91 posts categorized "Comedy" Feed

REVIEW: The power of three high school misfits in Speech and Debate, Trafalgar Studios 2

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Patsy Ferran, Douglas Booth and Tony Revolori. Photo Simon Annand

Solomon (Tony Revolori) is an aspiring journalist and wants an article published, Diwata (Patsy Ferran) is an aspiring actress and wants a part in the school play and Howie (Douglas Booth) wants to flirt on gay chat sites. All outsiders with their own agendas, they are united by a sex scandal at their school and a musical version of The Crucible, with a time-travelling Abraham Lincoln, might just be the answer to getting what they want.

Stephen Karam's play's is laced with wit and black humour with a serious sprinkling of silly fun but there is far more to it below the laughs.  It's a story about teenagers on the cusp of becoming adults struggling to realise their ambitions in a world where social media is just starting to take off. They want to talk about the stuff that matters such as freedom of expression and gay rights and have sex education classes without the genitals being referred to as the 'bathing suit area'.  They are young people on a voyage of social and sexual discovery, often learning the hard way the consequences of their actions.

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REVIEW The hilarious Dirty Great Love Story, Arts Theatre

Dirty Great Love Story, Arts Theatre - Felix Scott and Ayesha Antoine, Courtesy of Richard Davenport for The Other Richard
Dirty Great Love Story, Arts Theatre - Felix Scott and Ayesha Antoine, Courtesy of Richard Davenport

Richard Marsh and Katie Bonna's comedy Dirty Great Love Story is a modern poem to romance but Romeo and Juliet this isn't. This is a love story that starts at a hen and stag party, a story of drunken sex, morning after awkwardness, shoes that hurt and rescuing escaped boobs. It's a love story where climbing a vine to a balcony takes a lot longer and a lot more effort than the movies would have you believe.

Ayesha Antoine plays Katie (and CC) who is out on a hen night with her mates. She's recently been dumped by her boyfriend (he who must not be named) and her friend CC is determined to get her a shag. Felix Scott plays Richard (Westie and Matt) and is on a stag do with his mates and his friend Westie is equally keen to pair Richard off with someone. Their eyes meet across a pulsating, sweaty, alcohol drenched dance floor but the course of true love never did run smooth.

Written in verse we are taken on a two year journey of mishaps and relationship mayhem. Those around Katie and Richard seem to be entering a new phase of their lives while our two mismatched, one-night stand, lovers seemed destined never to get it on again.

Ayesha Antoine and Felix Scott switch swiftly between characters without missing a beat of the poetry. They deliciously deliver the misinterpretations and missteps of Katie and Richard and the antics and opinions of their friends.

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REVIEW Five star fringe - Out There On Fried Meat Ridge Rd, White Bear Theatre #friedmeatUK

Keith Stevenson in Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Road (c) Erika Boxler
Keith Stevenson in Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Road (c) Erika Boxler

It's a bitterly cold, dark January night in the maelstrom of Trump's impending inauguration and May's hard Brexit speech and a piece of 'vital', 'essential' or 'urgent' theatre is not really what you want - or need. Thank heaven's then for Keith Stevenson's Out There On Fried Meat Ridge Rd which, in its 65 funny minutes of misfit, odd, dark, craziness has a warmth that leaves you feeling that not quite everything is wrong with the world.

Set in rural West Virginia, Mitch (Robert Moloney) has lost his job, been kicked out by his girlfriend and has a condition which makes him sweat profusely. JD (Keith Stevenson) lives in a motel, helps out with odd jobs and advertises for a room mate. JD and the room aren't quite what Mitch expects when he turns up to have a look but then neither is the slightly scary un-PC motel owner Flip (Michael Wade) or the warring couple next door - the philandering Tommy (Dan Hildebrand) and crystal meth addict Marlene (Melanie Gray).

But these are all characters that defy initial impressions. On the one hand JD has never heard of the state of Maine or that lobsters come from the sea but on the other he knows Latin. They are the sort of people whom you'd expect to see on the Jeremy Kyle show and yet they occasionally use language you'd hear on Radio 4. Just as Marlene's 'most beautiful' painting is a woman with a snake head the juxtaposition isn't quite right, it is surreal, slightly odd, perhaps a little sinister.

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Review: The Dresser, Duke of York's and why it feels past its best

The-DresserLove Ken Stott and it was that and a very good ticket offer on Today Tix that got me to a matinee to see The Dresser. And here is where I pause because despite Ken Stott and Reece Shearsmith acting their socks off the play just felt lacklustre and a bit past it.

Ronald Harwood's play was first staged in 1980 is set during the Second World War in a theatre where actor/manager 'Sir' (Stott) is having trouble keeping himself together and his long-suffering dresser Norman (Shearsmith) is trying to get him ready to go on stage for an evening performance of King Lear.

I had several problems with the play. Sir is either having some sort of nervous breakdown or has the early signs of dementia and that isn't actually that funny - maybe Ken Stott's weepy, dazed acting is too good. He appears extremely fragile at times and attempts to get him ready for the performance feel almost cruel.

However, in his more lucid moments he is self-centred, self-obsessed and generally not very nice which makes him difficult to empathise with. You can understand why not everyone flatters and fawns over him. There is also one scene when he gropes (sexually assaults) a young actress and that might have been funny to an audience in 1980 but it certainly isn't funny now.

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Rehearsal photos: Katherine Parkinson, Ralph Little, Steve Pemberton and cast in Dead Funny (Vaudeville Theatre)

Eleanor wants a child. Richard would oblige if he could, but he's too busy running the Dead Funny Society. When British comedy heroes Frankie Howerd and Benny Hill turn up their toes in the same week the Society gather for a celebration of hilarity and laughter. But Eleanor’s grin masks a grimace. When your marriage is deader than either Morecambe or Wise it's hard to see the funny side of things.

Terry Johnson's comedy Dead Funny opens at the Vaudeville Theatre on Oct 27 and runs to Feb 4 but in the meantime here are some rehearsal pics: 

 

 


Fringe theatre review: The Undead Bard, Theatre N16

The Really Tiny Ever LivingAs the antithesis of Shakespeare's 400th anniversary celebration Robert Crighton has come up with a two part performance that (sort of) questions our obsession with the bard.

In the first half he plays a sweating, divorced professor obsessed with the question of authorship of Shakespeare's plays. He recounts how he tested several theories while playing a cat and mouse game with the 'leather patches on elbows' who want to protect Shakespeare as the author. The result is an ever more paranoid professor with ever more ridiculous theories. The second half sees him channelling the Bard who feels if he can't be 'undead' then he just wants to be left alone and forgotten about.

There are some chuckle-worthy moments and the occasional witty line - it helps if you are familiar with Shakespeare's contemporaries and the theories of authorship - but there just isn't enough of it to fill two 45 minute segments. There are sections which could perhaps work as short sketches but it needs to be cleverer and a lot funnier for a longer piece.

Crighton ends by arguing that we should put on new writing rather reviving old stuff and he does have a point but the old stuff is really rather good which is why it has lasted.

It's two 45 minute segments with a 15 minute interval and I'm giving it two stars. It is on at Theatre N16 in Balham until 13 October.


Review: Acorn antiques meets Downtown Abbey in Sellotape Sisters, Tristan Bates Theatre

SellotapeSisters smallEthel (Charlotte Weston) and Phyllis (Kellie Batchelor) are actors about to make the last live episode of the period drama soap they are starring in. In their dressing room, drinking champagne out of tea cups with fellow actor Rupert (Jonny Freeman), they discuss some of the script writers more dubious plot decisions.

It is classic lovey-bitching, name-dropping and moaning about the next job but when they discover that the script writers have taken inspiration from their own private lives - secret same sex liaisons - which could fatally damage their careers if exposed, the panic sets in.

The 1960s set play's second act is the live broadcast of the final episode which has shades of Acorn Antiques. The actors forget lines, miss cues and their marks, discretely shuffling in or out of shot.  The question is will they stick to the script? The final act is the aftermath of that decision.

Act 1 is a nice amusing warm up to the second act which is where the strength of Sellotape Sisters' lies. It borders farce and is expertly executed and sometimes laugh out loud funny.

The final act has a heavier tone dealing with the consequences of their decisions during the live broadcast and feels like an attempt to give the piece a serious message which doesn't quite work. The 1960s setting serves to demonstrate how attitudes towards gay relationships have changed but I'm not sure weaving it into an farce-like story gives it the punch it needs.

Sellotape Sisters is in the main amusing, entertaining and fun enough for hour long show and I'm giving it three and a half stars.  It is on at the Tristan Bates Theatre until August 20.


Review: In search of relationship closure in Some Girl(s), Park Theatre

Charles Dorfman (Guy) and Roxanne Pallett (Tyler) in Buckland Theatre Company's Some Girl(s) at Park Theatre. Credit Claire Bilyard (7)
Charles Dorfman (Guy) and Roxanne Pallett (Tyler) in Buckland Theatre Company's Some Girl(s) at Park Theatre. Credit Claire Bilyard


Neil LaBute's Some Girl(s) sees 'Guy' (Charles Dorfman) embark on a tour around the US to 'put things right' with four of his ex-girlfriends. He's about to get married so perhaps this is about drawing a line under one chapter of his life as he embarks on another. Perhaps.

Over the four meetings, in four different hotel rooms, in four different cities, we learn more about Guy and the women that have been in his life. With some simple but clever set changes - one anodyne hotel room picture is changed for another, the bed is moved and bedding swapped etc - we are transported from meeting to meeting. 

Sam (Elly Condron) is Guy's High School sweetheart in Seattle. His first romance whom he broke up with shortly before their prom. Sam was a nice, safe, girl and is now married with children but there is something about the break up that still rankles her. Guy fumbles his way through an explanation but not everything rings true.

We then jump to Tyler (Roxanne Pallett) in Chicago. Tyler is the opposite of Sam. She's a free spirited, party girl and sexually adventurous and Guy is tempted by her all over again. But there is more to the meeting, for Tyler, than rekindling old flames. There is a side to her that Guy underestimated during their relationship and she sees through him.

Next is Lindsay (Carolyn Backhouse) in Boston. She's the older woman and the married woman whom he ran out on when they got caught. Lindsay also has Guy's card and proposes an interesting way in which he can make amends for the hurt he caused.

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Review: Jesse Eisenberg in The Spoils, Trafalgar Studios and why I was a very slightly disappointed

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Jesse Eisenberg in The Spoils, Trafalgar Studios. Photo: Oliver Rosser

Jesse Eisenberg's background is in theatre - acting and more recently writing - but I've only ever seen him on the big screen so I was naturally curious about his play The Spoils. 

It's set in the modern Manhattan apartment of Ben (Jesse Eisenberg) a drinking, weed-smoking wannabe film-maker from a privileged background. He shares the apartment with Kalyan (Kunal Nayyar) who is a Nepalese immigrant studying business on a scholarship.

At one end of the spectrum Ben is the sort of show off that casually feigns indifference at the other he is narcissistic. He won't take rent from Kalyan but it isn't an altruistic move, it is something he does to elevate his own status, something he can hold over him or throw back at him. Kalyan is someone he can parade, show off about, look down on and just occasionally confide in. Us Brits would call Ben a tosser or a C-word - if we used it - Americans would probably call him a jerk.

When Ben discovers that his school crush Sarah (Katie Brayben) is going to marry straight-laced banker Ted (Alfie Allen), he is determined to woo her away from him.

Like most characters from this mould,  Ben's behaviour is all puff, part of the wall he's built to protect himself not just from the outside world but also from himself.  He constantly seeks approval while rebutting it. He seeks connection and yet pushes it away. The more desperate he gets the more painful and cringe-worthy his behaviour becomes.

At first the script crackles with a quick-fired wit tinged with black humour but as Ben spirals downwards, so the humour gets darker until you reach a point when it difficult to laugh any more and it is at that moment you start to pity him and how messed up he really is.

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Watching a work in progress: Unreachable, Royal Court

Cw-8658-mediumThe Royal Court's artistic director Vicky Featherstone and playwright/director Anthony Neilson made a pre-performance appearance when I saw Unreachable on Tuesday. They wanted to explain that the play was still a work in progress, a major rewrite had happened over the weekend with further rewrites that day. As a result, the actors might still be working off scripts and things might not go as smoothly as you'd expect. We were asked to shout 'good luck' to the actors who were waiting in the wings.

Other than a read-through I've not seen a play performed with scripts in hands or scraps of paper retrieved from pockets.  Naturally, the audience, was very supportive as it invariably is during these sorts of things. It added an extra dimension to the play and the experience - seeing the actors 'feeling' their way through the less familiar parts of the script.

Matt Smith actually played on it at times saying at one point 'that's all I've got'. If there was any frustration with the chopping and changing of the dialogue among the cast it certainly did show, they all looked like they were having a ball and there was quite a bit of corpsing.

As to the play itself, I'm not sure what I was expecting but it wasn't expecting a raucous comedy, satirising the film industry and acting profession.

Naturally it is difficult to review something that could change fundamentally between when I saw it and press night. Indeed, since starting to write this, I found an interview with Anthony Neilson and Matt Smith which describes a plot that is unrecognisable from that which I saw, so if you have seen it post press night I'm curious to know whether it has changed fundamentally since.

Matt Smith plays Maxim, a film director who won the Palm d'Or for his first full length feature and is now working on his second film. The award has brought with it recognition and a much bigger budget with the politics that entails but he is 'an artist' with the stereotypical artistic temperament (think: self-serving, childish, egotist). He would rather walk away and risk financial ruin than compromise.

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