A Play, A Pie and A Pint London season
Shunt Vaults, London Bridge
Blushing Billie has "the most incongruous bridesmaids in the history of marriage". She also has a story like no other in what is one of the theatrical highlights of the year.
It is a travesty that Ché Walker's hip version of life in Notting Hill, a world away from the movie, is only running for four nights. It is an exhilarating rollercoaster of a play that may only last 45 minutes but has more going for it than most full length comedy thrillers.
This second offering in Òran Mór and Paines Plough's A Play, A Pie and A Pint London season is directed by George Perrin as a breakneck stream of combined consciousness with Billie and her two maids telling a story that beggars belief but has an underlying aura of authenticity.
The audience sits in transverse lining both sides of some ante-room at the central character's wedding to rich Paul, but the girl is not just the rich bimbo, she has a history. Billie may be the daughter of a judge from Holland Park with every luxury at home, including a Steinway, but she has spirit and something of a death wish.
What could be a cross between the movie set in this locale and Mills and Boon becomes a dark thriller after Phoebe Whyte's Billie uses arson as a form of rebellion against the boredom of having everything that she could wish for.
Forced to get a job to pay for the damage, she treks along Portobello Road until she finds a cafe that wants a posh waitress. There she meets Shiv (Suzie McGrath playing the streetwise niece of the owner), a seasoned waitress who deeply resents her new colleague's privilege and soon leads her back to unemployment, courtesy of a lecherous customer drowned in hot tea.
Where Billie's previous life is exemplified by her other friend Cordelia, played by Julia Sandiford who would only recognise a poor person if they were begging for money in the street, Shiv offers excitement and a taste of real life.
How real that life is becomes apparent after they snort a few lines in a night-club where guns are de rigueur. Their runty pusher is pushing his luck in big Dougie's domain and it is this tower block of a man who gives our bride the ride of her life.
His driving is so erratic that Billie worries that she is going to be martyred like Princess Di but Dougie is no Dodi and soon enough, gunshots are exchanged.
The big man catches a bullet and suddenly we are in a 21st Century London Bonnie and Clyde re-make as romance develops between the dying lion and his pretty compadre.
No happy ending can come from this story, unless you are part of the talented creative team that garners rapturous support at the end of each sold out performance.
The story is excellent but the telling is better. Ché Walker ensures that his script is poetic and can be delivered at the machine gun pace of rap. His three actresses do him proud, pounding out the words but never losing the humour or the growing drama in this fascinating tale.
The three actresses make a perfect team while never losing their individual characters. This breathless play must be given a future life somewhere. The short form may suit it but otherwise, two or three of these bite-sized dramas would make for a great evening out.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher