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March 2017
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April 2017

Review: Precision and poise in Compagnie XY's #ItsNotYetMidnight, Roundhouse

Compagnie XY's It's Not Yet Midnight... (courtesy of David Levene) 5
Compagnie XY's It's Not Yet Midnight...Photo courtesy of David Levene

There is a group of 20 or so people on stage. The men are dressed in shirts and trousers, some with braces or waistcoats. Women similarly in shirts some with school girl style skirts or trousers. A push and shove breaks out building into full blown brawl.

All you can hear is the sound of their exerted breath and the slap of limbs or bodies hitting the stage. It looks quite vicious, frenetic but for the acrobatic flourishes which add incongruous moments of something more balletic.

It is dizzying to watch and a mere teaser for what is to come from French acrobatic troupe Compagnie XY's new show It's Not Yet Midnight. From here you are taken on a breathtaking journey of strength, poise, precision and co-ordination.

There are startling set pieces - double human height huddles that rotate, slowly collapse and then 'grow' again and then scenes where there are a multitude of feats being enacted on stage at the same time. Some of them are small no doubt looking much easier to do than they actually are - two people 'dancing' on the shoulders of one person, which you really have to see to fully appreciate, for example.

The pace quickens and slows, quickens and slows like heart beat, sometimes there is music, sometimes not, sometimes there are dance sequences or moments of comedy but all the time the stage oozes atmosphere.

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Coming soon: My picks from London's fringe theatre

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The Gap in the Light, New Diorama

Feel I should apologise as I've been a bit lax in publishing my fringe theatre picks for the last couple of months (blame the day job). Anyway to remedy that, here are a handful of forthcoming productions that look interesting.

Globalisation When work knows no borders, what's the cost? Alexandra Badea's explosive drama The Pulverised is a portrait of globalisation’s far-reaching grip on our working lives. A quality assurance officer from France, a call centre manager from Senegal, a factory worker from China, and an engineer from Romania - in four corners of the world, they are all engaged in one struggle: the multinational conglomerate they work for is trying to engulf their every waking moment. Arcola Theatre, Dalston - 3.30/8pm start, 90 minutes.

19th Century feminist icon Award-winning journalist Paul Mason's debut play The Divine Chaos of Starry Things is based on the memoirs of 19th century French feminist Louise Michel. The production examines the agony of the defeat and exile of the Parisian women revolutionaries deported to the remote Pacific island of New Caledonia, their depression and isolation upon arrival and loss of hope as dreams of escape fade and a new reality descends. White Bear Theatre, Kennington, 25 April to 20 May, 3pm/4pm/7.30pm.

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Review: Nina Raine's funny, sharp and intelligent Consent, National Theatre

Consent-2160x2160Playwright Nina Raine's previous plays have tackled social integration in the deaf community and the NHS, in Consent she takes on justice and the notion of consent.

At the centre of the play is a rape case which two lawyer friends are working on - Edward (Ben Chaplin) is defending and Tim (Pip Carter) is prosecuting. However, this isn't a courtroom drama, instead it focuses on how the case challenges and resonates through the relationships of Edward, Tim and their circle of friends.

Edward and Kitty (Anna Maxwell Martin) have just had their first baby and Edward wants another but Kitty isn't keen. There are tensions in Jake (Adam James) and Rachel's (Priyanga Burford) marriage as Rachel suspects he is having an affair and bit-part actress Zara (Daisy Haggard) is desperate for a baby but can't seem to find the right man - could the slightly dull Tim be the perfect match?

Gayle (Heather Craney), the victim in the rape trial lives a world away from the privileged friends but her case raises questions of how justice is best served. Is cold objectivity best or should the process allow for some empathy? It is far more complex than it initially seems. On the one hand an emotional detachment seems to be the fairest approach but, when the barristers cross examination technique is dissected, it reveals it to be a game of cold intellectual chess, more about winning than perhaps what is morally right.

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Rehearsal photos and irresistible prospect of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui with Lenny Henry, Donmar Warehouse

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui is the play in the Donmar's current season I'm most excited to see. Why? Well, Lenny Henry was one of the iconic TV stars of my childhood. I grew up with Tiswas (which my mum hated us watching), Three of a Kind, the Comic Strip and the Lenny Henry Show and it's been six years since I last saw him on stage in A Comedy of Errors at the National.

So there is that. But it's also the play. It's a brutal satire which I've seen given such a wide variety of treatments including a version with puppets by Marmite director Katie Mitchell at Hampstead Theatre and Cheek By Jowl's bonkers French dinner party at the Barbican. What will the Donmar do? I suspect it won't be quite as radical as those two productions but nonetheless?

At the very least it feels like a wholly appropriate time to have a production of this play about the abuse of power.  It's a new translation by Bruce Norris - the king of uncomfortable laughs with plays such as Clybourne Park - and set in prohibition era Chicago. I'm expecting something powerful, that doesn't hold it's punches and I feel like I need to see some theatre like that.  So fingers crossed for when I get to see it later this month.

 

 


That was March in London theatre land - and a bumper crop of thesp spots

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Keith Stevenson in Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Road, White Bear Theatre (c) Erika Boxler

* The Almeida's excellent production of Hamlet starring Andrew Scott is transferring to the Harold Pinter Theatre in the West End in June.

* And...not to take away from Hamlet's success but putting the tickets on sale at midnight, on a Saturday for Almeida members was an odd decision not least because, if Twitter is anything to go by, there were glitches with the ATG Tickets website and apparently no customer services/tech support available to sort it at that time of night.

* One of my favourite plays of 2016 - Rotterdam - is transferring to Broadway. OK, so not technically London theatre but it was such a great play and production I’m really pleased to see it doing well.

* Back in London and fringe plays doing well, the excellent Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Road, which I saw at the White Bear back in January is transferring to Trafalgar Studios 2 in May. Yep, I will be seeing it again because I liked it that much.

* Stan-Fav Simon Stephens is adapting The Seagull (one of the only Chekhov plays I actually like) for a production at the Lyric Hammersmith starring Lesley Sharp in the Autumn.

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