27 posts categorized "New writing" Feed

Review: Some lovely lighter moments but something didn't gel - Reared, Theatre503

While there are some excellent individual scenes as a whole Reared just doesn't quite gel. I found myself wanting it to delve further.

There is a moment in Reared which reminded me of Jez Butterworth's The Ferryman when Aunt Maggie Far Away is having one of her lucid moments and telling the children stories.

Reared  Theatre503 - courtesy of The Other Richard (9) Paddy Glynn and Danielle Phillips
Paddy Glynn and Danielle Phillips in Reared, Theatre503. Photo: The Other Richard

In John Fitzpatrick's new play, it's the same scenario; Nora (Paddy Glyn) is telling her granddaughter Caitlin (Danielle Phillips) an old family story about the Irish potato famine but on finishing it she slips back into a confusion of memories.

It's a touching moment in a play about mounting family tensions as Caitlin's mother, Eileen (Shelley Atkinson), tries to persuade her husband Stuart (Daniel Crossley) that there is more to his mother's memory loss than simple old age. 

There is additional family drama as 15-year-old Caitlin is pregnant and doesn't want her parents to know who the father is. Caitlin's hapless friend Colin (Rohan Nedd) is the source of much humour as he tries to be supportive.

These lighter moments work really well but there aren't enough to make Reared a full-blown comedy but then neither does the play properly explore either dementia or teenage pregnancy/underage sex and, as a result, it lacks punch.

 

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Scratch performance: Lipstick - a fairytale of modern Iran, Omnibus Theatre

Considering this is a scratch performance it is only the scripts in hand that really give it away as a work in progress.

The costumes, props and set seem pretty fleshed out, only the physical necessity of holding the script slightly holding up the flow.

FB Banner - Lipstick - credit Aaron Jacob JonesIt is a colourful, vibrant piece with darker edges utilising various genres from boylesque, drag, vaudeville and story telling and is based on writer/director Sarah Chew's own experiences finding herself in Iran as part of an arts project during the Green uprising in 2010.

Laura Dos Santos plays Orla who makes the six-week trip to Tehran as part of a cultural exchange to teach and learn about theatre - just as protests begin and relationships between Iran and the UK are getting more strained.

Nathan Kelly plays her friend with whom she is setting up a club back home who leaves long rambling messages on her hotel voicemail. He also plays most of the other characters rapidly switching between costumes and props to distinguish between them.

Against a backdrop of civil unrest, the arts project seems like a frivolity but there is far more to this shared cultural experience than first meets the eye.

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Q&A: Writer/director Sarah Chew on mixing genres and the Beyond Borders theatre season, Omnibus Theatre

Lipstick: A Modern Fairytale of Iran is part of a series ‘Beyond Borders’ at the Omnibus in Clapham, tell us a bit about the season and its focus.
 
Beyond Borders is a series of conversations and provocations around current trends towards the hardening of National and cultural borders.



Beyond Borders Festival ImageWhen I was in Iran in 2010, Iran was part of the area the US Government still titled the Axis of Evil. The title coloured my assumptions of what I would find there - assumptions which were challenged on a daily basis throughout my stay in Iran. 



What does Brexit, and the threat of a hard border with Ireland, do to our perceptions of people we see as Other?

What role does tightened immigration here, and Trump's travel bans in the US, play in this?

How, specifically, are women affected by the process of being Othered?



These questions can be explored verbally, but it is sometimes easier to play with these ideas in non-verbal formats. Sometimes, removing language as the primary means of communication can provide a shortcut through anxiety and terminology and towards more instinctive engagement.
 
The inspiration for Lipstick came from the time you spent in Iran in 2010, what made you want to use that experience as the basis of a piece of theatre?



It was a life changing experience. I met some extraordinary people, I saw some extraordinary theatre, and I saw at firsthand what the courage to keep making passionate, beautiful, honest theatre, even under the threat of censorship and imprisonment, looked like. 



I would have loved to work in Iran more, but the relationship between our two countries makes getting visas and setting up projects almost impossible.



Theatre is made of the people who make it. I felt a sense of loss, after I left Iran, at the absence of collaborators I knew I could have made beautiful theatre with.

But that experience also made me cherish and celebrate the collaborators and the cultural community I have here. Lipstick is at once an acknowledgement of loss and a celebration of community and continuity.

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Review: A life in and of music - Nina, Young Vic and Traverse, Edinburgh

NinaWeb3PortraitimageJosette Bushell-Mingo is dressed as Nina Simone, a three piece band on stage plays out a rhythm and she describes the build up to her concert at Harlem Cultural Festival in 1969. It is vivid and evocative and you can almost feel the excitement of the occasion.

It also makes an interesting framing device - the piece finishes with Josette performing a mini-concert of Nina Simone songs - for a journey into Nina Simone's songs and the context behind the lyrics. But this isn't merely a history lesson, it is also a lesson in how little has changed.

When Josette unpicks the lyrics of key songs giving back the original meaning, she interweaves them with her own story and accounts of recent racist attacks in the US, UK and beyond. When Nina Simone wrote Mississippi Goddam it was a response to racist killings in Mississippi and a 'f*ck you' to white society. The message was clear then and in telling the story in both a historical and modern context it shines a light on how far society has and hasn't come in 50 odd years.

To drive home the point Josette turns a metaphorical gun back on the audience imagining a scenario where it is white people being shot simply because of the colour of their skin. It is a simple but powerful device that makes an important point, several important points. That injustice, inequality and racism are still alive and the revolution Nina Simone sang about and hoped for still has a long way to go.

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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: You For Me For You, Royal Court upstairs

You For Me For You-Royal Court Upstairs-1198
Wendy Kweh and Katie Leung, You For Me For You, Royal Court. Photo Tristram Kenton

Who doesn't harbour a little curiosity for what life is like in North Korea? Mia Chung's play hints rather than shows, feeling sometimes like Alice through the looking glass crossed with Kafka - or maybe that is what it feels like?

Hunger is a feature - there were empathetic stomach rumblings from the woman sat next to me - the play opens with sisters Minhee (Wendy Kweh) and Junhee (Katie Leung) arguing over who should eat the meagre meal that's been prepared. Minhee is ill and therefore Junhee says she should eat it. Junhee works long hours so Minhee says she should have it. Their polite insistence is almost infuriating. It is Junhee who finally relents or rather is tricked by her sister into eating the food. It is symbolic for what later happens when the siblings decide to try and flee their homeland.

Minhee can't quite let go of the ideals of North Korea, that if you work hard enough everything will be OK. She gets left behind, sort of falls down the rabbit hole, where she goes on a mental journey through her tragic life, encountering absurd bureaucracy, musical rice and frog-like soldiers.

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Review: Jackson's Way: The Christmas Top-Up Power Seminar, Battersea Arts Centre

JW by Barney Britton12
Jackson's Way photo by Barney Britton

Chris Jackson (Will Adamsdale) is here to help you. He's here to show you how to achieve and reach your power with his own brand of life coaching together with some contractual obligations to mention Christmas.

The bedrock of his philosophy is that there is more pointless stuff in the world - activities and objects - than there are 'pointful', therefore you should throw your energy behind the pointless stuff. You should PTI (push through it) to achieve your pointless goal.

Using slides, video and various props, well tea towels mainly, he takes you step by step through his power tips and there is practical application too. You might find yourself doing something pointless or a "Jacktion" as he dubs them and I'd describe some of these 'activities' but I don't want to spoil the show.

Jackson then goes on to give you examples of how Jacktions are all around us, as are many pointless objects. It is tongue in cheek but equally there is an element of truth. Learning the Jackson Way we also learn a little about the man himself, his past and his fight to reconcile his philosophy with its critics (a process that took ten years he tells us). 

It leads up to the Christmas bit - his own version of the Nativity using random pointless objects and members of the audience. CJ naturally steps into the role of JC.

Every now and again a show comes along that is blissfully silly and Jackson's Way is one such show. Brilliantly written as well as performed by Adamsdale there is a hint of satire in the silliness. On paper is sounds ridiculous and you probably have to be there to really appreciate it but I giggled, guffawed and even snorted at one point during the show's hour and a bit running time.

So if you fancy something that is part stand up and part theatre, something that is silly and funny because of it, then head to the Battersea Arts Centre where you can catch Jackson's Way: The Christmas Top-Up Power Seminar until December 12.

 


Review: Universally Speaking, Bread and Roses Theatre, SW4

The sub-head for this quartet of monologues under the banner Universally Speaking is 'How Well is the 21st Century Doing?' and it is the final piece that really probes this question.

Called The 7-11 Butterfly Effect writer Don Grimme explores America, the Middle East and Europe post 9/11. With clever and amusingly contrived character names - Talia Ban is nicknamed after a vomiting incident in a convenience store - we are taught the history of the world by a teacher (Pallas McCallum Newark) who uses flash cards to illustrate certain points.

It is a satirical piece in which the absurdity of Grimme's story exposes a truth about the West's reaction and how it has shaped society.

Robert Holtom's piece, Fat, is brilliantly performed by Samantha Shaw who manages to make food and over eating sexy and seductive. But, at the same time, it questions the fat-shaming and fat-blaming culture we live in.

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Review: And Then Come The Nightjars, Theatre503

ATCTN Dress, 503 ┬® Jack Sain 2015-0537
David Fielder and Nigel Hastings in And Then Come The Nightjars, Theatre503. Photo: Jack Sain

Struggling to remember the last time I saw a play set in the countryside and about rural life. Three Days in the Country doesn't count.

Bea Roberts' new play And Then Come the Nightjars has the foot and mouth outbreak as its central axis but is essentially a piece about friendship and the changing countryside economy.

Set in a barn on a Devon farm, brilliantly designed by Max Dorey, Michael (David Fielder) is watching over a cow due to calf. Local vet and friend Jeff (Nigel Hastings) is keeping him company.

They banter and bicker as old friends do; talk about the farm and their respective wives - Michael is widowed and Jeff's marriage is strained.

The threat of foot and mouth hovers in the background, the call of the Nightjar - in superstition a harbinger of death - heralds the future fate of Michael's prized and much loved herd.

Jumping forward in time to the day of the slaughter, Michael is resisting the MAFF-sanctioned orders to let his 'girls' be destroyed and Jeff is trying to persuade him to co-operate offering to ensure they have a humane end. We learn that with slaughter on such a large scale not all cows have a pain free death.

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#CamdenFringe review: @TheThelmas Ladylogue, Tristan Bates Theatre

Ladylogue 3 (c) Philip Scutt
Sarah Cowan performs Zero by Serena Haywood. Photo Philip Scutt

What does a murderer, an agoraphobic, a competitive mum and an ex-Facebook user have in common? They are four of the six characters at the centre of a series short plays written by and performed by women under the banner Ladylogue.

It is a wonderful showcase of talent each play is very different in style and tone. Taken together they are a brilliant mix of laughs, shocks and drama leaving with you plenty to think about. There are definitely some names among them, both writers and performers to look out for in the future:

Ghost by Lucy Foster explores how bereavement can impact on confidence and sense of self. Performed by Kim Burnett the protagonist is getting ready for a job interview that, if she can only keep it together, might be a small step towards a new start.

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