But that is the only disappointment.
Fiftysomething first-time playwright-cum-composer Stephen Jackson has already won the 2015 Verity Bargate Award for Roller Diner. It is now the centrepiece of of Soho Theatre’s spring and summer season – Young Hearts, Old Souls – which explores communication barriers between generations.
The play is in a burnt-out Birmingham (UK) diner that embodies the American dream – a family business is owned by grumpy, smelly Eddie (Joe Dixon) who nevertheless possesses a heart of gold. His daughter Chantal (Lucie Shorthouse) rules over the roller diner with a bitchy fist. His daughter Chantal’s boyfriend P.J. (Ricky Oakley) is the chef primarily responsible for the perpetually burnt sausages. Waitress, cat enthusiast and cake baker Jean (Rina Fatania) has worked there for 20 years.
Roller Diner, Soho Theatre. Lucie Shorthouse, Rina Fatania. Photo: Helen Maybanks
The dream team's happy routine is interrupted when super duper waitress Marika (Lucy McCormick) arrives from 'somewhere foreign' and applies for a job. All hell breaks loose – blackmail, sexual tension, murder. The ensuing convoluted love triangle more closely resembles a love pyramid as Marika tries to chase the American dream.
The whole cast is incredible, but Rina Fatania’s Jean is a standout. She can sing, dance, act and weaponise her impeccable comedic timings. Alongside the talented David Thaxton she makes up the Greek chorus of strung-out diner-goers who provide a dramatic narrative framework, nailing sinister lines such as 'the demons in the bellies of men all opened their eyes and they whispered – Ma-ri-ka!!'
Marika is a truly original character, and Lucy McCormick delivers a masterful performance. Although she causes the play’s conflict, it becomes increasingly apparent that it is social norms and personal circumstances which are the real villains here, besides the notorious Kelly Crew. Unlike manufactured feminist heroes (looking at you here, Wonder Woman), Marika is a stark reminder that the over-sexualisation of women has legitimate consequences.
Roller Diner, Soho Theatre. Rina Fatania, Lucie Shorthouse, Ricky Oakley, Lucy McCormick, David Thaxton. Photo: Helen Maybanks
The cast croons the original score, utilising cleverly disguised instruments (a piano behind the bar, a bass drum disguised as a mini fridge) and talent to make each tune feel like it was organically belted out.
Despite the rock-rollicking trimmings and trappings, the show is a slice of life that cuts through stereotypes with acerbic humour and wit, tackling subversive themes of political turmoil through satirical song and dance that would give Scrubs a run for its money (standouts include Johnny from Mars and Dance the Libido). Jackson's musical romp through Brexit Britain is hard to dislike unless your sense of humour has been surgically removed.
|What||Roller Diner, Soho Theatre review|
|Where||Soho Theatre, 21 Dean Street, Soho, W1D 3NE | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
26 May 17 – 24 Jun 17, 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
|Website||Click here for more information|