Firstly, let me just say that what Junkbox Theatre do with the space at Ginger Whisk is so effective. I am a sucker for fairy lights and when I walked in, I immediately felt at home. The lights were low, upbeat music was playing, and the seating was laid out in an intimate round surrounding a very minimalist set. This is the preview home of Georgia Taylforth’s two one-act plays: Stiff Dicky and Mine. Though I can always talk about my opinions regarding atmospheric scenography, we’re not here for that. We’re here for the shows, so I’ll make a start with Stiff Dicky.
With nothing onstage but a bed, which happened to be almost within touching distance of my seat, I was quietly excited for what the next 45 minutes would hold.
Guys, I was not disappointed. It was SO funny.
The morning after the night before is never the best morning, especially if you’ve drank as much as Bella, Connor and Alice have. Once you throw a girlfriend in a perpetual state of majorly pissed off, a neighbour who won’t stop writing you petty notes about your bins, and a corpse into the mix, your hangover is the least of your worries. I don’t want to say too much more at the risk of spoilers and joke-ruining, but if you learn nothing else from Stiff Dicky, you will always remember to be careful with your little blue pills.
The company pull this short but sweet six-hander off with gleeful ease. Sebastian Blunt and Abigail Fitzgerald portray mismatched couple, Connor and Bella, who you find yourself rooting for, despite the fact that they’re both actually pretty terrible people. Lejaun Sheppard is the perfect personification of that guy in the bar who can’t stop saying all the wrong things – like, COMPLETELY wrong – but who still ends up pulling anyway. Hippolyte Poirier’s conundrum as the unexpected guest with a massive language barrier is a joy to behold. And from the moment Alexandra Mardell enters as Phoebe, though you want to hate her, you also kind of love her; her side-eye is a work of art. But Taylforth’s Alice was the stand-out character for me. Her approach to sex and her own sexuality is such a delightful breath of fresh air and she is just so incredibly likeable. The cast work deliciously well together and it’s deeply enjoyable to watch them.
Which bodes well for Mine seeing as the cast stays mostly the same
Mine promised to be a more sombre offering than the previous night’s, and it was. The show follows three couples all dealing with pregnancy. It is super emotional – tangibly so – and extremely relatable. It’s impossible not to get invested in the futures of their relationships as you get on-board this roller coaster of varying emotions.
As much as I fully enjoyed the stories of all three couples, Toby and Lauren’s relationship makes my heart smile. There is something so pure about a gay man’s best friend offering to carry his baby for him. And it lends itself so easily to the hilarity that ensures from that premise. There is a very fabulous and very funny labour scene; I think having a man with a phobia of vaginas deliver a baby is just absolute gold. Jack Coleby, taking to the stage after directing Stiff Dicky, is adorably anxious about the child he wants so desperately, and is complemented perfectly by Fitzgerald who treats us to a little taste of her natural South Wales accent while enticing us with Lauren’s intrinsic carefree personality.
But it’s not all fun and games…and semen in yoghurt pots and turkey basters. As with all roller coasters, you can’t have ups without downs and there are some pretty severe downs. Again, to avoid spoilers, I’m going to keep the following vague: there is a very difficult scene to watch (and once you’ve seen the show, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about). It’s a very ambitious topic and overall, is handled well. However, there is something about it that doesn’t sit quite right with me – the subject at the heart of it not withstanding. Perhaps it felt just that bit too abrupt; perhaps it was the fact that there seemed to be a bit of a slip in a vital staging prop. That being said, considering the gravitas of the situation and how easily shots for that specific hoop are missed, Amy Blair’s direction stands strong.
In comparison to Stiff Dicky, Mardell’s emotional scope is gorgeous to witness and Poirier’s vocal versatility is incredibly admirable: there is no hint of the French accent of his alternate character. Their fresh-off-the-Tinder-boat relationship is genuinely quite cute. Last, but by no means least, Blunt and Taylforth give a very convincing, rather heartwarming as well as harrowingly private and unedited, performance of a newly engaged couple (although I kept seeing them as brother and sister from time to time, thanks to the previous night). The scope in the types of relationship keeps the performance fresh and engaging all the way through.
While Stiff Dicky felt perfectly timed, Mine could have been a full-length show in itself. We’re told to “always leave them wanting more” and I definitely wanted more of Mine. I live in hope that Taylforth will expand this script; I could watch these characters navigate their relationships for hours.
JunkBox will be performing their double bill at the Ginger Whisk Studios until Sunday June 11th before taking them up to Edinburgh. Do what you need to do to get a ticket: you will not regret it.