Sunday, 5 November 2017

The Black Eye Club @ The Bread & Roses Theatre

The Black Eye Club @ The Bread & Roses Theatre

The Bread & Roses Theatre is only just celebrating its third anniversary, but already it's hosted a playwriting award. The winner was The Black Eye Club from Phil Charles, now the theatre's fourth in-house production.

The play is based on a fairly contrived set-up that forces its characters together in an exploration of trauma, abuse and gender stereotypes. Dave (Christopher Sherwood) turns up at a women only shelter for sufferers of domestic abuse after an altercation with his male partner. He has no money or belongings, but is still refused entry because of his gender. The rebellious Zoe (Rebecca Pryle) soon arrives to sneak him into her room for the night, where the two characters discover common ground in their trauma.

Though a familiar story arc, it's touchingly portrayed. The play nestles between amusing and sincere, using comedy as a mask to cover suffering. It's amusing to watch these characters tip toe around one another, gently prodding for information, but their stories slowly unfurl to reveal deep-seated Stockholm Syndrome. The clash of gender and class is overt - she a struggling working class gal, he an intelligent middle class accountant - but the way they teach one another about homophobia and consent to break down stereotypes is sensitively played.

The actors do a great job of making these characters human. Pryle's Zoe is a bolshy loudmouth who's not afraid to speak her mind, but beneath the exterior she trembles with a lack of self-belief. Her opposite, Sherwood's Dave is softly spoken, vulnerable and somewhat calculating, all to cover his own secrets. In addition, Cathryn Sherman supports as security guard Sharon. They're sometime lumbered with forced or clunky lines, but mostly Charles' script combines alarming brutality and endearing bravery.

The production does lack some polish, all cramped up in the tiny venue. The audience are crammed in either side and small moments are lost, diminishing the intended intimacy. The play ends with a clich├ęd karaoke rendition of I Will Survive, but it's charmingly done and a well-earned moment of positivity.

3/5

Watch: The Black Eye Club runs at the Bread & Roses Theatre until 18th November.

Ticket courtesy of London Box Office.

The Black Eye Club @ The Bread & Roses Theatre
Photo: Lexi Clare Photography