Review – Russian Dolls, King’s Head Theatre

#Tweetingit – 5*  Light fingered street kid meets her match in a not so vulnerable blind foster mother, great storytelling contained in a perfect two-hander
Russian Dolls at King's Head Theatre, Mollie Lambert_2 © Andreas GriegerTypically, the King’s Head was absolutely heaving – it’s a great venue on a Friday after all. A band in one corner was tuning up, gamely doing a sound check above the chatter and clatter of beer glasses.  I was in the other corner trying to stand in the right queue for the theatre. I’m surrounded by familiar faces and thinking weren’t you in ‘the Bill’ or was it ‘Holby City’? Presently, two black doors swing open and patrons from the 7pm performance begin to file out. 

And finally, I am settled in the theatre for Russian Dolls by Kate Lock, winner of the 2015 Adrian Pagan award. Judging by this performance, I think a few more awards will soon land in Kate’s lap.  This play grabs the attention from the very beginning with an irresistible mix of pathos, comedy and drama. 
It begins with Camelia, an unashamedly brash hustler looking for her next score. That score is Hilda; a retired dinner lady, Russian Dolls at King's Head Theatre, Stephanie Fayerman and Mollie Lambert_1 © Andreas Griegerwidowed and blind, living in sheltered accommodation. Hilda may need help but she’s not helpless.  This feisty old lady relates her life with a cheerful defiance that stirs the soul.  A foster mother for 23 years, she was never able to have children with her husband Ted. She does all her own cooking and is heavily into flamenco dancing! Camelia inveigles her way into Hilda’s flat on the pretense she is the new home help and steals her purse; shoes, silver tray and set of Russian dolls. Pangs of conscience get the better of her and Hilda takes her on as  her final project, one last shot at molding a young life.
Russian Dolls at King's Head Theatre, Stephanie Fayerman_2 © Andreas GriegerSo begins an exhilarating plot full of unexpected twists and turns. The script is bright and perceptive; a dramatis personae holds the story together even though we never see them; an even greater tribute to the writer and performers as they frequently rely on monologues to tell the story. The acting is quite simply brilliant; two handers only really work when the actors establish real chemistry which is exactly what they achieved. The petite Mollie Lambert is a complete revelation in the role of Camelia; barely five feet tall, sheRussian Dolls at King's Head Theatre, Mollie Lambert_1 © Andreas Grieger has a commanding presence on stage and complements the excellent Stephanie Fayerman as Hilda.  They merrily spar with each other as two generations collide, but gradually realise they are not quite so different as originally thought. The set of Russian Dolls are in many respects a metaphor for Camelia and Hilda; just look inside and peel away those layers, you never know what you might find.  A memorable production, and well deserving of many more awards! More of the same please.   
Writer: Kate Lock
Director: Hamish MacDougall
Producer: King’s Head Theatre
Box Office: 0207 226 8561
Booking until: 5-23 April 2016

Published by Playhouse Pickings

Theatre blog run by Rhiannon; a civil servant, D&D player, sci fi fan, immersive theatre lover and gin enthusiast

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