Satan and Mrs Smith, written and directed by Jamie McLoughlin, had its opening show at 81 Renshaw Street on Wednesday 11 July 2018.
As the audience enters the small theatre they are greeted by the sight of Mrs Smith (Pamela Ashton) on her sick bed. The sparse scene was set and it required the actors to perform the words with skill – this happened without a problem.
This is a full-length play of two halves that had the audience snorting with laughter as the cast did an admirable job of performing their lines.
The language of this play that was richly sprinkled with cultural references that were delivered well throughout both parts of the show.
Duane Williams had several appearances on stage as four different characters. His first representation was as Father Ford visiting the dying Mrs Smith, the priest becomes distracted from deathbed duties by annoying repeated PPI telephone calls. His ensuing frustration results in Mrs Smith being dispatched to the incorrect location upon her death as he shouts, ‘Go to hell!”
That’s when everything goes wrong for Satan (vividly realised by Phil Perez) and his enthusiastic PA (Jen Cartwright).
This play is a stocktake of good, evil, and redemption, and it also questions what happens if a good soul goes to a bad place. Mrs Smith and Tommy (James Seamus Bray), her new charge in hell, were part of the cast of five who uncovered the possible answers to this question with skilled and talented acting.
Their sensitive and intuitive acting portrayed the familiar subjects of death, hope, and guilt that are in McLoughlin’s play. This unusual setting shows that nothing is straightforward in relationships, and the drama is full of twists and turns that include laughter around building a never complete Primark and creating a Hellebrity Magazine for the rising stars of hell.
As a director, Jamie McLoughlin effectively used the small theatre space to its full potential, including the experience of Satan performing an interpretive dance – just below the stage – to the theme tune of his favourite John Nettle’s show: Bergerac. As Heavenly Ops (Duane Williams), in one of his other roles that highlighted his acting versatility, brought a new wave of laughter to the audience as he daintily moved around the stage on his mission from Heaven. The packed auditorium of 81 Renshaw Street showed their delight at experiencing this debut work with a resounding round of applause as Satan and Mrs Smith closed.
Promoted as ‘Boss New Plays. Local Writing Fresh out the wrapper’, this full-length play lived up to its brave billing. It played in front of a sell-out audience who chose to support fresh local theatre on the same night as the rest of the UK were watching the English footballers in their semi-final battle in Russia.
McLoughlin, as a first-time playwright, showed that he has an ear for dialogue and had crafted this humorous play well. This first production of Satan and Mrs Smith was smoothly executed by the cast and the sound and lighting were professionally supplied by Gary Plunkett. This reviewer gives the production a 666.
Marjorie is a freelance writer who has had articles published in the Guardian, redpepper and gal-dem. She blogs and tweets regularly about social and cultural events that cross her radar. She is also a playwright who has been short-listed for the Kenneth Branagh Drama Writing Awards 2018.