Giving by Hannah Patterson, Hampstead Theatre Downstairs, 4 June 2016

Janie wasn’t sure that she was in the mood for the theatre when we set off for Swiss Cottage that evening, especially when I said that the subject matter was big donor philanthropy. “More your sort of subject than mine,” she said.

Still, there was the promise of a different oriental restaurant to try afterwards, Singapore Garden, a result of Janie’s research. Plus the fact that the play was billed as a short one; 90 minutes without an interval.

Janie’s spirits were further dampened when we took our seats, as a group of four people asked us to budge along our row to the end. At first Janie simply said no, so they split their group around us. Frankly, I couldn’t understand why they hadn’t gone to the other side where there were at least two blocks big enough for their group. Still, I told Janie that I thought she had responded rather abruptly, so Janie relented and we ended up tucked in the corner. “They didn’t even say thank you and I’m stuck with a lousy view,” fumed Janie.

After a while, I turned to the gentleman next to me and arranged for us to sit more centrally while they took the four corner seats, which seemed fairer in the circumstances. One woman in front of us turned round and said to Janie,  “good on you; I hate it when people badger me like that.”  Oh for the relative simplicity of allocated seats.

Anyway, it turned out that this was a really good play/production. The set is simple but clever, as furniture representing different locations get tucked away into the walls of other locations; not original but well done in this play. The acting from all four was excellent.

The plot satisfying enough. We aren’t really made to dig too deep into the moral dilemmas around conscience-salving donors, but there is enough intrigue, love interest and moral uncertainty to keep you guessing and to make you think. Well worth the 90 minutes and the modest price for tickets downstairs. We continue to see the Hampstead Downstairs as a gem of a place with a terrific hit rate from our point of view.

Downstairs productions don’t get formal reviews, of course, but it is covered well on monkeymatterstheatre.com, also on the oughttobeclowns blogspot. The latter points out how very special  Sinéad Matthews is as an up and coming actress. We first spotted her more than 10 years ago, in The Wild Duck at the Donmar, when she was but a nipper.

Later, to add compliment to remedy, we thoroughly enjoyed our Singapore Garden dinner. Where has that place been all our lives? Well, it’s been in Swiss Cottage/South Hampstead for some while I gather.

The Village Bike by Penelope Skinner, Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, 25 June 2011

We really enjoyed this play and production upstairs at the Royal Court.

Here is the Royal Court resource on this play/production.

This was a really entertaining and thought-provoking play by the very promising playwright Penelope Skinner. I think this was our first sight of one of hers; Linda at the Royal Court a few years later – click here or below – confirmed our suspicions that she is a special talent.

Linda by Penelope Skinner, Royal Court Theatre, 28 November 2015

The Village Bike had a very fine cast for an upstairs production, not least Dominic Rowan and Romola Garai, both excellent. Indeed the whole cast was excellent, as was the set, directing, the lot.

Most but not all of the reviews rated it excellent – here is a search term that finds reviews and the other resources you might want.

Happy Now? by Lucinda Coxon, Cottesloe Theatre, 9 February 2008

Unusually, we took Phillie to the theatre with us on this occasion. It must have been a long prearranged thing; I think Tony was doing one of his long business trips in the far east, so we had Phillie to stay for the weekend and it was planned far enough in advance for us to book a good Cottesloe production for us all to see.

This was a very good play/production. Funny, thought-provoking and very well acted. Great cast; not least Stanley Townsend, Olivia Williams and Dominic Rowan. Thea Sharrock, who had impressed us so much directing at the Gate, was starting to get higher profile gigs; this being an early example of one of those.

This award-winning play and production has a comprehensive Wikipedia entry – click here, which includes links to some of the better reviews.

Phillie, bless her, unaccustomed as she was to the theatre, was a bit “west-end theatre-ish” at first, talking as if she was in her living room watching TV, until Janie gave her “the look” a couple of times. I think Phillie enjoyed that theatre trip very much.

I’m pretty sure this was the occasion that, afterwards, we went on to Zinc Bar and Grill in Heddon Street.  Now gone, I believe, a couple of reviews of that Conran place survive:

Anyway, Phillie really enjoyed herself that evening – she got quite tipsy at Zinc, as was her wont by then, but the important thing was that she had a good time.