Category Archives: Theatre 503

Located above the Latchmere Pub, Theatre503 in Battersea was like discovering a gem. It is well known for spotting writers at the early stages of their careers. The stage is tiny and the audtorium seats 65 but nevertheless the standard of acting is refreshingly high.


BU21BU21 at Theatre 503

25th March, 2016

‘Nothing prepares you for how f***ing fierce it is’


It’s 22nd July 2016 when a BU21 aircraft, coming from New York, gets hit by a surface-to-air missile in a suspected terrorist attack, before crashing into Parsons Green, a residential area in south London.  Stuart Slade’s play explores how six young Londoners will cope with the aftermath after being differently involved. How would each and every one of us deal with such a horror? We all now live under the daily shadow of suicide bombs, mass shootings, genocides, drone strikes, school massacres and there is a resulting trauma and emotional wreckage. The conceit of a survivors’ group is a way of incorporating the words of ‘real’ people, as spoken in private interview or public record, into a riveting verbatim drama.

The Survivors’ group is composed of six interwoven monologues.   Each person alternates their position centre stage when it is their turn to share their painful memories through a spontaneous stream of consciousness which at times becomes a theatrical joyride of humour and darkest feelings or deepest thoughts. Each survivor’s tales unfolds piecemeal over the course of the play. Gradually the audience comes to know more about the ramifications of the attack, and the deep psychological scars left on all of the characters.

Yet, there is no political correctness here. Stuart Slade’s intelligent writing is blunt and bleakly observed and the cast deliver with immediacy, such grim topicality.

Continue reading BU21

And Then Came The Nightjars

And Then Come The Nightjars‘And Then Come The Nightjars’
At Theatre 503

15th, September, 2015

‘You hardly ever see ’em, only hear them. They fly silent.
It’s bad luck is Nightjars. It’s a bird o’ death.’


Ironically, I have been recently listening to ‘The Reunion’ during which Sue MacGregor interviews five people whose lives and livelihoods were dramatically changed by the Foot and Mouth epidemic of 2001. The devastating effects of the pandemic which saw the slaughter of four million animals, the virtual closure of the countryside and the postponement of a general election provide a backdrop for Bea Roberts’ extraordinarily moving picture of male friendship over twelve years and a British tragedy.
The play’s unusual and aptly chosen title serves as a metaphor for doom. Nightjars are short-billed birds known for their distinctive ‘chirring’ call, and considered unlucky. In some parts of Britain they have traditionally had the nickname ‘goatsuckers’, thanks to the belief that they drink livestock dry, and they’re also reputed to infect calves with a deadly disease. So Roberts’ play is a raw reminder of just how devastating the disease was. For a farmer such as Michael, a man who has invested his life in the welfare of his animals, rendered helpless before a faceless government bureaucracy that declares that even apparently healthy cattle must be killed, it is so heart-breaking.
The immediate impact as the audience awaits the start of the play is designer, Max Dorey’s set – a meticulously conceived barn in Devonshire, light spilling through the slatted ceiling; he has such a precise eye for detail, for weathering and decay; Sally Ferguson’s lighting marks time with a subtle cycle through days and nights and seasons.
Following the death of his wife Sheila, Michael devotes himself to his prize-winning herd of cows, each named after members of the Royal Family, and eventually has to lose them: ‘we lost Camilla to the bloat in February’. Friend and local vet, Jeff is a shadowed reminder of the disease recently discovered on a neighbouring farm: foot and mouth; a whole herd slaughtered and set to burn. Paul Robinson sensitively directs the friendship between Michael (David Fielder) and Jeff (Nigel Hastings) is savagely funny and sad. The humour derives from various sources: a lament for a vanishing countryside, a tradition of farming challenged by conglomerates, second-homers, Grand Design barn conversions

Continue reading And Then Came The Nightjars


MuscovadoMuscovado by Matilda Ibini at Theatre 503
March 1st, 2015

‘Did you know that negroes have smaller brains than animals’

To see Matilda Ibini’s new play,‘Muscovado’ on first day of spring at Theatre 503 was such a good choice. It is a bitter sweet interconnected story of life on the Fairbranch sugar plantation in Barbados at the start of the 19th Century.  As Jane Austen did in ‘Mansfield Park’, the play serves to remind us of British involvement in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
With the slave-owners’ way of life under threat from abolitionists in the old country and the possibility of rebellion closer to home, various tensions abound throughout: that between slaves and owner, the unseen Captain, owner of the plantation, and everyone’s tormenter; the latter’s role as husband and his trapped wife, Miss Kitty (Clemmie Reynolds); and Parson Lucy (Adam Morris), is unsettlingly convincing as an abhorrent, self-righteous pantomime villain who exploits his clerical position for power and greed. Even though the characters slip at times into caricatures of the period, there is an emotional reality which remains credible throughout.

Continue reading Muscovado


Occupied‘Occupied’ by Carla Grauls

 At Theatre 503

8th April 2014

‘We are creating little territories in your country, a hostile takeover of your garden sheds, houses and your toilets. The occupation has begun.’

Within a fortnight, a return trip to Theatre 503 entertains us once again by showcasing another new talent, Carla Grauls’s unusual and innovative play,  ‘Occupied’. The title is a tidy sound bite to explore a range of issues which are in the forefront today. So in keeping with the dictionary definition of ‘occupied’:

1. To dwell or reside in – Literally, ‘occupied’ evokes public lavatories and thus a disused Victorian loo provides an inventive setting to explore how we can soil, damage and ruin people.

2. To seize possession of and maintain control over by or as if by conquest – Shockingly, the first scene opens to Tom (Luke Waldock) lying tied up and seemingly unconscious on the floor. He is being held hostage by Alex (Mark Conway) and Andreea (Josie Dunn) who are Romanian immigrants living in the toilet.

3. To fill up (time or space) – Alex’s simple motivation for imprisoning Tom is to be empowered by understanding English characteristics, and spend time learning how to be English and fit in order to get a job and to pick up English girls. Josie Dunn’s adept and sombre playing of ‘Rule Britannia’ adds a dark irony to Tom’s interrogation.

4. To engage or employ the attention or concentration of  – At first the central issue seems to be about immigration with the toilet walls plastered with articles from tabloids. Daily Mail headline cuttings such as: ‘MIGRATION – I DO SHARE YOUR CONCERNS – serves as a reminder of Middle England’s approach to cultural stereotypes and prejudices which are deliberately satirised but sadly true.

Quickly, the thrust of the play has a stab at exploring the complex nature of national identity and what it takes to survive in western society. Migration of identity is seen as precarious and contradictory. One minute, Alex and Andreea are savouring their culture through their nation’s music and drinking pálinka, only for Alex, to be destabilised by the ghosts of communism and Ceausescu, cleverly depicted by the repugnant smell of a Romanian bag lady ( Fiz Marcus). In his quest for understanding, Alex is exposed as a dangerous fantasist as he is unaware of his own limitations to realise his expectations.

Conway delivers a gritty performance of Alex’s insecurity and extreme volatility. He is able to rescue Andrea from a brothel yet he manipulates her to prostitute herself and steal to survive.

5. To hold or fill (an office or position) –Tom’s character is less well developed even though Alex sees him as a wealthy self-martyr who has lost the appetite for material indulgence and one  whose earnings have contributed to deep anxieties. Andreea could be labelled as one of the popularised ‘New Fagins’ but invites the most sympathy with her disciplined daily routine of silently saving up the money she has pickpocketed. Alex regards employment as a task that is built on the equality of opportunity rather than oppression, but he merely becomes frustrated. Continue reading Occupied



‘Dog Days’ by Annie Hulley at Theatre 503

11th March, 2014

‘We all play by basic rules, only some are born with a different basic set of rules…’

‘Dog days’ is an aptly titled, referring to a period of relationship stagnation as two couples lay themselves bare in Annie Hulley’s  ninety minutes of dark comedy and edgy unreality.

Our home is the most intimate, secure space we can inhabit, yet the scene opens to a literally beige existence of Cate and John.  They are locked into a Daily Mail, Middle England routine and empty Pinteresque exchanges.  Using just one set, Sophia Simensky reinforces what has been shared for many years; patterns of territory, privacy, and memories of the past enshrined in objects such as owl ornaments and a photograph of their only son. Hoping to get a buyer for Cate and John’s home is a temporary solution to domestic friction. Continue reading Dogdays

Steve and Then It Ended

Steve_and_it_endedSteve and Then It Ended by Adam Usden at Theatre 503: 12th January 2013

“This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper.”  T.S. Eliot

Adam Usden’s apocalyptic drama is a consciously crafted debut play which is the stuff that popular disaster films have explored for decades. Some people have been unsettled by Mayan prophecy that some catastrophic event would occur and the world would end on Dec. 21, 2012. The focus is on a small family unit to discuss what matters most in the world when that world seems redundant.

It is the end of the world when Steve (Matt Sutton) opens the play, marooned on a chair, dangling a trainer to measure the boundaries of what still exists. Nothing is clear at this stage. Has he survived? Is he merely deranged? Is he in limbo en route to purgatory?  A series of flashbacks offers some initial flippancy and later dark humour. The family eventually provide a collective consciousness uniting together to support and love one another.

The ending, perhaps, is a little too abrupt, but then again, life happens and forever rushes forward. It is an ambitious play which is enjoyable, and though areas could do with some pruning, I look forward to seeing more of Usden’s work.