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REVIEW: Pandora at Arcola Theatre

PUBLISHED: 12:17 27 May 2010 | UPDATED: 16:05 05 October 2010

Kay Bridgeman in Pandora by Jennie Buckman

Kay Bridgeman in Pandora by Jennie Buckman

By Jasmine Coleman Reinventing thousands of years of stories and stereotypes is no mean feat. Pandora does it with grace and beauty. Old age, mental health, race and family are among the big issu

By Jasmine Coleman

Reinventing thousands of years of stories and stereotypes is no mean feat. 'Pandora' does it with grace and beauty.

Old age, mental health, race and family are among the big issues tackled in this new creation from Stoke Newington writer Jennie Buckman. But the play is not as moralizing as could be expected.

Buckman, the former head of acting at RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art), has worked with women from Haringey University of the Third Age (U3A) as well as secondary school children to breathe real life into an age-old myth of good and evil.

The cast of five equally fantastic actors weave a web of Hackney's many voices, telling the tales of local people to give Pandora - the root of all our ills according to Antiquity - a say.

Five original acts exploring the fears, joys and flaws of women are set against a backdrop of raw experience. Five women from U3A speak on film about their own take on five curses that escaped from Pandora's box, sorry, jar.

Comments such as "I wouldn't want to live forever, the champagne might run out" set a precedent for Buckman's sharp and witty script that drives the acts on. Performances are just as dynamic and diverse, with cast members playing a handful of characters each without a hint of confusion.

The presence of Sophie Stone, the first deaf student to join RADA, as schoolgirl Cleo is central to the enjoyment of the play. Her voice absorbs the audience and sign language adds expression to her emotions.

Brian Lonsdale plays her violent father with fire and fragility, Kay Bridgeman and Brigid Zengeni are warm and surprising as a lesbian couple about to marry, and Jonathan Livingstone delivers a lively monologue as a dead husband.

The space at the Arcola is both flexible and challenging. But this performance is wide open. Audience members see snapshots of real drama and invited to make a choice. Can we go on blaming Pandora?

'Pandora' continues at Arcola Theatre in Arcola Street, Dalston, until June 5. Tickets cost £16 or £10 for concessions.

Signed performances of the play are on Friday May 28 and the matinee on Saturday June 5.

A special £50 gala performance hosted by Friends star David Schwimmer will take place on Thursday May 27.

For more information, go to www.arcolatheatre.com.

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