Evelyn at Southwark Playhouse
Southwark Playhouse hosts another well-rounded show as it further cements itself as one of the best (if not the best) small theatres in London.
Based on real-life events, rumours are circulating in Walton-on-the-Naze that an ex-con by the name of Evelyn Mills has moved to a seaside village with a new identity. Meanwhile, a woman named Sandra arrives in town, pretending to be the goddaughter of a local elderly lady.
It’s all framed around a Punch and Judy motif as the show cuts between the main action and creepy puppet commentary. The crocodile is there too and for some reason, has a Jamaican accent.
The play is billed as a tale of mob justice in modern Britain – but that feels like it’s selling itself short. While it’s certainly a running theme that bubbles under the surface until reaching a crescendo, there’s a lot more going on with this show, as it explores guilt and sadness and fear.
Evelyn is a fairly gripping story, told in a quite original way. Some of the writing feels a little rushed and at one point we seem to skip forward in time without any warning, but ultimately the story and dialogue are put together well with only insignificant qualms. The only glaring issue is that the script doesn’t try to create any empathy with the anonymous mob or explore their motives. The one visible character that somewhat represents them is quickly vilified and hard to care about beyond her first scene. Instead, this nameless group are just presented as almost-comical Karens which softens them and makes them feel harmless. Without understanding the very real reasons that people resort to this social media justice and mob rule, the stakes never feel that high.
Performance-wise, the women are all stand-out actors but Nicola Harrison is truly brilliant (playing both Judy and Sandra), absolutely stealing the show. Her twisted puppet movements as Judy are wooden and unnatural, in a good way, while she brings devastating emotion to the role of Sandra.
Photo: Greg Goodale
Evelyn at Southwark Playhouse is at Southwark Playhouse from 24th June until 16th July 2022. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.