20 posts categorized "Soho theatre" Feed

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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Review: Bears in Space or King Joffrey plays with teddies at the Soho Theatre

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Bears in Space at the Soho Theatre until Aug 22

While Game of Thrones TV series fans the world over debate whether Jon Snow is really dead there is one resurrection that has definitely happened. Yes, evil King Joffrey is back or rather the actor who played him: Jack Gleeson. 

He was reported as saying he was hanging up his acting shoes post his TV character's dramatic poisoning but last year, together with a group of friends under the name Collapsing Horse, took a show - Bears in Space - to Edinburgh.

He must have enjoyed treading the boards with his hand up a teddy puppet's bottom because the show has come to London and is in residence at the Soho Theatre for a few weeks. It is an event that hasn't gone unnoticed by GoT fans as the gaggle of clip-board clutching autograph hunters outside the theatre will attest.

But there are plenty of reasons to see Bears in Space other than getting the chance to look the evil Joffrey in the eye. It is very silly and full of chuckles and laughs as the four performers - Aaron Heffernan, Eoghan Quinn and Cameron Macaulay joining Gleeson - recount the story of 'Bears. That are in space'.

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Review: The deliciously lyrical and poignant Chef @sohotheatre

Chef, Ed Fringe 2014, courtesy Richard Davenport 010
Jade Anouka in Chef courtesy of Richard Davenport

The last time I saw Jade Anouka on stage she was adding tragedy to hot-headed Hotspur in the all female Henry IV at the Donmar. Here in Sabrina Mahfouz's Chef she once again gets a chance to shine, this time in a solo performance which she's reprised having won the Fringe First Award in Edinburgh last year.

This is the story of a passion for food and cooking that puts a young woman on the path to success and fulfillment only to end up as a convicted inmate. Set in the prison kitchen the rise and fall is told with a mixture of beautiful evocative lyricism and tough, sometimes brutal, contemporary realism.

It is a play and a performance that holds you rapt from the moment Anouka writes 'Perfect peach' on the kitchen white board and then has you salivating as she describes how it should be treated and prepared and how it should taste.

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Review: Live music and Welsh cakes in Hiraeth, Soho Theatre

Hiraeth 3, Ed Fringe 2014, courtesy Jorge Lizalde
Max Mackintosh and Buddug James Jones in Hiraeth

Hiraeth definitely has a theatre first: I was offered a Welsh cake at the end of a play*. The star and co-creator of the play Buddug James Jones has a whole tupperware of them to hand out to the audience.

It tells the story of Buddug who comes from a five generations of Welsh farmers but, inspired by the 'Welsh Bob Dylan', gets the urge to go to London and see more of the world. Her gran tells her that some people are rocks and some are rivers and Buddug is a river.

At first she struggles against her family, friends and country  (represented by a daffodil) who want her to stay but eventually she makes it to the capital where she has to resist the call of home and throw herself into an alien environment.

Max Mackintosh (co-creator with Jesse Briton) takes on all the other parts and plays guitar together with David Grubb who accompanies on violin and drum. There is the odd song and plenty of music to buoy the tale along. The audience is encouraged to sing along and occasionally participate and it is generally silly and good fun.

There are plenty of laughs although there is one scene when a boyfriend is talking about Buddug behind her back which seemed unnecessarily cruel and wasn't really my sense of humour. A few found it funny.

Hiraeth is like a little Welsh cake in London: a bite of something sweet, quirky and fun. You can catch it at the Soho Theatre until Saturday March 21 and it is and hour and five minutes long.

* has anyone been given food to eat during or after a play?


Review: Award winning Fringe in London - Fleabag at the Soho Theatre

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Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Fleabag
The Edinburgh Fringe is over and plays like Fleabag at the Soho Theatre confirm my theory for not having yet made it up there: the good stuff tends to come to London.

I know, I know I should go and I will but until I can work up to it, I can sit back and enjoy the cream of the crop, the award winning shows from the comfort of a theatre a short bus ride from home.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge's self-penned and performed show picked up a Fringe First accolade and best solo performer and is now aiming to entertain the London theatre crowd for two and half weeks at the Soho Theatre.

Waller-Bridge plays Fleabag who isn't sex obsessed (she is) and isn't fucking up her life (she is). Her best friend has accidentally killed herself, her boyfriend has left her - clearing out the fridge on the way out - and she can't pay the rent on her cafe.

This is a shamelessly frank and modern tale that is laugh out-loud funny and at times surreal and random in the way life can be. There is also a tinge of sadness to it, the sadness of a loss and a lost a soul.

Brilliantly performed Waller-Bridge her Fleabag is a lovely combination of sharp wit and keen observation with hapless choices and a sometimes insensitive way with words.

Well worth an hour at the theatre the bonus is it starts at 7pm. Catch it while you can it runs at the Soho Theatre until Sep 22.

RS/BW 6DS

Phoebe was in Hayfever with Lindsay Duncan who was in Criminal Justice with Mr W.


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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Review: Bathtime @sohotheatre for Jack Thorne's Mydidae

3Keir Charles and Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Mydidae, Soho Theatre, 5 December 2012 (courtesy of Simon Annand) 5

Mydidae, as I discovered when I googled it, isn't some obscure Greek tragedy but actually a type of fly and, unsurprisingly, an appropriate title for Jack Thorne's new play at the Soho Theatre's tiny studio space.

Its bathroom setting - the most intimate and private room - makes it feel almost like a fly on the wall documentary. The littlest room is where flesh is bared, ablutions and basic bodily function performed, it is a private space and one where cohabitation suggests a level of comfort and ease.

And, it is a fully plumbed in bathroom. The toilet is used by both characters, married couple Marian (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) and David (Keir Charles), as is the bath.

It also seemed appropriate that a play with a title that made me mistakenly think 'Greek tragedy' should have a whiff of the tragic running through the story.

What we get with Mydidae is a combination of the mundane ordinariness of a relationship, those little in jokes, behaviours and routine that couples fall into behind closed doors and a sense that despite all the affable banter and gestures of affection, there is something not quite right. This is a couple that has issues.

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