REVIEW: CRACKING @ THEATRE ROYAL PLYMOUTH
📍 The Drum, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Royal Parade, Plymouth, Devon, PL1 2TR
🗓 Wednesday 25th October 2023
CONFIDENT AND HEARTWARMING
Playing this week in The Drum at Theatre Royal Plymouth is Cracking, the latest play from Shôn Dale-Jones, and last night I was invited to watch and review the show.
As I entered the auditorium I was greeted by Dale-Jones, who was greeting everyone, and before me there was a very sparse stage. There was just a table, a chair and two microphones. On the table was a laptop, a vocoder, a wig and two eggs in eggcups!
There was a bit of pre-show banter, which seemed scripted and I wasn’t sure that this landed brilliantly to be honest. The show was advertised as part stand-up and part theatre but for me I felt the stand-up elements didn’t mesh well on this occasion and parts, such as this pre-show banter, felt slightly awkward.
The story itself was a mixture of a real-life event which had happened to Dale-Jones and a story which he had started developing a while ago. The amalgamation worked well and one thing’s for sure, his acting skills and storytelling is second-to-none.
Dale-Jones plays a version of himself in Cracking and we follow him as he returns to his hometown of Anglesey to visit and support his elderly mother as she awaits some test results. We follow him through the story as he reconnects with old school friends and the strange plethora of people in the small community. After a slight altercation at a supermarket, Dale-Jones and his mother return home and in their rather playful way, crack eggs on each others heads! A neighbour, Mr Evans, misunderstands what he’s witnessed and thinks that Dale-Jones is being abusive to his mother and the news spreads like wildfire and grows beyond reality in an awful case of Chinese whispers! As someone who lives in a small community, I know first hand how true to reality this is!
This piece is really a comment on today’s society and is reflective of internet trolls who voice their opinions on stories when they have no idea what has actually happened. They’ve read a headline or overheard some misinformation and suddenly think they have a right to say and do what they want and act almost as a vigilante. When, in the story, Dale-Jones sees wanted posters with his face plastered around the town and an online article with the headline ‘Violent Misogynist’, he knows things are getting out of hand!
There are some touching moments throughout the piece, especially around his relationship with his mother. Their relationship is playful and heartwarming. When he goes to retrieve something from the attic and discovers that his mother has cleared everything out, he realises that she is preparing to die and this was heartbreaking. There’s also a lovely moment when he walks Eileen, his mothers best friend, home and we get a fantastic bit of bleak humour here!
The piece for the most part seemed rooted in reality, but there were occasional moments where it moved into the realm of fantasy. Although the imagery in these moments was outstanding, I was a little bewildered by this. There was no clear distinction between reality and fantasy and this caught me off guard a little to be honest.
The performance was very relaxed, not only in its delivery but in its technicality. The house lights remained up throughout the entire performance and there were no changes to lighting at all which made it feel more like a group of friends sat around listening to a story together, rather than an audience watching a play.
There were many characters throughout the play and Dale-Jones gave each one a personality and performed as each one. He never actually became the character but instead used different voices to portray each one. Doing this without giving each character a physicality also helped give the relaxed feeling of listening to a friend tell a story.
There were sound effects and music used throughout, all controlled by Dale-Jones, but I don’t believe the piece needed these. For me personally I felt they took something away from the piece, rather than adding to it. Cracking started life as a radio play so maybe this feature is a remnant of that.
Dale-Jones is obviously an accomplished performer and although for me the writing is not strong all the way through, he performed the piece confidently. There were times when I was unsure as to whether the character was joking, was angry or a little crazy and I would have liked to have been able to better understand from what standpoint he was viewing the unfolding situation.
Even though this is a bit of a mixed review, I would definitely recommend this play to others. It’s not a laugh-out-loud riotous comedy but it does tickle the funny bone! I know that Dale-Jones brings a few different plays to Plymouth and I would be intrigued to watch future works from him.
If you’re interested in Cracking, then it is playing until Saturday 28th October in The Drum. Tickets start from just £12 so head to www.theatreroyal.com to check availability and book tickets.
All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest, fair and free from influence. Theatre is subjective and it is important to remember that all views expressed are just those of one reviewer.
My ticket for this performance of Cracking was gifted by Theatre Royal Plymouth who invited me to watch the show in exchange for my honest review. The fact that my ticket was gifted played no part in the content of my review or the star rating given.
WRITTEN AND PERFORMED BY:
RUNNING TIME (approx):
75 minutes, with no interval
The Theatre Royal Plymouth is the principle home of the performing arts in the South West and is the largest and most attended regional producing theatre in the country. Their mission is to develop and deepen people's engagement with pioneering creativity in Plymouth and the South West, delivering experiences that spark delight, expression and fulfilment. The venue offers three performance spaces of various sizes, the largest being The Lyric which accommodates the big touring productions. The Drum and The Lab are smaller, intimate spaces and often offer pioneering productions and I have personally seen some excellent productions in these spaces.