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Bread and Roses Theatre, Clapham (venue)

10 May 2018 (released)

14 May 2018

"Success turns smart people crazy. Like smack, it’ll never be enough, only leave you gurning for more.”

The life of a celebrity is not what it used to be; gone are the drug fuelled parties and reckless hedonism. Nowadays, success in the music industry is more likely to mean a relentless fitness regime and continuous monitoring of your social media profile. But there’s still money and of course power to be had for the lucky few. Power that can be abused…

When Lydia Rynne won the Bread and Roses 2016/17 play-writers award for The Buzz, #metoo was yet to take off and the sheer number of high profile men abusing their power were yet to be revealed. She was clearly tuning into the early rumbles of the movement and her exploration of the dubious ethics of celebrities sets a bold, current tone for new artistic director Valenzia Spearpoint’s first season.

Kyla, played by Sassy Clyde is smart and frustrated, suddenly demoted to being the ignored side-kick of her self absorbed celebrity pop-star boyfriend Josh (Andrew Umerah). They live in an all-white pent-house apartment, (not an easy brief on a fringe budget) and as Kyla points out to Josh, he has not credited her for writing most of his lyrics and he doesn’t even seem to pick up his guitar of an evening anymore. Whilst Clyde’s character always has an element of envy and bitterness, Umerah plays the cute card throughout – funny at first as he preens and pumps, manipulating those around him with his charm and lies. It would have been more exciting to get a hint of Josh’s darker side in a performance which began to feel a little one note as the drama unfolded.

When Kyla’s squatter brother (played by Gabriel Cagan) turns up, he forces her to confront the darker side her partner’s supposedly squeaky clean celebrity life and whilst this twists the drama into a whole new realm it also reveals some cracks in the play. Rynne’s greatest strength is her snappy dialogue and warm characterisation. Although engaging for the full seventy minutes, the play weakens as somewhat implausible plot-lines take over and a number of small un-naturalistic details start to undermine its integrity. But black comedy is notoriously difficult to pitch and it’s well worth watching this strong cast grappling with ambitious new writing at an exciting time for The Bread and Roses.

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