REVIEW: The Black Curtain, Angel Exit Theatre Company, Jacksons Lane

PUBLISHED: 17:33 11 June 2008 | UPDATED: 15:08 07 September 2010

Four star rating Jacksons Lane has the sort of buzz you experience in established off-West End theatres such as the Arcola in Stoke Newington. The Cafe Theadro in the foyer certainly helps with this, as does the quality of the shows this venue is hosting

Four star rating

Jacksons Lane has the sort of buzz you experience in established off-West End theatres such as the Arcola in Stoke Newington. The Cafe Theadro in the foyer certainly helps with this, as does the quality of the shows this venue is hosting. The respectably large audience who turned out to see The Black Curtain on a wet Wednesday night shows there is definitely a demand for fringe theatre in this area.

With The Black Curtain, physical theatre company Angel Exit have produced a confident, accomplished homage to film noir. The plot can best be described as Raymond Chandler meets Spooks, as the genre is used to explore contemporary issues of the surveillance state and the relationship between providing security for a nation and curtailing the civil liberties of its citizens.

Having said that, the plot really is the least of this production, which is just as well as it's of the best-not-to-think-about-it-too-much school of narrative construction. Plays which deal with contemporary issues are increasingly common, and from this perspective I doubt whether the audience left with much more insight into the issues than upon arrival. Likewise, characterisation and psychological evolution are not this production's strong points.

In fact it's best not to think about the plot at all; instead just sit back and enjoy the spectacle of this humorous, exuberant physical theatre.

The atmosphere of film noir is successfully evoked through the music and the trench-coated, fedora-wearing cast; the decision not to employ American accents was probably wise, as it is better to have no accent than a bad one and the script conjures up enough of a sense of the language of this genre without it.

Highlights included the evocation of a car journey at night, performed with a toy car lit by torches; the thorough exploration of all possible uses for a plain office table; the speeding-up and reversing of scenes, performed very effectively by the cast; and the brilliantly satirical scene in which characters are physically prevented from moving down the street by free newspaper distributors - this last rewarded by a laugh of recognition from the audience.

The fluency and energy of the performers, their imagination and attention to detail all make for an enjoyable night out.

Jo Trew


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