It is not a good time for emerging artists. The jobs seem to have shrunk to atom-size and funding might as well be a Russian word. The new mantra in performing arts appears to be: “if you can’t join them, beat them” – inspiring many upcoming theatre-makers to set up their own companies.
At first Immaculate by the newly-founded Thundermaker Productions Ltd. might come across as a naïve attempt to join the many fringe companies fighting for survival and exposure in London. Created by the young actor Matthew J Staton and joined by other upcoming artists, it appears to be a sweet little production trying to reach a bit too far, but don’t be fooled. Though this new-born company is just appearing on the London fringe scene, it already shows an astounding creativity and dedication that surely will bring its team very far.
Immaculate is the story of Mia who suddenly finds herself pregnant and without a clue who the father is. She hasn’t had sex in more than 9 months after a bad break up with her disastrous boyfriend Michael (Matthew J Staton), and when archangel Gabriel (on behalf of God) and Lucifer turn up at her flat, both claiming to be the father of her unborn son, things spin out of hand. Mia is not at all fit to be “the new Virgin Mary” – she smokes, drinks too much and is a dominatrix who calls her ex-boyfriend a dog-fucking, dickless scumbag. Not quite fit to be the mother of God, but not very keen on being the mother of Evil either.
Set in the small theatre of the White Bear pub in Kennington, Immaculate is an intimate and hysterically funny production. Oliver Lansley’s writing is spot on, fearless and hits the comic tone with a perfect punch that sends the audience into an unstoppable fit of laughter. All the characters are real, justified and lovable (even the cringeworthy and super nerdy Gary Goodman), and the cast prove themselves to be a bunch of brave actors who deserve every spotlight and bit of glory Immaculate has to offer.
Jessica Doherty plays Mia with a fantastic wry tone; her sarcasm hits every mark and colours in Lansley’s words beautifully. Talking to the audience, she is as real as your friend in the next seat, and as refreshingly down-to-earth and truthful even with the audience right at her toes. Phil Featherstone is hilarious as the socially awkward and gullible Gary Goodman, and Barry Wilson gets a roar of laughter as the fiery but much misunderstood Lucifer who claims he definitely didn’t fall out of heaven, he was pushed.
Director Nick Reed has managed to use this young new company’s passion and playfulness and has created a fresh and immediate performance that honours Oliver Lansley’s fantastic piece and spins the humour into a comic turbulence of swear words, profanities and a search for impossible answers. Matthew J Staton has created a vibrant company with a love of theatre that clearly shines throughout the piece. I actually laughed so much I cried a little. Do yourself a favour and go and see it.
Immaculate is playing at the White Bear Theatre in Kennington until 10 August. For more information and tickets, see the White Bear Theatre website.