The Angel Riots, bloody and out of love/ ANAMORPHIA — Actors East, London

Reviewer: Bobbie-Jean Henning

Writer: Alexander Gallimore

Directors: Christopher Brett Bailey and Meeri Aro

This double bill opens with a short, two-hander, The Angel Riots, bloody and out of love. We step into a theatre engulfed in eerie, red light. An actor lies at either end of the playing space, vulnerable and still. What follows is the tragic story of a fallen angel and his star-crossed lover. Thrown out of heaven and hell, and trapped somewhere on earth, The Angel has found himself at the end of a troubled love story in our modern world.

Christopher Brett Bailey’s direction deftly utilises the intimacy of the space. The actors reach out and take the hands of the audience, looking us in the eye as they speak and create an exciting mix of powerful imagery.

The play is littered with an array of writing devices and unexpected humour. Alexander Gallimore’s writing is creative and poetic and features moments of real profundity. As well as writing the play, Gallimore also stars at The Angel. Occasionally, writers act in their own plays when they don’t necessarily have the skills to be there. This is not the case for Gallimore. He holds the show with a muscular, emotionally charged performance and it is a perfect role for him to shine in.

While the work could have benefited from stronger chemistry between the two actors to really sell the magnitude of the love story, The Angel Riots, bloody and out of love is a beautiful, queer play that feels deeply personal.

The second show in the writer’s double bill is the contrasting, absurdist ANAMORPHIA. This play follows a couple with faces painted like mimes, two sibling mice, someone in an endless game of hide and seek, a heartbroken lover and a director on the hunt for his star (his hunt goes all the way into the audience…) This eclectic mix of character provides an exciting array of stories but is lacking cohesion.

A talented writer, Gallimore’s work is flowing with interesting concepts and some sparkling prose. However, ANAMORPHIA does need further edits to keep the audience fully engaged and to hone in on the themes that are being explored. The play is an interesting experience but leaves the audience unsure of what we are meant to take away.

Meeri Aro’s direction utilises every corner of Actors East, even outside of the theatre space. Their creativity takes the limitations of a black box theatre and ignores them in the most thrilling way. Aro clearly has a knack for creating beautiful imagery and the play’s movement work is particularly thrilling. Occasionally, text and clarity are lost in the name of visual interest. Overall, Aro leans into the play’s absurdism, making bold directorial choices that meet the needs of the script.

An excellent climactic scene sees the whole cast on stage. Music pulses, the cast unified in a moment of ensemble movement and poetic prose. When all the elements come together this production really sings.

Despite the storylines of the two pieces feeling quite separate, the cast works well together to create a real sense of ensemble. Every actor gives a deeply committed, unique and physically engaged performance. August Janklow’s musical compositions in both pieces create evocative moods that intertwine with the dialogue.

On an interesting night at the theatre, you can feel the passion of this group of artists at the beginning of their creative journeys.

Reviewed on 15 June 2024

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The Reviews Hub - London

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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