Review: Living with Luke at the Harlow Playhouse

Entertainment / Sun 4th Feb 2018 at 12:51pm

“Living With Luke”, Harlow Playhouse, Sat 3rd Feb 2018


By Ian Beckett

FOUR years after seeing “Living With Luke” at Passmores Academy in Harlow, the sense of privilege at witnessing one of the most incredible pieces of writing brought together by a phenomenal cast does not dissipate.

Set in a wrestling ring (for the ever-dwindling uninitiated), the audience were brought to life by the Ref (Shane Ely-Whitworth) who has proved himself time and again to be a Ringmaster, a foil, a quick-change comedian and a continuity-link in this fast-paced fiesta.

For five rounds of simultaneously life-draining and life-affirming wrestling – Autism, Epilepsy, Desperation, Father’s Day and Loving Luke – the Ref tries and fails but doesn’t stop trying to ensure a fair fight takes place between Danson Thunderbolt (Steve Hannam) and the Autistic Shadow (Phil Powers).

“You could hear a pin drop” is a well worn cliche but as the cheers and boos for Danson’s “small victories” and the Shadow’s unrelenting onslaughts, the silences were palpable. By the time Luke (Ben Maytham) sang “Desperado” the audience were desperate to applaud, and when they heard how Danson deals with cold calls that applause exploded and was scarcely contained until over 300 people got to their feet to give the cast, crew and writer-director Paul T. Davies a wholly deserved standing ovation.

The post-show Q & A was a perfect blend of those who simply wanted to say thank you for the enjoyment and the transformative impact of “Living With Luke”, probing questions about the ongoing challenges the Hannam’s face, a real desire to “help” as individuals and as part of society and the recognition that this play needs to be made available – again, and again and again. Please schedule a return visit Harlow Playhouse – the theatre will be filled once more, for sure.

Ian Beckett

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