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October 2016

September 2016

London fringe theatre news round up - openings, re-openings and some Halloween treats

Lunatic MAIN 3.0* Another production of A Midsummer Night's Dream announced? Yep writer/performer Robert Crighton rolled his eyes too and he's written a piece called Undead Bard about our obsession with Shakespeare and how he just wants to rest in peace.  It runs at Theatre N16 in Balham Oct 2 to Oct 13.

* It's back! The White Bear Theatre and pub in Kennington has nearly finished its refurbishment and re-opens on Oct 18. There is still some work to be done and a bit of extra cash to raise for the finishing touches check out the fundraising page if you'd like to help.

* Looking for theatre with a spooky theme for Halloween? Theatre N16 in Balham has Lunatic which is a new take on Bram Stoker's Dracula story from the perspective of Dr Seward and his patient Renfield which has shows at different times on Oct 30 and 31.

* Alternatively, you could try Witch at the Union Chapel in Islington on Sunday 30 October.

* The Old Red Lion has an adaptation of HG Well's Time Machine opening on Oct 4 for a week performed by Robert Lloyd Parry.

* In Kennington the Ovalhouse's Autumn/Winter season kicks of with Kissing The Shotgun Goodnight. "In a gleeful howl from the armpits of hell, Christopher Brett Bailey delivers a characteristic linguistic kaleidoscope of caustic cartoons, crackpot prophecies and demented erotica."

* Czech Theatre company Dejvicke makes its London debut at the Greenwood Theatre from 5-7 November, performances are in Czech with English surtitles and details can be found here.


Review: The Donmar's all female The Tempest, King's Cross

TEMPEST_1263x505If you saw the Phyllida Lloyd-directed all female Henry IV or Julius Caesar at the Donmar Warehouse in Covent Garden you'll have an idea of the tone and style of The Tempest which completes a trilogy of plays for the company. If you didn't see them then then the first thing to know is they were powerful pieces with a modern grit and contemporary edge.

The biggest difference between the first two plays and The Tempest is the venue. The Tempest opens at a temporary space outside King's Cross station which is bigger and more spacious (more loos) and has the stage surrounded on four sides by the audience. Julius Caesar and Henry IV are being revived as part of the run at King's Cross.

Each of plays is set in a woman's prison*, a device that is used fully throughout rather than being a flimsy artistic contrivance. In fact it works particularly well with The Tempest; Harriet Walter plays a prisoner serving a long sentence who is playing Prospero. As she recites Prospero's explanation of how he ended up on the island it is difficult not to see it as a sort of incarceration. The setting also highlights other imprisonments - Ariel's by Sycorax, Caliban by Prospero (for the crime of trying to harm his daughter Miranda) and then the magical imprisonment of the nobles shipwrecked on the isle at Propero's command. At the end there is liberty for most but perhaps not not all.

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Review: Kenny Morgan, Arcola Theatre and the inevitable comparison with the NT's Deep Blue Sea

Kenny-morganMike Poulton's play draws on the real life of Terrence Rattigan and the events which inspired his play The Deep Blue Sea. And, having seen the National Theatre's production of TDBS in June it is difficult not to draw direct comparisons.

Poulton's play centres on actor Kenny Morgan (Paul Keating), the secret lover of Terrence Rattigan (Simon Dutton) who left him for a younger man Alec (Pierro Niel-Mee). In Deep Blue Sea Kenny becomes Hester who has left her husband, a judge, for Freddie a young, former test pilot.

The play opens with Kenny's attempted suicide and from there his relationships with Alec and with Terry unfold. In The Deep Blue Sea Hester is trying to keep the fact that she is living with her lover not her husband secret, in Kenny Morgan it Terry who is trying to keep his homosexuality secret and it puts a different gloss on the relationships.

Kenny, while living a life of champagne and caviar with Terry, was always closeted, a kept man in the flat upstairs. With Alec they are constantly short of cash and behind on the rent but live together albeit in a grotty flat in Camden. The problem is Alec drinks and goes away a lot and Kenny feels like he is losing him or perhaps he never had him in the first place.

When he's at his lowest ebb Terry reappears in his life and offers to take him back. Should he go?

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London fringe theatre news round up - upcoming and titbits

Code 2021 (c) Secret Studio Lab (4)
Code 2021 (c) Secret Studio Lab

* 21 characters, two actors, one romantic story - Pride and Prejudice has been adapted for the stage and opens at the Jermyn Street Theatre at the end of November. It's one of my favourite novels so look out for my review.

* The UK's first true story-telling festival opens in London from Oct 16-22. Events at the Tellit festival includes spoken word, theatre, movement and comedy and is on at various venues across London.

* The Acedian Pirates, the debut play from Jay Taylor (Nell Gwyn, Wolf Hall, Bring up the Bodies), opens at Theatre503 on Oct 26 to Nov 19 promising to challenge our understanding of mythology and ask key questions about military occupation.

* First of two 'secret' theatre productions is Chelsea Theatre's A Doll's House which is performed in a house, the location of which is revealed 24 hours before (various dates from now until December.

* Second 'secret' theatre is Code 2121 which is performed somewhere in East London near Bethnal Green - instructions delivered on ticket purchase - and is based on a story where criminal trials are judged by an audience who get to investigate the crime scene and judge the fate of the accused. It is on now until Oct 20.

Review: The hilarious and hot Naked Magicians, Trafalgar Studios

Christopher Wayne & Mike Tyler
Christopher Wayne & Mike Tyler

The blow up doll on the stage is a clue. If you don't get that, there is a warning before The Naked Magicians show starts that if you are easily offended then you should 'probably f*ck off now'. And that is the tone of the show: it is rude, irreverent, a little more than suggestive and brilliant fun.

Lets be honest, the suggestion of nudity is probably what makes most people buy the ticket and that doesn't come until the end but it doesn't matter, the show is so good you forget that's what is promised.

It is part comedy part magic, full of laughs (my face was aching by the end) and while the magic tricks aren't the most sophisticated they are nonetheless impressive.

Stand up Maureen Younger gets the audience warmed up ready for the Naked Magicians - Australians Mike Tyler and Christopher Wayne. There is plenty of audience participation. If getting dragged up on stage to 'help' with some magic is your idea of a nightmare then make sure you choose seats towards the middle of the row and at least few rows back from the front.

There was one woman 'volunteer' who brilliantly flawed the magicians with a comment - she saw where they were going and got there first. They took it brilliantly and it added to the fun.

A couple of the tricks the whole audience can get involved with - one of which is particularly impressive but I won't say any more because it will spoil it if you go.

They are only around until the end of this week so if you fancy something silly, funny and with adult themes then hurry along to the Trafalgar Studios.

The show is roughly two hours long including an interval and I'm giving it 5 stars. If you hadn't worked it out already it has an 18+ age restriction.


Review: The gently moving Pianist of Willesden Lane, St James Theatre

17197494-mmmainMona Golabek's mother Lisa was born in Vienna and dreamed of being a concert pianist but as the clouds of the second world war loomed she was ripped from the family and city she knew and the piano lessons she loved.

Herself a pianist, Mona tells her mother's story* of a lucky escape from Vienna on the Kindertransport to life in the blitz in London with other refugees. The narrative is beautifully interwoven with piano pieces performed by Mona that are either pertinent to the story or beautifully capture the moment.

As war stories go this is gently told; there are horrors but you feel that somehow you are protected from most of it. Instead the heart of the story is Lisa's love of playing and her determination not to let her mother down and carry on learning. The power of music to uplift is the plays soul.

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London Fringe theatre news round up

Pic from Skin a Cat

Fresh from the inbox so far this week:

  • Neil McPherson's It Is Easy To Be Dead is transferring from the Finborough after a sell out run to the Trafalgar Studios 2 from Nov 9. It was nominated for seven Off West End awards.
  • Isley Lynn’s Skin a Cat will be transferring to The Bunker - the new venue at Waterloo - from Oct 12 following its sell-out, award-winning run at the VAULT Festival earlier this year.
  • Camden People's Theatre fourth feminist theatre festival Calm Down, Dear opens on Sept 20 with Blush from Snuffbox Theatre which won The Stage Award at Edinburgh this year.
  • The 1st Open Central Asia International Festival, which will play host to a variety of events celebrating Central Asian arts – work from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan - opens on Oct 5. For details of all the various events go to

Review: Dreamplay, The Vaults

I'm gathered with a crowd just outside one of the arches at The Vaults, some people are sat in deck chairs, a cellist is playing. Then a woman dressed in an oversized coat appears, unable to speak she lunges at people straining to vocalise her feelings, the sounds pleading, distressed, frustrated and sometimes aggressive. The audience shuffles awkwardly hoping not to have to meet her direct gaze.

We are then ushered into the arches to watch a 'girl' dressed in cycling gear vomiting into a toilet and calling for her mother to be let out, apologising for something she's done. Then we move to seats and a woman's movement is controlled by the cellist who has reappeared. The faster she plays the faster the woman has to move. It's one of the very few light moments in this play which, considering its title, could probably do with a few more.

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Review: Culture clashes in Mafia drama Tarantella, Omnibus

7e579f845121b7a06e33557e3003a886Tarantella is a new play written by Elizabeth Bowe about three generations of a Sicilian family living in a tenement in 1941 New York. The title refers to a traditional dance from Sicily which the daughters of the family have learned and perform on feast days and family gatherings.

The problem for the family is that the younger generation are becoming more and more embedded in culture and society of New York which is at odds with the traditions and way of living the older generations want to cling to. When the Mafia comes knocking things are brought to a head and ghosts from the past are unearthed.

There are elements of West Side Story - the daughter who falls for the blond Yankie whom her father bans her from seeing - gangster films and something almost akin to a Greek Tragedy in what happened to the family back in Sicily. And that is in part the plays problem none of the elements really gets proper traction.

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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 filmmaker 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.