Ramona Tells Jim by Sophie Wu, Bush Studio, 14 October 2017

This is the third time we have been to the new Bush Studio and the third time we have been thrilled by the results there. From our point of view, this is akin to the wonders of the Hampstead Downstairs as a source of top notch fringe theatre.

Click here for a link to the Bush’s on-line resource for the Ramona Tells Jim play/production.

Spanning 15 years, the play depicts the fumbling, youthful love between Ramona and Jim as teenagers, as well as the lingering aftermath of those fleeting but life-changing events.

Here is an embedded trailer for the production, which shows snippets of the junior scenes:

The playwright, Sophie Wu, is a new name to us. Apparently she is more TV and film actress  than playwright at this stage of her career. We’ll certainly be looking out for her plays again. Ramona Tells Jim is a charming, short piece – very impressive as an early effort.

This search term – click here – digs out plenty of reviews. In truth the reviews speak more highly of the production than the play, claiming some lack of depth and/or plausibility in the latter. But what do the reviewers know? We thought this was 80-90 minutes of high quality, thought-provoking, dark comedy.

Extremely well acted and directed too; the reviewers certainly agree with us on that. Director Mel Hillyard wowed us as recently as March with Scarlett at the Hampstead Dowstairs and also last year with the Brink at the Orange Tree. She is certainly a director to watch.

We had also seen Ruby Bentall before, although I had to look this up to recall where; in DNA and The Miracle at the Cottesloe yonks ago. All of the performers were very good indeed.

The audience had their moments on the night we attended. The Bush was very quiet that evening, as the next production in the main house (Of Kith and Kin – we’re going to that in a couple of week’s time) has not yet opened. Just before the doors were due to open (15 minutes before scheduled the start of the play), two members of staff went through and locked the door behind them. One couple, seeing people go in, went running up to the door and banged on it fervently, thinking that they had missed the start of the show, perhaps unused to 19:45 start times for the new studio rather than 19:30 in the main house.

“We must be the most stupid people on earth”, said the door-banging chap as the couple joined the rest of us in a sedate drinking/milling around mode for a few more minutes.

Actually, the most stupid people on earth award for the evening might go to the woman next to me who left her mobile phone on, noisily pinging through texts and e-mails during the 1998 scenes – very incongruous noise – until she realised the problem was her, at which point she tried to rectify the problem discreetly, hoping no-one would notice that it was her. Plenty of people noticed, love.

Next up for a stupid award was the woman who insisted on rattling her voluminous drink ice around in her glass like a teenager noisily munching popcorn in the cinema, then later cackling like a hyena at the fumbling sex scene which was surely whimsical pathos humour rather than guffaw humour to anyone old enough to know better, which this woman surely was.

Crumbs, the above paragraphs infer that we had an irritating evening but we really didn’t – we came home truly delighted with the play and the production. We had a light supper of salami and cream cheese baguettes with some salad stuff, washed down with a very jolly Dão red.

Highly commended by both me and Janie – we’ll be looking out again for the talent that was on show – writing, directing, producing and acting.

Nassim by Nassim Soleimanpour, Bush Studio, 29 July 2017

We loved this innovative, short piece.

It is described well, along with all the information you could possibly want, on the Bush site – here.

It is performed (alongside the author) by a different performer each night, who has not seen the script.  We got Phelim McDermott, who is one of the artistic directors of Improbable. He was very good.

The piece is, on the surface, very simple, childish even. Yet the more you think about it, the more you realise that Nassim is making profound points about freedom of speech, not least the pains people like him go through when they leave their home country (in his case Iran) in order to communicate what they have to say in a foreign place and a foreign language.

We sat right at the front but managed to avoid the worst elements of the audience participation. Having said that, I got the dirtiest of dirty looks from Phelim when I tried to help him follow his instructions, by pointing to an “X marks the spot” which was located next to my seat.

We weren’t just moved and thoughtful; we laughed a lot during the 70 minutes or so. Nassim is clearly a very innovative and skilled dramatist; we’ll certainly look out for his work again.

This Bush run is an Edinburgh preview – I think this piece will go down very well in Edinburgh. It is then returning to The Bush for a while after Edinburgh – I recommend that you grab a ticket for that while/if you still can, if you like this sort of thing.

Janie and I had a crazy craving for Iranian food after Nassim’s homesick piece, so decided to try Rice Chiswick, which we found very satisfactory. Not quite Mohsen’s standard, but close and very convenient for the Bush.

A splendid evening.