well-dressed as Jean’s office and allowed plenty of insight into Jean’s life simply by its organization and design. The many things placed within also allowed for a lot of dynamic movement and blocking to keep the stage picture versatile despite the inherently static nature of one-person shows.

While in many ways the intimate and muted tone of the show worked to its advantage, it was difficult to foster a genuine empathy for Jean, because it was primarily like watching her at a day at the office. Thematically and theoretically, this is a great statement to make about our nature and the way dealing with telephone calls and email messages and business can tramp down even the most emotionally distressing of circumstances, but it also makes it difficult for an audience to stay fully involved.

Thankfully Kingshill’s wit kept the tempo of the show up even though the action was stuck, and Gordon-Walker kept us watching with her performance. If nothing else, it really did move me to ponder how technological interruptions and desk-work structured lives can harm and help us all.

Monday 1 July 2013

Views From The Gods review 28 June 2013

Death may be the last great adventure, but suicide still isn't something we tend to talk about. When people make that leap, it feels like society has let them down, making the topic an uncomfortable one for the living. But there is no such thing as a taboo subject when it comes to comedy, and black humour is inherently British. It's how we keep the stiff upper lip, we laugh at our own misfortunes and apologise non-stop. And it's certainly in evidence in Sophia Kingshill's bleak but enjoyable piece.
Having decided to kill herself, middle-aged office manager Jean Taylor (Maggie Gordon-Walker) is determined to go out with a bang, not a whimper, minimising any inconvenience caused to friends, family and passing acquaintances. It's both deeply amusing and deeply grim that over the course of a full hour, Jean struggles to find the time to kill herself. In a damning indictment of today's modern, busy world, life keeps getting in the way of death. Unwanted cold calls, a clingy ex, a rambling neighbour, a disgruntled customer - rarely do we relate to a character so much and yet find ourselves rooting for that person to snuff it.
Jean's constantly calm demeanour is what makes the play so funny, but it is also what gives rise to so many questions. At the end, when that mask briefly slips, we catch a glimpse of her true emotional state. But there's very little else to explain what has pushed her to take such dramatic action, we're left to work it out for ourselves.
The norm of one-person shows is for the actor to address or acknowledge the audience, but that wasn't the case here. The narrative is largely Jean's half of a telephone conversation, sometimes just her reading out-loud. At one point, we even observe her typing silently - very little happens. But this reinforces the banality and solitude of Jean's life.
Throughout the piece, Gordon-Walker's performance is excellent. Her character may be incredibly ordinary, but this makes for some unexpectedly funny - and truthful - one-liners.
Director Pradeep Jey succeeds in turning the stage into a believable home for Jean, as opposed to just a black box. The devil is in the detail - the highly organised desk drawers, the extension cables which may be necessary for the laptop and printer to work, nice touches, but which also hint at trying to pack too much in. This sense of place is emphasised by the choice of venue at the Camden People's Theatre. Stuck next to a main road, the ambient noise of passing traffic actually helps. His choice of music from The Monkees is also an apt - if literal - way to see the show both in and out.
Kingshill's writing could go further to touch upon the reasons as to why Jean has ended up in this predicament. But that may also be trying to make this into something it's not. Thankfully, for audiences, it is still a clever, witty piece with lots to love.

Tuesday 21 May 2013

We Love review

‘Dear Melanie… I’m committing suicide-’
Cheer Up, It Might Never Happen is a dark comedy about a middle aged woman named Jean (Maggie Gordon-Walker), and her impending suicide. Jean writes a series of letters to her nearest and dearest, endeavours to make her replacement at work as easy as possible for her bosses and- as she’d hate to cause a commotion when she’s gone- calls the neighbours to let them know they might be needing her spare key.
The play, acted out in it’s entirety by Gordon-Walker, sees a ‘trip to Cornwall’ becoming a gentle and humorous euphemism for Jean’s suicide, as she makes tedious phone calls to neighbours and clients. The play is set in Jean’s flat, as she potters around watering the houseplants, and organises the folders and files that, ironically, she will no longer need after the day is up. Clearly worried that she will inconvenience those around her, she seeks to finish all of her tasks before she will take her ‘trip to Cornwall’ later that evening. Rather than obsessing over how her suicide will ultimately affect herself, Jean’s anxieties only surface through thinking about how her actions might affect those around her, and her altruistic nature is both endearing and humorous throughout.
Cheer Up did an excellent job of being emotionally moving whilst remaining lighthearted, and the play featured laugh out loud moments throughout. The efforts of all involved were clearly notable as the play manoeuvred from beginning to end without a hitch. Well worth seeing.

New Writing South's verdict - Best New Play nominee

'A neat, sweet, sharply observed comedy of everyday frustration in which a put-upon office manager keeps getting interrupted in her meticulous preparations to commit suicide. The writing may be as modest as its heroine, but the strong premise offers a clever twist on farce, underpinned with a touchingly unobtrusive sadness.'

Tuesday 7 May 2013

Hello London!

Following our sell-out run at the Brighton Fringe 2012, we are performing at The Camden People's Theatre from 28-30 June

Wednesday 6 June 2012

Fringe Review 4 star Highly Commended show review

Cheer Up It May Never Happen

Genre: Drama

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Venue: The Nightingale

Low Down

 A beautifully British one-woman show, in which the audience share the last humorous moments of Jean's life before she tries to commit suicide.


 We enter the space to see a more or less normal modern day living room: Laptop, plants, mug, comfy chair, accompanied by The Monkees' Daydream Believer. Then our leading lady Jean (Maggie Gordon-Walker) enters in a more or less normal fashion. With an understated matter of fact entrance Jean sits at the laptop, and starts to tick off a list of people she's to contact throughout the evening. It has very much the air of preparation for a holiday; calling the neighbours, checking the electricity meter, dropping the key off – only of course with the title and description we already know that this is not a normal holiday that she prepares for. Most of the show continues in this vain: an incredibly quotidian look at one woman's battle with life and death. She contacts her family, friends, ex-lovers, colleagues and boss telling each one of them that there really is nothing they could have done. Posing the question throughout then of Why? Why is this woman about to take her life? We never know.
Both the script and Maggie's performance pull this off superbly for much of the action. The script is clever, witty and shows a real detailed observation of language and character. Within the show the audience are the fourth wall, so much of the dialogue is created through phone calls, and reading out last emails and letters that Jean is writing. This is a tricky task: to strike the balance between giving the audience enough information and yet retaining a naturalistic air. Aside from a couple of clumsy lines on the phone this balance is achieved smoothly, and the audience are comfortable with the set up. Occasionally we are a bit too spoon fed, but this is made up for by some great one liners. Maggie's performance is energetic,detailed, engaging and funny. She has a wonderful ability to hold an audience, and she isn't afraid of pause. The start particularly was a little forced but the most successful moments are when she is able to relax into the words and trust that the script will do the work, which it does.
Having established well a time and space and vise for communication and comedy, there is a slight lull halfway through the show as the audience shuffle a bit more, and perhaps are asking – but where is this all going? We loose the direction a bit and get more of the same. There is one poignant moment as Jean finally sits on the comfy chair and debates telling a friend what we assume to be something closer to the truth. This is a great snippet of freshness from the rest of the show that we have been waiting for, but it is soon swept under the carpet too.
As a fourth wall piece of drama Cheer Up It May Never Happen is successful. Tackling suicide onstage is a big task, many have attempted it through the years, from Shakespeare to Donizietti. This version is not going to bring about great changes in your life, but as an entertaining, well crafted piece of theatre it is an evening well spent on the observations of our very Britishness right up to the last hour.
Reviewed by Adele Bates 6th May 2012

Wednesday 25 April 2012


Tell me about the show.

SK:      It’s a one-hour comedy about a woman trying to commit suicide.

That’s not an obvious subject for comedy, is it?

SK:      There’s a lot of humour in dark subjects. In this case, I was thinking that if you were a rather responsible, worried sort of person, then there might be a lot of practical details you’d have to deal with before you tried to kill yourself. It’s not so easy just to step out of your own life. In a way, suicide isn’t exactly the subject of the comedy, it’s more about trying to do something intensely private when the world doesn’t allow you to be private any more.

Maggie, is that a character you relate to?

MGW: Well, I’m not suicidal, but I think everyone can relate to the idea of wanting to get things done, and finding that you’ve got so much on your plate there’s no time for what you really want to do. You’re not allowed to be out of contact these days – there’s always a phone call or an email waiting to be answered. With some people that might be positive, it could remind you of the good things, but if you’re very low then it can just seem like an invasion.

Are you nervous about being the only person on stage for an hour?

MGW: Yes, of course I am! No upstaging or gurning permissible, or even possible. But maybe it’s not so frightening for me as it is for Pradeep Jey our director. He’s been in control during rehearsals, but when we get to the performance he’ll have to put up with whatever I do. The loneliness is integral to the piece, because it’s about one woman facing her future, or lack of future, on her own, so it really has to be a one-woman show.

How did you two get together on this show?

SK:      I’ve worked with Maggie on several things before, mainly sketch shows when she was wearing ridiculous costumes. She’s an amazingly versatile performer, very funny but also very sincere, and I wanted to see her in something more demanding and more profound.

Cheer Up, It Might Never Happen will be performed at the Nightingale Theatre at 7pm on Sunday 6th, Monday 7th, Tuesday 8th May. Tickets on the door or from the Dome box office (£8.50/£6.50), or they can be booked (plus a booking fee) at or on 01273-917272.