221 posts categorized "New plays" Feed

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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Review: an effervescent story of love and self discovery in Coconut, Ovalhouse

Coconut bubbles with wit and laughs, it is illuminating, heart-warming and affecting.

Rumi (Kuran Dohil) is a bit tipsy when she meets Simon (Jimmy Carter). She's drowning her sorrows having had a disastrous night Halal Speed Dating, more of which we learn of later in the play.

Coconut  Ovalhouse - Courtesy of Greg Goodale (8) Kuran Dohil
Kuran Dohil in Coconut, Ovalhouse. Photo: Greg Goodale

Something clicks and the two start dating, the problem is that drinking and eating pork aside, Rumi comes from a Muslim family. Simon was raised Catholic.

Well, it is the germ of the problem.

This isn't a traditional tale of star-crossed lovers kept apart by external voices, by different cultural and religious backgrounds, any family resistance towards the match is in the background.

Simon decides to convert to Islam so that he can marry Rumi. It's just a short ceremony, repeating some vows Rumi assures Simon and then it's done with.

But it isn't done with and that is the primary source of tension as it forces the couple to question who they are, who they want to be and where they fit in.

Kuran Dohil's Rumi is funny, effervescent, relatable - one of those characters that are a delight to spend time with.

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Review: Powerful, haunting and gripping Plastic, Old Red Lion Theatre

There is a defined and painful tragedy in how a moment of lost control can have fundamental consequences but what haunted me most was that for some of the characters their school days were as good as it was ever going to get.

A piece of classical music is playing. It’s one of those evocative pieces that has mournful, tragic undertones, the sort that is used in war films.

A mirrorball rotates sending disco sparkles of light across a couple dancing slowly.

Plastic  Old Red Lion Theatre (Mark Weinman  Louis Greatorex  Thomas Coombes and Madison Clare) - courtesy of Mathew Foster
Mark Weinman, Louis Greatorex, Thomas Coombes and Madison Clare in Plastic, Old Red Lion Theatre. Photo: Mathew Foster

The music combined with the mirror ball perfectly set the scene for what is to come in Kenneth Emson’s new play Plastic.

Set in an Essex secondary school this is part reminiscence part flit back in time to a day when life was different.

Lisa (Madison Clare) - bright, sassy, popular - has decided that ‘tonight is the night’ with Kev (Mark Weinman), the former school football team captain who now has a car and a mundane job.

She wants the day to go as quickly as possible but the gossip machine is whirring.

Best friends Jack (Louis Greatorex) and Ben (Thomas Coombes) are the outsiders, the 'weirdos' who want to get through the day unnoticed, unmolested from verbal or physical abuse.

As the day crawls by, tension is mounting. Ben might be about to snap; he is a ball of broiling anger, frustration and resentment, sensitive to every perceived slight and constantly rising to the bait.

Looking to escape the stares, the gossip, the threats, the steaming brew of hormones and hierarchy Jack, Ben and Lisa bunk off, a decision that will change all their lives.

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Q&A Guleraana Mir on challenging cultural and gender stereotypes in 'irrerevant, dark comedy' Coconut, Ovalhouse

Writer Guleraana Mir talks about her new play Coconut, in which she wants to show that there is far more to British Asian women than is commonly portrayed.

22 - Guleraana Mir
Guleraana Mir

What is Coconut about and what inspired you to write it?

The term Coconut refers to someone who is brown on the outside and white on the inside. It is mostly used as a derogatory term, but that is how the protagonist Rumi, a British Pakistani woman self-identifies.

The play charts the course of the relationship between Rumi and Simon, a white man who converts to Islam to marry her.

It’s a story of two people trying to navigate what being in an intercultural and interracial marriage looks like when they’re not even sure where they fit in society individually.

Back in 2015 when I was asked to write the original 15-minute one-woman piece for Ladylogue! (an evening of one-woman shorts) I was given the extra caveat to consider what I wasn’t writing about: My heritage.

Of course, I wanted to meet the challenge but I was also inspired by the fact that I’ve never seen a character like Rumi on stage before.

We don’t have much range in our British Asian representation on stage, or screen. It’s all Bollywood-inspired wedding-based drama, colonialism, terrorists or doctors.

Some of us don’t fit into any of those boxes as people, so why should our characters?

It’s your first full-length production, what has the journey been like?

Long. No one ever tells you that theatre takes time, especially if you’re producing.

The Thelmas are co-producing Coconut with Ovalhouse and we’ve known for over a year that this production would happen, it’s just been a case of getting everything in place so that we’re ready to pack the theatre with an exciting and diverse audience once we open.

Before that we spent over a year developing the play with support from Park Theatre’s Script Accelerator and New Diorama’s BAMER program, so a lot of work has gone into this.

I’m really excited to show off the play in its final form as it’s undergone some serious rewrites since our last industry reading.

How involved are you in the rehearsal process?

Not very. Since the last rewrite, I’m comfortable with where the script is at, and I trust the creative team with it.

If they need clarification on something I know they will reach out, otherwise director Madelaine [Moore] has a strong vision for the piece and I trust her completely.

In fact, I’m pretty sure that once it’s all put together it’s going to look better than I could have ever imagined.

What I am doing is admin - helping organize the pick-up and drop-off of set, source props etc. all much less glamorous than sitting in a rehearsal room chewing the end of a pen, but ultimately much more useful.

Coconut is a described as ‘an irreverent, dark comedy', what role does humour play in the telling of this story?

Humour is essential otherwise when the play takes a dark turn the audience would just feel battered.

Most of the humour comes from the character of Rumi and her outlook on life.

She’s the kind of person that approaches everything lightheartedly with a smile and a one-liner.

In the play humour is what lulls Rumi (and the audience) into a false sense of security, as she’s constantly brushing everything off with a joke and so doesn’t realise what is going on until it’s too late.

 

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Review: When truth is stranger than fiction - The Great Wave, National Theatre

It is a thrill ride of a play...It is also a play that leaves you emotionally battered and bruised.

Japanese teenager Hanako (Kirsty Rider) disappears from her local beach one stormy night but her sister Reiko (Kae Alexander) won't accept that she's been murdered or swept away by the sea which is what the authorities conclude.

The-great-wave-mobileherospot-2160x2160What unfolds is a story so extraordinary that if it were fiction you'd describe it as too far-fetched but Francis Turnly's new play is based on real events in Japan and North Korea in the late 1970s and 80s.

Using a revolving set to switch back and forth between locations we follow the aftermath of Hanako's disappearance - the impact it has on her family and friends - and the fate of Hanako herself.

Reiko, feeling misplaced responsibility for her sister's disappearance, makes it her life's mission to find out what happened to Hanako.

She is assisted by school friend Tetsuo (Leo Wan) whose life has simultaneously been ruined having been the prime suspect in Hanako's disappearance.

Until Reiko unearths the truth she can't move on and Kae Alexander gives a performance in which you keenly feel her desperation and anguish.

Hanako, meanwhile, is also marooned by the consequences of that stormy night, trapped in North Korea where she must indoctrinate herself into the ways of an alien society if she has any hope of returning home.

The freedom she enjoyed as a Japanese teenager is thrown into sharp relief against the bureaucratic and dictatorial regime of North Korea.

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Q&A: Josh Roche on directing 'thriller' Plastic and who he'd 'commit crimes' to work with

JMK Trust 2017 award winner Josh Roche (My Name is Rachel Corrie) is directing Kenneth Emson's new play Plastic at the Old Red Lion, here he talks about working on the play, 'entertaining' theatre and who he'd really like to work with.

Tell us a bit about Plastic and what drew you to the project.

Plastic is the most eloquent play I've ever read on the subject of adolescence. 

I'm twenty eight, so I don't know if this will change, but my teenage years are the toughest years I've had to get through.

Josh RocheThe combined pressures of sex, loneliness, self-image and a hundred other things, create a brutal cauldron of self-defence and bitterness. It's competitive, nasty, vengeful and manic.

Plastic makes us feel deeply how the seeds of our adult insecurities are planted in our teens.
 
This is a new play by Kenneth Emson with whom you’ve worked with before, does that help with bringing the piece to life and how collaborative is the rehearsal process?

Yeah we've got pretty efficient with our work. We can usually get the important notes done on the first pint these days, which frees up time for complaining about the industry for the rest of the meeting....

More seriously Kenny is an incredibly experienced writer, far more experienced than me. He's humble and exacting in equal measure, which makes him a dream to work with.
 
You say you like to produce 'entertaining political work’, how do you define ‘entertainment’?


Well entertainment makes you feel something, whether that's laughter, tears or horror. We're all humans and extreme feelings are novel, unusual and important to us. My aim is to move audiences to feel, using political stories.

How they respond to the story is up to them, but the main aim of entertainment is to move people.  If you don't enjoy being moved, then I'd give Plastic a miss.

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Review: Trap Street, New Diorama - raises more questions than it answers about social housing

There is far more to this subject than is, or can, be explored in an 80 minute play and as a result it feels like the brush strokes are too broad.

Social housing or rather the rise and fall of the post-war council estates comes under the spotlight in a new, devised, piece Trap Street at the New Diorama theatre but before I go on with my thoughts, I feel I should explain my background.

Trap street New diorama
Danusia Samal, Amelda Brown and Hamish MacDougall in Trap Street, New Diorama

I've spent the last 20 years as a journalist writing about development and regeneration so estates renewal and property is familiar territory and has undoubtedly influenced where my interest in the piece lies - and also my frustrations.

Trap Street - a reference to the fake streets added to maps by cartographers so as to protect copyright - focuses on one family to chart the history of an estate and generate social commentary.

It jumps back and forth in time from when Valerie (Amelda Brown) rents a brand new flat on the estate with her two young children - Andrea (Danusia Samal/Amelda Brown) and Graham (Hamish MacDougall) - through to the estate's decline and proposed demolition, by which time Andrea owns the flat.

At first life on the estate is full of promise, a sense of community with residents associations and organisations and people looking out for each other but gradually apathy sets in, cracks in the community appear and the sense of pride begins to disappear.

Rubbish, graffiti, crime and poor maintenance colour the years leading up to plans to demolish and replace with new housing, a mixture of private and social.

Andrea is offered a price for her flat which is a fraction of what it would cost to buy in the new development.

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Review: Suicide under the spotlight in Milly Thomas' Dust, #SohoTheatre

Dust - Milly Thomas (courtesy of The Other Richard)_3
Dust - Milly Thomas. Photo: The Other Richard

Alice wakes up in a hospital, staring down at her own corpse. She is now an outsider in her own life, an invisible shadow in the aftermath of her suicide.

She follows her parents home, visits hers friends and cheating boyfriend, watching how her death affects them all. We get flash backs to her life, her depression, her isolation.

It's a candid frank and witty account, written and performed by Milly Thomas wearing a flesh coloured body stocking with only a shiny metal morgue table and four mirrors for a set - metaphors aplenty. 

Against the vanilla-attired Alice, her friends and family are the colour - her drug-taking, shower-avoiding brother, wealthy and officious aunt and supportive best friend just three.

They are well-drawn and astutely performed by Thomas who flits between multiple characters with ease and pin-point timing. They are also well-observed, as are the reactions and their interactions following her death.

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Review: Philip Ridley's Angry, Southwark Playhouse or not angry, more disappointed

I love Philip Ridley's plays but this one isn't going to challenge my favourites.

Angry is written as six gender neutral monologues and night to night actors Georgie Henley and Tyrone Huntley switch which monologues they perform.

The suggestion is that there will be gender nuances in the performance or gender tensions in the stories or that it might challenge how you perceived the stories based on your own gender. The suggestion is that it will be intriguing enough that you'll want to watch it another night with the actors performing the alternate monologues.


But the problem is there was no gender tension in these particular stories; in fact there wasn't a single moment when I was curious about how a story would play out performed by the alternate actor. Or where I felt challenged.

Instead it felt merely like a ploy to get repeat visits.

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