Following a £1.3 million refurbishment of The White Bear pub, the theatre has also undergone extensive works. With new seating, new lighting, and a gorgeous new space, it really is set to rival some other fringe venues. Unfortunately, it’s also faced some teething problems which have delayed opening night.
Premiering with Michael Bhim’s Tuesday, directed by The White Bear’s Artistic Director Michael Kingsbury, the setting is a middle-class living room in North West London. Our male protagonist Edward (Thomas-Jan Johnstone) is having a drunken catch-up with old school friend Brian (Jermaine Dominique). ‘And I always thought Mondays were the worst though… Always…But it’s not… Tuesday,’ they moan, ‘Fucking Tuesdays…’ They are both in their mid-thirties and languishing in their semi-alcoholism whilst battling their problems. We meet Edward’s old work friend Nic (Kate Burdette), who after a year has finally had it with his shit. Ex-wife Linda (Phoebe Ladenburg) also stops by to pick up some boxes from their old life. When Brian stops by again to pick Edward up and go to a house-warming they had talked about, Edward is drunk enough to divulge what is really going on.
Bhim’s writing is very fluid and although the narrative is light on plot, the writing generally speaks very well for itself. With emphatic monologues and natural indulgences from each of the characters, however the acting isn’t up to scratch with the quality of the writing. What’s more, all of the actors are unfortunately too young for the parts they are playing, and have no way of showing us that they have lived through the things their characters talk about. The people dancing around Edward instil much more to the piece than he does as a central character. Particularly Dominique, harrowing and lively in his actions, yet showing a deepened understanding of his journey. We really connect with him as Brian, as he stands in front of us so honest and vulnerable. Ladenburg is a gorgeous actor who shows genuine integrity and instinct within her delivery of Linda. The drive is lost with Johnstone though, as he drops the energy and fails to land on the action of the lines.
My main qualm is mostly with the subject matter, which revolves mostly around a self-centred writer who hurts a lot of people in his life. Not only is this hard to relate to, but also a narrative and character trope that is tired and out-dated. Whilst there are some good underlying issues which crop up through the interactions, the main focus is not interesting enough. However, I look forward to seeing more from Bhim as he stretches his writing to new levels.
Overall, a strong starting piece for this renovated venue. I look forward to seeing what’s next.
Tuesday is playing at the White Bear Theatre until December 2.
Photo: Sofi Berenger