26 posts categorized "Soho theatre" Feed

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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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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Review: East End vernacular meets Shakespeare to create a revealing lyricism in Flesh and Bone, Soho Theatre

Its rich lyricism is matched by an angry energy but also a sense of love, loyalty and camaraderie.

Elliot Warren and Olivia Brady in Flesh and Bone  credit of Owen Baker
Elliot Warren and Olivia Brady in Flesh and Bone. Photo: Owen Baker

Flesh and Bone is an everyday tale of 'oi oi savaloy' East End working classes but told with a revealing Shakespearean lyricism.

It opens with 'What a piece of work is a man' but then uncouples from Hamlet's speech to talk about power, greed, love, hate, lust and fear.

Clever writing

Words like 'maketh' and 'coinage' mix with 'rock and roll' giving it the feel of something that is both familiar, contemporary and yet of another time. This is the cleverness of Elliot Warren's writing. 

Warren delivers the speech as Terrence, one of those lads we'll discover who reacts with his fists a little bit too quickly. He is a wide boy and the antithesis of the sage, considered poetry he speaks or is he?

 

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Round up: That was April in London theatre - Monster casting and A-list actor spots

MTNEW* I'm excited and nervous about the forthcoming stage adaptation of Patrick Ness’s novel A Monster Calls (the book is a favourite) but I couldn’t think of a better actor than Matthew Tennyson to take on the lead Conor. The production will have a run at the Bristol Old Vic from May 31 and the Old Vic from July 7.

* David Haig’s play Pressure (in which he also stars) is transferring from Park Theatre to the Ambassadors following a successful run at the Finsbury venue. Malcolm Sinclair and Laura Rogers co-star.

* Stan-fav Adam Gillen has been cast in Killer Joe, Trafalgar Studios, which stars Orlando Bloom and I'm really looking forward to seeing him in something very different to Amadeus. You can see photos of the cast in rehearsal over at What's On Stage and previews start on May 18.

* Kilburn's Tricycle Theatre has been renamed the Kiln Theatre post refurbishment with a new season that includes the UK premiere of Florian Zeller’s The Son.

* In a new twist on role swapping (recent role swaps: Mary Stuart, Almeida; RSC's Doctor Faustus and NT's Frankenstein to name just three) Hayley Atwell and Jack Lowden are to alternate playing Isabella and Angelo in Measure For Measure at the Donmar Warehouse.

* There is part of me that is excited and really curious and part of me that thinks: 'Gimmick to get repeated visits'. There is one version I'd particularly like to see but no way of knowing, having booked at ticket whether I'll get it. Previews start September 28.

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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: Desire and identity in The Butch Monologues #SohoTheatre

The Butch Monologues (c) Christa Holka (2)
The Butch Monologues (c) Christa Holka

The Butch Monologues is many voices in many stories, more than 50 personal experiences in fact, told in just 60 minutes and that is part of its power. Some of the stories are just a few sentences, some last a minute or so but all have been collected by writer Laura Bridgeman from interviews with butches, masculine women and transmen across the world. 

Each is read out by one of five performers - some are professional actors, some not - and explore desire, sexuality and identity. The sheer variety of voices demonstrates the complexity of the subject, the scope of human feeling and experience. There are some horror stories - the operations required after using horse bandages to bind breasts and less than supportive bosses - but there is also a great deal of humour and warmth.

The tales cover everything from childhood discoveries and parental reactions to first time experiences and bedroom preferences. There is friendship, rejection, bonding, bondage and suit buying in such a colourful array of narratives that challenge stereotypes and champion humanity.

There is much to take away from The Butch Monologues but for me what resonated most was the road to self knowledge and understanding. Despite some difficult journeys in many of the stories there was a self confidence, a power from feeling comfortable in your skin and that you aren't alone and that was liberating and enlightening. I'm giving it five stars and you can catch it at the Soho Theatre Upstairs until November 25.


Review: Belarus Free Theatre's Burning Doors, Soho Theatre and UK tour

320x320.fitandcrop-1Belarus Free Theatre productions aren't for the faint hearted or those seeking a nice linear narrative. This production in particular is a physical, poetic, brutal and raw mixture of performance art, verbatim narrative, film archive, audience interaction - and a conversation in the toilets at the Kremlin.

Maria Alyokhina, one of two members of Pussy Riot jailed for 'hooliganism', joins the cast for the piece which explores art and freedom in a repressive regime. Her experiences in prison together with that of Russian performance artist Petr Pavlensky and Ukrainian film maker Oleg Sentsov make up the three 'acts' of the play.

The brutality of life within the Russian justice system is played out, the strip searches and beatings physically represented as are what it represents psychologically and metaphorically. A man who is pushed down keeps getting up, the repetition of such actions demonstrating the relentlessness of the routine and the stamina it takes to resist and to survive.

Through the physicality of the performance - and the actors certainly work up a sweat - comes the poetry, the strength of spirit and the determination not to be ground down and an exploration of what freedom actually is. All three 'prisoners' are artists who use their art as an expression of protest, as a political statement, once that means of expression is taken away from them, what remains?

It is a demanding piece and like the first production of BFT's I saw - Minsk 2011 - I'm not going to pretend I understood everything and at times that can feel a little alienating but overall, as a piece of theatre, it has a powerful essence.

Burning Doors is one hour and 45 minutes long without an interval and I'm giving it four stars. It is on at the Soho Theatre until 24 September and then continues it's UK tour before heading to Italy and Melbourne.


Review: Gay love triangles and tangles in This Much, Soho Theatre upstairs

320x320.fitandcropSeemed appropriate to be watching a play about gay relationships in Soho while the Pride celebrations were cranking up in the streets outside.

In John Fitzpatrick's play Gar (Lewis Hart) is in a steady relationship with Anthony (Simon Carroll-Jones), who is house proud and hints that he wants marriage and kids. However, Gar has also just met Albert (Will Alexander) through a dating app and he's young, exciting, steals biscuits to impress and gets his cock out in public.

Gar wants his (wedding) cake and to eat is as well or rather he doesn't know whether he is the 'cake' or 'eat it' type. He wants to wear a wedding dress and dance with his friends but he wants what comes with marriage and a longer term relationship.

Anthony offers Gar love, stability and domesticity whereas Albert offers excitement, passion and no strings. But it is more complex than that, it is a play about how relationships define you. Both Gar and Anthony's attitude towards marriage and relationships is shaped by their parents, whether that means they want something very different or hanker after something similar. Certainly, at times, it feels as if Gar's behaviour is a way of sticking two fingers up at his parents and in particular his dad who hasn't spoken to him since he came out.

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Review: Fear and fun with Fyodor in Idiots, Soho Theatre

320x320.fitandcropIdiots starts with a bit of audience interaction*. The sort of audience interaction that leaves those on the front row and aisle seats avoiding eye contact and shrinking into their seats while those sat safely in the middle rows smugly laugh on.

I'd like to say that that is the least comfortable moment in this part adaptation** of Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Idiot and part fantasy biopic of the writer's life but it isn't. Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of silliness as you'd expect from a dead central character who is living in a flat below Mr Blobby and his Thai wife. However Will Cowell and Jonnie Bayfield's play also has a dark underbelly, from the flashes of Dostoevsky's life to the scenes from The Idiot where they brutally expose what Dostoevsky only hints at in the 19th century novel.

Dostoevsky was concerned with the human state, psychology and extreme behaviour and in some ways Idiots reflects that. The dead writer of the play has his life put under the spotlight by a bureaucrat who exposes the tragedy, vanity and cruelty. It questions whether you can make allowances for bad or immoral behaviour because of  fame and talent.

Meanwhile in The Idiot the gentle intellect of Prince Mishkin is misinterpreted as stupidity and he is pushed aside by a violent bore Rogozhin who tyrannises the object of his affection Nastasya Fillipovna.

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Review: Tonight I'm Gonna To Be The New Me, Soho Theatre

Jess Latowicki, courtesy Richard Davenport.JPG 2 copy
Jessica Latowicki in Tonight I'm Gonna Be The Real Me. Photo: Richard Davenport

Tonight I'm Gonna To Be the New Me is an intriguing title for play as it immediately raises a myriad questions about the 'me' of the piece. Is it Jessica Latowicki performing under her own name or is it her boyfriend (in real life too) the 'writer' of the piece Tim Cowbury who also controls the lighting and who is occasionally teased into the performance.

Then there are all the questions about why the desire or need to be 'new'.

The play is a mass of contradictions as it explores Tim and Jessica's relationship. Is it an honest portrayal of a dishonest relationship? Is the dishonesty with the audience? Is it Tim's perspective, his fantasy, likes and dislikes, needs and annoyances? Is Jessica his puppet serving his whims - she wears sequined hot pants and a bra top and performs in a cube?

Are Jessica's conversations with the audience her breaking away from the script or has Tim put them there? Are her long free-form dance sequences her own invention? When she has Tim go and get her a beer in the middle of the performance is that her or is he exposing an aspect of their relationship?

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