THEATRE REVIEW: All in a Row ★★★

All in a Row
Southwark Playhouse, London
Thursday 14th February - Saturday 9th March 2019

Strife in controversy since choosing the decision to use a puppet to depict an 11 year old non-verbal boy, All in a Row focuses on the night before Laurence is set to leave his family home to go to a residential area almost 200 miles away. Having read much about the protests and talk from Jane Harris at the National Autistic Society, I was incredibly intrigued to find how it would benefit the production by using the clearly careful choice to use a puppet, and I came out leaving the theatre almost conflicted to the reports.

For the story's purpose and premise, the journey in which Laurence undertakes as a non-verbal boy already enhances the use of puppetry and really takes its fill potential, especially in the more tense moments in which Laurence suffers some episodic moments, something that would have been more uncomfortable I feel if performed by someone with the condition in everyday, real life. I was for this matter more fascinated by the trolls who have gone out their way to shame this play which so careful follows the story, something that performers Simon Lipkin and Charlie Brooks produce so sensitively well in this production.

Elsewhere Michael Fox embodies social worker Gary in such a way that when left on stage to communicate with Laurence, who is puppeteered wonderfully and successful by Hugh Purves, it really hooks you in and makes you care for the characters, something that playwright Alex Oates should be commended for. It's a testimony to Oate's writing that makes you see past the drama offstage and really develop a full sense of what the production has to offer, something that I think majority may have not done but jumped instead to conclusion.

Overall, Alex Oate's All in a Row at Southwark Playhouse is a sensitively written, honest play that isn't afraid to push the boundaries when it comes to casting, and certainly I believe benefits from the press in the powerful performances shown by all the cast on stage in the production.


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