There’s something in the air at Islington’s iconic fringe venue, The King’s Head, that always makes a trip there a little bit special. If they could bottle the creative, energised atmosphere in the pre-show pub, those running the space would have a nice little earner, while you really do sense that actors performing there have an advantage over casts at other smaller venues.
Not that, initially, Anthony Cozens, playing Gordon - the confused, emotionally-shredded escapee in David K. O’Hara’s roller-coasting The Upstairs Room - needs any help convincing us of his painfully dejected, mixed-up state of mind.
Bret Jones is marvellous as the po-faced temporary landlord/manager, and the surreal exchanges between them provide plenty of initial interest. Like some upmarket version of Rising Damp’s Rigsby, Jones’ character sneers in fabulous fashion at all around him, and with just a hint of chic shabbiness.
Midway, with interest in the narrative and lack of action in the miserable attic room waning, it needs the dramatic arrival of Stella, mascara-smeared, dishevelled, volatile and, like Gordon, seemingly clinging to one of life’s last straws. Liza Callinicos looks very much the part from minute one, and it’s just a shame her delivery is consistently flat, her tear-stained monologues failing to convince. What pulls it all together, late in the day, is the re-appearance of a young Iris, played with delightful devilment by Lucy Wray.