Two Very Different Jailbirds Break Out At Soho Theatre

By Ben Venables Last edited 43 months ago
Two Very Different Jailbirds Break Out At Soho Theatre ★★★★☆ 4

Currently at Soho Theatre reside two jailbirds using the top and bottom of the building for different ends. One of these convicts became a hit in Edinburgh last year and the other looks set to triumph at this year's Fringe.

Photo by Richard Davenport

Londonist Rating for Chef: ★★★★☆

Upstairs at the theatre runs Chef by Sabrina Mahfouz, one of several plays forming the Soho Solo season and winner of The Scotsman's First Fringe Award. It's a story of how a determined and somewhat idealistic young woman rose to occupy the position of head chef in a haute-cuisine restaurant. However, her career moves sideways to the less glamorous surroundings of a prison kitchen — and the titular Chef is now one of the inmates. Its theme is nicely captured in a neat line from the monologue fairly early on: "How do kids who want to be astronauts and writers and singers and engineers end up here? In the dark corners of someone else's dream..."

Jade Anouka's upbeat delivery and childlike wonder ensure a sympathetic hearing whatever decisions her character has made. Furthermore, this adds another layer of pain onto the tragedy that unfolds over the play's eight short sequences and favourite recipes. In fact, the performance complements a script where its ethical themes could become a touch too heavy. On-the-page, Mahfouz's writing reads like poetry but perhaps doesn't have the naturalism of everyday dialogue. By keeping the performance breezy, Anouka ensures the lyrical flow comes through along with the difficult decisions her Chef faces.


Londonist Rating for Diane Chorley: Duchess of Canvey: ★★★★☆

A little later in the evening, in the bowels of the theatre, can be found our second inmate Diane Chorley. But she has no intention of being in the dark corner of anyone's dream. A colourful cabaret character, Chorley was recently released from Her Majesty's pleasure after dabbling in the pharmaceutical trade while running the glam-Canvey Island 80s nightclub Flick. Now she's back with her band The Buffet to reclaim her crown in light entertainment. She's also accompanied on-stage by her deadpan partner, who, like a police officer outside Number 10, keeps a strangely affecting vigil by his lover's side throughout the performance. In classy dress (for the decade) and with Madge Ramsey hairdo, it doesn't take long for Chorley to win the party crowd over with her star stories and soon everyone is on their feet for the George Michael covers and original songs. It surely becomes a party as good as any enjoyed by the 80s celebs and patrons of her famous night spot.

Other than these two leading convicts it's difficult to imagine two shows so different in tone. Yet while the two productions run concurrently both capture the 'spirit of the Fringe' that Soho Theatre so often brings to London.

Diane Chorley: Duchess of Canvey runs until 27 June, 9.30pm, Mon-Thur £15/£12.50, Fri-Sat  £17.50/£15. Chef runs until 4 July, 7pm, 15 & 16 June £10, 17- 23 June £14 (£12), 24 June-4 July £16 (£14). Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.

Last Updated 18 June 2015