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Kensington's Bottom | The Space Theatre (Online)

Kensington's Bottom, which is written and directed by Rae Skerrett, is advertised as a "queeroid" (queer period) drama, and it creates an impact. The piece uses the dramatic conflict of the time period to add an underlying theme, and slowly spread the fear and dread into the otherwise romantic and lively society.  The story follows two close friends Betsy (Rae Skerrett) and Morris (Billy Woodhouse) and their respective same-sex romantic relationships. Whilst the play doesn't explicitly mention the time period, it's quickly established that queerness was not accepted and would render in horrific consequences, even death. Betsy questions and discovers her sexuality when she meets the newly appointed family maid Clarice (Louisa Jane), and Morris with his workplace acquaintance John Frank (Callum Gaffney). The two friends, who are pushed into an arranged marriage by their families, have no one but each other to help escape expectations and find love and freedom. However, it isn't quite as straightforward as either of them believe as harsh reality comes knocking. 

Skerrett as Betsy, is a passionate performer and captures the mannerisms that both empower and isolate her from her family and society. Woodhouse as Morris is a charming presence and does well in portraying the inner struggles of his character. Cali Levine as Bella, Betsy's younger sister, manages to shine in her small role, often stirring up trouble. 

The themes of class and sexism also play in both Betsy and Morris's storylines, with the former falling in love with her family's maid and ridiculing the "requirements" to be a proper lady, and the latter choosing to be an artist rather than continue the family business. The play, both in language and character, reminds one of the many classic novels, allowing for plenty apace for the mundane daily routine. Although this could have perhaps been cut in favour of more stage time with the couples, it provides further context. The circumstances provide more sympathy for the relationships than the characters themselves, due to the little time spent with them. 

The show's greatest strength comes from the ever shifting agendas of the characters as they wrestle, not only with society's expectations, but their own moral dilemma and fears. An unexpected but fascinating twist leads to a surprising development in both Morris and Betsy, and this is almost a horrific consequence in of itself. The detail and depth paid into character's psychology and relying on the unpredictability of human nature makes the piece a fascinating watch. The characters and the desperation and joy that they feel hook the audience from the get go, and maintains this investment throughout. 

Kensington's Bottom is a powerful, thrilling and memorable play that serves as a painful testament to the "queeroid" stories that are rarely seen.


Gifted tickets in return for an honest review


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