Review: Teenage Dick, Donmar Warehouse - a fun, sharp, black comedy

Teenage Dick is one of those play titles you have to be careful mentioning or googling, a bit like Cock at the Royal Court - but it is wholly appropriate for Mike Lew's play. 

Teenage Dick official marketing image
The Dick of the title is Roseland high-school student Richard Gloucester (Daniel Monks) who is based loosely on Shakespeare's machiavellian King.

Hemiplegic Richard is fed-up of being bullied, ostracised or worse, ignored, so with the elections for senior year president looming, he decides he will scheme his way to the top enacting revenge along the way.

However, matters become complicated by Anne Margaret (Siena Kelly) who starts to be more than a pawn in his game.

Decisions

Richard has to decide what he values and what is worth sacrificing.

Lew's play is a black comedy full of witty one-liners and verbal battles of scathing put-downs.

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Review: Jamie Lloyd exposes James McAvoy in the raw, emotional treat that is Cyrano de Bergerac

The last time Jamie Lloyd directed James McAvoy in a play, he had him riding around the stage on a unicycle in nothing but his pants.

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In Cyrano de Bergerac, their latest collaboration, the trousers stay on (sorry) instead it is deep, raw emotional pain which is laid bare for all to see.

It is a tragic tale of unrequited love. Cyrano has gained acclaim and respect as a skilled soldier but is also beloved as a clever wordsmith baiting the authorities with his biting wit and writing beautiful romantic verse with equal aplomb.

Convinced that the woman he loves - Roxane (Anita-Joy Uwajeh) - will never see past his looks he accelerates his own heartache by helping her and her lover Christian (Eben Figueiredo), a good looking cadet.

Fresh approach

Lloyd's modus operandi is to take a fresh approach to classic plays, adding a contemporary spin while drawing out the deeper emotions and nuances and Cyrano is no exception.

The stage is plain and simple with just a mirror or sometimes a couple of chairs.

Cyrano is reborn as a performance poet. While the actors all have head mics, there are two traditional microphones - a reminder of the 'performance', one of several nods to it in the production.

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Review: Nor Woman Neither, Tristan Bates Theatre - sharp comedy that has shades of Fleabag

If Nor Woman Neither sounds familiar it's from Hamlet when the prince is talking about losing interesting in life and feeling misunderstood by his friends.

Nor Woman Neither ©Laura Dorn Photography-38
Nor Woman Neither ©Laura Dorn Photography

It's a curiously poignant title for a sharply funny coming of age story about the struggle of turning childhood dreams into reality while navigating the slings and arrows of love and lust.

Written and performed by Ingrid Schiller and Verity Kirk we meet Laura (Schiller) as a child in South Africa reluctantly watching a Bond movie with her dad.

In her child-like way, she wants to be Honey Rider in the film - beautiful and the focus of attention. She also feels the first stirring of sexual desire, even if she doesn't yet understand what it is.

Desire to be seen

The scenario will be played out time and time again as we follow her through English boarding school, drama school and early career, a mixture of the desire to be seen, to fit in, to be loved... and sexual desire.

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Evening Standard Theatre Awards - my two favourite winners

My favourite winners from last night's Evening Standard Theatre awards reflect the best of the old and new theatre.

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seven methods for killing kylie jenner, Royal Court. Photo Helen Murray.

First is Andrew Scott's winning performance in Present Laughter.

Not only was it such an outstanding and memorable performance deserving of a gong but the gender-swap casting decisions brought an extra special layer.

Noel Coward would have loved it and I can't wait to see the encore screening this week at the cinema.

The other win I'm particularly pleased about is Jasmine Lee-Jones, most promising playwright for seven methods of killing Kylie Jenner (Royal Court)

It is a startling piece of fresh, clever, biting contemporary theatre that speaks for now.

Full results (with links to my thoughts)

 

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Review: Land Without Dreams, Gate Theatre - quirky and clever but not the sum of all its parts

Land Without Dreams at the Gate Theatre is a surreal, existential meta 'drama' created by Danish company Fix&Foxy.

Land Without Dreams Temi Wilkey Gate Theatre .©CameronSlater._MG_1287.29
Temi Wilkey in Land Without Dreams, Gate Theatre. Photo: © Cameron Slate

I use 'drama' because it isn't a story in the traditional sense, rather it is a solo performance (by Temi Wilkey) about the future and the power of the individual. Kind of.

She is both narrator and a character in the piece and tells us she's from the future.

The lights of the auditorium stay up as she addresses the audience directly, imagining who we are and what our expectations and experience of theatre is.

Audience impressions

So, for example, she decides there is a couple on a date, telling us what is going through their minds, how the date is going and their impressions of the play. 

It is meta and ironic as she tells us what we are thinking about the play: 'When is the play actually starting?' and later 'This is why I never go to the theatre' etc.

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Review: Queens of Sheba, Battersea Arts Centre or this is why I go to the theatre

Queens of Sheba is a play of contrasts it is angry and joyous, fun and sad, quietly contemplative and in your face loud.

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Queens of Sheba: Photo: Ali Wright

Re-Review: Nouveau Riche's Queens of Sheba was one of my favourite shows of the Edinburgh fringe last year. It reminded me of why I go to the theatre and how powerful and entertaining good theatre can be.

So I was thrilled to get the chance to see it again, this time in London at the Battersea Art Centre.

Based on real experience, its narrative reflects the dual prejudices faced by black women today - racism and sexism, or 'misogynoir'.

Powerful and reflective

Four performers bring to life a series of powerful vignettes each reflecting different experiences.

It starts with the workplace before moving on to a date with a white man, being refused entry into a nightclub, treatment by a black boyfriend and getting unwanted amorous attention while out.

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New production photo for next year's Uncle Vanya...what a cast

A new production photo of the principal cast of next year's Uncle Vanya has landed in my inbox. And what a cast:
 
Uncle-Vanya-Ensemble-c-Muse-Creative-Communications-photography-by-Seamus-Ryan
Uncle Vanya – Toby Jones
Astrov – Richard Armitage
Yelena – Rosalind Eleazar
Sonya – Aimee Lou Wood
Nana – Anna Calder-Marshall
Grandmaman – Dearbhla Molloy
Telegin – Peter Wight
Professor Serebryakov – Ciarán Hinds
 
Particularly excited to see Aimee Lou Wood who was brilliant in Downstate at the National Theatre and Sex Education on Netflix.
 
It's a new adaptation by Conor McPherson directed by Ian Rickson and you can see it at the Harold Pinter Theatre from January 14 Jan.
 

Review: La Clique, Spiegeltent Leicester Square - Sexy, saucy, wow moments and laughs

There is a festive start to the La Clique cabaret of song and acrobatic show but naturally, it is ironic.

Zoe Marshall Lydia Norman La Clique
Zoe Marshall and Lydia Norman in La Clique. Photo Craig Sugden.

This is the church of misfits and weirdos where difference is celebrated in a decadent, saucy and sometimes humorous way. 

Our hostess/compere for the evening is Bernie Dieter, whom I saw in a similar role for Little Death Club on the South Bank in April.

In a sequined catsuit and towering stilettos, she sets a tone that pushes beyond suggestiveness, singling out audience members for humourous/cringe-worthy humiliation (don't sit near the front if you want to left alone).

She launches us towards a dazzling array of acrobatics and circus acts with live music accompaniment by singer Kelly Wolfgramm and band.

Dieter pops up from time to time throughout - if you've seen her before her repertoire will be familiar - and Wolfgramm also comes forward to perform songs periodically (cue an impromptu singalong to her version of Roxette's It Must Have Been Love).

Acts with added sauce and sexiness

The acts may be familiar - aerial acrobatics, hair hanging, juggling, sword swallowing, fire eating etc but each is delivered with a brash sauciness, the costumes often looking like something from the window display of Agent Provocateur or a men's aftershave advert.

Nonetheless, you can't accuse the performers of using titillation as cheap entertainment, they are extremely skilled often bringing a fresh edge to the familiar.

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Review: Crisis? What Crisis? Colab Factory - Parabolic Theatre's political role-playing in the winter of discontent

It's 1979 and the Labour Government is facing a vote of no-confidence, out on the streets there is civil unrest, lorry drivers are on strike and more industries threaten to follow. Can you save the day?

Crisis What Crisis  Courtesy of Russell Cobb (3)
Crisis? What Crisis? Photo: Russell Cobb

Parabolic Theatre's latest immersive experience is more of a role-playing game than theatre thrusting the audience into decision-making, negotiation and media interviews.

'Staged' on the floor of an old office building near The CoLab Factory in Borough, the space is divided up with clusters of furniture either desks and chairs or sofa's set around coffee tables or TV.

The walls have Labour campaign posters and charts on which to monitor industrial unrest and economic performance - inflation, FTSE, Government spending power etc - this is the pre-computer, pre-digital world.

Telephones ring, a fax-machine hums, the door buzzer sounds and there is general hustle and bustle.

Players in a crisis

There is no introduction, you are thrown straight into the world of the Winter of Discontent and it is up to you and your fellow 'players' to defeat the no-confidence vote and get the unions back on side without pushing the economy over the edge.

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Review: On Bear Ridge, Royal Court - heart-wrenching, tense and laugh out loud funny

There is a vulnerability in the ordinariness and something epic in its simplicity. 

On Bear Ridge by the NTW and Royal Court Theatre Photo by Mark Douet I80A8399
Rhys Ifans and Rakie Ayola in On Bear Ridge by the NTW and Royal Court Theatre. Photo by Mark Douet


Warplanes occasionally roar across the sky above John Daniel (Rhys Ifans) and Noni's (Rakie Ayola) grocery store and butchers on Bear Ridge.

They wave knives and shout at them because it makes them feel better. Then the quiet of the falling snow returns.

It is reflective of the tone of Ed Thomas' play On Bear Ridge, emotions that momentarily crack and shatter before a jagged peace returns.

Up in the mountain, in an unidentified country - although it is easy to imagine it is Wales - Bear Ridge store has long ceased trading.

Customers and community have left

It's shelves empty, the fridge is quiet, John Daniel and Noni are down to their last bag of potatoes but they won't leave like the people who were once their customers have.

Grief and loss keep them on the desolate Bear Ridge. Loss of their son, loss of the community in which they were a part and loss of a language - a culture and identity.

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