Reviews London TheatreWest End & Central Published 18 April 2016

Review: Wendy Hoose at Soho Theatre

Soho Theatre ⋄ 12th April - 7th May 2016

“Accessibility isn’t an afterthought, it’s the racing heart of this production”: Amelia Forsbrook reviews Johnny McKnight’s new work at Soho Theatre.

Amelia Forsbrook
Wendy Hoose at Soho Theatre.

Wendy Hoose at Soho Theatre.

There’s more to accessibility than an special matinée showing of Wendy Hoose, an energetic, pulsating and vibrating collaboration between Birds of Paradise, Random Accomplice and Soho Theatre. In her audio description of a late-night hook-up, Artistic Director Julie Brown brings as much personality to the piece as on-stage characters Laura and Jake, in a commentary that is available for all. Meanwhile, our BSL interpreter – visible on a TV screen in the middle of this intimate, one-room wendy hoose set – also makes time to sneak her own personal interpretations into this production, eating a Cadbury Creme Egg in her own idiosyncratic way, while our central mismatched lovers debate the best method for theirs. Accessibility isn’t an afterthought, it’s the racing heart of this production.

Keen readers of titles will not be surprised to hear that this work is thoroughly battered in Glaswegian dialect, and after an hour in the wendy hoose, the distanced and artless received pronunciation typically relied on in accessible productions is brought into question. With her curt Scottish accent and biting sarcasm, Brown adds her own observations that go beyond the physical blocking of actors and props, mocking the pubescent body and ‘stonner’ of our male lead, and comparing his flirting techniques with the movements of ‘a demented koala bear’. However, when describing attractive Laura, she shies away from too much detail ‘for fear of being assumed a lesbian’.

Riddled with emoticons and bursting with animation, the surtitles speak at us from within the walls of the play. In this comedy of manners, this text functions not just to communicate what is said, but also to illustrate the tone and taboo within this dialogue. This comedy is far from politically correct, and our surtitles address this both with the visual language of a text editor – underlining particularly problematic terms in irate, zig-zagging red lines – and through crude, dripping emoji-filled animations, that seek not to sugar-coat the blunt thrust of this script.

That being said, typed, signed or cued, a lot of the comedy of Wendy Hoose is drawn from miscommunication. Meeting Laura for a Tinder hook-up, Jake (James Young) finds himself unable to say the right thing. He can’t get Laura’s name right, and he certainly can’t talk the dirty talk that she so hornily demands. “I could’ve been in and out by now” he scolds, with all the charm of the aforementioned demented koala. Laura (Amy Conachan), for her own part, “could’ve had the Rabbit on and be sleeping”. The characters have their differences, but there’s a middle ground here, that Young and Conachan bring out with a hesitant excellence. Their natural dynamic makes space for each character’s selfish drives, but opens up into a mutual determination to forge conversations and understandings that are far richer than a Tinder match.

Wendy Hoose is on until 7th May 2016. Click here for tickets.

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Amelia Forsbrook

As a Wales Arts International critic, Amelia toured India with National Dance Company Wales to discover whether national identity abroad could ever amount to more than dragons, sausages and leeks. After moving to London in early 2012, Amelia has continued working as a critic and arts commentator. With particular interests in regional arts, South Asian performance, twentieth century European theatre and quirky little numbers involving improvisation, emotional outburst and abandoned buildings, Amelia writes for a number of publications, as well as being a Super Assessor for the Off West End Awards (The Offies) and Associate Editor at Bare Fiction.

Review: Wendy Hoose at Soho Theatre Show Info


Produced by Birds of Paradise and Random Accomplice in association with Soho Theatre

Directed by Johnny McKnight and Robert Softley Gale

Written by Johnny McKnight

Cast includes Amy Conachan, James Young

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