25 posts categorized "Pub theatre" Feed

My favourite plays of 2017...so far #midyearreview #theatre

via GIPHY 

2017 is already the year that brought us Andrew Scott's Hamlet, Jez Butterworth's The Ferryman and my introduction to playwright Branden Jacob-Jenkins and it's only six months in. There are a further nine plays I couldn't not include in my 'best of so far' list and that was with the bar set very high. I've still got Angels in America, Ben Whishaw in Against, Rory Kinnear in Young Marx and the awarding winning Oslo to come later this year, among many others potential theatre treats - the end of year list is already looking tricky to narrow down.

Anyway, here's what I've enjoyed the most in 2017 so far. Feel free to agree/disagree...

(In no particular order, because that would be too traumatic to do.)

1. Amadeus, National Theatre  This was supposed to be a 2016 play but I gave up my ticket for the early part of the run because of work pressures, good words from @PolyG made me rebook for January and I'm so glad I did. It was a play that unexpectedly floored me. It's returning next year and yes I've got a ticket.

2. Out Their On Fried Meat Ridge Road, White Bear Fringe theatre kicked off in fine style with this brilliantly warm, funny, odd, dark, misfit comedy that was the antidote to everything disturbing that was going on the world at the time. It transferred to Trafalgar Studios 2 and I got to enjoy it all over again.

3. Hamlet, Almeida  I've seen a lot of Hamlet's and there is usually something new in each but Andrew Scott's prince in Robert Icke's production made me look at the play with completely new eyes. Sorry Sherlock but this was a battle that Moriarty definitely won. It's transferred to the West End.

4. An Octoroon, Orange Tree Theatre  Was tipped off about American playwright Branden Jacob-Jenkins and this is the first of his plays I've seen. It's a play I could write reams and reams about and reminded me why I love going to the theatre. Gloria, another of his plays is currently on at Hampstead Theatre, it didn't quite make this list but it is still really good.

5. Rotterdam, Arts Theatre  This was in my 'best of' list last year but after a stint off Broadway it's come back to London to the bigger Arts Theatre. It made me laugh, it made me gasp and it made me cry - all that even though I've seen it before and knew exactly what was coming. That's why it's back on the list. It's on until 15 July.

6. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Old Vic  It's possibly the only Tom Stoppard play I really like and this was a great production that was lively, entertaining, profound and melancholic . There was a brilliant rapport between the two leads - Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire - and David Haig as The Player was worth the ticket price alone.

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Review: The funny, sharp and powerful Odd Shaped Balls, Old Red Lion Theatre

Matthew Mars in Odd Shaped Balls (c) Luke W. Robson (8)
Matthew Mars in Odd Shaped Balls. Photo (c) Luke W. Robson

The Old Red Lion's tiny stage has been transformed into part bar/part rugby pitch for this coming out story. James 'Jimmy' Hall's rugby career is taking off as his team have been promoted but he has a secret he is desperate to keep.

He has a girlfriend but he also has a boyfriend and in the testosterone-fuelled world of rugby that is something he wants to keep quiet. But with the big league comes big press interest and secrets don't stay secret for very long.

The starting point for Richard D Sheridan's one-man play is when Jimmy accidentally swears during a TV interview after his team wins promotion. The clip goes down a storm on social media but in hindsight it will be the least of Jimmy's worries and is perhaps a hidden warning of what is to come. Matthew Mars plays all the characters in Jimmy's story taking us through his celebrations with his team, meetings with the boss, his relationship with his girlfriend, visits to his parents and his boyfriend.

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Review: The mind of a murderer in The State vs John Hayes at the King's Head Theatre

Lucy Roslyn, The State vs John Hayes (c) Jemma Gross (7)
Lucy Roslyn, The State vs John Hayes. Photo: Jemma Gross

Lucy Roslyn is Elyese Dukie. She is also John Hayes, her alter-ego. Elyese was abandoned by her mother and had a father who gets her to look down the barrel of his antique gun and asks if he should pull the trigger. But she's not looking for sympathy.

John Hayes is a wife and also the lover of Lorraine, and has landed her in jail and on death row.

Roslyn, who also wrote the piece, says she is going to tell us something that will make us laugh. And she does. But she also does something else.

Elyese/John's tale isn't a sob story of unfortunate circumstance and regret, at least she doesn't see it that way. It is a tale of someone who is confident, driven; someone for whom love is fierce and remorse an alien emotion. It makes her fun, likeable, unstable and dangerous.

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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: Swearing, shooting up and shitty sheets, it's Trainspotting at the King's Head

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Gavin Ross in Trainspotting. Photo: Christopher Tribble

It is dark as you enter the King's Head theatre with your hand stamped and a glow stick. Nineties club music pounds out and laser lights show up a group of bodies pulsating in time to the music. If you couldn't just about make out the people sat on chairs and steps or standing wherever they can find space you'd think you'd stumbled into the wrong place.  Someone tries to usher to you towards a seat you can't make out; we are a long way from the blue-rinse brigade of the Hampstead Theatre now.

If you haven't seen the iconic film (or read the novel) about a group of heroin addicts living in recession hit Edinburgh this may all come as a bit of a shock and be a little bit confusing. If you are familiar with the story this explosive and immersive play will probably still come as a bit of a shock. Certainly it isn't for those who like to sit back and quietly enjoy a night at the theatre.

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Review: Neil LaBute's Autobahn at the King's Head Theatre

Sharon Maughan and Henry Everett in Autobahn, King's Head Theatre 4 - (c) Scott Rylander
Sharon Maughan and Henry Everett

Neil LaBute has knack for highlighting the more dislikeable and sometimes downright sinister side of human nature and in Autobahn - making its London premiere - we are treated to seven short plays to make the point.

Each 'playlet' is set in a car, sometimes parked, sometimes on a journey which as a device serves to heighten the tensions in the conversations that are played out. The stories alternate between a one-sided conversation, a monologue in essence and then something more conversational. A cast of four - Zoe Swenson-Graham, Sharon Maughan, Tom Slatter and Henry Everett - take on the twelve parts.

LaBute doesn't like to give the audience anything up front, the effect is a narrative strip tease leaving you with two characters that don't quite look how you first imagined.  And it is in doing this that the grubbier side of humanity is revealed, from the husband who calls his wife a 'c*nt' in public, the girl who sent dead animals to an ex-boyfriend and the friend who puts his own needs ahead of those of his recently jilted mate.

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Review: Cat, Etcetera Theatre

1384094430Dave the Cat was born different. He heard music and rhythm in the unlikeliest places; he was born to be on the stage. And so begins the tale of a man dressed with a tail - talented or delusional, the truth slowly unfolds through a brief stint as Jesus's ass in Jesus Christ Superstar and Dave the Cat in Cats.

Performed and co-written by Richard Hardwick this is a darkly comic story that nicely parodies musical theatre and it's obsessive fans.

Not being a musical fan I'm sure I missed quite a few of the references particularly in the three (short) songs but anyone who is West End regular will recognise the stage door Johnnies or female equivalent.

At 55 minutes it packs an amusing if slightly disturbing punch and is definitely worth a look with a pint or glass of something from the pub downstairs if you can catch it. If not I am sure it will pop up again somewhere.

Cat is on at the Etcetera Theatre above the Oxford Arms in Camden on the 26 and 27 March.

RS/BW 6DS

Wasn't expecting to find a connection but Peter Wight was in the audience and he was in In Basildon with Ruth Sheen who was in Leaves of Glass with Mr W.


Review: Britain's Got Talons at the Hen and Chickens is sadly lacking any claws

There is a germ of good idea in James Morton's Britain Got Talons unfortunately it never really grows into its potential.

The premise, a judge is murdered on a TV talent show and one of the contestants is in the frame, held potential for biting humour and a satirical look at obsession with celebrity and ratings. But three chuckles in an hour and a half does not a black comedy make.

I think the central problem is that it just doesn't say anything new and it doesn't say it in a clever way. The characters are morally bankrupt and self-obsessed media types which have been done many times before - and better - Patsy and Edina in Absolutely Fabulous spring immediately to mind. One, we learn, even had a nasty mother presumably to explain why she is such a bitch.

The two contestants we are introduced to are equally cliched, the Estuary English girl who is the manufactured baddie of the show and the good girl who just wants to sing.

There is a mild twist in the whodunit plot line but by then it too late to make any real impact. In fact, I think the plays was probably at its best as a murder mystery, albeit one that reminded me of those dinner party games you can buy where the fun is in dressing up and putting on silly accents than in actually solving the crime.

The actors work to the best of their abilities with a weak script that feels terribly contrived and clunky at times with one speech involving a gold fish that just had me rolling my eyes. Characters are under developed, although flash backs using home video clips attempt to address this.

Britain's Got Talons wouldn't get my vote, I'm afraid, which is a shame because it sounded like it could be fun. It runs at the Hen and Chicken's Theatre until May 4.


Overruled @orltheatre: First play review of the year, was it a goodie?

197a64bf01e1fbb07fc18b1df640cbcc_w270_h225_scThe Old Red Lion in Angel is among a handful of pub theatres in London that punches above it weight. Mercury Fur last year featured on my favourite plays of 2012 list and transferred to the Trafalgar Studios so expectations for the latest offering, a trio of short plays by George Bernard Shaw were high.

Love and marriage connects the three plays thematically with Shaw taking a mischievously satirical stance.

In the first play, How He Lied To Her Husband, a wife's affair with a young lover has been exposed by her husband's discovery of his rivals love poems but his reaction isn't quite what you'd expect. The second, Overruled, continues in a similar vein and also involves the discovery of an affair but deals more with the practicalities of marriage vs the sentiment.

Village Wooing, the final play, sees a shift, examining the reasons to marry through a chance encounter on a cruise ship.

The joy of these Shaw plays is in how he looks at things askew, turning the tables on common perceptions and stereotypes. His women are generally level-headed and practical when it comes to love and marriage while the men are passionate beasts ruled by their emotions, easily ruffled and possessive.

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Rev Stan's theatre best and worst of 2012

Usain-Bolt-has-lost-all-respect-for-Carl-Lewis-TO21ONR9-x-largeIt was a Jubilee Year, an Olympic year but while all eyes were on the Queen and the lycra wearing athletes I was quietly breaking my annual record with 109 theatre trips. So which were the gold medal winners which took home the booby prizes?

Well it's been a good year for the National Theatre and in particular the Lyttleton which, perversely, is one of my least favourite theatres. And I have to say it's been quite difficult narrowing it down as you can tell from the rather long highly commended list. The flip side is it feels like there has been more obvious stinkers this year although I've only listed the three worst to spare blushes.

The Usain Bolt of my theatre going year was easy: Curious Incident at the Cottesloe. It was a superb and imaginative adaptation of a much loved booked so convincingly performed I saw it twice and might be tempted to give it a third look when it transfers to the West End in the Spring. Here is the full list:

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