A/V Room









M.A.D. sex, politics, toy soldiers & Corrie Street?

Review by Emma Whitelaw

AS THE unsuspecting, 11-year-old John plays with his toy tanks and soldiers he is oblivious to the harsh life lessons he is destined to discover.

Written by David Eldridge, M.A.D. is a family drama set in 1984. At the height of the Cold War, M.A.D. stood for Mutually Assured Destruction.

To the young John, it meant Mum and Dad. Unaware of the cold war brewing within his own home, he acts out the strategies of the Warsaw Pact and Nato with his plastic toys.

His Del-Boy-esque father, Kelly, played by the talented Lee Ross, is a market trader struggling to make a crust. Jo McInnes is excellent as his bored and frustrated wife, Alice. Together they form a close knit family unit; things are tough – but they get by.

That is, until friend of the family, Luigi, takes advantage of the situation and betrays Kelly by sleeping with his wife.

The emotional blackmail and paranoia they’ve witnessed in the news is now happening right in front of them. They have become victims of their own cold war.

Gerald Lepkowski is perfect for the role of Luigi. He is a man of very few words, which at times was quite comical. However, when he does speak, it is poignant and touches the heart of the war obsessed child.

He tells John that it’s the nuclear bombs that keep the peace. He explains that Russia and America are doing the world a favour by threatening one another.

These comments stay with John his whole life; he likens it to the silence that fell upon their home after the affair was revealed.

The set and sound design were both excellent. With Betamax videos and an 80s soundtrack, it really felt as though you had stepped back in time.

In the cosy setting of the Bush Theatre, the audience were also privy to a fly-on-the-wall view of the family’s lounge room, in Romford.

Thirteen-year-old Lewis Chase was precious as the young John. He is immensely talented and plays the child caught in the crossfire beautifully.

M.A.D. is Chase’s professional theatre debut, yet he is no stranger to the acting profession having already appeared on screen in Agent Cody Banks II.

Throughout the play, Eldridge appeared to be making some relevant socio-political commentary, but I feel it somehow became lost within the drama; especially in the second act.

Set some 20 years later, an older John, played by Daniel Mays, takes to the stage.

It is unfortunate, however, as although Mays is a brilliant actor, I felt as though this was where the play lost its momentum.

Reminiscent of the melodramatic plots of Coronation Street, or East Enders, it became easy to lose sight of what the playwright was really trying to say.

Despite this turnaround, however, M.A.D. is a poignant and compelling drama that explores issues of family and friendship tenderly.

M.A.D. written by David Eldridge, directed by Hettie Macdonald. Starring Lewis Chase, Jo McInnes, Lee Ross, Gerald Lepkowski and Daniel Mays. Design by Jonathan Fensom, Lighting by Jason Taylor, Sound by David Benke. 21st April to 22nd May at The Bush Theatre, Shepherds Bush Green, London W12. Box Office 020 7610 4224.

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