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April 2018

May 2018

Fringe theatre review: In The Shadow of The Mountain, Old Red Lion Theatre

Laughter from the early scenes turns to exasperation and then gasps as the behaviour becomes more extreme - and desperate.

Ellie (Felicity Huxley-Miners) and Rob's (David Shears) relationship starts on a train platform in dramatic circumstances.

in the shadow of the mountain felicity huxley-miners david shears
In The Shadow of the Mountain: Felicity Huxley-Miners and David Shears

One is depressed, the other is manic but both feel like they don't fit in. Is this mismatch of personality the life-raft relationship it seems?

At first, the chaos of Ellie's mind and behaviour seems charmingly kooky and awkward. In her performance, Felicity reminded me a little of Patsy Ferran in My Mother's A Twat, Royal Court and Speech and Debate, Trafalgar Studios 2.

Manipulation

But it soon becomes clear that there are deeper emotional problems, a neediness and manipulation that is calculated to mask other feelings of a lack of self-worth.

Rob is emotionally bruised from an unfaithful relationship and feeling isolated and overwhelmed by the pressures of modern life, none of which equips him to properly help Ellie - or walk away.

What we get from David's performance is feeling of powerlessness against Ellie's manipulation despite his obvious feelings of discomfort and awkwardness. 

Laughter and gasps

Laughter from the early scenes turns to exasperation and then gasps as the behaviour becomes more extreme - and desperate.

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Comedy for the weekend: Funny and philosophical - Sarah Kendall, One-Seventeen, Soho Theatre

It is a show that rolls along with laughs but leaves you with a warm fuzzy glow and a feeling that everything will be OK.

Australian Sarah Kendall (Writers' Guild Best Radio Comedy 2018) is a storyteller, a philosopher and very funny. Or to put it another way, she made me laugh and she made me think... and she made me think about Hamlet.

Sarah Kendall5 - credit Rosalind Furlong
Photo by Rosalind Furlong

You see, in Shakespeare’s play the Prince Hamlet says: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

Which is pretty much her dad’s way of looking at life. Her mother is the opposite and sees danger everywhere. Everywhere.

Aussie self-deprecation

Kendall’s routine explores this idea of glass half full/glass half empty thinking using stories from her life - growing up, being grown up, her family and friends.

Of course, it is served up with the familiar Aussie self-deprecation, sarcasm and dark humour.

She is one of those comedians that can cleverly tell one longer story while peeling off shorter stories at the same time.

They are ordinary stories and anecdotes that demonstrate the silliness and absurdity of human behaviour.

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Review: Skilfully crafted entertainment that poses interesting questions - Quiz, Noel Coward Theatre

Just like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, Quiz is a skilfully crafted piece of entertainment, the difference is that the questions it asks don't have simple multiple choice answers.

James Graham is proving to be one of the best contemporary writers of plays based on modern political history - Angry Brigade, Ink and This House to name just three.

QUIZ-447X792Part of that is his exceptional talent for turning potentially dry topics into gripping and entertaining theatre.

In Quiz he focuses on the ‘coughing Major’ scandal that enfolded the popular TV quiz Who Wants to Be A Millionaire in 2001 and the subsequent trial in 2003.

Cheating

The Major - Charles Ingram -  walked away with the £1m prize on the night but was later accused of cheating and taken to court together with his alleged accomplices.

Performed on a set styled to look like the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire studio, complete with onstage seating to mimic the studio audience, the play is structured like a court case.

The first half plays out what happened from the viewpoint of the prosecution and the second half is the turn of the defence.

Audience vote

With electronic devices, the audience can vote on whether Ingram (played by Gavin Stokes), his wife Diana (Stephanie Street) and the other 'conspirators' are guilty or not guilty.

Votes take place at the end of the first half and again at the end of the play after which the results from the previous 10 plays are displayed for comparison.

The style and structure is a reference to the subtler themes and subtext of the play, something that becomes more evident when audience opinion is canvassed.

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Review: Hot, wet, bathtub acrobatics are good clean fun in SOAP, Underbelly Festival

It's a sexy show but good clean fun with a big dose of playfulness to much of what is performed

Try writing a review of comedy/acrobatic/opera show SOAP at Underbelly without using double entendres.

SOAP_WET_©_Dmitry_Shakhin-24_400x300I mean there are bathtubs, water, men in pants and pink balls for goodness sake.

Themed around bath-time, when the cast of acrobats, jugglers and red-welly wearing 'clown' (Marie-Andrée Lemaire) aren't frolicking, sliding in, hiding in and generally performing amazing feats in and around the roll-top tubs, they are squirting water, making watery music - or performing under a shower.

Splashes

Don't worry, those in the front row get some protection (from the splashes).

It's a sexy show but good clean fun with a big dose of playfulness to much of what is performed. 

 

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Review: Seeing the world through different eyes in 213 Things About Me, Battersea Arts Centre

...loaded with wit and humour, sharp observation and understanding.

213-web213 Things About Me started life as an art installation at Edinburgh Fringe and has evolved into a 60-minute monologue performed by Rosa Hoskins.

It is based on the life of Rose, a friend of the play's writer and director Richard Butchins who is a documentary filmmaker. 

When Rose was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, Richard asked her to write down five of her good traits. She drew up a list of 213 but later that same year she committed suicide.

Contrariness of human behaviour

In using Rose's own words and performing the piece as a monologue you not only get insight into how she sees the world but it also exposes the contrariness of human behaviour.

While Rose's way of seeing and interacting with the world might be different from what is perceived as the norm, her perspective makes you question that norm.

And, at times she is able to see what no one else around her can which allows her to be forgiving of less desirable behaviour when others perhaps cannot.

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Review: The Inheritance, Young Vic - an epic tale of love, loss and life but was it better than Angels?

It is a playful play with laugh out loud moments but in a blink, it is full of pathos and tragedy

The Inheritance at the Young Vic is this year's Angels in America - a two-parter set in New York about a group of gay men.

The Inheritance Young Vic Rev Stan InstagramI really enjoyed Angels but I wasn't bubbling over with the same enthusiasm for it that some had. So I approached Matthew Lopez's play with a hint of trepidation: it's a long play, would this be more of the same?

Angels sequel

You could describe it as a sequel to Angel's following the generation of men that grew up after the AIDS epidemic.

The Inheritance of the title in many ways represents the life and society that the Angels' generation paved the way for.

But the play is also heavily influenced by EM Forster's Howard's End examining class, entitlement and privilege and framed as an attempt to tell a story - EM Forster serves as a tutor and mentor at various points.

Truth and fiction playfully interweave the narrative, occasionally options for alternative dialogue is presented as if we are in a narrative brainstorming session - or viewing different perspectives.

Love triangle

But the essence of the play is a love triangle.

Eric Glass (Kyle Soller) lives in a protected rent apartment with his boyfriend Toby (Andrew Burlap) who is adapting his debut novel into a play.

Their group of gay friends often congregate at the apartment - Eric is a good cook and host but at one such gathering a young man, Adam (Samuel H Levine), turns up to return Toby's bag, Toby having taken his own, identical, bag in error.

Heartbreak and obsession

That encounter sends each on a journey that none of them could have foreseen, a journey of love, heartbreak, obsession, success and tragedy, a journey that makes and breaks them and forces painful introspection.

A journey that unfolds over six and half hours of theatre.

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Round up: That was April in London theatre - Monster casting and A-list actor spots

MTNEW* I'm excited and nervous about the forthcoming stage adaptation of Patrick Ness’s novel A Monster Calls (the book is a favourite) but I couldn’t think of a better actor than Matthew Tennyson to take on the lead Conor. The production will have a run at the Bristol Old Vic from May 31 and the Old Vic from July 7.

* David Haig’s play Pressure (in which he also stars) is transferring from Park Theatre to the Ambassadors following a successful run at the Finsbury venue. Malcolm Sinclair and Laura Rogers co-star.

* Stan-fav Adam Gillen has been cast in Killer Joe, Trafalgar Studios, which stars Orlando Bloom and I'm really looking forward to seeing him in something very different to Amadeus. You can see photos of the cast in rehearsal over at What's On Stage and previews start on May 18.

* Kilburn's Tricycle Theatre has been renamed the Kiln Theatre post refurbishment with a new season that includes the UK premiere of Florian Zeller’s The Son.

* In a new twist on role swapping (recent role swaps: Mary Stuart, Almeida; RSC's Doctor Faustus and NT's Frankenstein to name just three) Hayley Atwell and Jack Lowden are to alternate playing Isabella and Angelo in Measure For Measure at the Donmar Warehouse.

* There is part of me that is excited and really curious and part of me that thinks: 'Gimmick to get repeated visits'. There is one version I'd particularly like to see but no way of knowing, having booked at ticket whether I'll get it. Previews start September 28.

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Why we need more plays like Nine Night and less like Absolute Hell

It was a delight to be part of such an engaged audience and one which is more reflective of London's diversity. And it doesn't happen anywhere near as much as it should do.

I saw Absolute Hell and Nine Night on consecutive nights and seeing the latter served to highlight all that I felt was wrong with the former.

Nine-night-mobileherospot-2160x2160pxAn unfair comparison you might say but there are parallels between the two plays and they also represent where theatreland is at the moment and where it should be moving.

First, a bit about Nine Night, although if you want to read a full review I suggest starting with Ought To Be Clowns which is spot on.

Family tension

It is a new play by Natasha Gordon set in the London house of a Jamaican family where they are observing the traditional nine nights of mourning after mother, grandmother and great-grandmother Gloria dies.

This traditional way of mourning involves inviting friends and family over for food, drink (lots of drink) and dancing.

Grief coupled with having extended family in such close proximity for an extended period inevitably means tension. Secrets are unearthed, prejudices and hurts are revealed.

Rich and vibrant characters

Rodney Ackland's Absolute Hell (see my review here) is similarly set in one location and both plays have rich and vibrant characters but from here the two diverge.

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Interview: From art installation to stage, Richard Butchins on play inspired by friend with Asperger's

Writer and filmmaker Richard Butchins talks about his play 213 Things About Me at the Battersea Arts Centre which was inspired by Rose, his long-time friend, who was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome in her 30s.

Richard ButchinsRose committed suicide the same year she was diagnosed.

“We were having a conversation on Skype and I asked her to write a list. It was that standard thing where you ask someone to say five good things about themselves. I thought it might be a useful focus for her.

"When I spoke to her later in the week she said: 'I did that list. I’ve got 213 things.' What she had to say was touching, funny, moving and sad.”

Your background is photography and documentaries and 213 Things About Me started life as a video installation, what inspired you to turn it into a play?

I always thought that she (Rose) had a lot of interesting, funny and insightful things to say about her condition - discovering I was on the spectrum made it inevitable I would have to write something, and given her lovely songs - a play seemed the best route.

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Review: Family-friendly theatre fun with Infinite Jest's A Midsummer Night's Dream, JW3

As a gentle and fun introduction to Shakespeare for kids it is excellent

A Midsummer Night's Dream web Infinite JestThere is nothing more infectious than a theatre full of kids giggling at the name 'Nick Bottom' and I'm sure Shakespeare would have approved.

Infinite Jest Theatre Company - which specialises in family-friendly Shakespeare - has condensed A Midsummer Night's Dream down to 60 fun-packed minutes.

Amusing modern references

To tell the tricksy, misaligned love story they mix puppetry and magic with the Bard's original text and some updated modern vernacular, throwing in amusing contemporary references along the way. 

The Cockney, Bob the Builder-style Nick Bottom (Rod Silvers) occasionally does a handy 'translation' of what is going on for younger members of the audience.

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