Lately at the Lion and Unicorn

Proforca’s Lately running at the Lion & Unicorn 7-18th September. Gabrielle Nellis-Pain and Fred Wardale pictured as Alf and Callum.

Originally due to run in in 2020, but postponed due to the pandemic, Proforca’s Lately has finally made it to the stage, and they have included the smart Covid measure of having two, physically separated, casts that alternate nights. The night I was in Callum and Alf were beautifully played by Fred Wardale and Gabrielle Nellis-Pain. In the post show Q&A (led by Terri Paddock), Director David Brady talked about the impact of this dual casting, how despite having the same words and same director, the two casts feel distinctly different, each actor bringing something different to their role. I must confess to feeling regret that I won’t be able to see the Matt Wake and Lauren Ferdinand version of the show before the run ends on 18th September. This is such an exquisite and sensitively written play, I would happily have spent another evening in its company.

Written by James Lewis, Lately tells the story of Callum and Alf, two young people who feel trapped in their lives in “Shitsville on sea”, a place where the only people they genuinely like are each other. There is a compelling naturalism to the play that pulls you into their world. Lewis avoids sensationalising the themes of abuse, depression and suicide by filtering them through the lens of these two, very real characters. Wardale and Nellis-Pain give sensitive portrayals of these two troubled and connected souls. While Callum struggles to see a way out, Alf has her eye firmly on escape.

There is a fascinating quietness to this production that serves to convey the depths of anger and rage sitting beneath the surface, it simmers with feeling and unsaid things. David Brady deliberately keeps the set sparse, using projections selectively to reinforce the sense of space and the physical world Callum and Alf inhabit. This provides a dynamic backdrop that supports the story, never competing with, or distracting from, the deeply moving performances.

Matt Wake and Lauren Ferdinand as Callum and Alf

Proforca’s Lately was definitely worth the wait, I was crying by the end. I can only hope this production has a life beyond this short London run, as it is a show that would resonate with audiences nationwide. Writing this review on Suicide Prevention day I can’t help thinking this is a play that might just make someone who feels trapped by their life, feel seen and a fraction less alone. Sometimes that fraction is all it takes.

To find out more or book tickets, you can go here:

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, I wish you could believe me that it will get better. I don’t say this flippantly but as someone who has been there (for the longest time it felt like I had a season ticket to ‘there’). If you need support please call the Samaritans on 116 123 (in the UK), or if a phone call feels like too much, here is information about alternative ways to contact them: The Samaritans also provide information on their website about what to do if you are worried about someone else.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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