Wake up Maggie by All Things Considered, promises “class, confusion – and karaoke” (because things sound better in threes) and they more than deliver.
An exploration of what exactly it means to be “working class”, this two-man (well, one woman, one man - it is 2020) show hits hard and is as hilarious as it is thought-provoking. Although Stuart Crowther, a proud Northern boy through and through, knows he is working class, his comedic counterpart for tonight’s show, Emma Bramley finds this statement a lot more difficult to confidently proclaim.
Before the show even starts, we are asked to question our own social bias and where we feel we fit in the class system, by choosing a sticker of 3 iconic women of the time: Ethel Skinner and Willy (Eastenders), Hyacinth ‘Bouquet’ Bucket (Keeping Up Appearances) or Margo Leadbetter (To The Manor Born). These stickers are never really brought up again, and I was surprised by this, but it was nice to have something to come away with as a little reminder.
When walking into the theatre, the action has already begun, with Emma cleaning up after the audience with a feather duster, and Stuart singing on stage. This was an interesting dynamic and really helped demonstrate how intimate this show would be, with no real barrier between the audience and the players, although at times it felt as though they were running out of what to do to keep it fresh as the audience poured in.
The chemistry on stage between Emma and Stuart, and the timing of moments of physical comedy was brilliant, but it was the juxtaposition in their stories that really captured me. Stuart’s memories of his working-class upbringing seem to be painted with the delicious rose-tint of nostalgia, and, although far from glamorous, it had a lovable wholesomeness about it.
Emma’s childhood, however, was a rollercoaster which had me crying with laughter with one quip and tearing up at another poignant remark. Where Stuart spoke in confident, rhythmic poetry often planted in front of the microphone, Emma was a lot more animated, buzzing with the uncertainty of her place in the world and jumping about the space as if she couldn’t get comfortable with any one place - just as in her life.
The set was simple, with plenty of 80s/90s Easter eggs to spot in the props. Costume-wise, the duo cleverly adapted from cleaning aprons, through a few different iconic items of the time and Emma’s scrunchy-adorned hair showing passing of time.
Bramley has an incredible energy on stage, and her facial expressions would make Jim Carey proud. She emotes with her entire body and really connects with every audience member personally.
Crowther had a few musical numbers, and although he has a fantastic voice, there was an element of karaoke rawness about it too, which felt fitting. I do wish there had been a little more audience participation here, as I can’t hear “Gold” without wanting to join in and the rest of the audience seemed a little shy - but there was plenty of toe-tapping.
The multimedia element of the projection was used effectively several times, although there did seem to be a few times when it seemed a little forgotten about, or the transitions could have been a little smoother. However, the beginning montage really helped cement the play in the era and was the perfect way to really immerse the audience in the time.
Wake up Maggie feels like a tea-stained dressing gown hug. It feels like the nostalgia of early 90s Neighbours episodes. It feels like the weird joy of a Fray Bentos Pie. and I bloody loved it.
Reviewer: Codie Wright
Reviewed: 6th February 2020
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★