Rialto Theatre, Brighton, Friday, July 13

OWLS tells the story of a night watchman trapped in a futile and depressing routine until the night he talks a young woman out of an attempted suicide bid.

It is only as he gets the victim to open-up about her problems that he begins to realise the hopelessness of his own position and starts to come to terms with his true feelings of loss and inadequacy.

The sub-text of the play is that depression and mental illness can happen to anyone even if the signs are often misunderstood or ignored and the person often suffers in silence.

The play starts when security guard, Steve, comes across Anna on the top of a multi-storey car park as she prepares to jump, and he is forced to enter an open discussion about their shared demons to save her life.

The audience are taken on an emotional roller-coaster as the victim and the saviour explore their innermost feelings until it is difficult to decide who is doing the saving and who is being saved – and Steve is persuaded to take some positive steps in his own life.

Written by Jayne Woodhouse and co-directed with Calum Robshaw, the play has developed and evolved since it was given a 15-minute slot at a mental health event two years ago and is now a full-length play.

David House is superb as the understated and under assertive security guard and Kate Austin is excellent as the mental patient at the end of her tether.

They are ably supported by Neil Gardner who doubles up as Steve’s son, Darren, and an unfeeling fellow security guard, Pavel.

There may be a message behind the story, but this is gripping drama from the first scene to the triumphant and liberating end. Entertaining as well as enlightening!

Philip Noble

The Little Shop Of Horrors


Roedean Theatre, Roedean School, Brighton, Friday, July 13

FOR their summer musical The Brighton Academy chose Little Shop of Horrors, a comedy rock musical about a hapless florist shop worker who raises a plant that feeds on human blood and flesh.

Based on a low-budget 1986 black comedy film it has music recalling early 1960s rock & roll and Motown.

Normally played with a small cast The Academy, in order to showcase the talents of its students, has understandably expanded it into a full blown production.

In replacing the original’s simplicity, sadly its charm and intimacy are diminished.

That said there is much to enjoy in the show and from its cast.

Full marks for the inventive creation of the carnivorous plant, usually a rubber puppet but here a Hydra-like shape being built up by writhing dancers.

Strong, lively choreography includes a moving dream ballet sequence.

A hard working cast are led (at the performance I saw) by Daniel Wallage and Lauren Wheeler.

Wallage plays Seymour, the nerdish flower shop assistant secretly in love with Audrey (Wheeler) who is unfortunately tied up, quite frequently as it happens, with a sadistic dentist.

Both shine vocally. She in Somewhere That’s Green and together with Suddenly, Seymour.

Throughout the show, acting as a Greek chorus, are a backing group in the style of the Supremes – who move in and out of the action providing musical commentary.

Excellent vocal work is supplied by Hazel Karooma Brooker, Yazmin Dewey, Victoria Hart, Zara Gillespie and Rebecca Riley.

However where the show suffers is the lack of balance between the band and the artists.

Too often a singer or actor is fighting to be heard over the music with lyrics being lost. This struggle often causes voices to be strained and harsh.

At times it seems like “never mind the clarity - feel the noise”.

Barrie Jerram