214 posts categorized "Fringe/pub theatre" Feed

Review: The Sword of Alex, White Bear - power and violence overshadows identity debate

Meaningful debate, clever thought and persuasiveness get overshadowed by ego manifested as sneering, sarcasm and physical violence.

The Sword of Alex (c) Valeria Coizza (6)
The Sword of Alex. Photo: Valeria Coizza

Power and identity are at the heart of Rib Davis' play The Sword of Alex.

A confrontation between leader Antonio (Patrick Regis) and Karl (DK Ugonna), one of his ministers who is trying to get independence for the region of Nikal, interweaves with scenes of their own domestic problems.

Antonio's mistress Calantha (Kate Terence) wants to leave him while Karl's wife Gina (Georgia Winters) has similar plans.

The confrontation between the two leaders occurs during a ceasefire when they meet to try and persuade their opponent to back down from hostilities and violence.

Are ego and aggression the problem?

Antonio is arrogant, dismissive, sarcastic and grows aggressive easily. Karl, by comparison, has the demeanour of an underdog but has more fight than first appears.

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Review: Hear Me Howl, Old Red Lion - a fun and considered exploration of female stereotypes

Great to see a play challenging gender stereotypes but doing it in a way that is both fun and considered

Hear Me Howl (c) Will Lepper (1)
Hear Me Howl. Photo: Will Lepper

Jess (Alice Pitt-Carter) is nearly 30, lives with her boyfriend Taj and has an unstimulating office job.

It's an ordinary life, one she feels she is sleepwalking through and frustration grows about the question of when she and Taj are going to get married and have children.

Taj has leanings in that direction (it's not that play) the problem is that Jess doesn't.

Life changing decision

And while she is wrestling with that conundrum, she decides to join a post-punk band but before her first gig, she has to make a life-changing decision.

Written by Lydia Rynne, Hear Me Howl is peppered with references to culture contemporary to the 30-somethings and bubbles with quips and funny observation while handling issues such as pregnancy and abortion with sensitivity and insight.

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Review: Brendan Coyle in St Nicholas, Donmar Dryden Street

Seductive and sad, it revulsed, chilled and gripped.

St-Nicholas-Photo-Credit-Helen-Maybanks-2
Brendan Coyle in St Nicholas. Photo: Helen Maybanks

The Donmar has set about making this production of Conor McPherson's monologue St Nicholas an exclusive, intimate and atmospheric experience.

Performed by Brendan Coyle at the theatre's rehearsal space in Dryden Street, the temptation must have been to squeeze in as many seats as possible.

Seats feel part of the set

However, with only 50-odd tickets per performance, there is a generous amount of space which makes the seats feel part of the set.

The space is dressed to look like a faded drawing room or study with an old-fashioned desk, manual typewriter and a leather, swivel chair; the audience is drawn around in a sweeping arc as if invited in for a social gathering or recital.

The carpet is threadbare and dotted with water-filled buckets. Newspaper covers the windows, the lighting is dim; later you'll feel like you were part of a seance, watching Coyle conjure up dark demons.

Courting a response

He starts by drawing a kind of barrier, throwing handfuls of dried rice at the feet of those on the front row - his look as he meets your eye courts a response.

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Review: The Political History of Smack and Crack, Soho Theatre - witty, blunt and poetic

Edward's writing has the wit and bluntness of the Manchester vernacular but is inflected with a sugar-free poetry.

The Political History of Smack and Crack - courtesy of The Other Richard (3)
The Political History of Smack and Crack. Photo: The Other Richard

It's Manchester in the 1980s. Neil (Neil Bell) and Mandy (Eve Steele) are kids, too young to be out at night when they get caught up in the Moss Side riots that were to change the landscape and their futures.

We learn all this later on as the narrative flits back and forth revisiting pivotal moments in their relationship.

Based on writers experiences

Writer Ed Edwards, who has based The Political History of Smack and Crack on his own experiences with narcotics dependency, has his protagonists speak in the third person, telling their own story as if observers.

First and foremost it is a love story, two friends in love with drugs and getting a rise from shoplifting and thieving but also in love with each other in their own way.

A life of drugs and crime don't make for a healthy relationship creating a toxic cocktail of blind camaraderie, encouragement and destruction.

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Review: Life after being a child star in That Girl, Old Red Lion

That Girl manages to be both a unique character study and easily relatable in the way it examines early adulthood.

That Girl is Hatty (Hatty Jones) plucked from obscurity to play the lead in what would become a cult children's film. Now grown up she works in advertising and we find her struggling with adult life transitions.

That GirlHer comfortable routine of work, Turkish takeaways and reading fan mail is under threat as her flatmates are moving out and on with their boyfriends.

Hatty isn't the easiest of people to live with she's needy, self-centred and manipulative - you do wonder how her friends haven't run out of patience with her.

Glimpses of vulnerability

But there is also a vulnerability to her, you get glimpses of it when she talks about her coping mechanisms, in her anxiety attacks and the way she grasps for the familiar.  

There is an immaturity in her behaviour as if she has not been allowed to grow up or perhaps she is trying to reclaim a lost childhood?

It leads her to inappropriate behaviour that doesn't endear her to her friends, isolating her further.

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Interview: Director Jimmy Walters on fun and musicality in his revival of WWI-set Square Rounds, Finborough Theatre

"Having these six munitionettes tell the story adds a theatrical quality to the play in a play that provides a lot of fun."

Getting its first staging for three decades, Tony Harrison's World War I-set play Square Rounds is based on true events and explores the devastating impact of chemical warfare and weapons of mass destruction.

Square Rounds (Rehearsal Images) - Cast_2  courtesy of Samuel Taylor
Jimmy Walters in rehearsal with the cast of Square Rounds. Photo: Samuel Taylor

Director Jimmy Walters talks about its relevance today and paring the play down for an intimate performance space.

Square Rounds was last performed 30 years ago at the National Theatre, why is it ripe for revival?

It feels more relevant now than it was in 1992 in some ways. It tackles gun control, the power of trigger-happy populist rhetoric and addresses the ongoing conflict between the ideologies of Christianity and Islam.

It has an all-female cast, what dynamic does that add to the play and storytelling?

We open with six munitionettes in a factory. At the very same time, these women were taking on the roles of men they go one step further and play the men with a bit of magic involved.

Having these six munitionettes tell the story adds a theatrical quality to the play in a play that provides a lot of fun.

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Interview: Writer Ed Edwards on humour and politics in The Political History of Smack and Crack

Fresh from Edinburgh Fringe: The Political History of Smack and Crack draws on writer Ed Edwards' own experience of narcotics dependency to examine how the politics of the 80s trapped people in poverty and addiction.

Ed Edwards
Ed Edwards

Here the former circus performer talks about the importance of entertainment in theatre ahead of the play's London run at Soho Theatre.

Why is this an important story to tell?

In the political sense, I think it's a question for the progressive movement of knowing your enemy, of course, the enemy changes its face, but its heart remains the same. This is what they did then, what lengths will they go to now? It's a question too of spreading ideas, keeping the truth alive - it's part of what Fidel Castro called for before he died: a battle of ideas.

How important is humour when exploring serious topics such as drug addiction and what part does it play in the narrative?

I think entertainment is the most important thing, humour is a big part of that, but it doesn't mean you can't make people cry too.

You’ve written novels, for radio and TV as well as the stage but you used to be a circus performer - how does it compare?

It's a lot safer writing plays than juggling fire on a slack rope while talking to an audience - but probably not as much fun. Seriously, it's part of what I was saying before, about entertaining an audience.

If you're doing a circus show in Huyton Liverpool and you don't entertain the audience, the kids'll come and take your gear, so I've kind of grown up thinking that was important.

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That was August in theatre land - news & castings that caught my eye plus hits, misses and celeb spots

August was dominated by Edinburgh for me but the London theatre wheels were still turning; here's my round up of my favourite bits of news, my theatre hits and misses and few celeb spots...(let me know if I missed anything while I was north of the border).

Foxfinder_poster_sept18Sally Field and Bill Pullman in All My Sons, Old Vic - yep Hollywood comes London theatreland next year in a co-production with Headlong (Jeremy Herrin directs). No dates yet but already I can't wait. 

National Theatre's artistic director Rufus Norris steps into the breach - there has been a spate of understudies and theatre staff saving the day when actors are indisposed but last night's performance of Home, I'm Darling saw Norris take to the stage to play Jonny for Richard Harrison.

Foxfinder full cast - You may have missed my July round-up (I did) which (would have) mentioned that Iwan Rheon and Heida Reed had been cast in Foxfinder at the Ambassadors Theatre, well joining them is Paul Nicholls and Bryony Hannah. It opens for preview on September 6.

The Wild Duck, Almeida - Fans of Robert Icke rejoice, he returns to the Almeida with a production of Ibsen's The Wild Duck. Speculation has already started about who will be in the cast.  Opens October 15.

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Review: Who fixes the fixer in thriller The Peregrine, Stockwell Playhouse

AX The Peregrine Paul (Christopher Sherwood) and Sofia (Katie Buchholtz) dance the tango
Christopher Sherwood and Katie Buchholtz in The Peregrine, Stockwell Playhouse

New York playwright Philip Holt's new play The Peregrine is a thriller set in Argentina where protagonist Paul (Christopher Sherwood) is a fixer of the gun-toting kind.

He wears sharp suits and stays in nice hotels and has come a long way from his childhood in the slums from where he was plucked, educated and trained by svengali Memo (Sprague Theobald).

Past catching up?

But as he searches for his past will his past catch up with him? Can the fixer be fixed and who fixes the fixer?

The play is a game of chess as the chess boards randomly stuck on the piled, packing-crate set pointedly remind us.

Paul tries to stay one step ahead of his own mission and one step ahead of that of others - he isn't the only street-urchin Memo has raised up and trained for less than legal activities.

Metaphor heavy

Holt's script is at times baggy with metaphor - particularly references to hunting and prey - which does have a tendency to draw out tension rather than add to it. 

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Interview: Former child actor Hatty Jones talks about her first play That Girl, Old Red Lion

Hatty Jones draws on her own experience as a child actor, plucked from obscurity to star in a big budget film, for her debut play That Girl which explores growing up and female friendships.

Hatty JonesYou’ve made short films before, what made you choose theatre as a medium for this particular story?

I had wanted to write a play for a while, and this story felt like the best fit.

I wanted the audience to be in the room with the characters, to understand their motives and watch the action play out in real time. It felt necessary to this particular narrative.

And I love that the audience might feel differently about it every night.

That Girl is based on your own personal experiences, did that make it hard to write or was it a cathartic exercise?

It felt like a natural step to write about something that was such a big part of my childhood, especially as it was such an unusual situation. 

The story centres on two periods of big life changes, one of which most will be familiar, the other very few will have experienced - what are you hoping audiences take away?

I hope the audience can relate to all the characters - including Hatty. Not everyone will have experienced being a child actor, but they may have similar feelings about growing up.

The play is about the reality of adult life, the loss of innocence which everyone goes through. 

What's the process from stage to page been like? 

I play Hatty, in the play so I'm very involved and we are currently in the middle of the rehearsal process.

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