Matchbox theatres were and still are a toy collectors’ dream, and these were a miniature theatre with set and performer’s on a particular theatrical genre, also the box was very small, which is why it is referred to as a matchbox theatre. The Hampstead Theatre’s current play, ‘Matchbox Theatre’ was an embarrassingly horrendous concept for a play and the performances were extremely vile.
‘Matchbox Theatre’ is situated in a number of localities where the play begins with two statues (Felicity Montagu) who form part of a tomb in an abandoned church are trying to sleep, even though they have been sleeping for centuries are woken up due to a rave that is happening in the uninhibited crypt underneath. Over the course of the production, there is a speedy transition between the short series of plays which convey some realistic scenarios but in a comedic fashion; such as the scene where here are two couples who are on opposite ends of the spectrum. One couple are illiterate who have troubles pronouncing certain names of places, food etc and this aggravates the other couple who are at the other end of the restaurant and they can hear them. We see through this performance how theatre audiences (Tim Downie) try to realise when the first act has ended and when they can go to the bar and have a drink as the blackout that you’d expect takes time to materialise. During the show, we witness the agony for an E-flat contraphonium player (Chris Larner) who explains the struggles of the musician and conductor’s working relationship, as well as the challenges of the their craft not being a fully financially stable job. Alternatively, the scene at the Award’s Ceremony you see the corruptive influences hat are present; expressly, that the victor of the most prestigious award is the same person, but when there’s a new winner for this award it shocks the previous recipient. Near the finale, there are two people who have been in a holiday romance who are siting awaiting the announcement for their flights are despairing at the thought of leaving one another come to annoy the announcer and he decides that they are not going to be boarding their flights. Frayn’s narrative is catastrophic are there is not a consistent and interesting plot at all and the hilarity of the comedy is lost due to the fact that there is too much going on, moreover, I become bored at times.
One found the performances by the company of, ‘Matchbox Theatre’ to be extremely disastrous as the changes of characters were hardly recognisable and the requirements of such roles. Nina Wadia is monstrous as the maddened woman at the restaurant; for example when she is shouting repeatedly and when she is doing so it does irate me and it becomes tiresome very quickly. Mark Hadfield is heinous as one of the statues as his vocal delivery did not feel that powerful as you’d expect from a good performer and the humour was immature. Esther Coles is jaded as the woman who is on the end of the telephone; principally how her scatter-brained persona lacked the eccentric flare that the character should have conveyed and this is second-rate performance and suggests limited rehearsal time.
Hamish McColl’s direction is atrocious here as he has not been able to depict the rib-tickling elements that could have been shown if the characterisations could have been more comprehensive, furthermore, the whole two hour performance was mind-numbingly monotonous due to the lack of a coherent narrative. Polly Sullivan’s design is bland and ordinary as I was not engrossed into the environment and atmosphere within any aspect of the play, plus the scenic art is lacking in opulence and looked tragic. Overall, the experience of, ‘Matchbox Theatre’ was an unexciting play and is one I do regret seeing, such a shame for such a well-established theatre to programme this shambles of a show.