No, not a review of the high end restaurant in the West End, but of a theatre at the low end of 84 Long Lane SE1, near the Southwark Playhouse. I have just been there to see a SPID Theatre production of Helena Thompson’s short but spooky play IVY. It is in the basement of a former warehouse and can be reached by descending in an antiquated lift, not recommended for those of a nervous disposition.
The production is ambulatory, as the audience follows the two players round a subterranean catacomb. This is the home in a derelict building of a derelict plant-fancier, played with great authority by Leda Hodgson. She spends her time making up potions of valerian tea and heliotrope and practising dark arts. She has a stash of money hidden away and bad girls occasionally break in and beat her up in their unsuccessful efforts to find the loot. As the action starts we find the latest invader tearing the place apart and threatening the old girl with a crowbar. Charlotte Salkind plays this frightening young gangster with great energy and it is a relief when Ivy, as she is known, subdues her with a spell and brings her round with a special brew. From then on the young woman is trapped like a fly in a spider’s web and the rest of the play is about her efforts at redemption. In vain, I think, because amongst many other theatrical tricks with the lights and sound, brilliantly devised and executed by Greg Jordan and Jordan Mallory-Skinner, we end up with police sirens, smoke and a raging fire.
This is an intimate show in which members of the audience have to be ready to move around – I missed my cue once and was bumped into – and it is wonderful as well as weird. The director, Mel Cook, rose to the challenge of turning a radio play into interactive theatre and did a great job. It was a pleasure to see that everyone involved in the production was enjoying it as much as the audience, including me. At £8 a ticket it is a good night out and still time to make it to the other Ivy for a bit of post-theatre.
It was sold out the night I was there and two thirds sold for the rest of the run so worth buying tix soon from http://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/out-about/ivy/