Review: Martin Murphy's New Play 'Worlds'

Written by: Victoria Highfield

“Is this the end my beautiful friend?”

When I heard I had tickets to a show in super trendy underground arts spaces The Vaults, I was intrigued.  I’d heard a lot about it from friends and the odd Instagram post: I couldn’t wait to see if it lived up to expectations.  When I rocked up on a Thursday evening I wasn’t disappointed. Located off the famous Leake ‘graffiti’ street, The Vaults lives in the underground world of Waterloo station. The graffiti itself is all consuming from head to toe and the range of crude slogans and massive murals intricately painted swallow you whole.

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It was safe to say as far as looks goes it made quite an impression. This was a venue that looked like it belonged off Shoreditch High street with a queue of eager hipsters following in toe.  Dressed in his city-boy overcoat my better half looked a tad out of place but once inside we realised it wasn’t one of those pretentious east London venues where you need to work in media paired with green hair and a cool charity shop get up to fit in. There was a real mix of clientele – the young and hip, those on date night, older intellectuals – you name it they were all there. We made our way to one of the venue’s many bars. They are split into sections, each with a different theme however all daring and unusual and willing to explore the unknown. We meandered through the underground maze and grabbed ourselves a set of delicious cocktails en route (I’d recommend the Hemmingway mojito for all the feels) and headed down a long corridor – all through the watchful eyes and grinning smile of the Cheshire cat painted on the walls – to the studio where we took our seats.

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Worlds, written and directed by Martin Murphy (writer of 2016’s Edinburgh Fringe success Villian) is about nine people from all walks of life who find themselves, on a dark and stormy night, at the end of the world – or rather, Worlds, a small hotel run by an eccentric  Irish landlady Briony. This extremely funny play looks at why people choose to leave or remain in relationships, friendships and locations. Its series of short stories all interlink if only through the fact that each character is staying in the same remote guesthouse.

The small dark set is framed only by a rail full of clothes and the odd alcoholic beverage which the actors helps themselves too throughout. In the background we can hear the overground trains rattle and shake the scene which sees the fluorescent lighting ficker – it couldn’t have been a more apt for an apocalyptic-esque setting.

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We’re introduced to Bas the pop star who’s laying low and hoping to run into a woman from his past; a couple who are married but not to each other; Charlie and his grandmother who want to escape to warm climates; and the mysterious Benny and Haxie who are hiding from…something.

Nine very different (although not quite as equally interesting) characters are played by just two fantastic actors. Naomi Shaldeon and Andrew Macklin battle endless costume changes, multiple accents and opposing personalities to the best of their ability and deliver funny and touching performances of each snapshot of the characters lives.

We’re fully in awe of the performances however left wondering why each story never quite amounts to anything. We are left with no answers; in fact there is no real build up within any of the character’s stories.

 Why are they cheating on their partners? What are they running away from? Initially I was left slightly unfulfilled however upon reflection knew this was the exact point of Murphy’s script; to leave us wondering and to create our own ending for the characters – we were given snippets of their lives and left desperately wanting more.

Worlds was a more than pleasant way to spend an evening and the hour long performance flew by in a breeze. This is a gentle dark comedy that allows for thought-provoking and arresting performances that will stay with you long after the performers take their final bow.  The Doors sang ‘This is the end, beautiful friend. This is the end, my only friend, the end’. For our leading characters we can only wonder whether this is really the case.

Worlds ended on the 29th January at Vaults Festival. But you can catch Martin Murphy’s 2016’s Edinburgh Fringe success Villain at the Kings Head Theatre from 9th February – 4th March 2016 on Upper Street, Islington.

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