On the Line Review

Ivy House Nunhead 2nd March, Arcola Bar  13th March.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

This immersive production is full of guts, glitterballs and… bingo.

Babs and Jackie are running a fundraising night collecting food and money for families suffering during the miners’ strike, ably assisted by Babs’ husband Dave and Tel on the piano.

The Ivy House was a perfect setting for the night – the ballroom has a 80s 90s workingman’s club atmosphere. Babs and Jackie greet you at the door and hand you your bingo card before taking the stage for the fundraiser. The cast- Judith Amsenga, Dominik Golding, Charlotte Higgins, Jeremy Hancock and Kevin Potton all don 1980s fashion bravely and give fine, natural performances.

The actresses give wonderfully awkward performances, exactly like normal women not used to public speaking, and the way they develop a growing rivalry for the spotlight as the evening progresses is deliciously bitchy. Babs and Dave make a great comedy duo, either bickering or him looking on in exasperation as she puts words into his mouth as he can’t get a word in edgeways. The bingo section is joyfully chaotic, with Jackie’s “mystery prize” jingle getting stuck in your head instantly.

Even though the actors talk of the hardship and humiliation of the miners, this doesn’t really hit home until Tony, a very unwelcome visitor turns up and the whole tone of the evening changes. The audience is left alone with Tony as he explains his reasons for crossing the picket line, making us complicit in judgement of his actions. The delivery of Tony’s monologue is wonderfully moving, highlighting the shattered pride and desperation of the man, only wanting to provide for his family, and reminding us of the shades of grey in the conflict.

Aled Pedrick’s script is full of affection for the miners (his father was a coal miner) and draws many parallels between their situation in the 80s and the present day in a non-preachy way. The food donated by the audience is used by Hammersmith & Fulham Foodbank, and this simple fact makes the vision of stronger communities and workers voiced by the characters so nostalgic, innocent and hopeless.

This is an emotional and thought provoking production, well worth catching at the Arcola Bar if you can. The 80s music that follows just tops the night off brilliantly.