154 posts categorized "Fringe/pub theatre" Feed

Review: Finding and keeping a roof over your head in Home Truths (cycle one), Bunker Theatre

HOME TRUTHS  RUNS AT THE BUNKER THEATRE 17 APRIL TO  13 MAY (1).Under the sub-heading 'An Incomplete History of Housing Told in Nine Plays' Cardboard Citizen are performing three cycles of three short plays exploring...housing. Playwrights including E V Crowe and Anders Lustgarten have contributed and stories told range in setting from the 1800s right up to present day. They are interspersed with snippets of historical footage and quotes which are allocated to the actors via a 'director'.

Cycle one kicks off with Sonali Bhattacharyya's Slummers. It's the story of 16-year old Polly and her family who make a living in late 18th Century London as milliners, selling their wares on the streets. They've already been displaced once to make way for a new road and are living in  'Old Nichol' - the overcrowded, unsanitary and dangerous slums in Shoreditch - when they are approached by a representative of Peabody as being suitable tenants for their new estate. However, six months into their new life and dwelling, they are threatened with eviction.

The piece examines the notion of 'deserving poor' versus 'undeserving poor' - a theme that echoes through the cycle - 'deserving' in this instance seems to mean willing not only to follow the rules but not to question or challenge those that provide.

Bhattacharyya's play aptly exposes the class tension and the powerful strings attached to assistance through the domestic triangle of Polly who wants the benefits of the new home, her mother who wants the benefits of a more just society and the Peabody volunteer who believes what she is doing is right.

Next up was 1970s set The Ruff Tuff Cream Puff Estate Agency by Heathcote Williams with Sarah Woods about an 'estate agency' set up for homeless people. The group monitor empty properties for squatting and broadcast their availability on pirate radio while themselves playing a cat and mouse game with the authorities and their own landlord.

It is fun and lively piece populated with eccentric, clever and caring people but with a serious underbelly - tonally it reminded me of James Graham's The Angry Brigade. The clever way the squatters out-manoeuvre the authorities and landlords feels satisfyingly like a huge two finger salute to the establishment while the personal stories of those who have found themselves homeless serve to demonstrate the challenges and harsh realities of everyday life.

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Review: Threads, Hope Theatre

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Threads: Samuel Lawrence and Katharine Davenport. Photo Lidia Crisafulli

Vic (Katherine Davenport) has made a mercy dash to see her ex Charlie (Samuel Lawrence) suspecting he may have done something to himself. He still lives in the flat they shared when she walked out of the relationship five years earlier and he's become a recluse. He is having problems letting go and moving on and seems to think she is too.

The invisible relationship bonds that connect people together, that are difficult to sever is an interesting subject (how do you let go of the past?) but David Lane's play wraps the story up in the supernatural - self-locking doors, flickering light bulbs, medical science defying symptoms etc which are a distraction rather than adding to the narrative or drama. You could see some of it as overt metaphor for being trapped in the past/broken hearted but rather it makes a potentially interesting relationship drama just rather odd at times.

As to the relationship itself there are hints of what Vic and Charlie were like as a couple but very little that sheds any light on what attracted them to each other and led them into the sort of relationship where you share a flat. As a result it is difficult to see why Vic and Charlie were together in the first place which weakens the idea of being tied to the past. The question marks over their past relationship dulls the dramatic impact, tension and any emotional tug of the piece.

There are some nice twists towards the very end of the play - and a particular scene that isn't one for the squeamish - but it feels too little, too late which is a shame.

Threads is at the Hope Theatre in Islington until April 29 and is 70 minutes without an interval.


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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Review: Lost in Business Translation in Chinglish, Park Theatre

Chinglish - Lobo Chan  Candy Ma  Windson Liong and Gyuri Sarossy  (courtesy Richard Davenport for The Other Richard)
Chinglish - Lobo Chan Candy Ma Windson Liong and Gyuri Sarossy Photo courtesy of Richard Davenport for The Other Richard

Remember the film Lost in Translation when an ageing actor played by Bill Murray is given badly translated instructions from a Japanese director? David Henry Hwang's play Chinglish plays out a similar scenario but with an American business man Daniel Cavanaugh (Gyuri Sarossy) trying to navigate a business deal in China for his Cleveland-based signage company.

The play opens with Daniel giving a talk on how to do business in China, three years after trying to secure that first deal. He illustrates his key point about taking your own translator by showing a series of signs that have been amusingly mistranslated. The narrative then takes us back to the time of the deal when Daniel has enlisted the help of 'business consultant' Peter (Duncan Harte) who has been living in China for several years and whom can help him navigate the business culture. In China, Peter tells Daniel, building a relationship with potential business partners is key.

And so we get an interesting and often amusing study on not just the differences in doing businesses but also relationships both of which are often cleverly illustrated through bad translation. The initial business meeting sets the tone with Peter acting as Daniel's translator and Miss Qian (Siu-see Hung) amusingly out of her depth as the translator for Cai Guoliang (Lobo Chan) and Xi Yan (Candy Ma) with whom Daniel is trying to do the deal. We see the accurate translation in subtitles above the stage while Miss Qian gives her own version. It is slickly done.

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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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