Review: Inside (Orange Tree Theatre, online)

A year after the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond was forced into closure by the pandemic, their stage comes back to life in a live-stream of three new plays under the group title of Inside.

The current situation does not dominate any of the trio, but is always present as a background concern in a moment, a mask, or a message.

Of the three playwrights, two are new to the Orange Tree, but are definitely up for the challenge of making work which is deeply felt and convincingly portrayed.

Samantha Spiro in Guidesky and I

In Deborah Bruce’s Guidesky and I, Samantha Spiro plays Diana, surrounded by boxes and completely frazzled by an unwanted package and frustrated about being scammed.

This is a piece which touches on fear, change, reaching out and moving on, and Spiro is marvellous throughout, helped by a staging of beautifully illuminated stillness.

A carer, Samia (Jessica Murrain), visits a lonely woman, Meg (Ishia Bennison), on Christmas Day in When The Daffodils by Joel Tan. From a light tone, “imagine having no one to talk to about Brussel sprouts”, things gets deep when they start to be honest in their chat.

Ishia Bennison in When The Daffodils

Bennison convinces in her ageing confusion, capturing the loss of control with moments of lucidity; while Murrain conveys perfectly the stresses of a key worker constrained by the clock.

For me, Ursa Major was the highlight of the three. Written by Joe White, it features two lonely people who meet in the rain: the distracted Jay (a complex performance from Fisayo Akinde) and the “houseless” intellectual Callistto (Sasha Winslow, who can turn from resilence to regret in an instant).

It contains possibly the most amusing recollection of the dispatch of an ex I have heard and is a moving depiction of the mutual kindness of strangers, brought together by a chance meeting and an off-the-cuff request.

Fisayo Akinade and Sasha Winslow in Ursa Major

Directed by Anna Himali Howard, Inside is beautifully and economically designed by Shankho Chaudhuri, whose set serves all locations in the three plays, with different corners and aspects illuminated by Jessica Hung Han Yun’s lighting.

Inside is streaming until 27 March and you can purchase tickets here (from £15). The total running time is 90 minutes.

Image credits: Ali Wright.

LouReviews received complimentary access to review Inside.