REVIEW: Teeth 'n' Smiles, dir. by James Thacker, Stockwell Playhouse

‘Teeth ‘n’ Smiles’, written by David Hare, is one of those plays with the potential to go very wrong or very right. For James Thacker’s cast at The Stockwell Playhouse, the case is certainly the latter. Over the course of 135 minutes, the cast expertly lead us through the ups and downs of a failing rock band, led flailingly by the raucous and rather damaged Maggie, played sensitively by Molly Ward, playing their final show at a ball for Cambridge University.

The musical talents of the cast allow the piece to slide seamlessly between gig and naturalist drama, firmly placing the characters in the context of their Punk values- shifted from the ‘acid dream’ 1960s of the original production, Thackers adaptation positions the piece firmly within 70s Punk, a change which firmly posits the piece in dialogue with a more modern context of binge-drinking and rave culture.

The plot centres largely around a love triangle between lead-singer Maggie (Molly Ward), her ex-boyfriend and song writer Arthur (Matt Jopling) and Maggie’s long-suffering best friend, Laura (Elle Banstead-Salim). The tension between Ward and Jopling is played subtly, but exquisitely, with all the beauty of a first love you can’t quite relinquish, whilst Banstead-Salim brings a heart-wrenching performance as the desperately overshadowed Laura who can’t quite compete with their history. Within the band, which runs the risk of blurring into a shapeless mass, each character is clearly defined in relation to the others, with particular note going to Andrew Bryant (Peyote) and Michael David (Inch) who steal the show with incredibly engaging performances. Playing the flustered and isolated medical student Anson, Alex Britt performs with sparkling sincerity, leaving the comedy of the text to speak for itself and demonstrating a beautifully developed instinct for physical comedy and timing.

I wait with bated breath for their next production, and heartily recommend a visit to Stockwell Playhouse for a production that brings its audience screeching through the piece with the mix of laughter and fatality that accompanies the most exhilarating acid trip.

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