Friday 9th August 2019 at the Etcetera Theatre, London.
This is a show which does an awful lot within a basic space – there’s ambition and fearlessness in the approach and with uniformly brilliant performances in the four strong cast to boot, this is the kind of work which sells fringe theatre as a vital space for exciting new work.
KT Roberts’ writing builds and evolves beautifully, starting out with strong comedy and gradually moving into drama and a few nods towards surrealism. Characters are varied, well conceived and brilliantly brought to life by a great cast who showcase the best possibilities of non-naturalistic characters. In Roberts’ writing there’s a feast of light and dark, riotous action and understated moments with gently landed food for thought. And not content to flex those dynamic aspects only, there are some great twists and reveals in the realms of both comedy and drama which only serve to hammer home the combined strengths across writing, direction and performances.
The cast are superb. Emma Richardson carries the piece with a magnetic and endearing charm as the unstoppable Gina. With an uncertain yet sincere permanent smile she talks a reporter through a prison riot involving her ‘patients’ at the super villain prison. Her narration is interspersed with flashbacks to the action she describes and the production remains structurally sound and all the more engaging for the slick way in which those shifts take shape. It’s very fun, very energised and very impressively done.
Fred Stewart is fantastic as Seth, the most intense of the inmate-patients, handling the hidden depths of the character very nicely as he relishes in the ambiguity of such a troubled soul. Sofia Greenacre is wonderful as the surly Westie with a sharp tongue, shifting role into the risibly privileged Charlie with impressively maintained precision of voice and physicality shifts. Those shifts are matched strength for strength by Francesca Forristal who is hilarious and unnerving by turns as she switches between the comically untameable Xanthie and the intriguingly guarded Kevin.
Director Micha Mirto handles the limited space with ambition rivalling Gina’s blind optimism. A cast of four telling such an active tale in such a space have to be directed with an eye for entertaining action as well as the dangers of overcrowding. The inclusion of shadow puppets (Robbie Bellekom) puppeteered (Bellekom & Roberts) simply across an old school portable projector is inspired. With little more than that projector and some simple graphics, the production takes on a comic book flavour for some performative flair before returning to the comedy or drama of the piece which are equally well done. It’s the kind of detail which instantly elevates a story and a production and it’s a real winning feature here.
On the surface, Villain, Interrupted is a quirky and entertaining comedy about one do-gooder therapists’ unwavering optimism in the face of ‘super-villains’ she truly believes she can transform. But beneath that, there are some nice ideas put forward about incarceration and rehabilitation – through the filter of non-naturalistic characters meeting a mere mortal with grand intentions Roberts balances make-believe and resonant details beautifully.
Villain, Interrupted is a fringe piece rich with vision and full of entertaining performances and wild characters. It glorifies the way in which seeing a blank space for its possibilities rather than its limitations can pay great dividends and with never a dull moment and characters as entertaining as the performers playing them, this is a fantastic hour of theatre – highly recommended.
Villain, Interrupted plays the Etcetera Theatre until 11th August and you can find tickets here.