Waiting for Stanley at Slung Low’s The Hub

By April 22, 2015

Theatre & Dance. Leeds.

[Image courtesy of fingerinthepie.com]


On the south side of Leeds, down a grubby road, lies a wonderful secret. Go past the silver caravan, squeeze between the abandoned bathtubs, peer into the railway arches and through the unmarked door. If you’re plucky enough, you may find yourself in one of Leeds’s most unique theatre spaces – the Holbeck Underground Ballroom.

The homeplace of theatre group Slung Low, the Holbeck Underground Ballroom (a.k.a The Hub) is an atmospheric and welcoming little set-up. Slow Low run under the ethos that theatre shouldn’t be an elitist activity, for both those making and seeing the shows. For the theatre makers, they provide free rental of technical equipment, and, for the audiences, the chance to see great theatre at an affordable price. All their shows are ‘pay what you decide’, meaning you don’t have to empty your bank account to witness professional theatre. They provide free tea and coffee and, should you want to tipple your tongue, a beer is priced at a very reasonable £1. This open-for-all atmosphere contributes to creating a uniquely welcoming theatre experience.


[Image courtesy of Slung Low]


Their most recent show was touring production Waiting for Stanley, from theatre company Finger in the Pie. A one-woman show, Waiting for Stanley examines the hardships of the women left at home during the Second World War, but with a unique angle – clownery. Actress Leela Bunce wears the traditional clown red nose and tells the character’s story with near-wordless physical expression. The initial effect is uncomfortable for those unfamiliar with mime, but the show expands into something much more clever, complex and tender than initial misgivings might suggest.

Suitcases become typewriters, a washing line becomes the sea and a ball of dough becomes Winston Churchill, as Bunce unfolds the set into a captivating display of hand-crafted gadgetry. On a much smaller level, Waiting for Stanley delivers what made West End show The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time such a success – theatrical inventiveness used to transport an audience outside the confines of the theatre. There’s also a well-managed balance between humour and pathos. As Waiting for Stanley’s central character clings to her puppet son, air raid sirens booming, you really worry for her future.


[Image courtesy of fingerinthepie.com]


All this would be meaningless if not held together by a strong central performance. Leela Bunce instantly generates audience empathy with an effortlessly effervescent central turn. This type of clowning risks being irritating, but Bunce makes every gasp, giggle and glare utterly charming. It’s a fantastic performance at the centre of a delightful and surprisingly emotional little show.

For those adventurous enough to wander down dustier paths, The Hub is well worth a visit and proof that you don’t need to empty your pockets to see great theatre. The Hub stands alongside The Grand, The Carriageworks and the West Yorkshire Playhouse as a sign that Leeds is rising towards being one of the great theatre cities in England.

Joe Saxon


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