Mycorrhiza

The Space is currently running its Foreword Festival, a wonderful scheme giving playwrights the chance to submit early drafts of scripts. Four of the best are selected, teamed up with young directors and produced by the venue, each running for a week.

Stapleton has a talent for building suspense and creating truely complex characters.

This week’s offering was Mycorrhiza, which, as the writer Luke Stapleton helpfully points out in the programme, is pronounced ‘Mike-oh-rize-a’. The play is set on a small piece of land which gets cut off from the mainland at high tide. Two best friends, Alicia and Dean, come here to skip school and then end up back six years later. The show flips between the two time periods until each of the separate storylines are completed.

Corrina Buchan, as Alicia, is wonderful to watch, particularly in the scenes set whilst the characters are skipping school. She balances aggression and insecurity, hiding a secret she wants to share but can't bring herself to. This internal struggle is made completley believable by the actor and there is no doubt that her's was the more dominant character of the two – Dean was wrapped around her little finger.

Scott Afton was very likeable as Dean, goofy and in awe of Alicia in the childhood scenes, but able to bring a whole new depth to his character in the scenes six years on, in which he appears to be a lot more sinister and scared. It was clear from the start that the older Dean had a secret agenda, and Afton delivered a wonderful monologue towards the end of the play which had the whole audience on the edge of their seats.

The writing was, on the whole, very good; Stapleton has a talent for building suspense and creating truely complex characters. The issue, however, with this episodic style of storytelling is that after a great build up there is a blackout and every new scene takes the suspense back to square one. The tension is then slowly built again, before being cut of by another blackout and laborious scene change, leaving the audience finding themselves minutes or hours after the last cliff-hanger. This then requires extra hard work to get the audience reinvested. I would have loved to have a scene play out to its end, without an Eastenders’ style cliff-hanger, giving the actors and director a chance to really dial the tension up to eleven.

Each character had a time period during which they were in the spotlight: Alicia had a secret in the past, and Dean had a secret in the present. Unfortunatley, the other character in each scene did not really have any story arc at all, at least not until Alicia's in the closing moments. Up until that point it was as if her character had not changed at all in the six-year gap.

The director, Sepy Baghaei, got the most out of the space and cleverly staged the audience around the ‘beach’ of this island, but the scene changes needed to be faster. The older versions of the characters had far more costumes and props than the younger characters which needed to be cleared and then brought back on between each scene, and the more props that appeared, the longer this process took, sadly detracting from the storytelling.

The actors' blocking, however, was well staged, making their movements across the space believable and never forced, whilst keeping our attention fixated on the right place.

Baghaei also did the sound design, including some good choices of songs between scenes, although there could have been some more spread throughout the scenes, underlying the tension at points.

Lighting in The Space is always tricky but Vanessa Morton did a good job with what she had available, using harsher tones for the wintery future scenes.

The highlight of the play was Dean’s monologue as it really showed off the best of the writing and acting displayed. Unfortunately, this character seemed to be too far removed from the Dean we had seen up until this point. If it wasn’t for the fact that we knew he had a secret, it could have been a third character entirely.

Mycorrhiza was fun and engaging but not without it's problems. Stapleton, once he hones his craft, might well be a name to look out for.

Reviews by Christopher James

Queen Elizabeth Hall

Briefs: Bite Club

★★★
Waterloo East Theatre

A Letter to Harvey Milk - The Musical

★★★★
Southwark Playhouse

The Lion

★★★★★
King's Head Theatre Pub

All That

★★★★
Shaftesbury Theatre

Be More Chill

★★★★★
Upstairs at the Gatehouse

Forever Plaid

★★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Dean and Alicia are stranded on a remote Scottish island. The tide has come in and the Nik Naks have run out. With no option but to wait until dawn, the two teenagers re-kindle their childhood friendship. But by digging up the past they uncover painful traumas, the roots of which go deep.

Most Popular See More

Mary Poppins

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Phantom of the Opera

From £27.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Play That Goes Wrong

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Grease the Musical

From £20.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Frozen the Musical

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

My Fair Lady

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets