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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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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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COMING SOON London fringe theatre picks

HOME TRUTHS  RUNS AT THE BUNKER THEATRE 17 APRIL TO  13 MAY (2).POLITICAL THRILLER Ready or Not is a pacy political thriller which sets out its claustrophobic stall in a small suburban house peopled by a handful of characters whose lives are inexorably tied together and whose hasty decisions leave them teetering on the edge of disaster.  Arcola Theatre, Dalston April 11-29th 8pm start, 2hrs.

LOVE AND LOSS It's been 5 years. Vic’s moved on. Charlie’s a medical mystery. And nothing's making sense. Held together by their past, torn apart by their present and unsure if there even is a future. Their explosive encounter makes them question everything they know and ask why they can’t break free of the threads that bind them together. Threads runs at the Hope Theatre from 11-29 April, 7.45pm 80 mins.

HOUSING CRISIS The Bunker Theatre will host Cardboard Citizens Home Truths, a series of nine plays written in response to the housing crisis. Performed in cycles of three, the series includes new work by EV Crowe and Andus Lustgarten.  The Bunker, Borough April 17 to May 13.

GAY SUB CULTURE A man meets a mysterious stranger on a night out in Vauxhall; a sexy poster-boy gets taken to a chill-out by a porn star; a fag-hag named Cath is pushed to her limits at the party of the century; a sexual health worker struggles with the burden of community outreach. The Chemsex Monologues are the untold stories of the men and women adrift in London’s chill-out, offering a frank, funny and touching insight into one of the twenty-first centuries most controversial gay subcultures. King's Head Theatre Islington 21 March - 9 April, 7pm

ABSURDIST COMEDY Written in his trademark absurdist style Peter Hamilton's, Poetry of Exile is about an extended family on a journey - for some of them transcendental. A moving blend of male infertility in Romford, Gender Fluidity, 8th Century Chinese poetry and vintage clarets. White Bear Theatre, Kennington in March 28 - April 22, 7.30pm

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COMING SOON my fringe picks - circus, comedy & songs and 10 minute plays

Wail - Little Bulb Theatre
Wail - Little Bulb Theatre

MAIDS UPDATED Swifties is a new adaptation of Jean Genet's play The Maids, exploring the alienating and destructive effect that poverty, celebrity fetishism and social media can have on the lives of normal people. Swifties is written by Tom Stenton and directed by Luke Davies (The Chemsex Monologues, The HIV Monologues). Feb 28- Mar 11, Theatre N16, Balham.

10 MINUTE PLAYS The Pensive Federation present the 6th Significant Other Festival, this year at the Vaults under Waterloo Station, giving them their biggest stage ever. For the sixth time, they will present 10 new 10 minute plays, including a new musical, created in just 10 days. Catch it at The Vaults 14-18 March.

SONGS & COMEDY Not normally my cup of tea but I love Little Bulb Theatre having seen Orpheus at BAC a few years ago. In Wail they return to their lo-fi roots for a haphazard two-hander. Part gig, part lecture, part your lips and WAIL! Jacksons Lane in Highgate Mar 2-4.

CIRCUS ACROBATS French acrobatic troop Companie XY come to London with their new show. Featuring over 20 awe-inspiring acrobats, It’s Not Yet Midnight…  is a show about togetherness; a timely reminder that if we come together, accept and look out for one another, we can achieve more (watch the trailer here). Roundhouse London 10-23 April.

MODERN LIFE Privacy. Pornography. Flat-pack furniture. Written by Nina Segal and starring Debra Baker (Radiant Vermin) and Jessye Romeo (Martyr, Unicorn Theatre) Big Guns is an unsettling show that holds a mirror up to our relationship with contemporary violence. The Yard Theatre, Hackney 21-31 March.

FRANKENSTEIN A transfer from the award winning, internationally renowned Watermill Theatre where it enjoyed a successful short run in 2016, George Fletcher and Rowena Lennon perform this take on a powerful and dark masterpiece that explores the timeless relationship between parent and child, isolation, prejudice and revenge and speaks to our modern society. Wilton's Music Hall, E1, 7-18 March.


COMING SOON My London fringe theatre picks

Haven't seen any of these but they do sound good...

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Pop Up Opera's I Capuleti e I Montecchi

DOUBLE BILL As part of its Cash, Capitalism and Corporations season, Battersea Arts Centre has two plays which can be seen individually or as a double bill. DenMarked by Conrad Murray (22 Feb – 11 Mar) is an autobiographical hip hop theatre show featuring live mixed segments of beatbox, guitar and Shakespeare-infused storytelling.  And Fire in the Machine by Sounds Like Chaos (22 Feb – 4 Mar) is a show by young people from in and around Deptford that tackles outdated values of the education system, set within a warped 1980s karaoke party.

OPERA First opera I saw was Pop Up Opera's Cosi Fan Tutte performed in a room over a pub in Mayfair and I really enjoyed it. They are bringing their version of I Capuleti e I Montecchi (sung in Italian with English captions) to The Vaults where it conjures an atmospheric and intimate environment that places spectators at the heart of Bellini's moving love story. If you've not seen an opera before this is a inexpensive way of trying it out. Mar 20-23, The Vaults.

FEMALE TAMBURLAINE Christopher Marlowe was only 23 when he wrote, Tamburlaine, an electrifying theatrical study of tyranny and ambition  Some 430 years later Yellow Earth Theatre bring this rarely performed, complex drama to the Arcola Theatre with Lourdes Faberes taking the lead. 15 Mar - 8 Apr, 8pm start with a run time of approximately 2 hours plus interval.

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REHEARSAL PHOTOS: Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Old Vic

Here they are, Daniel Radcliffe (Rosencrantz) and Joshua McGuire (Guildenstern) rehearsing ahead of the opening of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (the only Tom Stoppard play to date that I really like, but that might just be me). It's the Hamlet story told from the perspective the two minor characters and its very clever and funny.

It opens for previews at the Old Vic on 25 February and then runs until April 29.

 

 


That was January in London theatre land

Guards at the Taj
Guards at the Taj, Bush Theatre

January was a fringe fest for me with some cracking productions. I definitely recommend Out There On Fried Meat Ridge Road at the White Bear (finishes Feb 4) and BU21 at Trafalgar Studios 2 (finishes Feb 18) and from the off West End sphere Dirty Great Love Story at the Arts Theatre is a real hoot (finishes Mar 18).

And while I was busy...

* Biggest news, obviously, is Ben Whishaw treading the boards at the Almeida again. He's moved on from playing a Greek god in Bakkhai to playing a tech billionaire who thinks god is talking to him. It's a new play called Against by Christopher Shinn and to say that I'm excited to see it, is an underestimate.

* The Ben Whishaw news has almost over shadowed the announcement of a new James Graham play, Ink, at the Almeida as part of the the same season. This time Graham is taking on Fleet Street at the end of the sixties. Given how much I enjoyed This House, this has a lot of promise.

* The Bush Theatre reopens its doors after redevelopment work and kicks things off in April with Jamie Lloyd directing Guards at the Taj by Rajiv Joseph. It seems to be a theme for Jamie Lloyd this year to direct in smaller theatres - his current production is Pitchfork Disney at Shoreditch Town Hall which will be followed by a new Philip Ridley play Killer at the same venue.

 

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NEWS - London fringe theatre round up with teen tales and surreal dinner parties

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Henry V

HENRY V - Set in a First World War field hospital, Antic Disposition bring Shakespeare's play about the warrior king to Southwark Cathedral as part of a UK cathedral tour. You can see it there on Feb 2, 3, 20 & 21. For more details and other tour stops head to Antic Disposition's website.

WAR TIME COMEDY Flew the Coop is a humorous take on an amazing but controversial story based on true events: the romance between young Silesian translator Rosa Rauchbach, debonair British POW Horace Greasley and an inordinate number of stolen chickens. New Diorama Theatre 14 Feb to 4 Mar.

TEEN TALES #1 Filled with school riots, first loves, beached whales, cinema, space and sex, RUN tells the story of Yonni (Tom Ross-Williams), an orthodox, Jewish teenager, who sneaks out over the Sabbath and causes a world of trouble. The Bunker Mar 20 to Apr 1 (70 mins without interval). Also in Brighton prior to it's London run.

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Ben Whishaw is back on stage at the Almeida #almeidatheatre

So I wake up to this news in the Guardian:

August will also see the debut of Pulitzer-nominated playwright Christopher Shinn’s new work, Against. Ben Whishaw will play Luke, a tech millionaire convinced he is the next messiah, whose calling is to confront violence in America.

Which is exciting not only because Ben Whishaw is back on stage (obviously) and at the Almeida rather than in the West End but also because it's a contemporary play and it feels like a while (The Pride - half contemporary - so perhaps Cock in 2009?).

James Graham will also debut a new play about newspapers in the 1960s. Given the brilliance of This House (currently enjoying a revival in the West End) this should be cracking.