Thomas Moore Productions
Old Red Lion
It's unfair really: it doesn't take much for a play, even a well written one like Chapel Street, to go off kilter. Chapel Street has the potential to be great and strong, and there are moments during the evening when that potential is actualised, but because of just two flaws, it falls short.
Chapel Street is two duelling monologues, one from a 22 year old lad out on the lash and the other from a fifteen year old in high heels. Chav and chavette if you're feeling reductive, with Joe getting drunk in a pub at 3pm and Kirsty getting ready for a friend's birthday party. They talk over and under each other, with him slouching at a pub counter to right and her getting dressed from a bedroom cupboard to the left. It's a neat set-up, allowing the flow to flit back and forth from one character to the other; a talking snapshot of two people's lives.
The first difficulty is that Daniel Kendrick's Joe dominates. Ria Zmitrowicz as Kirsty is more understated and, while ultimately a more sympathetic character, is pretty much drowned out by Joe's swagger. This is more than just one actor outperforming another: Joe gets better lines and several of his - hilarious - jokes completely undercut Kirsty's fumbling adolescent speeches. This is not to say that Zmitrowicz is a bad actress; far from it, but she is just plain quieter than Kendrick who exudes charisma. It's only towards the end of the night that Kirsty actually comes into her own and, by that point, the balance that is needed to pull off a dual monologue is long gone. Both characters are well drawn, interesting and fleshed out, but here the theatre is set-up as a thunderdome and Kirsty loses.
The second problem is a certain carelessness with its two characters. The exposition opening is brilliant, proving lively and with a good eye for anecdotes, but the portraits drawn are a bit predictable and detached. These are two people seen from the outside and their tougher issues aren't handled as well as the one-liners. It doesn't help that ending is cheap* (spoiler!), leaving a conservative after-taste.
Chapel Street is very funny and at its best when making its characters lip dance past each other. Unfortunately, it's not a balanced play and fails to bring its believable characters properly home.
"Chapel Street" is playing at the Old Red Lion Theatre until 20th August.
* Kristy ends up a single mom with Joe's kid
Reviewer: Tobias Chapple