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February 2017

January 2017

REVIEW The hilarious Dirty Great Love Story, Arts Theatre

Dirty Great Love Story, Arts Theatre - Felix Scott and Ayesha Antoine, Courtesy of Richard Davenport for The Other Richard
Dirty Great Love Story, Arts Theatre - Felix Scott and Ayesha Antoine, Courtesy of Richard Davenport

Richard Marsh and Katie Bonna's comedy Dirty Great Love Story is a modern poem to romance but Romeo and Juliet this isn't. This is a love story that starts at a hen and stag party, a story of drunken sex, morning after awkwardness, shoes that hurt and rescuing escaped boobs. It's a love story where climbing a vine to a balcony takes a lot longer and a lot more effort than the movies would have you believe.

Ayesha Antoine plays Katie (and CC) who is out on a hen night with her mates. She's recently been dumped by her boyfriend (he who must not be named) and her friend CC is determined to get her a shag. Felix Scott plays Richard (Westie and Matt) and is on a stag do with his mates and his friend Westie is equally keen to pair Richard off with someone. Their eyes meet across a pulsating, sweaty, alcohol drenched dance floor but the course of true love never did run smooth.

Written in verse we are taken on a two year journey of mishaps and relationship mayhem. Those around Katie and Richard seem to be entering a new phase of their lives while our two mismatched, one-night stand, lovers seemed destined never to get it on again.

Ayesha Antoine and Felix Scott switch swiftly between characters without missing a beat of the poetry. They deliciously deliver the misinterpretations and missteps of Katie and Richard and the antics and opinions of their friends.

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NEWS - London fringe theatre round up with teen tales and surreal dinner parties

Henry V

HENRY V - Set in a First World War field hospital, Antic Disposition bring Shakespeare's play about the warrior king to Southwark Cathedral as part of a UK cathedral tour. You can see it there on Feb 2, 3, 20 & 21. For more details and other tour stops head to Antic Disposition's website.

WAR TIME COMEDY Flew the Coop is a humorous take on an amazing but controversial story based on true events: the romance between young Silesian translator Rosa Rauchbach, debonair British POW Horace Greasley and an inordinate number of stolen chickens. New Diorama Theatre 14 Feb to 4 Mar.

TEEN TALES #1 Filled with school riots, first loves, beached whales, cinema, space and sex, RUN tells the story of Yonni (Tom Ross-Williams), an orthodox, Jewish teenager, who sneaks out over the Sabbath and causes a world of trouble. The Bunker Mar 20 to Apr 1 (70 mins without interval). Also in Brighton prior to it's London run.

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REVIEW The Marx Brothers come to London in The Doppel Gang, Tristan Bates

The Doppel Gang (Tristan Bates Theatre) - Jake Urry, Peter Stone and Rachel Hartley
The Doppel Gang (Tristan Bates Theatre) - Jake Urry, Peter Stone and Rachel Hartley

It is London during the blitz and the city's inhabitants seek the distraction of entertainment but unfortunately not at one theatre. With the audience numbers dwindling and staff leaving for better prospects the theatre is about to go under. But what if they pretend to be the crowd-pulling Marx Brothers? It's a bold plan and some of the company are only convinced by the promise of a decent pay packet, for once. But what else is going on behind the scenes?

The Marx Brothers skit, when we get to it, is really well done and had me grinning but the problem with The Doppel Gang is that the rest of the play doesn't quite match it. The relationship between Peter Stone's mysterious Tommy and Rachel Hartley's Rachel is the main sub plot and yet these characters feel underused at the expense of some mildly funny and often laboured 'life back stage' comedy. As a result what should be the source of mystery and drama, the counter point to the comedy, feels under developed.

There are some laughs but not enough to be a fully fledged comedy and without the fleshed out drama it feels like is an overly long and strangely contrived set up for The Marx Brothers skit.

The Doppel Gang is an hour and forty minutes long with an interval. I'm giving the play two stars plus an extra star for the Marx Brothers scene. It's on at the Tristan Bates Theatre until Feb 11.


Ben Whishaw is back on stage at the Almeida #almeidatheatre

So I wake up to this news in the Guardian:

August will also see the debut of Pulitzer-nominated playwright Christopher Shinn’s new work, Against. Ben Whishaw will play Luke, a tech millionaire convinced he is the next messiah, whose calling is to confront violence in America.

Which is exciting not only because Ben Whishaw is back on stage (obviously) and at the Almeida rather than in the West End but also because it's a contemporary play and it feels like a while (The Pride - half contemporary - so perhaps Cock in 2009?).

James Graham will also debut a new play about newspapers in the 1960s. Given the brilliance of This House (currently enjoying a revival in the West End) this should be cracking.

REVIEW Five star fringe - Out There On Fried Meat Ridge Rd, White Bear Theatre #friedmeatUK

Keith Stevenson in Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Road (c) Erika Boxler
Keith Stevenson in Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Road (c) Erika Boxler

It's a bitterly cold, dark January night in the maelstrom of Trump's impending inauguration and May's hard Brexit speech and a piece of 'vital', 'essential' or 'urgent' theatre is not really what you want - or need. Thank heaven's then for Keith Stevenson's Out There On Fried Meat Ridge Rd which, in its 65 funny minutes of misfit, odd, dark, craziness has a warmth that leaves you feeling that not quite everything is wrong with the world.

Set in rural West Virginia, Mitch (Robert Moloney) has lost his job, been kicked out by his girlfriend and has a condition which makes him sweat profusely. JD (Keith Stevenson) lives in a motel, helps out with odd jobs and advertises for a room mate. JD and the room aren't quite what Mitch expects when he turns up to have a look but then neither is the slightly scary un-PC motel owner Flip (Michael Wade) or the warring couple next door - the philandering Tommy (Dan Hildebrand) and crystal meth addict Marlene (Melanie Gray).

But these are all characters that defy initial impressions. On the one hand JD has never heard of the state of Maine or that lobsters come from the sea but on the other he knows Latin. They are the sort of people whom you'd expect to see on the Jeremy Kyle show and yet they occasionally use language you'd hear on Radio 4. Just as Marlene's 'most beautiful' painting is a woman with a snake head the juxtaposition isn't quite right, it is surreal, slightly odd, perhaps a little sinister.

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London fringe theatre news round up

One Last Thing For Now, Old Red Lion

GENDER & RACE Am I black enough? straight enough? Jamaican enough? Created and performed by performance artist Rachael Young in collaboration with dance artist and choreographer Dwayne Antony, OUT examines and explores the stigmas associated to queerness and gender conformity within the black community. It's touring but has a short run at the Yard Theatre in Hackney from Feb 14-18 and is a 9pm start.

WOMEN'S FOOTBALL It is 1881. It is 1921. It is 2017. Four women from across the centuries live, breathe, and play football. Whilst each of them face very different obstacles in pursuing their dream profession, the possibility that the beautiful game will change their futures - and the world - is tantalisingly close. Offside is told through lyrical dialogue, poetry, and prose, placing the audience on the touchline of the game of a lifetime and its tour include a stint at Clapham Omnibus Mar 27-28.

WRITER IN CAPTIVITY Borrowing from some of his work and real events Don Quixote in Algiers tells of story of when writer Miguel de Cervantes was captured by pirates, examining truth, identity and freedom.  White Bear Theatre in Kennington 7 Feb - 4 Mar.

TOP TRUMPS At Theatre503 in Battersea there is a week of plays in which playwrights respond to the election of Donald Trump as president of the US. Timed to coincide with his inauguration, each show will feature 12 short plays including work by Caryl Churchill, Neil LaBute and Roy Williams. Theatre503 19-21 January.

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Review: Sketches of a relationship in Abigail, The Bunker

Fiona Doyle's relationship drama is told in fragments that jump back and forward through time. A man in his 40s (Mark Rose) and a woman in her 20s (Tia Bannon) meet at Berlin airport and strike up a relationship. They travel to bucket-list destinations, celebrate an anniversary and things fall apart.

The set of stacked boxes at the back of the stage is used cleverly as the scenes and locations change but the narrative falls down because the characters are too nebulous, too sketchy. You get hints and clues but not enough to really form a picture of who these people are and what motivates them. In order to understand the relationship's ultimate failure you need more of an understanding of the people themselves.

There are hints of the woman's childhood experiences and hints of her motives for being in the relationship, hints of more complex emotional forces and experiences at play but not enough to help you to fill in the gaps and form a proper picture. Instead, you get a woman who is volatile and needy but you aren't sure why. The man is even more of an enigma. We know he has a bucket list of places to visit and he seems a kind, gentle sort of person but not much else. Perhaps there was more that I missed as it wasn't always easy to hear what Mark Rose was saying.

What you get is a jumble of exchanges that are a clunky mix of poetic, philosophical and banal. It builds to a scene which would be more at home in a thriller but given how little you know about these people it comes across as just odd.

After 60 minutes I was left scratching my head none the wiser about the two people whose relationship I'd just watch unfold. It's two stars from me and runs at The Bunker until Feb 4.

Review and production photos: The awkward, honest and hilarious truth in #BU21 at Trafalgar Studios 2

Using real testimonies from terrorist attacks around the world Stuart Slade's play, BU21, imagines the aftermath of a plane being bombed out of the sky over London. It follows six people - a combination of victims, witnesses and those who lost loved ones - and in a series of interweaving monologues charts what they go through physically and mentally.

At one point during the play, Alex (Alexander Forsyth) breaks the fourth wall and accuses the audience of being into 'misery porn' and to a certain extent that is true, it is the theatrical equivalent of rubbernecking what we hope we never have to actually experience. However the play is also much more than that, it is primarily a play of human truth. The characters' responses are as different as their personalities. None are affected in quite the same way and each deal with the tragedy differently.

There are the obvious emotions of anger, fear and guilt but it is in the detail, those moments when the sub-conscience brain operates without the usual societal and moral filters where things gets really interesting. Sometimes awkward, sometimes painful, sometimes funny and not always PC, these are the revealing moments, the moments when you get glimpses of how humans behave in the most extraordinary situations.

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London fringe theatre news round up - war, love, parties and the absurdity of modern life

Focus Group, Ovalhouse Theatre

SURROGACY DRAMA In a surrogacy clinic in Gujarat, three women meet, all will benefit from the transaction but is it that simple? Made In India examines birth and motherhood in a brave new world. It runs at the Soho Theatre from 8-25 March.

THE WILD PARTY is the lust-fuelled story of an affair between two cabaret stars, and the final, fatal party they throw in their seedy Hollywood apartment. Join the party at the Hope Theatre in Islington from 10-28 Jan.

RETURNING HIT After a critically acclaimed run at The King’s Head Theatre earlier this year, Strangers In Between, the award-winning Australian play about a 16 year old boy who runs away to Sydney, is back by popular demand returning to kick off the 2017 season from 10 to 04 Feb.

CONDENSED CLASSIC Arrows and Traps Theatre have condensed Dostoyevsky's classic novel Crime and Punishment into a 90 minute three-hander and you can see it at the Jack Studio in Brockley from Feb 7-25.

SECOND WORLD WAR DRAMA Flew The Coop takes a darkly funny and highly imaginative look at two of the Second World War’s most singular characters: Rosa Rauchbach – a young Silesian woman who disguised her Jewish roots and took a job as a translator at a Prisoner of War camp, where she embarked on an affair with Horace Greasley, a debonair British Prisoner of War. Catch it at the New Diorama Theatre in Euston from 14 Feb to 4 Mar.

LOVE AND IDENTITY Can you fall in love with someone if you don’t know their gender?  Peter is about to find out when he falls for the sexually ambiguous ‘Blue’. Boy Stroke Girl runs at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden from Feb 28- Mar 12.

ABSURDITY OF LIFE The inner world of a desperately lonely man emerges from a seemingly light-hearted focus group about individually wrapped Mr Kipling cakes. Focus Group is on at the Ovalhouse Theatre in Oval from Jan 31 to Feb 4.


London fringe theatre news round up - Vault Festival special

Image003The Vault festival with it's eclectic mix of plays, comedy, cabaret musicals and more kicks off on Jan 25.  For the unfamiliar, it's held in the labyrinthine and atmospheric tunnels underneath Waterloo station - you can hear the trains rumbling overhead. The venues ooze character and there are bars and cozy nooks to hang out in before and after the shows. Here are some things to look out for and I'll update as I get more info. All shows are 60 minutes long without an interval.

BLACK COMEDY Space Play is a new black comedy which sees a lone astronaut stranded on a disintegrating space station as he struggles to get back to earth. It runs from Jan 25 to Jan 29 and starts at 6pm.

SOUND AND MOVEMENT An operatic queen bee and choir tell the story of a swarm of bees journey to a find a new hive. Swarm is on from Feb 8 to Feb 12 and is a 7.30 start.

VERBATIM  14 voices. 5 actors. 1 year. A Year From Now is a combination of verbatim and physical theatre and asks where you see yourself a year from now. From Jan 25 to Jan 29 starts at 18.10.

LIFE DRAMA Two stories interweave but are they connected? This Must Be The Place sees two friends, fugitives from their problems, try and start again in the big smoke but find themselves waiting on the margins still.
Feb 8 – 12, 7.45pm start.

ONE WOMAN SHOW #1 A squatter's tale performed by Jolie Booth, HIP transports the audience, to a cosy living room with hypnotic OHP, cushions, incense, tequila and nibbles. Feb 1-5, 6.30pm.

ONE WOMAN SHOW #2 Robyn Paterson’s one-woman family drama The South Afreakins is inspired by her own parents’ experience of emigrating from South Africa to New Zealand, she rapidly switches between Helene and Gordon to create a very human story of loss and family. Feb 15-19, 8pm.