Hoops and Hookups – Camden Fringe, Hope Theatre

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

Writers: Helen Ekin and Stephanie McNeil

Director: Harris Albar

Hoops as in Spaghetti Hoops, and Helen Akin and Steph McNeil’s play features some real-life eating of the childhood staple. It’s a nice touch in a tale about two cousins, homelessness and sexual orientation. The issues are big, but unfortunately the two characters remain under-developed.

Chantal has moved with her mother from Surrey to Croydon and in an effort to fit in Chantal pronounces the London borough as ‘Crowydon’. She thinks she’s hard now that she lives in the area that was once known for it chavs. When she’s not chav-spotting she visits her cousin Georgia who lives nearby, and one day she arrives to ask Georgia’s advice on what to wear for a date.

As Chantal gets ready, she tells Georgia that her date that night is a woman. Georgia is a little shocked, but Chantal is refreshingly modern in her sexual orientation. It could be that Georgia is a little jealous too as she hasn’t been brave enough to call the woman who left her number for her.

Chantal and Georgia are very different. Chantal is impulsive, but at the age of 16 has all but given up on her GCSEs. Stephanie McNeil is often funny in her role, but at times Chantal’s ignorance of the world seems too unbelievable, Would she really think that fancy Italian restaurants would serve Spaghetti Hoops? Her worldview seems too narrow especially when she appears to be so open about sexuality.

On the other hand, Georgia seems too sensible, and occasionally too prim. Initially, Helen Akin’s character seems solely in the show to keep her eye on her younger cousin; her back-story is almost non-existent in comparison to Chantal’s. If something is worrying Georgia, perhaps this could be signposted more clearly. She talks Turkish to her father on the phone, but this explains little and her background is never mentioned again.

However, it is the issue of Chantal’s homelessness that is perhaps needs further clarification. She spends a week or so on the streets, but Georgia seems very unsympathetic, and tells her cousin that she has unnecessarily made herself homeless. Her home, Georgia tells her, is with her mother. It seems a very dismissive way to deal with the causes of homelessness and makes Georgia appear even colder than before. Perhaps, this is the point, but this storyline sits oddly with the rest of the show.

Hoops and Hangups returns to the Hope Theatre later on in the month, but by then let’s hope that the two actors make more of the space. The audience is seated on three sides but at the moment most of the action is directed at a single part of the auditorium. Also let’s pray that by then The Hope Theatre will have obtained an air-conditioning unit rather than dispense hand-held fans to its audiences. It must be the hottest venue in the whole of the Camden Fringe.

Runs 22- 24 August 2022

The Camden Fringe runs from 1-28 August 2022

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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