Laura  – Soho Theatre, London

Creator: Eiina Alminas

Reviewer:  Richard Maguire

Plays about jilted brides seem a little old-fashioned in 2018, and yet in her one-woman show Elina Alminas is Laura who has been left at the altar not once, but three times.  Over 60 minutes we see her crumble with rage, but unfortunately, we remain none the wiser to why the men in her life dump her on her wedding day.

Laura has organised everything, from the mixologists (it’s that kind of wedding) to cool DJs. She’s even booked the venue, in this case the top floor of the Soho Theatre. The only hitch is that her fiancé, Johnny, hasn’t turned up. Have we seen him?

It takes the audience members a few minutes to realise that they are the wedding guests. You can hardly blame them as they are tightly stacked in tiered seating rather than at decorated wedding tables. But among the audience – or guests – are Johnny’s best friend Martin, Laura’s long-lost cousin and even the pianist she’s hired to play the Wedding March. Cue some mildly uncomfortable audience participation that just about manages to be funny too.

With mascara running down her face, she often resembles a clown, and like a clown her life is funny but tragic. However, in the blurb about the show it says that Laura is concerned with female empowerment, but it’s an odd empowerment if it’s based on pills and alcohol. One minute she’s proclaiming she’s heading off to her honeymoon destination – the Maldives – on her own, while in the next she’s sprinkling chill pills all over her chocolate wedding cake and washing everything down with champagne.

Because Alminas plays Laura in a single key, it’s difficult to care too much about her narrative, and when she slips into a sugar slumber you ache to return to the wedding party. And so while this show has its highlights, overall its message is hard to fathom. Perhaps there was something wrong at the performance in Soho because the show has previously done well at the festivals, even picking up an award at Brighton. Tonight, however, felt like a scratch.

Laura opens the theatre’s mini-season, Soho Rising, showcasing the work of Soho Theatre’s Young Company with 12 plays being performed over the next six days. It’s an ambitious project as the fringe can be a crowded arena. There’s no doubt that Elina Alminas stands out from the crowd, but in the future her material needs to be sharper.

Reviewed on 10 December 2018 | Image: Hana Knizova Photography

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