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A Woman Walks Into A Bank

A Woman Walks Into A Bank by Roxy Cook

Theatre503 21st November - 15th December

Review by Aisling Towl

Gotta Get Up - Harry Nilsson (Russian Doll Soundtrack)

In Moscow, in 2018, a woman walks into a bank. In Moscow, in 2018, a woman walks into a bank because she needs money, because old women in Moscow always need money. Over the course of the play, this event is reiterated again and again, new details fleshed out, new characters introduced, actions and their repercussions rippling outwards. Through direct address, third-person story-telling and movement, we are brought back again and again to this first image and what it might mean. Like a Russian Doll, each layer of the story reveals another underneath, and another, until we are deeply immersed in the world of post-world-cup Moscow, watching as multiple stories unfold from one seemingly small moment.


Fancy Clown - Madvillain, Madlib, and MF Doom/Viktor Vaughn

On David Allen’s charming, carpeted set, three actors embody various characters, placing themselves at the butt of jokes and demanding the audience’s compliance in their schemes. It’s a style reminiscent of clowning, building on the playful vulnerability of the technique to weave a compelling, contemporary story. The ensemble work not just of the performers, but also Joe Price’s lighting design and Hugh Sheehan’s sound composition, make this a tight-knit, deeply collaborative piece. Multiple elements compliment each other - much like the 2004 Madvillain track which features production from Madlib on an iconic sample from Z.Z. Hill’s That Ain't The Way You Make Love, and MF Doom appearing as one of his many aliases, Viktor Vaughn.


Cool Cat - Queen

Sally the Cat, played by all three members of the cast, is one of several brilliant narrators worthy of her own section. Sultry, sophisticated but easily shaken, Sally is our eyes and ears around the highrise block of flats where pivotal events unfold. She gives us insight the other characters don’t have, creating tension and suspense that builds to an explosive climax. Cool Cat is an unsung hero of Queen’s tenth album; Mercury’s falsetto somersaulting on top of a dreamy melody and darker bassline. Animals can be hard for audiences to get behind, but Roxy Cook’s script and direction are masterclasses in getting an audience to root for characters we might not usually root for.


Pressure - Ari Lennox

A key motif of the play is the condition of being under so much financial pressure you forget your conscience. The young man trying to find his way in the world as a Bank Manager selling high-interest loans, the debt collector who is an Afghanistan war veteran, the old woman who just needs some quick cash to survive the cold Moscow winter. All situations exacerbated by Russia’s stagnated economy in the years following the country’s large scale political restructuring, and the 2008 global financial crash. The play does a brilliant job of demonstrating how large-scale world events have real, tangible impact on ordinary peoples’ everyday lives, without being remotely preachy or one-sided. Like Ari Lennox’s upbeat R&B single Pressure, the story manages to be fun and playful despite more serious subject matter - in this case, the immense pressure forcing its characters to make compromises in service of financial survival.


The Less I Know The Better - Tame Impala

The finale sequence makes full use of dramatic irony as all three characters finally go head to head in the old woman’s living room. None of them have quite enough knowledge of the situation to go after what they want, but as the audience we have some idea of what’s coming. Even so, it manages to be surprising: Sam Hooper’s movement direction shines here, as do all three actors’ energy and commitment to the drama they build together. As Tame Impala’s 2015 hit laments the pain of knowing too much, the play’s final moments draw it’s truth out from a suspenseful build-up. It’s an engaging, unique story, creatively told by an extraordinary talented team. Not your usual Christmas show, but one well worth seeing for a highly entertaining evening that sheds light on the human cost of late stage capitalism with subtlety, humour and charm.


 

Honourable Mentions

Money, Cash, Hoes by Jay-Z ft DMX

Police State by Pussy Riot

Stranger in Moscow by Michael Jackson

Babooshka by Kate Bush

SAD GIRLZ LOVE MONEY by Amaare ft Moliy



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