Union Theatre presents A WORKING TITLE by Megan Jenkins: Theatre Review

The scene is set for A Working Title the moment you leave the house. You march to the station – not because you’re in a rush – but because you can’t walk any differently now; barging past dawdlers and huffing with frustration – not because they’re in your way – but because you can’t slow down. The Underground is crammed with Savile-Row-Suited-City-Dwellers, Exhausted-Evening-Standard-Skimmers, Blissfully-Oblivious-Tourists, Promising-But-Penniless-Artists, Graduate-Jobbers, First-Daters and Hipsters. As you walk along Union Street, owners of darkened eyes and down-turned mouths yearn for the comfort of over-priced flats in Zone 3 that they share with five other uprooted strangers. Outside the Union Theatre, perpetual escapists cling to warm pints and bask in the last gasp of daylight after being holed up in offices for the best part of eight hours. You enter the auditorium and still can’t hide from it all because there’s commuter trains pulsating through railway arches overhead. “But there’s no place like London...”

Watching A Working Title is a bit like therapy for me. Since doing a ‘Dick Whittington’ in 2014, I have been continually disenchanted with the hand London has dealt me. But this uplifting jukebox musical for disillusioned millennials gave me hope and a heart full of anticipation for a summer in the city that makes everything worthwhile. It is a reassuring embrace of a production, reminding us that these feelings aren’t unique – London giveth and it taketh away from us all.

With smart, slick writing from first-time playwright Megan Jenkins, the script creates an embarrassingly authentic snapshot of young Londoners’ lives with just the right degree of lyrical lilt to make us wonder whether this is really a play or a piece of poetry. The sardonic takedowns of Jenkins’ struggling characters provoke laughs of recognition from a predominantly young-adult audience, many of whom have probably rushed here from the shared experiences of those playing out on stage.

Our six characters, all bound by a reluctant resilience, navigate us through their quarter-life crises as they seek distraction in the arms of creativity, coffee shops and casual lovers. The fantastically strong ensemble comprised of Holly Ashman, Jessica Kearney, Christina Henne Holmbek, Elicia Moon Murphy, Vinnie Monachello and Oliver Healy portray these characters brilliantly, not one weak link amongst them. Holly Ashman, as the tortured writer, is especially impressive and a highly engaging storyteller with the play’s opening monologue. The music provided by Oliver Healy on lead vocals and guitar really gives this piece an added dimension, transforming coming-of-age anthems by Oasis, Wheatus and My Chemical Romance with folky arrangements and ironic, comic delivery.

The only pertinent criticism I have here is that the presentation was slightly jarred by abstract movement sequences and the busker’s lengthy soliloquy, which felt a little out of step with the rhythm of the piece. And whilst the redemptive ending may be a bit romanticised, its message is relevant and clear: London does not have to be the mausoleum of dreams we often mistake it for – the key to surviving it is to just slow down and listen. Remember what drew you here in the first place. Take pleasure in the small moments of beauty that come in a sunset over the Thames, or the welcome breeze of an oncoming tube. All in all, I think A Working Title is a resoundingly successful interrogation of what it’s like to be in a marriage of convenience with this brutal but beautiful city.

© Hannah Roe, 2016

 

A WORKING TITLE

Written by Megan Jenkins

Produced by Original Impact Theatre

 

Playing at:

 

Greater Manchester Fringe Festival @ King’s Arms, Salford

July 26th / 29th | 9pm

 

Camden Fringe @ Upstairs at the Gatehouse

August 2nd, 3rd & 5th | 7.30pm

August 4th | 9.15pm

 

Edinburgh Festival Fringe @ Triplex Studio, The Space UK

August 14th / 20th | 9.15pm

 

Follow @OriginalImpact on Twitter for more details

 

www.originalimpacttheatre.com  

 

Director – Alexandria Anfield

Cast – Holly Ashman, Jessica Kearney, Christina Henne Holmbek, Elicia Moon Murphy, Vinnie Monachello & Oliver Healy

 

Author's review: 
4