Katie Sherrard (Esther) & Emma Dennis-Edwards (Eve) in GATE. Credit Lidia Crisafulli

Review of Gate at The Cockpit Theatre London

L to R Charlotte Christensen, Louise Grayford, Luke Ward & Jack Reitman in GATE. Credit Lidia Crisafulli
L to R Charlotte Christensen, Louise Grayford, Luke Ward & Jack Reitman in GATE. Credit Lidia Crisafulli

‘The Gate’ in Gate does not lead to Purgatory. Entering Purgatory assumes a period of ‘purification’ prior to entering Heaven. For these characters, even the ultimate assurance of going “upstairs” or “downstairs” is not given, and in a plot twist, it appears the chances of the ‘candidates’ entering Paradise have been scuppered through no fault of their own. I realise all this religious talk may have put some people off already – this production is more humorous and true to real life than the backdrop would suggest.

It may seem odd to have used a ‘gate’ in London as an entry point for Christians only, albeit Christians either by practice, culture or both, given the multicultural nature of the capital’s residents as a whole. The show itself does at least acknowledge there are other ‘gates’ for people of other faiths and none. Besides, there are plenty of churches of various denominations in London: for instance, in some cases, what used to be bingo halls are now non-conformist churches without spires. Still, it would have been more interesting to have seen more than one ‘gate’. What happens to atheists after they die, for instance? And if gatekeeper Eve (Emma Dennis-Edwards) was apparently not performing at her best, how about an example of a gatekeeper doing a good job, or at least doing it in a way that pleases management?

While the script is not watertight, the production is imaginative. The use of four live singers (in the order listed in the show’s programme, Luke Ward, Charlotte Christensen, Jack Reitman and Louise Grayford) doesn’t add much to proceedings until a celebratory curtain call, which – credit where credit is due – was hugely enjoyable and much appreciated. Especially after the rather intense final scenes that immediately precede it.

Rebecca (Eleanor Henderson) and Luke (Joe McArdle), respectively assertive and ambivalent, came to know one another having both being diagnosed with terminal illnesses. Mark (Will Coban) is as baffled as Esther (Katie Sherrard) as to what exactly is going on. As the play introduces its characters before clarifying the situation in full, there may be some in the audience who may well identify with Mark’s sheer initial frustration.

Management jargon, is rightly pilloried on more than one occasion. There are tasks that Eve attempts to put the rest of the group through, in preparation for their interviews that will determine – well, something – it wasn’t made clear, unless I missed it in this fairly high-paced and relatively brief show (running time: 75 minutes). It’s the corporate away day from, dare I say it, hell. The miscellaneous challenges were all hilarious to various degrees, and not always intentionally. Let’s just say that if something is to be written on a sign in lettering large enough for the audience to see it, perhaps using an orange pen on white cardboard isn’t ideal.

The stand-out performance for me was from Emma Dennis-Edwards, who had a precise and compelling comic timing. Listening to one side of several telephone conversations has seldom been so pleasurable. The rest of the company, between them, supply many confessions about many issues. There are stories and recollections from the sublime to the ridiculous and everything in between. Mingled into the narrative rather cleverly are both individual and collective considerations and – more to the point – reconsiderations about what’s really important in the grand scheme of things. Even whether Heaven is really where they wish to spend eternity after all. An amusing and intelligent play.

4 Stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Evolutionists tell us that we’re just trying to spread our genes. Economists tell us that all we do is maximize our self-interest. Psychologists tell us that we just want to get laid. But is it true that we only act on narrow material desires or do our wider spiritual beliefs still count for something?

It is an average Thursday morning at ‘The Gate’ in Wapping and, like every first-born child in the generations before her, Eve is guarding it carefully. It’s going to be a busy day- there are four new appointments booked in. The trouble is none of the clients knew they were coming… because to reach the gates you have to be dead.

“I mean… I sort of hoped the pearly gates story was true-ish where I could finally have curly hair and be into fitness and classical music and eat Philadelphia toast in the clouds with my other angel pals. But now I’m here and this is- I’m questioning everything I ever believed in.”

Following on from the acclaimed success of Predrinks/Afterparty, which The Sunday Times hailed for ‘Nailing the comic timing and delivering laughs at every turn’ Deadpan Theatre return with a poignant and witty story of love and loss that asks what really happens to us after we die, what we leave behind and what we will become.

Produced and presented by Deadpan Theatre
Hosted by The Cockpit
Written by: Artemis Fitzalan Howard
Directed by: Sadie Spencer
Designed by: Alex Berry
Graphic Design by: Roo Cassells
Produced by: Artemis Fitzalan Howard

A new play by Artemis Fitzalan Howard.
WED 13 SEP 2017 to SUN 24 SEP 2017

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