Sniff

Have you had the experience of sitting through a play and thinking, “If I’d known that was how it was going to end I’d have paid far more attention to all the details in the script”? It’s often followed by, “I’d love to see it again now I know how it ends”. Sniff at Theatre503 is one of those.

Fascinating, exciting, gripping and chilling

Here is an outwardly very simple play that has traditional theatre elements, while exuding modernity. It has a plot and a storyline that becomes increasingly mysterious, complex and riveting as it gradually unfolds. It is serious, yet full of well-timed humour; its sequel could be a fascinating detective drama, for in the play all the evidence needed for the investigation is laid bare, except at the time we don’t realise it. It takes place in real time, yet has flashbacks that inform and enhance the current situation. It’s clever, claustrophobic and comic, full of surprises and not anything you might anticipate from the information given about it.

The play’s location is a pub in a fictional small city on the outskirts of London. Alex has arranged to meet his girlfriend there. His intention is to propose to her. He arrives with the ring and sets up the table with a bottle of bubbly and some geraniums. He is very nervous and might even lack the courage to go ahead with it. None of this is shown but is revealed in conversation with Liam whom he meets when he decides to visit the toilet before she arrives, which is where the action of the play is set.

The pub is Liam’s local. He knows everyone there and seems particularly at home in this extremely insalubrious gentleman’s room. He has two major addictions: online gambling and cocaine which he snorts and generously shares with Alex. He has his reasons for the latter. Hence he is more than hard-up with accumulated debts, having frittered away what little he ever had on his vices. His laddish speech, dress and manner are in marked contrast to Alex’s suited and booted appearance that matches his elevated position in advertising. Alex has a top job; Liam has odd-jobs.

Do they know each other? Have they met before? Has Alex forgotten or would he rather not remember? Whatever the case Liam seems to know more about Alex than might be expected from a coincidental encounter in a toilet. Liam dominates the situation and how he draws Alex into an unexpected world that makes fascinating, exciting, gripping and chilling theatre.

The play is by Gabriel Fogarty-Graveson who also plays Liam. Alex is played by Felix Grainger and the role of Bloke, who pops in for as long as it takes to piss, is taken by director Ben Purkiss. They are all part of Make It Beautiful Theatre Company, a London-based collective with a passion for dark comedy. Collectively they know their stuff. Two commanding performances are sustained for the sixty-five minutes running time, with each actor establishing character from the outset that encapsulates their contrasting circumstances and statuses in life. Purkiss, meanwhile, makes excellent use of the tight space with movement that enhances the dialogue and demonstrations of power and control.

The Company has one 5-star hit show, The CO-OP, under its belt already. This premier night performance suggests that with a few tweaks they are well on their way to another. It's a production not to be sniffed at.

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Reviews by Richard Beck

The Jack Studio Theatre

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★★★★
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★★★★
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★★★★★
Chelsea Theatre

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★★★★★
English National Opera

The Yeomen of the Guard

★★★
Southwark Playhouse

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★★★★

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.
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Performances

Location

The Blurb

When Alex goes to the toilet in a small-town pub, trying to pluck up the courage to propose to his girlfriend, he meets Liam, who seems well at home in these grim surroundings. Liam, struggling with addiction and money troubles, has never left the claustrophobic town that birthed him. He’s lost everything, if he ever had it. Alex, in a tight suit and the pride of a job in Canary Wharf, seems like he has everything. However, as Liam begins to draw Alex into his world, a dark truth begins to unravel.

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