Theatre Review: ‘Restitution’ by Emily Juniper – Kings Head Theatre (Upper Street, Islington)

‘Restitution’ by Emily Juniper

Last night was press night for Restitution, a bold new play inspired by a documentary film on the Holocaust, that is set to run on a limited season (every Sunday and Monday) at the Kings Head Theatre. The press releases have been somewhat mysterious in regards to plot so I went last night not knowing quite what to expect. 

Without giving too much away, the story tells of a man named Robert, and his quest to gain closure on the history he has inherited via his Jewish ancestors. It is at an art gallery that he meets Berta, sparking an ongoing debate that spans Holocaust reparations and historical inheritance. There are a number of parallels to be noted – the difference between possession and ownership in regards to objects (such as art of even children in a custody battle) and also to that of history (noting that the horrific acts witnessed in Nazi Germany go further than merely affecting those directly involved, having filtered down and infected generations of people born long after these atrocities took place). Restitution questions just what we can inherit from our ancestors.

Alastair Kirton
Photo by Jana Chiellino
The play itself is made up of just two characters, which places an extraordinary amount of pressure on the young talent present last night. They seemed to manage well, although there were a number of slips and hesitations that I would put down to press night nerves. Alastair Kirton gives Robert a socially awkward manner that seems to fit well with the character, particularly adding humour in the bar scene. He is also very competent at playing the character’s mixture of determination and adventure while giving the right balance of anger to show a more menacing side. Chloe Gilgallon’s Berta is also well played – although I think she is not helped much by the script – the play is broken up by the telling of the mythology of Hero and Leander (given exclusively to the character of Berta) – which, while interesting in its own right, seems somewhat of a filler for the main drama. This was at times distracting and I’m not sure added anything to the overall production.

Chloe Gilgallon
Photo by Jana Chiellino
While the production raised some fascinating points, I was left wondering whether or not it worked as a stand-alone theatre piece. It runs at just over an hour, and a number of scenes felt unnecessary. The drama dragged in places and the script seems to take an awfully long time to develop. The stage direction is also somewhat uninteresting. For example, the bar scene lasts over twenty minutes and mainly consists of the two characters merely sitting at a table sipping wine. Lighting and set are basic and often unchanging, although the use of music and sound effects does go some way in bringing the production to life. 

In all, it makes for a pleasant evening and leaves you deep in thought, which of course, good theatre always should do. Whether it has the mileage to go any further than a small theatre setting in front of a selective audience remains to be seen, but with tickets costing £10-15 and a run time of just over an hour, then it’s certainly worth checking out!

by Emily Juniper

Director Julia McShane
Designer Anna Bliss Scully
Lighting Designer Tom White

King’s Head Theatre
115 Upper Street 
N1 1QN

Sunday March 11 at 7.15pm
Monday March 12 at 7.15pm
Sunday March 18 at 7.15pm
Monday March 19 at 7.15pm
Sunday March 25 at 7.15pm
Monday March 26 at 7.15pm
Sunday April 1 at 3.00pm
Sunday April 1 at 7.15pm

Press Night: 
Monday 12 March at 7.15pm

£10.00 - £15.00

Box office: 020 7478 0160