Monday, 17 September 2018

REVIEW: High Ridin’ at the Kings Head Theatre in Islington


High Ridin’ is the latest play by James Hogan on at the King’s Head Theatre in Islington. Teenager Robbie travels to the North to find a job and a new life. Ex-bouncer Stan, just out of prison, gives him a lift. But not to the North. Instead, he takes charge and speeds off the motorway to a deserted house on the moors. But Ronnie doesn’t get exactly what he was looking for when he finds Stan has “More morals than Mary Poppins”.

The play itself is confused. I came away unsure as to what writer James Hogan wanted the audience to get out of it. The characters were relatable, with the scenes written naturalistically and having some very witty lines - most notably ‘“I got two GCSEs.” “What in? Wankin ‘n’ chillin?”’. However, when watching the play, it didn’t feel like there was much at stake nor much of a character arc, making the audience feel like we’ve not gone on enough of a journey. On top of this, the mini montage at the end sits uncomfortably with the naturalistic style of the rest of the play.

Award winning director Peter Darney stages the play well, balancing the space and making the most of the effective and detailed design by Fin Redshaw. Tom Michael Blyth leads the show well as Stan, standing out with a convincing performance showing tenderness behind the hard exterior of his character. His co-stars Linda Beckett (Ivy) and Chi-Cho Tche (Ronnie) do a good job bringing their characters to life. However some of the acting felt over-rehearsed, with a couple of moments lacking in spontaneity and consequently feeling forced.

High Ridin’ was accompanied by a competent lighting and sound team of Sherry
Coenen and Nicola Chang respectively, although from both there were moments that didn’t sit comfortably. With the lighting design there was a painting lit when on the wall, but it never seemed integral enough to the plot to have such a noticeable light on it. From sound design I felt a couple of sound effects weren’t subtle enough to create the full naturalism desired, and a couple of transition changes felt out of place with the play. That said, both had moments of genius that perfectly enhanced the mood of the piece subtlety.

Overall I would say High Ridin’ is a play with a good heart in a warm and friendly venue, but just misses the mark.

Review by Adam Yorke

Rating: ★★★

Seat: E6 | Price of Ticket: £20.50
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