Danny and the Deep Blue Sea

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Written in 1984 by John Patrick Stanley, Danny and the Deep Blue Sea is a intensely compelling study of two lonely lives, both trapped in desperate and destructive spirals of self-loathing who come together in search of both companionship and redemption.

Volatile Danny (Danny Solomon) speaks with his fists, lashing out at anyone and everyone in a bid to protect his fractured self. He is unpredictable and alarming yet somehow Roberta (Hannah Ellis Ryan) is not afraid. Burdened by her own trauma she is riddled with self-hatred and a warped sense of a need for punishment for her abusive past.

A simple set of scattered bar furniture and an old mattress complete with crumpled bedclothes make to the set. A glimmer of moonlight seeps in from above while a porcelain doll dressed in white offers a hint of Roberta’s past.

As the barbed bickering deepens into aggressive exchanges a sharing of secrets begins allowing both characters to develop unpredictably. Danny’s vulnerability begins to show as his defences slip while their fleeting post-coital redemption shows their shared desperation for elusive love and happiness. They are messed up, bad, burdened and bruised yet touchingly real and heart-achingly raw.

Both Danny Solomon and Hannah Ellis Ryan convince entirely in their roles. As an audience member you are in that bar in the Bronx with them, you feel every moment of heartache in the bedroom and share in their despair and awkward humour. Director Daniel Bradford ensures the emotional charge of both performances slaps you in the face keeping you guessing throughout, never knowing where these tormented souls will take you next. Drowning in despair one moment while gleefully flinging arms around each other the next. Powerful and affecting theatre once again from Play With Fire Productions.

Catch Danny and the Deep Blue Sea until Thursday 12th September at Hope Mill Theatre tickets available here.

The Wasp

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Writer Matt Forrest

Hope Mill Theatre is gaining quite the reputation for both staging and hosting bold, daring and unique productions: the latest offering from The Theatre Collective, The Wasp is no different.

When Heather (Charlie Young) contacts old school friend Carla (Debbie Brannan) for a brew and a catch up, Carla has no idea what to expect. In the early stages of high school, the two were the best of friends, however that friendship soon turned sour with Carla turning on her friend, taking every opportunity to extract pain and misery on Heather. In the present-day Carla is in an unhappy marriage with four children and a fifth on the way. Heather on the other hand likes the finer things life has to offer, she has a nice house and money to burn. So, what possible reason could Heather have for meeting up with Carla?  Heather has a proposal for Carla that will change both of their lives for ever.

This daring two hander has a delicious evil streak running through it with a pitch black comedic script at its centre, sure there are some plot contrivances which at times push the boundaries of credibility but if you are prepared to go along for the ride then you won’t be disappointed.

I won’t go in too much narrative detail, so as not to spoil anything, (the less you know the better) however the plot is packed full of twists and turns as we see the balance of power between the two shifts throughout and just when you think you have the answer the questions get changed.

The two leads are outstanding: Young as the straight-laced seemingly well to do Heather turns in a captivating and riveting performance, whilst Brannan is terrific as the desperate Carla, willing to doing anything for a better life for her and her children. The two clearly relish sparring together, as they sling cutting remarks and stinging barbs throughout.

In addition, there is haunting, claustrophobic sound design by Dan Pyke that really ratchets up the tension. Throw all this into the mix and you have all the ingredients for a taut psychological thriller that will shock and captivate.

The Wasp is on at Hope Mill Theatre till 16th June. Tickets are available here.