Venue: theSpace@Surgeons Hall – Bevan Theatre
Madhouse bursts into action with a dramatic rendition of a classic student night in. With pop quiz in full swing, Aldi wine flowing and the inevitable appearance of a Red-hot Chilli Pepper costume, Madhouse firmly establishes itself as a witty and occasionally self-deprecating insight into student living. Fringe debut for writer M Craig and performed for the first time on stage by the Nottingham New Theatre, the play is full of potential and showcases glimmers of emerging talent.
Full of action from the beginning, the play revolves around several subplots unfurling in a shared flat of five, with an added girlfriend to boot. Flatmates Ollie (Olly O’Regan) and Annie (Izzy Johnson) grapple with the after-effects of drunkenly sleeping together, Soniya (Sunenna Sohal) is potentially and very unexpectedly pregnant, and Goose (Pete Rouse) kisses Billy (Charlie Catmur) which makes him question his relationship with Lisa (Rachel Coussins). Whilst undeniably the mix of these subplots adds a truthful colour to the overlapping havoc of communal living, the result is not without confusion. Time restraints mean that the characters aren’t given the chance for their personal dramas to carry real weight, whilst the ambitious breadth of themes covered is somewhat limiting. From self-harm to unplanned pregnancy and sexuality, the lack of time to develop these plotlines leaves them feeling slightly exploited and, given the potential weight of the issues tackled, it is a shame they are not all followed through.
The performances however, are all heartfelt, with fast paced one-liners littering the show and as well as an undeniable buzz which has you willing them on. A standout scene was the monologue delivered by Johnson, as she poetically compares the turmoil of sleeping with a flatmate to the delirious highs and lows of a drunken kebab, which is undoubtedly a relatable university fable for many. Unfortunately, the show also encountered the difficulty of Covid theatre staging, as for those of us at the back of the socially distanced seating, the kitchen table of this kitchen-table centred drama was often barely visible. Extra kudos however, should be given for the innovative front of house crafts, with a gleefully cute house making this one of the best advertised shows to be seen.
At its heart, Madhouse is theatre for students, by students, and for that we can certainly look past its rough edges. For now, the Nottingham New Theatre are certainly one to watch.
Aug 20, 23, 25, 27
Image credit: Zoe Smith