Friday, 19 October 2007

Underground - Contact Thatre

Underground by Matthew David Scott, J.C Marshell & Company
Contact Theatre 17-18th October, 1st-2nd November
Reviewed By Mal Wallace

Underground marks a significant first for Yorkshire based theatre company Slung Low. This is the first production they have taken into a theatre having previously created theatrical works for more unusual spaces. The intimate Contact Theatre would appear to be the ideal venue to world premiere this new work.

Written by Matthew David Scott, J C Marshall the plot concerns Johnny who, when caught up in a disaster on the London Tube, is catapulted into an alternative reality where he faces the daunting prospect of facing the evil Baron of Baron’s Court who rules over the underworld in order to escape back to his own reality. Incompetently assisted by Bokkie the South African rat and Gergo the Hungarian rat Johnny meets a vast array of characters, original, fictional and historical that both guide and hinder him on his quest. The premise sounds promising but sadly, the production fails to live up to expectations.

Whilst the plot development is somewhat baffling and some of the jokes, notably those about Lepers are incongruous, the script is, overall, fairly well written but its potential is never realised. Chief amongst the hindrances is the cast of four who all present extremely restrained and at times amateurish performances failing to make the most of the both the comedic and dramatic opportunities open to them. Dominic Gately as Johnny looks and sounds thoroughly bored from start to finish. Jojo Hawkins and Alys Torrance as the two rats share no chemistry whatsoever so what should have been an amusing comedy double act falls totally flat due in part to no sense of comic timing from either performer and horribly odd accents resulting in some extremely poor diction. Tom Dalton Bidwell plays the largest array of characters but, other than a change of costume, fails to differentiate between these characters displaying extremely limited acting ability. None of the four actors commanded the stage and the energy levels are appallingly low.

This however may be the fault of director Alan Lane who allows the production to move at a snails pace. Generally, though, Mr Lane makes good use of the space successfully utilising Naomi Parker’s highly effective set. Particularly striking is the revolving tunnel entrance which is further employed as a screen for Parminder Kaur’s amusing animations and Ben Eaton’s remarkably effective video projections. Unfortunately the opening scene was obscured from view by the use of an unreasonable amount of smoke which filled the auditorium in a rather unpleasant manner.

Regardless of characters such as Eliza Doolittle, Alfred Hitchcock and Robin Hood amongst others popping up, some effective use of puppetry and to an certain extent a well written script I couldn’t help feeling that somewhere deep within this dull production was a fantastic madcap piece of theatre desperate to be let loose to thrill.

Photos by Keith Patterson

Underground is next shown at the Alhambra Theatre Bradford for more information please visit

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