A few reviews of Luke Redmond’s plays are collected below.
Reviews for Nevermore – written and directed by Luke Redmond
Time Out (review by Lucy Powell)
The setting for this staccato, slightly leftfield new play about the loss of love and manuscripts is perfectly pitched to the cracked, eerie tune of the works of Edgar Allen Poe, whose poem ‘The Raven’ was its inspiration. Two large leather arm chairs dominate an otherwise unremittingly black, bleak stage. In one sits Sebastian, played by Téo Ghil, the author of nine unpublished works of unutterable genius and a determined recluse. The other is inhabited by Stephen Sobal’s Greene, who, it transpires, is Sebastian’s malicious, voluble alter ego and inner demon.
Greene falls silent when Sebastian’s solitude is broken by his stream of visitors, beginning with Ella, whom he has loved for ten long unrequited years. Hot on her heels is her husband William, who is pushing ‘The Nine Hells’ to a power-hungry publisher. Karl, the cheeky, well meaning neighbour from another play entirely delivers the post, including a dangerous bottle of clear solution, and for the final showdown Sebastian gathers everyone together to play out his carefully constructed counter-plot, before confronting the omnipresent Greene.
Writer and Director Luke Redmond sustains the odd, taut atmosphere beautifully, and, although there are more than a handful of painfully predictable moments, particularly when the play concerns itself with gender relations, the indications of his talent are everywhere apparent. It’s a great shame that Redmond didn’t develop the monotonously spiteful character of Greene, which itches to pull his play very far out of the ordinary. But, despite its glaring flaws, this is a production full of promise, and the best from this poised, intelligent new theatre company is assuredly yet to come.
Guardian (review by Yvonne Gordon)
A compelling piece of theatrical writing and acting, Nevermore is an absorbing drama about the tension between the inner and outer self. Gripping throughout, this play has everything – excellent acting, a very good script, good pacing, an atmosphere of intrigue and poetry. Its gothic undertones permeate the lives of the tragic protagonists, whose dialogue is interspersed with Edgar Allen Poe’s romantic, dark take on life as expressed in The Raven. One of the best plays this humble reviewer has ever seen at Wimbledon Studio, it is both directed and written by multi-talented Luke Redmond.
Analytical, creative but troubled Sebastian, poignantly played by Téo Ghil revels in his isolation, while at the same time taking an interest in the lives of those around him. He puts his mark on the world by writing a brilliant book, although he has no desire to achieve worldly gains. A man free from the trap of personal aggrandisement, his one desire is to heal the hurt between his ideal woman, Ella, deftly played by Jennifer Lawrence, and her husband – his former best friend William, convincingly played by Finn Sivertsen. James Card plays Karl the hippie neighbour, the significance of whom becomes apparent at the end, as everyone gets their comeuppance with a subtle twist in the tale. Enter the seductive publisher, Rebecca, well played by Mairi McHaffie, and a case of subterfuge, and you have a fantastic melting pot of human fallibility. Intelligent and well crafted, catch it if you can, because Red Card is a theatre company to look out for.
Media Whore With No Punters
I wasn’t sure what to expect as I entered the tiny (40 seat capacity) New Wimbledon Studio last Saturday night. I suppose I was there out of curiosity and loyalty first and foremost, since Luke and James are friends and colleagues of mine. However, as is often the case when viewing or listening to friend’s creative endeavours, my expectations were not set particularly high. (I’m only being honest because I was so mistaken in this case).
From the outset, Nevermore was a gripping and tense affair. And I’m not sure why this took me so much by surprise, but it was theatrical in the truest, purest sense of the word. Téo Ghil’s Sebastian, the main protagonist, possessed an intensity that I have rarely seen on stage. His ‘alter ego’ or ‘voice inside his head’, Greene, was playfully, maliciously played by Stephen Sobal.
Sebastian was at the forefront of proceedings throughout, whereas Greene would often take a back seat, metaphorically and physically, when other characters where present. The story itself deals beautifully and heart-wrenchingly with the theme of lost love – Sebastian has spent ten years mourning the loss of his true love Ella to his best friend William. However, Nevermore certainly cannot be reduced to this premise. Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Raven’ is recited by Sebastian (and Greene) on several occasions, and its dark, atmospheric presence can be felt even when the words themselves are not being uttered. Without giving too much away, literary comparisons can also be drawn with great Greek tragedies. The audience can guess the tragic outcome from the start, but what happens in between is no less thrilling or exciting.
As well as ‘dealing with love’ (and I apologise for the banality of my expressions, which are doing the play no justice) Nevermore is also an honest portrayal of mental illness. The choice of having Greene and Sebastian as two different actors was brilliant. Greene has so much more presence that way, and the audience can begin to understand how hard it must be for Sebastian to live with him inside his head. Greene’s constant taunts and malicious persona make evident Sebastian’s self loathing, which is otherwise hidden behind his stoic exterior.
Anyway, that’s quite enough of the psycho-babble (which probably is far off the mark anyway). I hope that Nevermore will be back, perhaps in a bigger theatre (though the studio was an excellent choice of space). In the meantime, I await this winning teams’ next offering and I promise Nevermore to be cynical.
Reviews for Pawn – written by James Card and Luke Redmond; directed by Luke Redmond
Time Out (review by Jonathan Gibbs)
This self-acknowledged riff on Sartre’s ‘In Camera’ desposits lost soul Adele at the reception desk of Hotel Limbo, from whence she can only progress to Heaven or Hell once she has beaten Gabe the bellboy at chess. Like its primary text, James Card and Luke Redmond’s play mixes witty word-play on the paradoxical notion of ‘life after death’ with a more serious attempt to make firm moral precepts for living, from the objective standpoint of death.
There to help or hinder Adele in her deliberations are Gabe, his strangely subservient boss Lucy, and one other long-term guest. Leigh is a gracefully dissipated vamp in residence since the ’40s, either because she’s too dumb to win her one game, or because she’s too drunk, or maybe just because she likes it there. Sonya Vine plays her with an offhand confidence that recasts the other actors as members of an undergraduate revue.
Doodling in the margins of classics is a dangerous pursuit, but the writers gradually convince us that there is something here more than a sketch. Jennifer Rambert’s Adele grows as she sheds her cipher camouflage and starts to come to life, as it were. Unfortunately, just when we’re sitting up and paying attention, the play abruptly halts, shortly before the hour mark. This is frustrating, not only because of the cop-out punchline, but also because one feel that, with a bit more effort in the script department, we might have had a really good play on our hands.
Wandsworth Borough News (review by Paul Nelson)
Whatever anyone thinks about the hereafter, the main thing is we do think about it. It comes as a surprise therefore to discover, as propunded in the new play Pawn at the Man in the Moon Theatre, that the authors, James Card and Luke Redmond, have put the audience on the spot by tricking us into thinking we are watching one thing whilst we are in fact watching another.
How can anyone in charge of eternity be so callous and heartless as to constantly checkmate every opponent in an eternal tournament of chess? Well, the clues in the play abound. Checking into an hotel, Adele ought to have guessed something was rum by the coupled names of the people running it – Lucy and Gabe. Gabe, the porter, or is he the manager, takes charge of Adele’s needs, though it seems strange that she is to have as a companion the languid Leigh, a longstanding guest whose knowledge of the world and chess is slightly better than is Adele’s. Leigh is blase and bored, and no wonder, she seems to have been staying at the place for ages, and is also keen to pass the time in activities of a dubious un-chesslike nature. Can anyone really make suggestive passes at complete strangers out of mere ennui?
For Adele though, things have really only just begun to cook. Different from the other guests, she experiences all sorts of tormenting pain – pain in the afterlife? – and it is this which totally winds up both the character and the audience. Is it Purgatory, Limbo or Heaven? Just where the hell is Adele?
The answer is short and sharply to the point. She ain’t where she wants to be, even after a recall. She returns to the same reception area with ostensibly the same porter, now more polite – this time though she has no luggage (you wonder is that significant too). The realisation dawns on her that she’s got what was coming, and she deserves it. But hell’s bells, that’s just not what she wants!
The play is a clever vehicle for the four members of the cast and they delight in the audience’s confusion. The plot until the end, totally enthralls. The trick is finally revealed in one single word. And it is very sudden. I laughed loud and long, and even after the curtain call found myself still amused by the sheer audacity of the play’s supposition. The actors are Jennifer Rambert as the bemused Adele, Clare Jane Webb as the put upon Lucy trying to get all things right, James Card as Gabe the wily, overbearing, until Adele’s return that is, porter, and Sonya Vine as the worldly Leigh.
Miss Vine’s performance stands out from the rest by virtue of the fact that she is probably the naughtiest girl in this or any other world, knows it, and wouldn’t change a thing. Neither would I. The play is an all too brief and very light escape from any serious thoughts and I found it very entertaining. Worth a second visit.
The Stage (review by Nick Awde)
With freezing weather and the lure of Bonfire Night festivities, this play drew an impressive house – and deservedly so. Subtitled ‘A Graphic Dream’, this debut production from Red Card Theatre is an intriguing, absorbing experience.
Adele (Jennifer Rambert) turns up at a shadowy hotel where she surprises receptionist Gabe (James Card, who also co-writes). She was expected later, he informs Adele, but checks her in the introduces her to the hotel’s only other resident, Leigh (Sonya Vine), a languid, chess-playing debutante from another age.
Enter dizzy hotel proprietor Lucy (Clare Jane Webb) and, the line-up complete, it soon becomes clear that Adele is a suicide arrived in hell – a hell that touts its trade in the manner of an exclusive health club. References cheekily abound as Adele ponders her decision to join, a nod to George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman and a budding lesbian relationship straight out of Jean Paul Sartre, with shades of Luis Bunuel.
As the product of two writers, Card and Luke Redmond, one senses too many ideas and motifs jostling for attention. The play wastes much of the intended irony, while the chess theme, intended as a central strand, is abandoned as a mere visual aid. Yet while the premise is patchy, one’s belief in the characters and their dilemmas is instant. Individually the actors are raw, as an ensemble they are effortlessly slick and mesmerising.
Redmond’s direction is deft with a human touch, with moody atmosphere generated by James Thompson’s lighting and sound. All in all, a partnership one should see a lot more of.