Review: Juggling at Laurel’s Whitley Bay

Review: Juggling at Laurel’s Whitley Bay

Juggling by Ian Smith – Laurels Whitley Bay

13th April 2023

I feel it is my duty to talk about the venue before I start my review, because this was the first time that I have visited this quirky and unique venue. Laurels, named after the immensely talented black and white star Stan Laurel is a relatively new venue in the heart of Whitley Bay. Spread over no fewer than three floors, the venue offers two bar areas and a delightfully intimate theatre space at the top. The staff are warm and welcoming and I very much look forward to returning in the future because the line up for 2023 is very exciting with theatre, comedy and big nights out promised – I have no doubt whatsoever that this venue will deliver. 

Juggling tells the tale of Neve, a young woman, trying to survive in her cash strapped world by holding down a portfolio of three forms of employment. Her main source of income is running the office of the pretty poor parcel delivery company Signed and Sealed and this is where we meet her as she starts her shift. 

Neve is played with great aplomb by Becky Clayburn and delivers a beautifully rounded character literally juggling her various engagements, her ailing father, her blossoming love life and her feckless boss. She deftly interacts with the audience in a manner not dissimilar to Fleabag but with a lot less profanity. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot but this is not the first time this year that I have seen Beckystick it to the man which she does to the delight of the audience.

The cast is completed by the very hardworking Adam Donaldson who takes the roles of every other person with whom Neve interacts in her fast paced working day. These include, but are certainly not limited to, Neve’s entitled and useless boss, Mark, a disgruntled Geordie, a bereaved widow and a well-meaning ditzy old friend of a friend who just wants to have a nice chat. 

Ian Smith’s script is delightful with some wonderful humour and has an underlying social commentary about how anyone can find themselves over-whelmed just trying to exist in the modern day. My only issue with the script concerns time which got a little bit confusing towards the end of the play. The two-strong cast can only be applauded for tackling the very wordy script – I don my cap to you both. 

Juggling is all about the comedy which is presented with great skill by the playwright and the actors. Anyone who has had to deal with incoming calls will roar with laughter at some of the interactions between Neve and the never-ending litany of complaints and issues from people calling up to enquire about their packages. There is a lovely and poignant moment when Neve unexpectedly cold calls her sick dad and offers him a pre-paid funeral plan. 

The technical side of the show was very well conceived and presented although I did feel that Dolly Parton’s “9-5” could have been faded out a good minute before it was at the start of the show. The sound effects were excellent and I loved the dimming of the lights to denote when Neve was investigating her own thoughts. The set was static and portrayed the office in which the harassed Neve had obviously spent many a long day. There were some carefully thought out visuals in the office which added to the narrative.

I thoroughly enjoyed this beautifully crafted piece of comical theatre and congratulate the cast, crew and creatives for bringing it to the stage. I also commend the venue for championing North East writing and talent and wish the venue all the best for their future. This was my first visit to Laurels and I certainly hope it will not be the last. 

Juggling by Ian Smith continues at Laurels, Whitley Bay until 29th April and is well worth a visit.

– Stephen Stokoe

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