Review: Walk of Shame at the White Bear Theatre

Originally written as a monologue by Amelia Marshall Lovsey, Walk of Shame has been expanded into a hard-hitting two-hander with the addition of an alternative point of view, written by Stephanie Silver. We now have two perspectives on one night – and while on a purely factual basis the accounts may coincide, there’s a fundamental difference in how each character feels about the outcome and the events that precede it.

Alice likes sex, drinking, and wearing tight shorts to show off her figure. She’s in a relationship, but feels unsatisfied and unappreciated – and after a row with her boyfriend she heads out for a drunken night, with one very particular goal in mind. Liam is a nice guy who spent most of his teenage years caring for his sick mum, before moving to London and getting a job in the City. He’s having a heavy night out with the guys from work when he finds himself alone in a bar and runs into Alice.

If you had absolutely no context and had to decide based solely on first impressions who to believe about the way the rest of the evening unfolds, there’d probably be little doubt. Alice – played by co-writer Stephanie Silver – is a deliberately abrasive character who does what many people would consider all the “wrong” things, not just on that one night but in general. Calum Speed’s sharply dressed Liam, on the other hand, is at great pains from the start to convince us he’s a good guy – and the truth is that he probably is, under normal circumstances. But even when it’s revealed that his night out involves taking copious amounts of cocaine, nobody stops him – as they do Alice – to warn him that he “needs to be careful”. Infuriatingly, and as is so often the case, it’s generally accepted that the woman should be the one taking precautions to defend herself, with the man absolved of any responsibility.

At just over 30 minutes, the thought-provoking play, directed by Michelle Payne, certainly makes an impact, and the pivotal scene is played very powerfully, in almost total darkness, by both actors. The very short run time could, perhaps, be seen as an opportunity to expand the play and explore in more detail what happens in the immediate aftermath, what action each character chooses to take, and the reaction they face – particularly since the play’s title seems to suggest the story is more about the morning after than the night before.

As it stands, though, the play is already a very topical and important piece from Glass Half Full Theatre, which makes us all pause and question society’s – and our own – assumptions and judgments whenever a story like this makes the headlines. The company are hoping to take the show on tour to universities in the future and start a crucial conversation about issues of consent and drink and drugs. Hopefully it’ll also encourage its student audiences (and beyond) to consider the uneven distribution of responsibility between men and women; depressing though it may be, it’s clear that’s a lesson which is still desperately needed.

Can’t see the map on iPhone? Try turning your phone to landscape and that should sort it. I don’t know why but I’m working on it…

Interview: Stephanie Silver, Walk of Shame

For one, it’s a night of glory – for the other, a walk of shame… Glass Half Full Theatre return with a topical new production next month, as they bring Walk of Shame by Stephanie Silver and Emelia Marshall Lovsey to the White Bear for a limited run.

“I don’t want to give too much away,” says Stephanie. “As with most of our plays we produce, it takes the audience on a journey and the ending isn’t what you expect; we like twists and turns. It’s a story based on two characters: Alice, written by Emelia, and Liam, written by myself. We merged the two characters together to create a story of one night and two different points of view.”

The show was first picked up by Stephanie through Actor Awareness, at a new writing event based at Spotlight. “I co-produce these nights with Tom Stocks and I read the script submissions,” she explains. “I read this piece and instantly loved it, and felt it fit the ethos of plays I wanted to produce through Glass Half Full. Thought provoking, tragic and funny characters is what I like to home in on.

“Initially it was just Alice that was written, but after directing the piece for the event I went away, wrote a two-hander and asked Emelia if she fancied putting it on. We’ve since done R&D with it at the Actor Awareness new writing festival and also with Get Over it Productions at the Tabard Theatre this summer.”

One aspect that particularly drew Stephanie to Walk of Shame was its relevance: “Alice is a very loud and sexually overt character, and a lot of judgments get placed on her by the audience for her in ya face nature. I think it’s important that as women we are still breaking down stereotypes of how people perceive we should behave. Alice is not ladylike; she doesn’t say the right thing or often make the right choices. So I think her story is important, as it’s getting female characters out there that aren’t perfect and are flawed. I think women everywhere will relate to characters like Alice.

“Liam, the other character in the play, is very interesting and it’s a very different journey the audience go on with him – and without giving any twist away, it’s very interesting to see how the audience respond at the end after hearing about Liam’s life.”

Walk of Shame brings together a cast of talented creatives, the majority of whom have worked with Glass Half Full previously. “Emelia was actually in my last play Our Big Love Story; she played Katie at The Hope Theatre in March,” says Stephanie. “As a producer, when I like people I keep them around. This is Emelia’s first play as a writer, so it’s exciting to be on that journey with her. She’s worked with the company a lot.

“Michelle Payne is a very accomplished actor, writer, director, producer slash superwoman. Her last play, Full Circle, about mental health won awards at the Brewery Fringe 2018. Michelle’s worked with Glass Half Full on new writing night Series of Short Plays, and she’s just set up acting school Caspa Arts. As a woman of all trades, and who knows the company’s work well, she’s a perfect fit to direct.

“As for the cast – Liam will be played by the very talented Calum Speed, who got an Offie nom for his role as Chubby in Chubby, which also had a run at the White Bear Theatre. And I myself will take on the role as Alice, which is exciting as I’ve been mainly producing for the last year, so it’s good to get back to doing what I love.”

The show opens at the White Bear on 11th December, where it will run until the 15th. “The White Bear is a great venue for new writing and it’s also a perfect space for the piece. Its intimacy will really lend to the story, and we hope the audience will go away with a lot to think about. We aim to challenge and get the audience to talk at the bar after. Our theatre company motto is ‘hard hitting and engaging’ – which this play is to a T.”