My first trip to the Lion & Unicorn Pub and Theatre in Kentish Town was shrouded in mystery. We were told “no two shows would be the same” and, as reviewers, there were secrets we were asked to keep about the production reopening the space, AAAAA [Five A]. The show itself, of course, has been delayed at least twice due to lockdowns, so it is great to see it finally come to life.
What I can say is that Daniel Rainford takes centre stage as X, and he has a tale to tell. Assisted by a prop box, sound and lighting effects, and a set which suggests both familiarity and memories, the story unfolds over an hour.
His appearance is at once ordinary and curious. His face bears signs of an injury, his shirt has unfashionable tears. His hands are dirty. He is barefoot. It’s unclear where he is, where he has been, and where he is going.
Rainford gives a fine performance full of emotional shifts and brisk physicality. Whether it is responding to the line of a song, or an object like a simple paper plane, there’s a complexity within this play that allows the audience a mental workout along with the character as he shifts from one vignette to another.
Directors Jess Barton and David Brady keep the script and action on a tight course, with moments of genuine innovation. Four authors have contributed to the development of AAAAA, with Gabrielle Nellis-Pain, Kim Scopes, and Jack Albert Cook working alongside Brady.
With a sense of improvision and a pinch of hope, AAAAA allows the audience to join in X’s journey, and if there is some confusion and frustration along the way, it suits the show and the form. The ending, while certainly clever, was its weak point for me, but (without giving anything away) I understand why it was there.
You can book to see AAAAA here until 29 May.
Header image: Ross Kernahan. Production image: Proforca Theatre Company.
LouReviews received complimentary access to review AAAAA.