Rehearsal photos and hoping for third time lucky with The York Realist, Donmar Warehouse

The York Realist will be the third Peter Gill play I've seen at the Donmar Warehouse.  I didn't think much of the first two, Small Change and Versaille, so I'm hoping for third time lucky.

It's got a great cast but that has never really been my problem, it's always been the plays.

This one has promising sounding synopsis: A love affair between two young men in 1960s Yorkshire. I will know in a few week's time if I'm a convert.

In the meantime here are the rehearsal photos and the play is at the Donmar Warehouse from 8 February to 24 March.

 

 


Review: The Claim, Shoreditch Town Hall - farcical and dark asylum seeker tale

I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite so angry while watching a play. Angry at story steeped in a ridiculous incompetence from those that hold sway over the lives of others.

The Claim  UK Tour - Yusra Warsama  Nick Blakeley and Ncuti Gatwa (courtesy of Paul Samuel White)
The Claim UK Tour - Yusra Warsama Nick Blakeley and Ncuti Gatwa. Photo: Paul Samuel White.

Serge (Ncuti Gatwa) is seeking asylum and has an interview with Home Office officials.

He has been in the UK for a year, lives in a house in Streatham and has a job. His wish is simple: He wants to live, something he feels he can’t do in his home country the Congo.

The story the Home Office staff want to know is why he can’t go back home but it isn't as straightforward as that.

Hindered by the opening of old wounds and a desire to give the right information, the telling of Serge's story is also hampered by language barriers and interruptions. 

One of his interviewers, B (Yusra Warsama) is officious and doesn't speak Serge's language. Her colleague A (Nick Blakeley) is a sympathetic but incompetent translator. Both are distracted by personal issues such as forthcoming holidays and leaving work on time. 

It is a scenario that has the ridiculousness of a farce. However, given his research into the Home Office immigration process writer Tim Cowbury has created a story which takes on a Kafka-esque edge of frustration, dehumanisation and danger.

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Fringe theatre interview: Director Mark Maughan on finding humour in asylum play The Claim

Mark Maughan  director of The Claim - courtesy of Richard Davenport
Mark Maughan director of The Claim. Photo: Richard Davenport

Interview: Director Mark Maughan talks about about his work on new play The Claim which takes a satirical look at the UK's asylum process.

 
How did you get involved with The Claim and what drew you to the project?
 
Tim Cowbury (the writer) and I started researching and developing The Claim together back in 2015 and have collaborated on it ever since. I was interested in making a piece about migration, Tim about power and language.

Once we found out about the Home Office’s flawed asylum system, we knew that this was something that needed to reach a wide audience and the subject matter also had enough dramatic potential for us to be drawn to it as artists.
 
What was your approach in the rehearsal process?
 
Grit and grace. I am lucky to be surrounded by an absolutely first-rate cast and creative team, but we only had three weeks to rehearse before we met our audience, which went by extraordinarily quickly.

I shared key information from the research and development period with everyone who was new to the team, but most of our time was spent bringing our abstracted world of a real-life process to the stage.

It was also about breaking down the text into manageable chunks and repetition, as there are a lot of words to get through in a relatively short piece.
 
The Claim takes a satirical look at the UK's asylum process - what role does humour play and how do you balance that with the drama?
 
Sadly, my reaction to what we learnt about the asylum system was often laughter – at how completely ridiculous it is. Not including that absurdity would have been to misrepresent the reality of the process.

Of course, there is also a lot of drama in the Home Office interview as someone is using their words to fight for their lives, so the piece increasingly takes on this tone as it races towards its conclusion.
 

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Review: My Mum's A Twat, Royal Court - my first five star play of 2018?

Patsy Ferran’s ‘girl’ is sat in the corner playing a mini Casio keyboard. She says ‘hello’ to me and I go and sit on a red bean bag on the turquoise coloured carpet.

Helen murray-My-Mums-A-Twat-patsy ferran royal court
Patsy Ferran in My Mum's A Twat, Royal Court. Photo: Helen Murray.

We are in a kids bedroom - not a surreal dream but the set of Anoushka Warden's play My Mum's A Twat.  The furniture has glittery stickers on it, there's a shelf of Troll dolls, photos and pictures stuck to the walls.

This room, ironically, becomes a marker for the end of innocent childhood a time before the divorce and marriage to ‘moron’ lead her Mum into a ‘healing’ cult and a journey of estrangement and conflict between mother and daughter.

Patsy Ferran’s girl tells the story bubbling with defiance, resourcefulness and sassiness. You can imagine the pursed lips of the adults in her life.

Her tale unfolds through the prism of child then teen logic but while there is no abuse or great cruelty the perceived emotional abandonment by her Mum smacks hard and there are hints of the pain it causes.

We are transported swiftly from the ‘healing centre’ of her mother’s cult to Canada and back again with effervescent energy, colour and wit but in the still moments the hurt that ripples to the surface is all the more powerful.

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Fringe review: Do opposites attract in Lobster, Theatre503

The gold, helium-filled, party balloon letters at the back of the stage spell out 'Happy Fucking Whatever' which forms an appropriate back drop to this relationship comedy drama in which J (Alexandra Reynolds) seems to represent the 'Happy' part and K (Louise Beresford) the 'Whatever'.

They bump into each other at a party several months after they have split up which becomes the starting point for a journey looking at how they met, fell in love and fell out of it again.

Lobster - Ali Wright-9
L-R Louise Beresford and Alexandra Reynolds in Lobster. Photo Ali Wright

J is one of those naturally happy people. Always cheerful, excited, agreeable and eager to please. She is also traditional wants to get married and have a family.

K has a dry wit and can be sarcastic to the point of coming across like she doesn't care. She's doesn't really know what she wants.

As they recall the details of their first date, they correct and contradict each other. It is charming, and amusing - snappily written and performed - but also perhaps an early sign of how their differences might actually shape their relationship.

At first the light and dark in their personalities complement and it is what they love about each other but life, dreams and experience start to mould things differently.

Lucy Foster's play isn't just a funny drama about the quirks of love and being a couple, it is also a keenly observed look at the complexity of relationships made more so by the complexity of human nature.

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Fringe theatre interview: Playwright Lucy Foster on her new play Lobster and writing comedy

Lucy Foster's new play Lobster opens this week at Theatre503, here she talks about the play and writing comedy.

Tell us about Lobster - no spoilers please

Lobster opens at a party in January, where a bubbly and bright J is introduced to a hungover K. The only problem being: these two Lobster500only just broke up a few months before. As J and K run through their relationship we see the love and heartbreak of these two women, who are trying so hard to love each other - and realising that love isn't always enough. 

I imagine that writing comedy is no joke - just how challenging is it? 

For years I didn't touch comedy as it really scared me. I think when you're sat alone at your laptop it's so hard to know if something is actually funny. It's only been in the last few years that I have started putting humour into my work, and realising - oh, this works! I often find that the funniest lines come straight from real life - in the same way that you'll laugh the hardest with your friends, the best comedy is completely relatable. 

What I've found to be the most important thing about writing comedy into my plays is finding the balance between the funny and the dramatic. My favourite plays are ones that really contrast that light and dark, as the heartbreak is always sadder when it's set against the humour of the characters. I'm hoping I've been able to do the same with Lobster. 

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Review: Blood and audience gasps in Julius Caesar, Barbican Theatre

Julius Caesar_ 2017_ the conspirators kill Caesar_2017_Photo by Helen Maybanks _c_ RSC_214266
RSC's Julius Caesar 2017: Photo by Helen Maybanks (c) RSC

Bloody Julius Caesar. Not only does he gets ideas above his station and meet with a messy end but his murderers decide to wear his blood like a face mask, as if they weren't smeared and splattered enough. 

However, it wasn't the sight of the red stuff in this RSC production that earned a collective gasp from the audience it was another death, bloodless but with a realistic snapping sound effect that had more than a few hands over mouths.

Who met with this end? Well that was, I suspect, a big contributing factor in the response but I won't spoil it.

Julius Caesar is a brutal play not just in the violence but in the questions of loyalty and justice.

The writing is on the wall in the opening scene where a celebratory mob are criticised for their fickleness having changed allegiance to Julius Caesar when he is victorious.

Brutus (Alex Waldmann) has the people behind him after his rational speech explaining the reasons for the murder but it is Mark Antony (James Corrigan) who really knows how to work the crowd.

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Fringe theatre interview: Alice in Wonderland reimagined for the #metoo landscape

Alice three trees theatreJonna Blode Hanno, Laura Thomasina Haynes and Mollie Macpherson from Three Trees Theatre talk about the inspiration and process behind their new play Alice which opens at the Landor Space in Clapham on January 9.

How would you describe the piece?
It's a devised piece inspired by Alice in Wonderland, focusing on Alice's journey into the confusing and somewhat absurd world of adulthood. The piece deals with controversial rumours about Lewis Carroll's relationship with Alice Liddell, for whom he wrote the book, but set in our time of #metoo and countless testaments of sexual abuse. 

Why Alice in Wonderland?
Alice in Wonderland is such an iconic story, but after reading it we were most fascinated by the darkness in it, and Lewis Carroll's unique perspective on the world of adulthood. When the Weinstein scandal came out and #metoo started shaking the world we felt we had to join the discussion around responsibility and power in our own industry as so much of the controversy around Lewis Carroll is still so relevant.

Tell us about the process?
We cast everyone as different characters from the book but then examined what that creature could symbolise in our world today instead of having a literal portrayal. For example, we do not have the White Rabbit sat at Lewis Caroll's dinner table but instead take inspiration from the essence of his character.  Led by our director Or Benezra-Segal we worked as a company to devise a play based on who these people are and where we thought the night would take them.

 

 

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My best of theatre list for 2017 - with some rom-com, Chekhov and Christmas surprises

If you'd told me at the start of the year that there would be a rom-com, a Chekhov and a Christmas play on my best of list, I'd have laughed in your face. Just goes to show you should always expect the unexpected...here are my favourite plays of 2017, in no particular order and links are to my reviews.

An Octoroon - Orange Tree Theatre - publicity photo by The Other Richard
An Octoroon - Orange Tree Theatre - publicity photo by The Other Richard

Dirty Great Love Story, Arts Theatre

Let's face it most rom-coms are a bit rubbish - they generally aren't that funny - but this tale of modern romance had me guffawing with laughter and I wasn't on my own.

An Octoroon, Orange Tree Theatre

This is a play that reminded me why I love going to the theatre and I could write pages on it. Thought-provoking, sometime uncomfortable to watch and yet it was still entertaining. It's transferring to the National Theatre in June and I'll definitely be getting a ticket.

Apologia, Trafalgar Studios

In my review I said: "Apologia is a play of sharp humour and depth that slowly breaks down the defences to reveal something raw and emotional. You will laugh and you will have a lump in your throat." It was also a great play for female characters.

Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Road, White Bear Theatre and Trafalgar Studios 2

This odd-ball, misfit comedy was a breath of fresh air and it got a much deserved transfer so I got to enjoy it a second time.

Hamlet, Almeida

Up there as one of the best Hamlet productions I've seen, it made me see the play anew.

BU21, Trafalgar Studios 2

Writer Stuart Slade took real testimonies from terrorist attacks around the world and used them to create a story around a fictional attack in London. The result was an honest, awkward and funny piece that was also really clever.

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