'TANZI LIBRE' HAS CUT ITS RUN SHORT FOLLOWING INJURY TO LEAD ACTOR OLIVIA ONYEHARA
Infinitely adaptable, hyperprolific and semi-nomadic, hip fringe theatre Southwark Playhouse is pretty much defined by the fact it has no defining style. So as it re-opens at its third venue, why not kick things off with a madcap battle of the sexes comedy about Mexican wrestling?
The obvious answer is that Claire Luckham’s 33-year-old play is pretty thin: characterisation verges on zero, and the plot can pretty much be summarised as ‘girl meets boy, boy is a bit of a dick, girl kicks shit out of boy via medium of lucha libre’.
If it were a kitchen sink drama it’d be awful, basically. But it’s not: in Ellie Jones’s magnificently OTT production – which is as much spectacle as stage play – the story is told by the masked cast over ten rounds of full on fight action, entirely taking place in Martin Thomas’s splendid wrestling ring set.
The physical blows landed on Olivia Onyehara’s Tanzi stand in for psychological ones, as disappointed parents, bitchy best friends and Kazeem Tosin Amore’s hilariously self-regarding beaux Dean Rebel lay on the emotional smackdowns until she learns to stand on her own two feet and put the entire world in a suplex.
It’s relentlessly one note, and the total lack of any emotional content or character depth feels like a missed opportunity. But not every bout can be a resounding win, and with great fight choreography, a DJ-augmented party atmosphere, plenty of amusing post-modern quippage from Mark Rice-Oxley’s referee, plus the sheer WTF factor of the whole spectacle, ‘Tanzi Libre’ is a fun night out and an enjoyably bonkers way to christen the Playhouse’s new space.
By Andrzej Lukowski