Laundry at the Space
Five women rinse their clothes before hanging them out to dry on a communal laundry line. These women are neighbours but not friends. Each of them harbours a secret, unaware that they all know more about one another’s lives than they’d ever dare to admit. Set in the East End of London in the 1950s, Laundry is a story of lies and concealment, and an examination of how basic human instinct can hide upset and fear.
They say not to air dirty laundry in public, but STARCHEDtheatre go one better than that by doing so in a converted church. The Space is an ideal venue for this play as the former place of worship evokes a sense of safety where even the darkest of secrets can be confessed. The traverse staging, forcing the audience to face one another, only adds to the intimacy. All is on show here and there is nowhere to hide.
Although this is a hard-hitting piece with several uncomfortably disturbing scenes, it is complemented by character-driven humour with some laugh-out-loud moments. Often with devised pieces plot is somewhat neglected and it must be said that there is more of an emphasis on character here, but that does not take anything away from the enthralling drama. The ensemble complement one another perfectly with carefully considered, powerful performances and the fact that they wrote and devised the play together shines through with a sense that they all care deeply about the roles they are portraying and the themes that are being explored. Olivia Baker and Anna Hallas Smith – as Elsie and Betsy, respectively – stand out for their impressive acting, but they are well supported by the remainder of the cast, with Elliot Winter’s Cooke being particularly seedy and Harry Elliott’s George contributing comedy as well as evoking emotion in the audience.
STARCHEDtheatre having been established at East 15 Acting School in 2017, Laundry marks the company’s first devised piece. Whilst not entirely refined, the raw energy of the talented ensemble prevents this from being an issue, and even adds to the sense of realism. With minimal props and very little in the way of scenery, we are presented with a stark depiction of life as it was for women in the 1950s and as we vacate the space, we are left with a lingering impression that what we have just witnessed still goes on today.
Laundry is at the Space from 8th until 12th January 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.