Set in the ladies’ toilet of a South London nightclub, the audience of No Rhyme are given a snapshot into to life of Lizzie, the toilet attendant. On New Year’s Eve, drama escalates in the cubicles that we soon discover are Lizzie’s home, as both club staff and clubbers take revenge, confront each other and – in one case – even give birth.
The show is compelling simply for the double virtue of it being excellently written and well cast. This is the Melanie Pennant’s first piece of writing, having worked for years as a solicitor. No Rhyme is part of the Brockley Jack Theatre’s Write Now Festival, an annual celebration of new writing which has been a feature of the theatre’s programme since 2009.
Pennant has a natural flair for dialogue, particularly the colloquial banter between the two clubbers, which bounces backwards and forwards with scattergun rapidity. The audience become completely absorbed in the complicated love lives of these girls, only to be reminded of their petty selfishness under Lizzie’s withering gaze. The drama is given an underscore of mindless club tunes by the sound designer Mark Webber. This background hum forms a constant reminder of the ignorance of the revellers outside about the matters of life and death unfolding inside the toilet.
Director Kate Bannister (also the Artistic Director of the Brockley Jack Theatre) has made her cast work extremely hard, as all five of the performers attack the piece with energy and commitment. Susan Lawson-Reynolds gives a performance of slightly frightening its intensity as Lizzie. However, it is Megan Lee Mason (fresh out of Rose Bruford Drama School) who dominates the stage as the streetwise and tough clubber, Nushka. She is a physically intimidating presence, with the perfect swagger, dance moves and foul mouth to match.
The designer David Shields and his team have all done a stellar job of turning the tiny black box Brockley Jack Theatre into a fully functioning toilet. There is no miming here as the taps and hand dryer actually work. The extreme realism of the set and the actresses’ performances successfully transports the audience away into this trashy world, making the events of the night even more shocking as they unfold. However, as everything about the production aims for realism, Lizzie’s moments of connection with the divine are somewhat incongruous, as it is not realistic that the other characters would also acknowledge the drums she can hear inside her head.
Running at just over an hour, No Rhyme could have easily been half an hour longer and still have sustained the audience’s attention. I felt that the show ended rather quickly, leaving me dissatisfied because many of the character’s problems remained unsolved. However, in the real world, none of these problems have a simple solution anyway, so perhaps this lack of resolve is intended. The entire team of No Rhyme is to be congratulated on an excellent production where their hard work and dedication has paid off.
No Rhyme is running at the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre until 25 May 2013. For more information and tickets, see the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre website.