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  • Writer's pictureAbigail Woodridge

REVIEW: POISONED BEDS @ BARONS COURT THEATRE

🎭 Poisoned Beds

📍 28a Comeragh Road, London, W14 9HR

🗓 Wednesday 22nd May 2024

⭐️⭐️⭐️

A THOUGHT-PROVOKING RETELLING OF A MONUMENTAL DECISION


POISONED BEDS take place at a concert rehearsal in 1918 with Elisabeth Wells, played by Paula Tinker, at the helm. She delves into the misfortune that she has experienced throughout her life interspersed with comedic timings and merry ditties. It was playing in Barons Court Theatre, a very apt setting for the atmosphere of an Edwardian meeting point.


Paula's storytelling brings to life the devastation of water pollution on the oyster population over one hundred years ago. She shares her sorrows from her marriage, being berated by men and the plight she felt for the place she called home. Her narrative describes the horrendous impact on the oyster trade, bringing with it a decade long harbour closure leading to extreme poverty and starvation. A tale from which we should take heed. 


It is not entirely melancholic however, and is performed well with humorous notations and thought-provoking snippets, "I was glad I had not given in to temptation to poison her deathbed with fleeting words". I enjoyed watching this but it felt as though it was lacking something a bit more riveting than a cautionary tale.


Paula is supported by John Gleadall, who plays Mr Finch, the quiet but smiling guitarist who knows exactly which song to rehearse alongside Elisabeth's story. His assortment of songs ranged from inspirational (nearly patriotic) shanties as well as some that garnered chuckles from the audience.


Men making a mockery of Elisabeth and women in general is a central theme to Lucy Flannery's and Greg Mosse's writing. Elisabeth's husband, Broderick, is referenced throughout as a narcissistic, manipulative and adulterous husband. She tells of her inability to have children which she later finds out is due to her husband's preference for 'women of the gutter' leading to her catching an STI, unbeknownst to her for years.


She goes to her Uncle for support after finding out her husband has been grooming a child. He abruptly dismisses her and insists she does not talk about delicate matters. Elisabeth chooses to ignore his advice. This stark retelling was the life for most women a century ago, as a result Elisabeth's mentions of the suffragette movement are passionately delivered. 


Paula is a fantastic choice to play Elisabeth, her facial expressions and subtle pauses make for a very interesting portrayal. "I don't care for the French word for railway" was just one of her amusing recounts. Despite casting Paula, the show itself does feel flat in parts. It seems unnecessary to put it on as a play, it could do just as well as a podcast or radio skit to deliver the environmental message behind it.


There are many parallels in the play that ring true even now. The disastrous raw sewage leaks and their environmental impact is just one strong issue that  certainly left me questioning how this is still happening today.


We finished with a round of sea shanties led by John where the audience was invited to participate. There were some familiar songs that appealed to audience members who remembered them from their childhood, it was a delightful experience! John and Paula shared more into how the play came to be, it was a nice final touch. It was a shame that the audience numbers were on the lower side which made the singing feel a bit like a school assembly.


Overall this is a well written informative play showcasing environmental concerns from a century ago that are still prevalent today. Paula's interpretation of an Edwardian woman who has experienced much heartache is wonderfully insightful. "It was never my destiny to inspire such love". However it lacked a certain spark, there was nothing to hook me in amd ultimately it became quite repetitive. The singalong session at the end is a good idea but with it being nearly as long as the play it would've been more appreciated to have time dedicated to the play. 


Abigail Woodridge


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 Poisoned Beds was gifted meaning I was invited 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.

COMPANY:

Written by Lucy Flannery and Greg Mosse

Original Music by John Gleadall

Perfromed by Paula Tinkert


RUNNING TIME (approx):

55 minutes, with no interval

Shanties and informal chat at the end: 35 minutes


CONTENT WARNINGS:

References to child sexual abuse, grooming, STIs, alcoholism, incest, suicidal thoughts, emotional abuse and drowning


Check out these shows and more playing at Barons Court Theatre this season.

CLICK HERE for more details and to book tickets.

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