Writer: Andrew Muir
Union Theatre, London.
Running time: 70 minutes.
Until November 12
Cast: Jake Rayner Blair, Callum Diaz, Eddie Drummond, Danielle Laurence, Caoimhe Mackin, Thoma O’Neill, India Pignatiello, Annabel Worsfold.
Director: Andrew Muir
Making dreams come true has never been easy, but the joy of theatre is in the trying.
To help the latest generation of thespians avoid despair as they grapple with climate change, war, the potentially existential threat of AI, the aftermath of pandemic and the near impossibility of finding somewhere affordable to live, the Ardent Theatre Company auditioned 40 acting graduates from working class backgrounds across Britain.
A chosen lucky eight have become the Ardent8 ensemble, performing this week at London’s Union Theatre, where many dreams have been fulfilled.
Directed by Andrew Muir, who has a long connection with the Union, this is a play that verges on documentary as an account of trying to devise action in a borrowed space where the lights might go out at any moment because the bill is unpaid.
The lines are funny and painfully true as a diverse cast quips, for instance, about levelling up. The Arden Theatre’s inclusivity and altruism put many politicians to shame. The perfect complement would be a tour to reinvigorate the regions.
Just as the script is almost too honest, the roles seemingly involve little artifice. Jake Rayner Blair, who plays a director under Muir’s direction, is forced to confess he has only the vaguest idea of what will happen and is prone to acting on impulses he has failed to think through.
His cast includes Annabel Worsfold, who hates every part of herself, but especially her job as a support worker, when what she wants to do is act, and India Pignatiello, for whom the height of ambition is to be in East Enders.
We also meet Callum Diaz, who has a read a lot of autobiographies and likes plots with gangsters. He is pitted against Beckett fan Thoma O’Neill. Danielle Laurence lets the tensions wash over her from chairs we’ve been asked to imagine are a sofa that Caoimhe Mackin, stereotyping her Irishness, had wanted to be green.
Somehow, the non-action builds to a grand finale of a song, delivered with conviction by Eddie Drummond, accompanied by director-pianist-composer Jake Rayner Blair.
In keeping with the rest of the play, it’s a cri de coeur: the planet is dying, the rivers are drying and the best we can hope for is that we will come to our senses so that positive change will come.
Ardent8 is a courageous start.
Barbara Lewis © 2023.