Notorious

Spanner in the Works’ production Notorious, written by Patricia Downey, is a piece that feels unfinished and cobbled together. The set-up of this two-hander explores the notoriety of six famous figures from history, considering how ‘Some people have changed the world for the better, some have left their evil mark on it.’ Led by two performers, Neil Keery and Caroline Curran, the play is split between six monologues each performed by one actor as Ted Bundy, Abraham Lincoln and Charles Manson, Emmeline Pankhurst, Bettie Page and Myra Hindley respectively.

However, there were some glaring problems that held the show back.

The play starts with the monologue of Ted Bundy, delivered by Keery. Keery’s American accent is fairly strong and his performance confident. However, the other two monologues were very poor: Abraham Lincoln was boring while Charles Manson was incredibly over done. Curran had slightly more success with her performances. The Emmeline Pankhurst monologue was slightly patchy whilst Myra Hindley’s turn captured some of the sinister nature of original. The best part by far was Curran’s channeling of Bettie Page, which captured Page’s famous sparkly personality and bright demeanour and allowed for some laughs.

However, there were some glaring problems that held the show back. Poor costumes and wigs are clearly a forgivable error in productions that lack funds, but when the production includes celebrities as well-known as those chosen here, it tampers with the audience’s suspension of disbelief. Some of the wigs looked skewhiff and cheap, and there was unfortunately a lot of unintended comedy during the Lincoln scene as Keery’s stuck-on beard repeatedly fell off. I did feel very sorry for him at this point because it was very funny, but it was also demonstrative that not enough care or consideration had gone into the details of this piece.

The main problem was the play’s construction. The selection of historical figures was bizarre: though the idea seemed to be to explore notoriety, the play felt very split and strange and the inclusion of Abraham Lincoln and Emmeline Pankhurst seemed completely out of place. Perhaps including only criminal figures, or only revolutionary figures may have helped to allow a more cohesive tone to build, and therefore a clearer theme to explore. Instead, the play was all over the place. Downey has been incredibly ambitious trying to include a huge amount of detail into a piece that spans vastly different time periods and contexts.

The fault did not seem to lie with the performers, but the material itself. Keery and Curran did their best with what is actually very difficult material to work with; the poor writing along with the enormous task of impersonating six different historical figures struggled to lead to a successful play. I left feeling very perplexed.

Reviews by K D C Lewin

Key Theatre / Pleasance Theatre, London

Benefit

★★★★★
Southwark Playhouse

Bat Boy: The Musical

★★★
Upstairs at Three and Ten

Notorious

★★
Upstairs at Three and Ten

Kate Smurthwaite: My Professional Opinion

★★★
The Burrow at The Warren

Tea at Five

★★★★

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

Come join us as we explore the minds and lives of some of the most notorious figures in history from Charles Manson to Abraham Lincoln, Emmeline Pankhurst to Myra Hindley, plus many more. Spanner in the works theatre company's new production. Written by Patricia Downey. Charles Manson said, “Look down at me and you see a fool; look up at me and you see a god; look straight at me and you see yourself.” Some people have changed the world for the better, some have left their evil mark on it.

Most Popular See More

Wicked

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Book of Mormon

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

My Fair Lady

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Dear Evan Hansen

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Moulin Rouge! The Musical

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Frozen the Musical

From £29.00

More Info

Find Tickets