SpinCycle     Theatre N16     26 November 2015

It’s an odd one, going to a play at Theatre N16, which, not so aptly named, is based at the Bedford pub in Balham, South London. However, once that initial confusion subsides, one is in for a real treat in SpinCycle, by Steve Thompson, presented by the relatively newcomer theatre company The Canting Crew. Mostly graduating from The Poor School within the last three years, this company, however new it is, is extremely good at what they do.

It’s a tale of advertising and politics, and the moment in which they collide—a London agency takes on a Tory party leader, in roughly the early 2000s (the play was first performed in 2003) to rebrand him from being the nasty leader to a more palatable flavour for the masses.

This play text and production move exceptionally quickly, with fast paced dialogue which the entire cast keeps in perfect time. There’s almost no time for the audience to laugh, but laugh they must, because this script is extremely funny, if equally extremely cynical. Director Stephen Oswald has done an excellent job with this cast, in every sense of the word. Nothing seems unexamined, and everything deliberate, but all cast members are so well cast that the trappings of story structure melt away. This is very tight writing performed by extremely good actors.

There is only one flaw with the piece—this play feels much less like a play, and far more like a very well written spec script for an up and coming TV writer. The scenes are quick, varying in location, and written to a taut precision that theatre is not usually known for. There are no monologues in this world, and even when characters speak to each other on mobile phones whilst stationary, one can almost envision them walking down a busy London street on a Motorola RAZR (it’s the 2000s after all) to the sound design, which might as well have been ripped from a NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL MUSIC (whatever number it was back then– 2?) compilation.

This makes sense, somewhat, because the writer, Steve Thompson, in the meantime has written for such high-end British TV as Silk, Doctor Who, and Sherlock and is the Executive Producer of his own ITV series, airing soon. But it is somewhat unfortunate that this is a play– the entire production is so good that I would have much rather seen the ins and outs of this world over a six-part series (and certainly at least two seasons of it).

Regardless of the format, theatre or telly, SpinCycle is a great piece of writing performed superbly by The Canting Crew. If only it were around for a longer run.

Four stars

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Stephen Collins
With years of experience on both sides of the curtain, Stephen Collins has worked as an actor, singer, director, producer and casting consultant, indulging his passion for live theatre. Occasionally a media lawyer, who has worked in-house for the likes of Channel 4 and The Sunday Times, he can usually be found in an audience. In 2014 and 2015, he was lead critic for Britishtheatre.com. He thinks the West End and London is the centre of the theatrical universe (sorry Broadway!), but fears it's not possible to see absolutely everything that’s on there. He doesn’t stop trying though. Cocktails help when it all gets too much.