150 posts categorized "Fringe/pub theatre" Feed

Review: Young, gay and in love in Run, The Bunker

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Tom Ross-Williams as Yonni in Run, The Bunker

Jewish teenager Yonni's eyes meet Adam's and they are planets circling each other, perfect orbits, in sync. It's as if their relationship is written in the stars.

Against a back drop of growing anti-Semitism outside Yonni's north London community and potential homophobia within it Stephen Laughton's play Run examines young love. Delivered as a monologue by Tom Ross-Williams we follow the blossoming relationship with its ups and downs, discoveries, fun and drama. Stephen Laughton has a keen eye not just for domestic detail but also how first love feels for Yonni something which is reflected in the mixture of vernacular and poetic imagery in the script.

There is humour in Yonni's innocence and intense moments when time seems to stop which all serve to beautifully capture this love story and the growing tensions in the teenager's world.

Tom Ross-Williams' performance is one of innocent joy and the energy of youth indeed he seems to positively glow as if with new found feelings. He has you rooting for Yonni, smiling with him and worrying for him. There are some slightly clunky segments movement but otherwise the story slides easily from episode to episode painting a vivid picture of this first love. 

It's a lovely, simple piece of theatre that is both funny and at times moving and I'm giving it four stars. It's 70 minutes long without an interval and is at the The Bunker in Borough until 1 April.

 




Review: A walk in the dark - Killer, Shoreditch Town Hall

KILLER_Large_450_245_80_s_c1I'm in a cool, bare-bricked, concrete-floored room somewhere underneath Shoreditch Town Hall. I've been given headphones and an actor has run through a sound test to make sure they are working properly.

Then the lights go out and a voice comes out of the dark, it is sounds so close it feels like the person speaking is just an inch or two away from my face. Is that their breath on my neck I can feel or am I just imagining it? It's disconcerting, unnerving and a clever device.

Phillip Ridley's play Killer is three odd, horror-tinged stories, each told in a different part of Shoreditch Town Hall's abandoned-looking basement. There are some trademark Ridley features - the squeamish moments with animals that he seems to like - and sledge hammers are one of the recurring features.

The stories are expertly told complete with radio-play style sound effects and it is certainly different from your usual evening at the theatre. Killer seems to have gone down well with the critics with one even describing it as "essential" a word that, when used in relation to theatre, never fails to make me roll my eyes. (It isn't essential - nor vital, while we are in that vein.)

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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 wheel of fortune favours certain actors in La Ronde, The Bunker

La Ronde, Alex Vlahos, Amanda Wilkin, Lauren Samuels and Leemore Marrett Jr (courtesy Ray Burmiston) 11
La Ronde, Alex Vlahos, Amanda Wilkin, Lauren Samuels and Leemore Marrett Jr Photo: Ray Burmiston

At the back of the stage at The Bunker is a 'wheel of fortune' with the four cast members photos (Leemore Marrett Jr, Lauren Samuels, Alex Vlahos and Amanda Wilkin). The wheel is spun to determine which two play the first scene in Max Gill's adaptation of Arthur Schnitler's 19th century play about sex and morals.

For each subsequent scene one actor remains while their acting partner is determined by the spin of the wheel with just two photos to choose from so you don't get the same pairing twice.There are apparently more than three thousand combinations and the actors are prepared for them all.

I wonder if they ever imagined that one actor wouldn't get to stand on the stage - or certainly not by the spin of the wheel? It became a thing with the audience willing the wheel to stop on Leemore Marrett Jr's picture so he would have a turn but in the end - whether planned or by contrivance he stepped on only for the two final short scenes.

It also became a thing because you can't help but wonder how rehearsals worked and what scenes would be like with different actors for example 'would all the actors have done that accent for that character?' or 'how would that have played out if it had been a gay couple?' Having Leemore sat on the sidelines did frustratingly limit the combinations.

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Review: This Must Be The Place, The Vaults #VaultFestival

 

This isn't a London story, we are told at the start of Brad Birch and Kenneth Emson's play This Must Be The Place, but London features in the two interweaving storylines. For Adam (James Cooney) it is a place to get on a (stolen) bike and get away from. For Tate and Matty (Feliks Mathur and Hamish Rush) it is a place to run to with the promise of a job and a new start. But while London connects the two stories the play feels likely it is loosely about surviving modern life.

Molly Roberts completes the cast as Lily, Adam's girlfriend and apart from the opening and closing segment the two pairs perform independently switching swiftly between the two tales. They hold mics which give the play a stand up/pub performance feel - I'm not sure if that was the point.

Adam is troubled for reasons that don't immediately become clear. He throws away his phone so that he is no longer a slave to calls, texts and social media. Disconnects from modern life, misses his phone when he can't get Deliveroo. Lily panics when he hasn't posted anything for a few hours and he doesn't return her calls. She wants to talk to him about the future.

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Review: Sequined jackets and rubber outfits in Pitchfork Disney, Shoreditch Town Hall

TPD_Large_450_245_80_s_c1-1Tom Rhys Harries is hanging from some ceiling pipes, wearing a sequinned jacket. I'm having flash backs to when he played Silver Johnny in Mojo but here the boot is firmly on the other foot. In Mojo he was an innocent victim, in Pitchfork Disney he is a charming threat in fact his performance reminded me a little of Ben Whishaw's Baby who tortures Silver Johnny.

Here he plays Cosmo Disney, hair bleach blond, shaved at the sides and quiffed, with dress shirt, bow tie and sequinned jacket. He's a performer but as this is a Philip Ridley play his is a macabre and stomach churning act.

Cosmo turns up sick at the house of siblings Haley and Presley (Hayley Squires and George Blagden) where they live in almost perfect, self-induced isolation, eating only chocolate and entertaining each other with retelling the same stories. Cosmo disrupts the routine and you can never quite tell whether his motives are good or bad and then his associate Pitchfork (Seun Shote) turns up. Is the terror about to start?

If you've seen Mercury Fur, Fastest Clock in the Universe or Tender Napalm you'll have an idea Philip Ridley's poetic, metaphorical style. He gives an impression of a dystopian world outside the house without ever explicitly describing it. Haley and Presley talk of their dreams and nightmares so how can you tell what is real and what is part of their imagination? And if it is imagination it chocolate coated-macabre, where things are not quite right and not quite off. There is a pervading sense of disquiet as the plays slips from child like innocence to horror in the flick of a grass snake's tongue. Dreams can turn to nightmares so can you ever truly escape?

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REVIEW The Marx Brothers come to London in The Doppel Gang, Tristan Bates

The Doppel Gang (Tristan Bates Theatre) - Jake Urry, Peter Stone and Rachel Hartley
The Doppel Gang (Tristan Bates Theatre) - Jake Urry, Peter Stone and Rachel Hartley

It is London during the blitz and the city's inhabitants seek the distraction of entertainment but unfortunately not at one theatre. With the audience numbers dwindling and staff leaving for better prospects the theatre is about to go under. But what if they pretend to be the crowd-pulling Marx Brothers? It's a bold plan and some of the company are only convinced by the promise of a decent pay packet, for once. But what else is going on behind the scenes?

The Marx Brothers skit, when we get to it, is really well done and had me grinning but the problem with The Doppel Gang is that the rest of the play doesn't quite match it. The relationship between Peter Stone's mysterious Tommy and Rachel Hartley's Rachel is the main sub plot and yet these characters feel underused at the expense of some mildly funny and often laboured 'life back stage' comedy. As a result what should be the source of mystery and drama, the counter point to the comedy, feels under developed.

There are some laughs but not enough to be a fully fledged comedy and without the fleshed out drama it feels like is an overly long and strangely contrived set up for The Marx Brothers skit.

The Doppel Gang is an hour and forty minutes long with an interval. I'm giving the play two stars plus an extra star for the Marx Brothers scene. It's on at the Tristan Bates Theatre until Feb 11.

 


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: Sketches of a relationship in Abigail, The Bunker

Fiona Doyle's relationship drama is told in fragments that jump back and forward through time. A man in his 40s (Mark Rose) and a woman in her 20s (Tia Bannon) meet at Berlin airport and strike up a relationship. They travel to bucket list destinations, celebrate an anniversary and things fall apart.

The set of stacked boxes at the back of the stage is used cleverly as the scenes and locations change but the narrative falls down because the characters are too nebulous, too sketchy. You get hints and clues but not enough to really form a picture of who these people are and what motivates them. In order to understand the relationship's ultimate failure you need more of an understanding of the people themselves.

There are hints of the woman's childhood experiences and hints of her motives for being in the relationship, hints of more complex emotional forces and experiences at play but not enough to help you to fill in the gaps and form a proper picture. Instead you get a woman who is volatile and needy but you aren't sure why. The man is even more of an enigma. We know he has a bucket list of places to visit and he seems a kind, gentle sort of person but not much else. Perhaps there was more that I missed as it wasn't always easy to hear what Mark Rose was saying.

What you get is a jumble of exchanges that are a clunky mix of poetic, philosophical and banal. It builds to a scene which would be more at home in a thriller but given how little you know about these people it comes across as just odd.

After 60 minutes I was left scratching my head none the wiser about the two people who's relationship I'd just watch unfold. It's two stars from me and runs at The Bunker until Feb 4.


Review and production photos: The awkward, honest and hilarious truth in #BU21 at Trafalgar Studios 2

Using real testimonies from terrorist attacks around the world Stuart Slade's play, BU21, imagines the aftermath of a plane being bombed out of the sky over London. It follows six people - a combination of victims, witnesses and those who lost loved ones - and in a series of interweaving monologues charts what they go through physically and mentally.

At one point during the play Alex (Alexander Forsyth) breaks the fourth wall and accuses the audience of being into 'misery porn' and to a certain extent that is true, it is the theatrical equivalent of rubber necking what we hope we never have to actually experience. However the play is also much more than that, it is a primarily a play of human truth. The characters responses are as different as their personalities. None are effected in quite the same way and each deal with the tragedy differently.

There are the obvious emotions of anger, fear and guilt but it is in the detail, those moments when the sub conscience brain operates without the usual societal and moral filters where thing gets really interesting. Sometimes awkward, sometimes painful, sometimes funny and not always PC, these are the revealing moments, the moments when you get glimpses of how humans behave in the most extraordinary situations.

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