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June 2015

Theatre hottie of the month: June edition

Summer's balmy weather may have finally arrived but you can always rely on London's stages (and beyond) to provide a talented hottie or two all year round.

For June that accolade goes to Oresteia's Orestes or Luke Thompson as he is known off stage. Loved the play, loved his performance, loved him. Here he is in rehearsals looking hot in T and jeans:


Honourable mention should go to Owen Findlay and Guy Hughes who both had small parts in the RSC's Othello but did catch my eye in quite a distracting way (absolutely did not to a double take, nope). I'm seeing the understudy run tomorrow and hoping they both have more substantial roles.

Hottie catch up just in case you've missed one:

January's theatre hottie 

February's theatre hottie

March's theatre hottie

April's theatre hottie

May's theatre hottie

Hottie catch up just in case you've missed one:

January's theatre hottie 

February's theatre hottie

March's theatre hottie

April's theatre hottie

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A sort of review: Tim Crouch's An Oak Tree, National Theatre


Still trying to work out what I thought about this. Poly loved it but it's not quite as clear cut for me.

It's a first 'Tim Crouch' for me. He writes, performs and produces his own work with the help of a small team.

An Oak Tree mixes form and narrative in a way that exposes the inner workings of producing the play. The title refers to the story of a pub hypnotist (Crouch) who has accidentally killed a girl. Her father, who is having problems coming to terms with her death, then turns up at one of his shows and volunteers to be hypnotised.

The father is played by a different actor every night - we had the ever fabulous Kate Duchêne - except they haven't seen the play before or rehearsed. Crouch talks them through the part as the play progresses, sometimes openly telling them what to say in response, sometimes through an earpiece and sometimes talking to them as a fellow performer rather than as a character. This is raw performance which is naturally thrilling to watch.

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Fringe review: Romance with Bromance at #Udderbellyfest

Image004Have fallen a little bit in love with the Bromance boys. Just putting that out there to start with. Theirs is the third fabulous act I've seen on the South Bank in this season's festival of acrobatics, cabaret and comedy. And I've loved the previous two shows but the Bromance boys, well they stole my heart...and it's nothing to do with them performing in their pants at the end.

There is a narrative running through their carefully crafted show about friendship: trust, loyalty and personal space - we are close but not that close - which plays out in several ways. There is amazing acrobatics and balancing some of it done with almost balletic grace it is beautiful as well as breathtaking and nerve-jangling to watch.

They blend in contemporary dance sequences and skits to vary the pace. Sometimes it is serious, sometimes they jostle and tease, try and catch each other out. Loyalty switches between the three and they gang up on each other but in a tongue in cheek way.

And then there is the hoop. Not a hula hoop, this is much bigger, big enough for one of them to wedge themselves inside and roll around the stage, performing a dizzying array of acrobatic feats that look at once simple and impossible. Again it is performed with a dance-like grace that is almost hypnotic. 

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Review: Tennessee Williams adaptation One Arm, Southwark Playhouse

One-Arm2Adapted from a short story and un-produced screenplay by Tennessee Williams, One Arm tells the story of Ollie (Tom Varey) a prize-winning boxer who loses his arm and winds up on death row.

Flicking back and forth between Ollie awaiting his execution in prison and the story of how he ended up there, this is a tragic tale of a life full of promise to a life cut short.

When Ollie loses his arm he loses his livelihood and is forced to hustle on the streets. He is good looking and people are drawn to him because of his missing arm but for Ollie it makes him feel incomplete and ugly and he retreats emotionally.

He finds it difficult to settle and ends up travelling widely, making an impression wherever he goes. It isn't until he is in the last few weeks of his life that he realises just what an impression he has made.

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Review: Rory K is Joseph K on the nightmare travellator in The Trial, Young Vic

The_Trial_FINAL_326X326I've only read one Franz Kafka novel and that was purely to impress my then boyfriend who said it was his favourite book. I didn't find it a page turner.

Fast forward a few years and the Gate Theatre put on a play called Joseph K based on Kafka's The Trial. Didn't much enjoy that either mainly because I didn't really understand it.

So, why go and see another stage version of the same novel? Well, there are two reasons. First: it is at the Young Vic which is one of the most exciting and innovative theatres in London and has had a pretty good run of outstanding productions recently. Second: Rory Kinnear. Have long been a fan of his work, even before he wore eye-liner in Last of the Haussmans and then gave an award-winning Iago in Othello.

In The Trial Rory K is playing Josef K and perhaps it's the years that have rolled by since that first Kafka read and the eclectic range of theatre I've watched since the Gate but my appreciation and understanding was far greater this time. Me and Kafka got on much better but that isn't to say I'm now a huge fan.

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Review: Gruesome and funny - RSC's The Jew of Malta

L-R Geoffrey Freshwater, Jasper Britton, Matthew Kelly in the RSC's The Jew of Malta. Photo by Ellie Kurttz

Step aside Richard III you have a rival: Barabas, the Jew of Malta. And sorry to say it, your highness, but I think he might just steal your Machiavellian crown. In fact Christopher Marlowe's play opens with a speech by Machiavel (Simon Hedger) which should have been a clue as to what was to come.

I was Jon Snow going into this (I knew nothing) and what unfolded was a brilliantly gruesome black comedy.

Barabas (Jasper Britton) is rich from money lending and Ferneze (Steven Pacey) the governor of Malta needs a cash tribute for the Emperor of Turkey. Tribute is of course the polite 16th Century way of saying extortion. Ferneze decides to tax the Jews rather than the Christians to raise the tribute. When he complains all of Barabas' money, valuables and home are seized.

While Barabas can't stop Ferneze he can take revenge, and revenge is something he delivers with a Machiavellian flare and gruesome flourish. No-one, not even his own daughter, is immune to his plans and manipulations. All are pawns and collateral damage if necessary with Barabas one step ahead of all those who want to divert him from his purpose.

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Review: The RSC's muscular Othello

Othello production images_ 2015_Photo by Keith Pattison _c_ RSC_Othello.2866
Hugh Quarshie and Lucian Msamati in the RSC's Othello. Photo: Keith Pattison

The opening scene of the RSC's Othello has a Venetian canal, the water reflecting on the wall of the neighbouring building but this is just a brief moment of beautiful reflection before Iago (Lucian Msamati) uses the pole of the punt to strangle Roderigo (James Corrigan) just enough to force him to his purpose.

In just a few moments it has set the tone for this muscular and sometimes brutal production. Director Iqbal Khan plays up the military background of the story - Iago, Othello (Hugh Quarshie) and others are testosterone fulled soldiers full of battle and killing. We are shown scenes of torture - waterboarding and worse - which are a matter of course in these men's minds.

When the battle starts and finishes very quickly on Crete the soldiers are left idle and passions easily ignited which all works in Iago's favour as he plots his revenge on Othello.

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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: Hang at the Royal Court Theatre

700x650.fitIt isn't giving anything away to say that Debbie Tucker Green's new play is about capital punishment, the clue is in the title.

With this subject there is much ground that can be explored and covered; Hang is an hour and 10 minutes and therefore focuses on one particular aspect but not on what you would immediately expect.

We know that a crime has been committed but not what that crime is. Instead we hear about the devastating impact it has had on Marianne Jean-Baptiste's character, her husband and two children.

Sat in a nondescript room at prison with two prison employees (Claire Rushbrook and Shane Zaza) she is there to make a decision, the details of which only become clear later in the play.

The decision is wrapped up in bureaucracy, protocol and emotions which prove to be the great irony of the piece. This isn't directly about the morals of capital punishment but more how the punishment can fit the crime. There is no dilemma, as you would expect.  The two prison staff's ineptitude in dealing with the victim is both ridiculous and human and serves to emphasise just how damaged the family is as a result of the crime.

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Review: The Motherfucker With the Hat, National Theatre

The_Mother_with_the_Hat_poster_notitleThe Lyttleton stage is ink black except for three fire escapes which are suspended from the flies and as the auditorium lights go down they rotate to make way as a tiny bed-sit apartment set slides into view.

This is the home of Jackie (Ricardo Chavira) and his girlfriend Veronica (Flor De Liz Perez).

Jackie has just got out of prison, is off drugs and alcohol and has managed to secure a job. He's with the woman he's loved since school and things are looking up except he's just spotted a hat that doesn't belong to him in their apartment.

The discovery sparks suspicion and threatens to undo everything that Jackie has achieved to date but his isn't the only life that could unravel.

He retreats to his sponsor Ralph (Alec Newman) who is having his own relationship problems with his wife Victoria (Nathalie Armin), a recovering drug addict.

The skill in the staging of this play is in making the sets look claustrophobic on the vast Lyttleton Stage. There is an ethereal quality as that of Jackie's apartment, Ralph's and his cousin Julio's  (Yul Vázquez) drift into view from out of the darkness.

It is incongruous to the high tension of what is unfolding on stage almost like the pauses between rounds of a boxing match or rather something dirtier, a cage fight perhaps.

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