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The Standard Short Long Drop | The Vanguard, Camden

The play starts with two cellmates sentenced to capital punishment (hanging), and the slow unravelling of their pasts, their crimes, and their beliefs. With strong writing from author Rachel Garnet, the script gives us a rather defined conversation about morality; which is brought to life by the two actors.


Directed by Natasha Rickman, every moment has been utilised to its full potential, creating this brilliant play. There’s never a moment when the audience is not sat with rapt attention. The two characters are polar opposites with ‘Old Man’ Alistair (Kevin Wathen) who is a steadfast, serious revolutionist and ‘famously delicate’ Ludley (Per Carminger) who is much more tender, and expressive.


Per Carminger perfectly emulates ‘Ludley’ by showing us glimpses of the jovial nature of the youth, through his child-like wonder, naivety and yearning for his life and freedom. The slow crushing and ultimately destroying of this spirit is seen through the initial sentence, and later a cruel turn of events.


The slow spiral from a funny young man (the audience is often torn at laughing at light-hearted moments of innocence amidst a rather grim setting), to a tortured young man brings the audience to tears. Haunted by the ghosts of his past, and dread of the future results in a psychological war within himself, which is a really dark moment within the play.


However, it is Wathen’s ‘Alistair’ that stayed with me long after the show was over. Doomed from the start, his unwavering self-discipline, almost complete lack of emotions, and wiser words make the show. His intense gaze during a scene where he is discussing and weighing his options of death (the standard, short or long drop), and coolly mentioning preferences was remarkable, and it truly felt as though the character was unshakable. The show’s most chilling moment follows this, when Alastair is the one to tie his own noose. In a terrifyingly smart decision, he does so, by tying it around his neck, as though it were no more than an ordinary tie.

It is only towards the end, when he receives a letter and a photo, that we see him crack, and finally shatter. Starting with teary eyes and a slightly huskier voice, the quick progression to a cracked voice, tears streaming, shaking and ultimately sobbing in Ludley’s arms; it’s this moment that absolutely demolishes those in the audience who had managed not to yet shed a tear. The acting in this deterioration is impeccable.


The show explores some rather distressing themes, and doesn’t shy away from being bluntly honest and open, often describing horrific events in graphic detail. Although we, thankfully, don’t see this, Rachel Garnet’s words ensure that we are able to imagine it. This is paired with the contrast of Alastair’s matter of fact way of recalling these events or reciting of information, and Ludley’s very visible fear that leaves you feeling shaken.


The set is simple, with a single metal bed in the middle, with a fake brick wall and bars behind them. The audiences become the other three prison walls, which leads to an interesting feeling of spying into the cell. The front row of seats on either side are nearly upon the stage, which does lead to a couple of awkward moments the actors are almost in the audience member’s face when performing. The few moments of dimmer blue and yellow lighting (Mark Dymock), movement and sound truly amazing sound effects and music (Lex Kosanke), carry us through longer time periods. It’s also this method that is employed at the end of the show, that resulting in a jarring jump when the inevitable happens.


The Standard Short Long Drop is not a show for the faint of heart, and will leave you troubled, the way an in-depth conversation or exploration of such unjust matters ought to. However, in the capacity of art stirring emotions, the play more than delivers.

The standard short long drop is currently playing at The Vanguard, Camden (inside of Camden Market) until the 22nd of October. For more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.


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{AD | Gifted} Photography by Jason Warner

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