Review: F*ck You Pay Me, Bunker Theatre - lifting the lid on life working as a stripper

Backstage there is camaraderie among the strippers and 'office' politics, personal dramas and worries just like any place of work.

Fuck You Pay Me  The Bunker (Credit David Monteith Hodge) Joana Nastari (2)
Joana Nastari  F*ck You Pay Me The Bunker. Photo: David Monteith Hodge

There's a DJ deck and DJ (Charlotte Bickley), faux fur walls and palm trees and three mini circular stages. This is a strip club, Holly's (Joana Nastari) place of work and she'll take us behind the scenes to her world as a stripper to see the good, the bad and the ugly aspects.

Holly isn't student who needs the cash, neither is she paying for a drug addict, she likes the work, the flexibility of it and can earn good money.

Her job title maybe stripper but that means she is also in sales, marketing, PR, acting and dancing but she doesn't have the same level of workers rights.

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Review: Class, Bush Theatre - classroom and class tensions

Class layers marital tensions with social class tensions and the pressures of being a teacher and learning.

L-r Sarah Morris  Stephen Jones and Will O'Connell   in 'CLASS' photo by_Helen Murray 73B&W
L-r Sarah Morris, Stephen Jones and Will O'Connell in 'CLASS'. Photo: Helen Murray

Brian (Stephen Jones) and Donna (Sarah Morris) are separated but having to put on a united front for the sake of their 9-year-old son Jayden who is having problems at school.

They've been called in to see Jayden's teacher Mr McCafferty (Will O'Connell) but classrooms hold bad memories for both of them.

As Mr McCafferty nervously broaches the subject of Jayden's learning difficulties feathers are ruffled and someone shows they have a chip on their shoulder.

Set entirely in Jayden's classroom, the walls a tempting chalkboard, sitting on the little chairs literally and figuratively brings the adults down to a child's level. 

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Review: The Half God of Rainfall, Kiln Theatre - Battling deities, basketball and a god for modern women

In the same way that the Marvel Universe mixes superpowers with mortal flaws, the scope of The Half God of Rainfall stretches to another galaxy but all the time remains profoundly human.

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Kwami Odoom and Rakie Ayola in Inua Ellams' The Half God of Rainfall. Photo: Dan Tsantilis

Inua Ellams' play The Half God of Rainfall at the Kiln Theatre is an epic battle of gods from Greek and Yoruba myths anchored in contemporary culture by the sport of basketball and a bit of girl power.

Given the god-like status afforded sporting stars - if you are a fan of basketball there are plenty of nods - it's not a huge leap from battles on the court to battles among deities.

#metoo and mythology

And neither is it a leap from the #metoo campaign to the abused women of Greek mythology.

Straddling the realms of gods and humans is Demi (Kwami Odoom) born out of the violent rape of his mortal mother Modupe (Rakie Ayola) and thunder god Zeus.

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Rakie Ayola in Inua Ellams' The Half God of Rainfall. Photo: Dan Tsantilis

Demi's emotions can make it rain to the point of flooding and he also has a god-like knack for scoring basketball hoops.

However, he lives in times when the gods feel easily threatened by powers beyond their own and status.

Protection from jealousy

His fiercely protective and devoted mother takes him from his small village in Nigeria to the US to keep him out of the way but when Demi becomes a star basketball player Zeus's jealousy puts him in danger.

Ellams script paints a vivid picture that is both intimate and epic and it wouldn't work as well if not for the skilful performances of Odoom and Ayola.

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Kwami Odoom in Inua Ellams' The Half God of Rainfall. Photo: Dan Tsantilis

They effortlessly mix the stature of ancient myth with a contemporary inflection.

Demi is, for the most part, a kid with innocent wonder, sometimes petulant, sometimes cheeky but with a good heart.

However, it is Modupe who, in channelling the power of a mother's love and female exasperation at the male ego, the violence and abuse, proves the hero.

She is a god for modern women.

Powers and flaws

In the same way that the Marvel Universe mixes superpowers with mortal flaws, the scope of The Half God of Rainfall stretches to another galaxy but all the time remains profoundly human.

It is one hour and 20 minutes without an interval and I'm giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.

See it at the Kiln Theatre until 17 May.

You might also like to read:

Interview: Libby Liburd and Cathy Tyson talk about writing and performing in women's boxing drama Fighter.

From the archive: How the theatre obsession started as explained in my first Rev Stan's Theatre blog post.

 

 

 


Review: Little Death Club, Underbelly - flaming nipple-tassels, dick pics and drag queens

Little Death Club is a cabaret of the late night variety, a kind of seductive circus of misfits and certainly not for the prudish.

Bernie Dieter and the Band in Little Death Club at Underbelly Festival Southbank - Credit Alistair Veryard Photography
Bernie Dieter and the Band in Little Death Club at Underbelly Festival Southbank - Photo: Alistair Veryard Photography

Introduced by the catsuit and feathers-wearing Bernie Dieter the club, we are told, is all about looking up from our phones, really seeing each other and throwing inhibitions to one side.

To demonstrate she heads into the audience to be stroked and touched, in a cringe-a-long experience that perhaps goes on a bit longer than its entertainment value justifies.

Bernie reappears between acts with bawdy songs - one is themed around a dick pic she was sent (which she shares). 

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Review: Fighter, Stratford Circus Arts - A single mum steps into the ring to fight for equality

Fighter's message is punchy and it's an important story to be told.

(c) Alex Brenner  no use without credit  Libby Liburd - Fighter (_DSC1109)
 Libby Liburd and David Schaal in Fighter. Photo: (c) Alex Brenner


Set in a boxing gym, Libby Liburd's play Fighter opens with girls and boys (from Fight for Peace's Newham Academy) training alongside each other.

The year projected on the wall at the back of the stage slowly dials back to 1998 and as it does the girls slip away. When single mum Lee (Libby Liburd) enters the gym, she is stepping into a man's world.

At this point in time, women have only been allowed to box as amateurs in the UK for two years and Tommy (David Schaal), who owns the gym, says he only trains men. 

He points Lee in the direction of the nail bar down the road.

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Interview: Libby Liburd and Cathy Tyson talk Fighter, Stratford Circus - "The drama of a fight night coupled with the laughter of a comedy night".

"You'll get the drama of a fight night coupled with the laughter of a comedy night."

Fighter (Stratford Circus Arts) is the story of a single mum who decides to take up boxing. Set in a boxing gym with cast that includes young boxers, I asked writer/performer Libby Liburd and performer Cathy Tyson about the inspiration behind the play and what it's like to perform.

12) Libby Liburd Headshot 2 Credit Jon Holloway
Libby Liburd. Photo by Jon Holloway

Tell us a bit about Fighter and what inspired you to write the play?

Libby Liburd: Fighter is the story of Lee, who finds herself plunged into the world of boxing, and through finding herself in a world that doesn't yet embrace women in the ring, she finds her 'happy place' where she feels she belongs and is alive.

It's about literal and figurative fights and changing through challenge. Most of the show is set in 1998, which was super important for me as the late 90's was the era when women in Britain were finally able to fight.

Up until 1996, there was a ban on women boxing in the Amateurs and it was only in 1998 that the first professional women boxers were licensed in Britain.

So, that research, my own experiences as a boxer and conversations with our Ambassador Cathy Brown (the 2nd ever licensed Pro female boxer in the UK) inspired the story of Lee and her journey.

Why is a story like this important and why now?

Libby: I think theatre generally should tell exciting and unheard stories. Certainly, I think we're used to seeing boxing as an inspiration for theatre, but I've never seen the kind of story I'm telling in Fighter.

It's elevating themes of motherhood and womanhood but the story of courage, resilience and overcoming obstacles is universal. It's a story that everyone can relate to whilst at the same time, exposing a truth and aspects of history that we might not be aware of.

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Review: All My Sons, Old Vic - a gripping emotional thriller (and a teary Colin Morgan)

All My Sons is a gripping play, a slowly unravelling emotional thriller with masterclass performances

All my sons banner old vic

Colin Morgan's Chris Keller has angry tears rolling down his face.

He's just discovered the truth about someone he holds dear, how he has lived with a lie - or was it, deep down, denial?. It is almost too much to bare adding to multiple layers of guilt he already feels.

Chris Keller in Arthur Miller's All My Son's feels like a character and performance Colin Morgan was destined to give and he gets to perform it alongside the exceptional talent of Hollywood giants Sally Field and Bill Pullman.

Secrets and lies

He is a complex character - as are all the Kellers - in a play about secrets, the lies we tell ourselves and in which Miller questions the price of the American Dream.

It is a couple of years after the war and Chris is working for his affable, humorous, peacekeeping dad Joe (Pullman) at his factory.

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Review: Top Girls, National Theatre - a curious mix of timely and of its time

Top Girls is a curious play, a mixture of moments that had me mentally punching the air, feeling angry and a little frustrated.

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Caryl Churchill's 1982 play Top Girls has currency today but the shoulder pads and back-combed hair aren't the only echoes of the period in which it was written. 

Its themes of women's role in society, their career options, the expectations, sacrifices and prejudices have echoes in today's exposure of the gender pay gap and lack of representation at board level.

A restaurant dinner with a fantasy guest list opens the play, the singularity of which is only revealed as the story progresses. 

It is hosted by Marlene (Katherine Kingsley) who is celebrating a promotion to a senior position at a recruitment agency.

She is joined for dinner by a collection of notable but perhaps unfamiliar women from history and folklore.

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Review: Maggie Smith recalls A German Life, Bridge Theatre

A German Life subtly asks important questions about culpability and responsibility.

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When Maggie Smith heads to the stage it is undoubtedly a big draw but I think the play, A German Life, is equally worthy of the attention.

I've long been fascinated with stories from the Second World War told from non-traditional perspectives.

A German Life is based on the life of Brunhilde Pomsel who was one of Goebbels secretaries. 

Smith's Hilde sits at a kitchen table, glasses in her hand and tells us about her life and how she came to be working at the Reich's propaganda ministry at the end of the war - something for which she spent five years in prison.

Telling forgotten details?

She tells us up front that she doesn't remember much - is it telling where she can recall details and where she cannot?

It is an exceptional story of someone extraordinary in their ordinariness.

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From the archives: My Ben Whishaw New York encounter

My first trip to New York, prompted by Ben Whishaw making his Broadway debut was pre-Rev Stan's Theatre blog (yes there was a time).

The Pride ben whishaw poster lucille lortel
He was in The Pride at Lucille Lortel Theatre with Andrea Riseborough and Hugh Dancy and there was an encounter with Ben Whishaw afterwards which I wrote about on my old blog.

Having hinted at said encounter in a post on Rev Stan's Theatre Facebook page (check it out/like etc) I've been asked for the story (link to the original post is here).

This has been mildly edited because I know better now:

Yesterday was another mammoth walkathon clocking up about 16km (pedometer decided to reset itself halfway through the day). Did the International Center for Photography in the morning then walked down to the Empire State Building and onto the Flat Iron Building which has to be my favourite of everything I have seen.

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