Review: Ivy, Southwark Playhouse

by Olivia Lantz

It was a cold and rainy December evening that brought the perfect mood to see a new piece of dark theatre – Helena Thompson’s Ivy. Produced by SPID Theatre Company, the show took place in Southwark Playhouse’s secret off-site venue, the basement of a warehouse near the theatre in Borough. In addition to the weather, the damp atmosphere provided by the venue only helped to increase the ambiance.

Led down into the basement by front of house staff, the room was a wide space with columns, concrete floor, sectioned off into a few separate spaces; with the walls covered in greenery, dim lights, plants and of course, ivy. The space design, by Emily Megson, gives you that eerie on-your-toes feeling, complimenting the suspense of the story. Greg Jordan’s lighting and Jordan Mallory-Skinner’s sound add to the thrill and do quite impressive work in transforming a traditionally non-theatre space into one.

There are no reserved seats. A few chairs here and there, and stacks of wood slats to sit on. As an audience, you are free to wander around the space as the actions happen. As long as nothing is too ‘in your face’, I really enjoy this type of staging, as it gives every audience member autonomy in how they view the play. Mel Cook’s direction uses this space to its full potential, using every nook and cranny as a playing space in one form or another. It’s clear that as soon as you enter the space, you feel as though you are inside the story, keeping in line with SPID’s immersive and interactive ethos.

The story of Ivy begins with a bang (quite literally). We see young gang member Chloe barge into Ivy’s residence threatening her life and demanding money. Ivy eventually gets her to calm down and have some tea, which in turn makes Chloe start to feel a bit funny, and do strange things. The tea, brewed from greens and herbs in Ivy’s garden seem to contain some hallucinogenic effects, which sets the power play between Ivy and Chloe. The two establish a relationship, discussing the evils going on in the world outside, their similarities and differences, leading us to wonder how much inherent evil is in our world.

Both actresses give outstanding and engaging performances. Leda Hodgson as Ivy brings a slow, careful, yet potent energy, while Charlotte Salkind brings an impulsive, high-spun energy as Chloe; making the conflict between the two immense and impressive. Thompson’s script is well-written and gives just enough away to keep you wanting more.

Ivy is a thrilling script from Thompson and a well-done production from SPID Theatre Company; fresh and interesting work from a company that we all should keep an eye on.

Ivy has now completed its run at Southwark Playhouse. Keep up to date with SPID Theatre Company.