The So and So Arts Club was founded three years ago by Sarah Berger. It has 1200 members in nine countries, and this year they are presenting their second Ever HopeFull Rep season. It is a place for collaboration for all. The season features four plays and a musical. Tonight I got to see Leslie Midliner’s American Venus and Shelley Silas’ This Thing Called Love.
American Venus is a fictionalised take on movie star Louise Brooks’ life. The play uses flashbacks to jump between the young star’s affair with Charlie Chaplin and the old Brooks who stays in bed most of the time. She uses her occasionally rude sense of humour to keep everyone away from her.
Susan Penhaligon plays a grumpy and funny Brooks, while Mary Keegan portrays her friend Phyllis with great skill that demands attention. In the flashbacks, young Louise is played by Angharad George-Carey, giving a vibrant performance. But despite some funny and genuinely heart-warming moments, American Venus feels slightly overwritten and lacks a central theme that could anchor it. The play is about the fading star letting go of her youth, but this could have been clearer and more emphasised. There are many supporting characters that often overcrowd the already small stage. It feels like the production would have been more effective in a bigger space.
This Thing Called Love is a two hander featuring Felicity Dean as Maggie and Walter Van Dyk as Jack. This play has a nice combination of humour and drama, and its intimate atmosphere fits the small pop-up stage. Both Maggie and Jack are widows who start an affair and slowly find themselves in love. Silas’ play has love, passion, the ideas of growing older and forming relationships, and even some solid elements of feminism. It reminds us that age and experience won’t make love any less complicated, messy and unpredictable. Dean and Van Dyk work together with a certain chemistry that is very interesting to watch as they lead us through the ups and downs of the affair. It is funny, witty, but also a great study on relationships and the labels and responsibilities they come with. The transitions are quick and effective, keeping the performance in momentum.
I am glad that we can still see repertory theatre in London. The two plays really gave me a taste of what So and So is about; they hit different notes and are presented in different styles. With five different performances, there is certainly something for everyone.
The Ever HopeFull repertory season is playing at the So & So Arts Club until September 27. For more information and tickets, see the So and So Arts Club website. Photo by Ever HopeFull.