London fringe theatre news round up

Image003
One Last Thing For Now, Old Red Lion

GENDER & RACE Am I black enough? straight enough? Jamaican enough? Created and performed by performance artist Rachael Young in collaboration with dance artist and choreographer Dwayne Antony, OUT examines and explores the stigmas associated to queerness and gender conformity within the black community. It's touring but has a short run at the Yard Theatre in Hackney from Feb 14-18 and is a 9pm start.

WOMEN'S FOOTBALL It is 1881. It is 1921. It is 2017. Four women from across the centuries live, breathe, and play football. Whilst each of them face very different obstacles in pursuing their dream profession, the possibility that the beautiful game will change their futures - and the world - is tantalisingly close. Offside is told through lyrical dialogue, poetry, and prose, placing the audience on the touchline of the game of a lifetime and its tour include a stint at Clapham Ominbus Mar 27-28.

WRITER IN CAPTIVITY Borrowing from some of his work and real events Don Quixote in Algiers tells of story of when writer Miguel de Cervantes was captured by pirates, examining truth, identity and freedom.  White Bear Theatre in Kennington 7 Feb - 4 Mar.

TOP TRUMPS At Theatre503 in Battersea there is a week of plays in which playwrights respond to the election of Donald Trump as president of the US. Timed to coincide with his inauguration, each show will feature 12 short plays including work by Caryl Churhill, Neil LaBute and Roy Williams. Theatre503 19-21 January.

Continue reading "London fringe theatre news round up " »


Review: Sketches of a relationship in Abigail, The Bunker

Fiona Doyle's relationship drama is told in fragments that jump back and forward through time. A man in his 40s (Mark Rose) and a woman in her 20s (Tia Bannon) meet at Berlin airport and strike up a relationship. They travel to bucket list destinations, celebrate an anniversary and things fall apart.

The set of stacked boxes at the back of the stage is used cleverly as the scenes and locations change but the narrative falls down because the characters are too nebulous, too sketchy. You get hints and clues but not enough to really form a picture of who these people are and what motivates them. In order to understand the relationship's ultimate failure you need more of an understanding of the people themselves.

There are hints of the woman's childhood experiences and hints of her motives for being in the relationship, hints of more complex emotional forces and experiences at play but not enough to help you to fill in the gaps and form a proper picture. Instead you get a woman who is volatile and needy but you aren't sure why. The man is even more of an enigma. We know he has a bucket list of places to visit and he seems a kind, gentle sort of person but not much else. Perhaps there was more that I missed as it wasn't always easy to hear what Mark Rose was saying.

What you get is a jumble of exchanges that are a clunky mix of poetic, philosophical and banal. It builds to a scene which would be more at home in a thriller but given how little you know about these people it comes across as just odd.

After 60 minutes I was left scratching my head none the wiser about the two people who's relationship I'd just watch unfold. It's two stars from me and runs at The Bunker until Feb 4.


Production photos: Imelda Staunton and the Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf cast #whosafraidofvirginiawoolf

This is on my play hot list for this year as I love Imelda Staunton and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf is one of those iconic plays I've not yet seen. It also stars my Game of Thrones fav Conleth Hill and Luke Treadaway whom I haven't seen since the wonderful Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Oh and James McDonald is directing and he's directed Mr Whishaw twice in the past (Cock and Bakkhai). So all in all, pretty excited.

It opens for previews at the Harold Pinter Theatre on Feb 22 and runs until May 27.

My love for Imelda Staunton as expressed in two reviews:

The really good Good People, Noel Coward Theatre

The meh play but outstanding Imelda (A Delicate Balance, Almeida)


Review and production photos: The awkward, honest and hilarious truth in #BU21 at Trafalgar Studios 2

Using real testimonies from terrorist attacks around the world Stuart Slade's play, BU21, imagines the aftermath of a plane being bombed out of the sky over London. It follows six people - a combination of victims, witnesses and those who lost loved ones - and in a series of interweaving monologues charts what they go through physically and mentally.

At one point during the play Alex (Alexander Forsyth) breaks the fourth wall and accuses the audience of being into 'misery porn' and to a certain extent that is true, it is the theatrical equivalent of rubber necking what we hope we never have to actually experience. However the play is also much more than that, it is a primarily a play of human truth. The characters responses are as different as their personalities. None are effected in quite the same way and each deal with the tragedy differently.

There are the obvious emotions of anger, fear and guilt but it is in the detail, those moments when the sub conscience brain operates without the usual societal and moral filters where thing gets really interesting. Sometimes awkward, sometimes painful, sometimes funny and not always PC, these are the revealing moments, the moments when you get glimpses of how humans behave in the most extraordinary situations.

Continue reading "Review and production photos: The awkward, honest and hilarious truth in #BU21 at Trafalgar Studios 2" »


London fringe theatre news round up - war, love, parties and the absurdity of modern life

TOOT_web_main_460_479_95_s
Focus Group, Ovalhouse Theatre

SURROGACY DRAMA In a surrogacy clinic in Gujarat, three women meet, all will benefit from the transaction but is it that simple? Made In India examines birth and motherhood in a brave new world. It runs at the Soho Theatre from 8-25 March.

THE WILD PARTY is the lust-fuelled story of an affair between two cabaret stars, and the final, fatal party they throw in their seedy Hollywood apartment. Join the party at the Hope Theatre in Islington from 10-28 Jan.

RETURNING HIT After a critically acclaimed run at The King’s Head Theatre earlier this year, Strangers In Between, the award-winning Australian play about a 16 year old boy who runs away to Sydney, is back by popular demand returning to kick off the 2017 season from 10 to 04 Feb.

CONDENSED CLASSIC Arrows and Traps Theatre have condensed Dostoyevsky's classic novel Crime and Punishment into a 90 minute three-hander and you can see it at the Jack Studio in Brockley from Feb 7-25.

SECOND WORLD WAR DRAMA Flew The Coop takes a darkly funny and highly imaginative look at two of the Second World War’s most singular characters: Rosa Rauchbach – a young Silesian woman who disguised her Jewish roots and took a job as a translator at a Prisoner of War camp, where she embarked on an affair with Horace Greasley, a debonair British Prisoner of War. Catch it at the New Diorama Theatre in Euston from 14 Feb to 4 Mar.

LOVE AND IDENTITY Can you fall in love with someone if you don’t know their gender?  Peter is about to find out when he falls for the sexually ambiguous ‘Blue’. Boy Stroke Girl runs at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden from Feb 28- Mar 12.

ABSURDITY OF LIFE The inner world of a desperately lonely man emerges from a seemingly light-hearted focus group about individually wrapped Mr Kipling cakes. Focus Group is on at the Ovalhouse Theatre in Oval from Jan 31 to Feb 4.
 

 


London fringe theatre news round up - Vault Festival special

Image003The Vault festival with it's eclectic mix of plays, comedy, cabaret musicals and more kicks off on Jan 25.  For the unfamiliar, it's held in the labyrinthine and atmospheric tunnels underneath Waterloo station - you can hear the trains rumbling overhead. The venues ooze character and there are bars and cozy nooks to hang out in before and after the shows. Here are some things to look out for and I'll update as I get more info. All shows are 60 minutes long without an interval.

BLACK COMEDY Space Play is a new black comedy which sees a lone astronaut stranded on a disintegrating space station as he struggles to get back to earth. It runs from Jan 25 to Jan 29 and starts at 6pm.

SOUND AND MOVEMENT An operatic queen bee and choir tell the story of a swarm of bees journey to a find a new hive. Swarm is on from Feb 8 to Feb 12 and is a 7.30 start.

VERBATIM  14 voices. 5 actors. 1 year. A Year From Now is a combination of verbatim and physical theatre and asks where you see yourself a year from now. From Jan 25 to Jan 29 starts at 18.10.

LIFE DRAMA Two stories interweave but are they connected? This Must Be The Place sees two friends, fugitives from their problems, try and start again in the big smoke but find themselves waiting on the margins still.
Feb 8 – 12, 7.45pm start.

ONE WOMAN SHOW #1 A squatter's tale performed by Jolie Booth, HIP transports the audience, to a cosy living room with hypnotic OHP, cushions, incense, tequila and nibbles. Feb 1-5, 6.30pm.

ONE WOMAN SHOW #2 Robyn Paterson’s one-woman family drama The South Afreakins is inspired by her own parents’ experience of emigrating from South Africa to New Zealand, she rapidly switches between Helene and Gordon to create a very human story of loss and family. Feb 15-19, 8pm.

 

 

 


The rhyming review: The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus, Finborough Theatre

Trackers of Oxyrhynchus, Tom Purbeck (courtesy S R Taylor Photography) 4
Trackers of Oxyrhynchus, Tom Purbeck. Photo: S R Taylor Photography

@OughtToBeClowns challenged me to write my review for this in verse as that is how the play is written and performed. So this is my vain attempt...apologies in advance.

Tony Harrison's play has a title virtually unpronounceable,

It draws on ancient Greek traditions and the performers definitely aren't inaudible.

Grenfell succumbs to the will of Apollo the god in fact you could say it's more like possessed,

And shortly after that the satyrs are called from the places in which they hide and they rest.

In boxes and crates and behind curtains tall, they appear half naked but more into beer than into brawn.

They have furry brown legs and male appendages sewn on,

There was, however, nothing fake about the crack of the bum.

Apollo charges those that are half men and half goat to find out the whereabouts of his beloved bovine herd,

What transpires is their guts are now strings on a lyre which Hermes plays with a sound as sweet as any bird. 

It's a bonkers story and a bit of a batty play with earnest delivery, if a little bit shouty, and one did get to wondering

Whether the energy of satyrs tap dancing dislodged any dust from the Finborough's pub ceiling.

 

It is 75 minutes long and I'm giving it three stars. You can catch it at the Finborough until January 28.

 


London fringe theatre news round up - five for January

KW2_7KncVP0Q1RW_97zwQ0Nar8QiBlP-_Z7GH2zGHo8
Brains, Theatre N16 from Jan 11

DARK AND OFF KILTER - Fresh from a stint at the Edinburgh fringe, Dame Nature: The Magnificent Bearded Lady comes to Wilton’s Music Hall telling the story of a bearded lady forced to examine her marriage. It runs from the 10-14 Jan.

ZOMBIES It could be a clever parody of privatising healthcare... with zombies. Or it could be a rom-com adventure... with zombies. Either way - there are zombies. Brains runs at the Theatre N16 in Balham from 11-14 Jan.

POLITICAL COMEDY Go back to the late sixties and see this way-ahead-of-its-time comedy programme, complete with the occasional cock-ups, the original warm-up and incredible sound-effects… nostalgic and very, very funny. Men From The Ministry runs at the newly revamped White Bear Theatre in Kennington from 3-14 January.

CONTEMPORARY STORIES Following its award nominated, sell-out run at Theatre503, Stuart Slade’s BU21 follows six Londoners in the aftermath of a fictitious terrorist attack, based on real testimonies gathered from a variety of terrorist incidents including the 7/7 bombings, 9/11, the Paris attacks and the 2013 Westgate shopping mall attack. Catch it at Trafalgar Studios 2 from 4 Jan – 18 Feb.

LOVE STORY The Bunker's inaugural season finishes with Abigail, a love story set in Berlin. In a world where so many things are out of our control, what happens when the one thing you think you need is the one thing you cannot have? It runs from 10 Jan to 4 Feb.

 


Rev Stan's StOlivier theatre awards for 2016

LtoR-Sam-Marks-David-Tennant_PC_Richard-Termine-2
Sam Marks and David Tennant in Richard II for RSC Photo by Richard Termine

It was a year in which I trod the boards with Freddie Fox, Ruth Wilson threw flowers at me and Sam Cooke sang to me but these are mere trifles in a stellar year for theatre. So forget expert panels and public votes these are the only awards in theatre land that matter...

Best kiss This goes to Sam Marks and David Tennant in Richard II at the Barbican for a long, lingering kiss that spoke a thousand words. Still makes me emotional thinking about it.

Calamine lotion award During Bug at Found 111 one of the characters claims they can see insects on their skin and are constantly scratching and itching invisible bites. It was infectious, really made my skin crawl.

Stage blood award I'm wondering if Jamie Lloyd has Ben Nye shares because he didn't just have bloody wounds, he had Kit Harington's Dr Faustus take a shower in blood (in white pants for added effect).

David Attenborough award I'm giving this jointly to the Tamaskan dog which did a rather splendid job playing a wolf in The Crucible at the Walter Kerr Theatre and the real live fox which played...a fox in Unreachable Royal Court.

Non-animal 'ah' award This goes to Yerma for having a baby cameo. Don't think anyone in the audience heard a word that was being spoken as Billie Piper bounced the little cutie on her hip.

Suffering for art award As someone who feels the cold, I had massive sympathy and respect for Michael Socha and Tamla Kari in This Is Living as they performed the whole play in an inch depth of water - not just walking and standing but sitting and lying in it so they were sodden throughout.

Continue reading "Rev Stan's StOlivier theatre awards for 2016" »


My theatre wish list for 2017

_originalPutting aside all the obvious ones like better loos, cheaper tickets, noise-free snacks, booking systems that don't collapse under the weight of demand etc this is what I hope for in theatre land this year:

More plays with strong female leads We had a good run in 2016 with Hedda, Mary Stuart, Saint Joan, the all women Shakespeare at the Donmar, The Deep Blue Sea, just to name a few. It’s a breath of fresh air and it shouldn’t be, it should be the norm - 65% of audiences are women after all.

Diverse casting - I don’t live in a city where 95% of the population is white so why should theatre be? All white casts are embarrassing. It's getting better but there is room for improvement.

Shorter plays If Josie Rourke can cut Saint Joan down from 4 plus hours to two hours 15 and Flute Theatre can cut Hamlet down to 90 minutes and they are both still really good then does your production really, really need to be three and a half hours long? I'm not saying everything should be two/two and half hours but overly long plays have become a bit of a thing in 2016 and it used to be the exception rather than the rule. It's as if there is a perception that running time is proportionate to level of seriousness. I saw a 15 minute play at the Royal Court last year that packed more punch than a three and a half play on a similar topic. On a practical level, some people need to catch the last train home and/or get up for work the next day.

Continue reading "My theatre wish list for 2017" »