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The Ushers - Welcome to physical theatre at its best!



Review by Emma Whitelaw

EVER wondered what goes on behind the scenes in the theatre foyer? No? Well even if you haven't The Ushers, written and directed by Ben Lewis, will soon show you!

Although they may play one of the more insignificant roles in a theatre production, ushers Neil (Kieran Fay) and Jennifer (Sophie Fletcher) prove there can be as much drama offstage as there is on.

Sitting through a performance, day in day out, can, understandably, get monotonous, especially so if, for the entire duration, you are in the foyer. To pass the time, the ushers, Neil and Jennifer, get up to all sorts of mischief.

Veteran usher, Neil, has worked at the same theatre for seven years. His job is to teach the newly recruited Jennifer the ropes.

Jennifer is keen, a little too keen, as apparently all her smiling gets in the way of the guests. Neil promptly tells her that their object is to go unnoticed as they escort the audience into the theatre.

Jennifer is not at all happy with this, as an aspiring actress she feels it is her duty to put 'a bit of Jennifer' into all her work.

A power struggle develops and, in a comical display, they take each other on in a mock sword fight as they simultaneously collect tickets from the patrons.

The power struggle soon dissipates, however, as a friendship bordering on love interest forms. The two characters delve into each others' lives with great enthusiasm as well - they have nothing better to do.

They are interrupted, at times, by the crackling tones of their boss, Bob, booming at them through a walkie talkie.

The faceless Bob is reminiscent of Big Brother or James Bond's nemesis, Blowfelt. Never seen, he is still eerily aware of all that goes on; even the smell of Jennifer's perfume doesn't go unnoticed.

Having both been trained at Ecole Jacques Lecoq, in Paris, Fay and Fletcher both give stunning performances.

Their gesture and movement is effortlessly controlled and they are able to say so much without saying anything at all. Their facial expressions and various physical antics are very much a credit to their studies.

Camden's award-winning Etcetera Theatre is the perfect venue for this performance. Only having a capacity of 42, it gives a feeling of warmth and closeness that is so rare in some theatre spaces.

You really feel as though you are part of Neil and Jennifer's audience as you are shown to your seat.

The Ushers proves to be a welcome break from the standard theatrical form, having been described as 'somewhere between Theatre de Complicite and The Office'.

It is bold fresh and hilariously funny. One to see if you like a spot of physical theatre and, of course, a good laugh!

The Ushers, scripted and directed by Ben Lewis. Starring Keiran Fay and Sophie Fletcher. Music by Dave Carey, Tech / Stage Management, by Jenny Morgan. At Etcetera Theatre, 265 Camden High Street, London, NW1 7BU until March 28. Tickets: 020 7482 4857.

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