229 posts categorized "New plays" Feed

Fringe theatre review: In The Shadow of The Mountain, Old Red Lion Theatre

Laughter from the early scenes turns to exasperation and then gasps as the behaviour becomes more extreme - and desperate.

Ellie (Felicity Huxley-Miners) and Rob's (David Shears) relationship starts on a train platform in dramatic circumstances.

in the shadow of the mountain felicity huxley-miners david shears
In The Shadow of the Mountain: Felicity Huxley-Miners and David Shears

One is depressed, the other is manic but both feel like they don't fit in. Is this mismatch of personality the life-raft relationship it seems?

At first, the chaos of Ellie's mind and behaviour seems charmingly kooky and awkward. In her performance, Felicity reminded me a little of Patsy Ferran in My Mother's A Twat, Royal Court and Speech and Debate, Trafalgar Studios 2.

Manipulation

But it soon becomes clear that there are deeper emotional problems, a neediness and manipulation that is calculated to mask other feelings of a lack of self-worth.

Rob is emotionally bruised from an unfaithful relationship and feeling isolated and overwhelmed by the pressures of modern life, none of which equips him to properly help Ellie - or walk away.

What we get from David's performance is feeling of powerlessness against Ellie's manipulation despite his obvious feelings of discomfort and awkwardness. 

Laughter and gasps

Laughter from the early scenes turns to exasperation and then gasps as the behaviour becomes more extreme - and desperate.

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Review: Skilfully crafted entertainment that poses interesting questions - Quiz, Noel Coward Theatre

Just like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, Quiz is a skilfully crafted piece of entertainment, the difference is that the questions it asks don't have simple multiple choice answers.

James Graham is proving to be one of the best contemporary writers of plays based on modern political history - Angry Brigade, Ink and This House to name just three.

QUIZ-447X792Part of that is his exceptional talent for turning potentially dry topics into gripping and entertaining theatre.

In Quiz he focuses on the ‘coughing Major’ scandal that enfolded the popular TV quiz Who Wants to Be A Millionaire in 2001 and the subsequent trial in 2003.

Cheating

The Major - Charles Ingram -  walked away with the £1m prize on the night but was later accused of cheating and taken to court together with his alleged accomplices.

Performed on a set styled to look like the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire studio, complete with onstage seating to mimic the studio audience, the play is structured like a court case.

The first half plays out what happened from the viewpoint of the prosecution and the second half is the turn of the defence.

Audience vote

With electronic devices, the audience can vote on whether Ingram (played by Gavin Stokes), his wife Diana (Stephanie Street) and the other 'conspirators' are guilty or not guilty.

Votes take place at the end of the first half and again at the end of the play after which the results from the previous 10 plays are displayed for comparison.

The style and structure is a reference to the subtler themes and subtext of the play, something that becomes more evident when audience opinion is canvassed.

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Review: Seeing the world through different eyes in 213 Things About Me, Battersea Arts Centre

...loaded with wit and humour, sharp observation and understanding.

213-web213 Things About Me started life as an art installation at Edinburgh Fringe and has evolved into a 60-minute monologue performed by Rosa Hoskins.

It is based on the life of Rose, a friend of the play's writer and director Richard Butchins who is a documentary filmmaker. 

When Rose was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, Richard asked her to write down five of her good traits. She drew up a list of 213 but later that same year she committed suicide.

Contrariness of human behaviour

In using Rose's own words and performing the piece as a monologue you not only get insight into how she sees the world but it also exposes the contrariness of human behaviour.

While Rose's way of seeing and interacting with the world might be different from what is perceived as the norm, her perspective makes you question that norm.

And, at times she is able to see what no one else around her can which allows her to be forgiving of less desirable behaviour when others perhaps cannot.

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Review: The Inheritance, Young Vic - an epic tale of love, loss and life but was it better than Angels?

It is a playful play with laugh out loud moments but in a blink, it is full of pathos and tragedy

The Inheritance at the Young Vic is this year's Angels in America - a two-parter set in New York about a group of gay men.

The Inheritance Young Vic Rev Stan InstagramI really enjoyed Angels but I wasn't bubbling over with the same enthusiasm for it that some had. So I approached Matthew Lopez's play with a hint of trepidation: it's a long play, would this be more of the same?

Angels sequel

You could describe it as a sequel to Angel's following the generation of men that grew up after the AIDS epidemic.

The Inheritance of the title in many ways represents the life and society that the Angels' generation paved the way for.

But the play is also heavily influenced by EM Forster's Howard's End examining class, entitlement and privilege and framed as an attempt to tell a story - EM Forster serves as a tutor and mentor at various points.

Truth and fiction playfully interweave the narrative, occasionally options for alternative dialogue is presented as if we are in a narrative brainstorming session - or viewing different perspectives.

Love triangle

But the essence of the play is a love triangle.

Eric Glass (Kyle Soller) lives in a protected rent apartment with his boyfriend Toby (Andrew Burlap) who is adapting his debut novel into a play.

Their group of gay friends often congregate at the apartment - Eric is a good cook and host but at one such gathering a young man, Adam (Samuel H Levine), turns up to return Toby's bag, Toby having taken his own, identical, bag in error.

Heartbreak and obsession

That encounter sends each on a journey that none of them could have foreseen, a journey of love, heartbreak, obsession, success and tragedy, a journey that makes and breaks them and forces painful introspection.

A journey that unfolds over six and half hours of theatre.

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Why we need more plays like Nine Night and less like Absolute Hell

It was a delight to be part of such an engaged audience and one which is more reflective of London's diversity. And it doesn't happen anywhere near as much as it should do.

I saw Absolute Hell and Nine Night on consecutive nights and seeing the latter served to highlight all that I felt was wrong with the former.

Nine-night-mobileherospot-2160x2160pxAn unfair comparison you might say but there are parallels between the two plays and they also represent where theatreland is at the moment and where it should be moving.

First, a bit about Nine Night, although if you want to read a full review I suggest starting with Ought To Be Clowns which is spot on.

Family tension

It is a new play by Natasha Gordon set in the London house of a Jamaican family where they are observing the traditional nine nights of mourning after mother, grandmother and great-grandmother Gloria dies.

This traditional way of mourning involves inviting friends and family over for food, drink (lots of drink) and dancing.

Grief coupled with having extended family in such close proximity for an extended period inevitably means tension. Secrets are unearthed, prejudices and hurts are revealed.

Rich and vibrant characters

Rodney Ackland's Absolute Hell (see my review here) is similarly set in one location and both plays have rich and vibrant characters but from here the two diverge.

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Review: Ben Chaplin and Séana Kerslake in Mood Music, Old Vic

Once you tune your ear to the style of the narrative and the pace of delivery Mood Music rocks.

There have been many disputes between musicians over the years - Rolling Stone has a top 12 - and former music journalists Joe Penhall takes this as the theme for his new play Mood Music at the Old Vic.

Cw-25149-660x375It is a play in which the dialogue is presented as simultaneous conversations and it takes a little getting used to but once you do is extremely effective.

The dispute that forms the central narrative is between a music producer and artist but the story is presented from each protagonists viewpoint via conversations with lawyers and therapists.

Bernard (Ben Chaplin) is the successful (and doesn't he know it) producer talking to his therapist Ramsay (Pip Carter) and lawyer Seymour (Neil Stuke).

Up and coming singer/songwriter Cat (Séana Kerslake) has her own therapist Vanessa (Jemma Redgrave) and lawyer (Kurt Egyiawan).

The two worked on an album together and then took it on tour but neither think they are getting the appropriate recognition for their work.

Rapid pace

Director Roger Mitchell often positions the actors so that they have to talk across the opposing pair - something that metaphorically reflects their relationship.  

The pace is rapid switching between recollections with barely a beat so that the stories unfold simultaneously - and you have work a little to get into the rhythm of it.

But what this style of dialogue does powerfully is show the two different perspectives on events, the different attitudes towards collaboration and the different personalities of Bernard and Cat.

Bernard is brazen, entitled, borderline sociopathic, Cat is bruised, the underdog but has her claws out.

 

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Review: A two note singing lesson in The Swallow, Cervantes Theatre

The tension and drama just don't fully develop which is a real shame

A singing lesson is in progress. The singer, Ray (David Luque), isn’t the most talented and the stern teacher Emily (Jeryl Burgess) doesn’t want to take him on.

2F3A6671Emily is frosty and adamant but Ray gets her to empathise with his situation and she relents.

However, it quickly becomes obvious that Ray isn't being completely honest, that something deeper connects these two people and the truth will inevitably out.

Differing views

Early on Ray and Emily are looking at an old photo and have differing views on what it captured, what is behind the looks and expressions of the people pictured.

The individual lenses through which we see and interpret the world is a recurring theme but it also explores how we focus the lens and what we choose to see. 

What binds the two characters together is a tragedy and it becomes a story of the nature of love and loss and of prejudice.

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Review: The Writer, Almeida Theatre - an interesting and intelligent watch

There is much to wrap the grey matter around, it has a really clever structure that keeps you on your toes

Ella Hickson's new play The Writer is a powerful piece of meta-theatre, tackling gender bias in the arts head on but also opening up the debate about creativity vs commercialisation.

It has a structure which makes you work, like you are stood on sand that shifts slightly just as you think you've got a sure footing.

The Writer Almeida ticket picture rev stan instagramThe play opens with a scene in which a young writer (Lara Rossi) ends up in conversation with a man (Samuel West) from the theatre where she's just seen a play.

She is very angry, challenging him on the play, its representation of women but also on how women are perceived and treated within the industry.

He is a mix of bemused and interested but stands his ground.

Powerful exchange

It is a powerful exchange but not quite what you think it is. The sands shift and we are at a Q&A about the scene we have just seen with the nervous writer (Romola Garai) and domineering director (Michael Gould) taking questions from the audience.

You get to see some of the issues raised in action which is tactic that is repeated.

There is another shift and another, plays within plays, circles, characters and roles overlapping, transforming, developing layers of irony and sharpening the debate.

The set is also a set within a set, sometimes creating a 'box' on which to focus on only for the walls to come down to reveal something else.

Showing rather the telling

Showing can be more powerful than telling when it comes gender politics and what The Writer does is show just how deep it goes, how ingrained, how subtle it can be. 

And then there is the debate about art, creativity and commercialisation.

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Interview: Wearing two hats with her new play - acting is the dream but writing keeps Felicity Huxley-Miners sane

Felicity Huxley-Miners talks about writing and acting in her new play In The Shadow of The Mountain, juggling the two roles and what her dream theatre production would be like (hint: it would have a big cast).

Felicity Huxley-Miners
Actor/Writer Felicity Huxley-Miners

The new play (more details at the bottom) is a love story about two people with Borderline Personality Disorder inspired by her meeting a woman with BPD and the production is supported by MIND.

You’ve written the play and you are also performing in it alongside David Shears, did you always have yourself in mind when you were writing?

Yes, I knew I wanted to play Ellie when I was writing but I really had to shut off that part of my brain when I was creating the play as you can start to censor and shape it around yourself instead of being true to a character and their story.

Thinking ‘I don’t want to say that’ or worrying about your character being likeable can be quite limiting so I really had to shut off that side of my brain.

I’ve found being an actor does help me write, as both are all about getting into different people’s heads and working out what makes them tick.

Which do you prefer - writing or acting - and which do you find the most challenging?

Acting has always been the dream and what I’ve funnelled most of my energy into over the years.

I’ve only started writing in the last few years and have been lucky enough to be a part of the Soho Theatre’s Writers Lab this year. I’ve found writing incredibly cathartic.

Acting can be a very perilous career and a lot of time the control is taken out of the actor’s hands.

Being proactive and creating my own work has really kept me sane in the leaner times and means that I always have a creative outlet even if it's just me sitting in a café having vivid hallucinations about my own fantasy world.

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Review: Perfection that is robotic in Instructions For Correct Assembly, Royal Court

Clever staging and some memorable moments but the play, like the robot at the centre of the story, lacks soul.

What if you could build your own robot child and programme it, a chance to correct past mistakes and produce the perfect off-spring?

Instructions-for-correct-assemblyThis is the premise of Thomas Eccleshare’s new play Instructions for Correct Assembly at the Royal Court.

Parents Max (Jane Horrocks) and Harry (Mark Bonnar) are surrounded by friends with over-achieving sons and daughters unfortunately, as we discover, their own son Nick (Brian Vernel) wasn't quite as perfect.

The staging utilises two conveyor belts on which props, bits of set and actors slide into view.

At first, we see the action through a window-shaped space as if it is taking place inside its own box of parts; watching Max and Harry build their new 'son' Jån (also Brian Vernel) who comes complete with Ikea style instruction booklet.

Once Jån is ‘out of the box’ the window screen lifts and we see them tinkering with him, getting him ‘just right’ for the big unveil to their friends.

In an interview with What’s On Stage (see related content below) Thomas Eccleshare says the play is about perfection and what that looks like.

The perfection as presented in the play is a world of high-flying careers, a benign world of politeness but it is also soulless and colourless.

Max and Harry themselves are quite mechanical and surface, there are too few chinks in their polite and friendly armour.

Their friends are also nice and polite, full of humble-brags and it's all a bit Stepford wives (and husbands) except that there isn't even anything sinister about it.

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