‘a pedigree production’
By their very nature pub theatres struggle with accessibility. Often situated at the top of steep, winding staircases in awkwardly-shaped spaces (and the Old Red Lion is no exception) they’re not naturally manageable for all. So it’s a really positive step for a company to take an inclusive approach by starting the production with a beautifully-crafted audio-described introduction of the set, costume and movements that adds to everyone’s enjoyment of the play.
Any audience members with a visual impairment can also take a touch-tour or explore the set via model and there is support on hand for accessing the space. Bravo to this company and access consultant Amelia Cavallo and audio-description consultant Jenni Elbourne for an integrated approach to enjoying theatre.
Anyway, to the play itself. The audio-description is particularly important because the main character is a dog. Played by Amy McAllister, her movements are so subtle yet effective (another bravo to movement director Louise Kempton) that it’s easy to feel like you’re really exploring a dog’s psyche. She’s a good dog except when she’s a bad dog and she just wants love, a comfy bed and a full tummy.
But Luna the dog is in big trouble this time. Having scoffed almost a whole chicken from her family’s table, sicked it up, rolled in it and scoffed the resulting mess all over again, she is now locked in the basement. She’s a little confused about this (why leave it out if you don’t want it eaten?) but the confusion grows as she hears her teen pack-leader Ellie-girl arguing with Ma and Pa about going out. Ellie-girl would like to release poor old Luna but they are to be separated as punishment to both.
Luna tells her story and talks to the audience. She’s not quite sure who or what we are and why we’re there (in my mind we were mice hiding in the basement skirting boards) but we’re willing listeners to her tale. It’s not a happy one but Luna doesn’t feel sorry for herself. She has teeth and claws and a strong will to survive.
Above ground, Ma, Pa and Ellie come and go but something is happening outside. It sounds pretty apocalyptic and involves explosions and flashes. The circumstances are never explained so like Luna we’re confused and a little nervous but we’re rooting for Luna’s escape and reunion with Ellie-girl too.
At around seventy–five minutes the play feels like it could do with a little bit of a trim but tight direction from Tamar Saphra keeps things padding along. Georgia de Grey has created a cracker of a set that draws the eye in and which is complemented by Tom Parkinson’s sound design and Timothy Kelly’s lighting. All in all this is a pedigree production.
THE NOISES by Jacqueline Saphra
Directed by Tamar Saphra
Presented by Liam McLaughlin productions
Old Red Lion Theatre until 20th April
Siân Rowland is a playwright and comedy writer represented by Kitson Press.