Karaoke Play, The Bunker Theatre

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It’s Saturday night and while Darren and Perri work at Barry’s karaoke bar, Barryoke, Kelly and Linford ready themselves to step onto the stage and into the rest of their lives. Four intertwined monologues about love, British identity, the pursuit of recognition and… Karaoke.

PLUCK Theatre’s production Annie Jenkin’s Karaoke Play is an observant work about community, loneliness and working class life. The four monologues intertwine, characters are aware of each other but are never seen interacting. It is an intense and implicable work that intrigues and repulses its audience in equal measure. People live like this? How do they live this like this.

Set in a Karaoke pub we follow the characters Perri and Darren, who work in the bar and have a complex relationship. Darren, played by Philip Honeywell, identifies as a gay man but that doesn’t stop him letting Perri (Lucy Bromlilow) perform a sex act on him. Perri is a quirky character, she loudly plays porn to get her housemates attention, survives on lasagne ready meals and is desperately looking for validation; clinging on to a plastic medal Darren gives all his conquests.

Linford (Christopher Jenner-Cole) and Kelly (Jackie Pulford) are patrons of the bar, looking from an escape from their lives. Kelly yearns to be famous; desperately applying for Love Island and First Dates (I was a background dater on First Dates and I commend Jenkins research) whilst Linford yearns for Kelly, despite having a wife and daughter.

The strength is Jenkins’ writing is the connections; minor points become major points in another person’s monologue. The death of Kelly’s Tesco colleague happens to be one of Darren’s conquests. Karaoke brings these people together under one roof but they seem to be unable to communicate with each other. What Perri talks of as one of the best days she has ever had causes Darren to remember it as a disaster.

There are great performances from all, Jenner-Coles as the awkward Linford who is drawn to the lonely and vulnerable Kelly. Jackie Pulford shines as the older, desperate Kelly who seems to be suspicious of women and only believes men can give her what she wants using her sexuality which is abused by Linford and the karaoke pub’s owner. Jenkins explores the internet and social media’s more unsavoury uses; from Perri’s use of PornHub, to Darren’s use of Grindr and filming his conquests without consent and Kelly’s humiliation via YouTube. It paints a world where this small community is no longer interacting with each other and instead focused on those outside of it.

Philip Honeywell and Lucy Bromlilow’s performance sows the seeds faced by the older characters; loneliness, settling and coping in a world that makes them desperately unhappy. Perri focuses on the brief times she was happy and Darren never seems happy but desperate to keep the small accquaintances on side for his own validation and manipulation.

I was drawn to this production because it is a strong piece of work but as a four separate monologues on We Anchor in Hope‘s fantastic set it feels like a classic play, something that would have been on Play for Today in 1970s along with Abigail’s Party. I hope this has a future life as it has the makings of a modern classic; a haunting look at the modern world and our inner demons

Karaoke Play is on until 14 October (SUN/MON) https://www.bunkertheatre.com/whats-on/karaoke-play/ticket-prices

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