Posted on September 19, 2013


Thomas Ingham usually appears on, rather than writing for, the stage. Notably appearing recently in Benefits and Troll, he turns his hand to writing in his debut play VIP.

Three women arrive in a room they cannot escape in this mysterious comedy of fame, redemption and surprises that initially begins like the first night on Big Brother – awkward and unsure. Quickly though, VIP finds its feet, grounding its situation and its wildly different characters.

The first girl into the Big Brother ho-, I mean, party is WAG Cathy (Kathy Burgess). Burgess’s initially two-dimensional and transparent mouth on legs becomes a fully rounded three-dimensional and sympathetic character by her exit. Ingham’s script gives Burgess the lion’s share of the script, and she responds with a emotional performance. Thoroughly deconstructed, Burgess convincingly rebuilds her character piece-by-piece.

The humour is balanced against the plot, two repeating moments of shock causing nervous laughter amongst the packed audience. Indeed, much of this wit and humour arises naturally from the different clashing backgrounds that the characters come from without feeling forced.

Eventually, the attendees of this special party are given a choice to step through one of three doors. Without giving too much away, what opens up is a discussion on redemption, damnation and the danger of first appearances. Ingham’s script goes to lengths to avoid the obvious conclusions, throwing up some surprises along the way.

Among the supporting cast, the ladies in particular stand out. Caroline Warhurst gives a convincing and angsty portrayal of the ridiculously judgmental Suzanne without becoming a stroppy teen. She is balanced against Hilly Barber’s analytical and somewhat batty Florence.

Without spoiling what happens next, three guys then find themselves trapped in the same situation. Ingham stays away from repeating the first half verbatim, but unfortunately this causes the lads performances to suffer in comparison to the female dominated first half.  It’s a shame that Jack Howard and Karun Comar do not get more to do – Howard in particular as the bullying Jason warrants further exploration within this setting. Karl Greenwood’s Gary is a highlight, with Greenwood’s solid and conflicted performance compellingly watchable.

A decently crafted start from Ingham, VIP treads a line between thriller and morality play with a dynamic set of characters that produce an very entertaining hour.

The Fiction Stroker gives VIP three and a half strokes out of five:


Photography by Andrew Madden.

Posted in: Theatre