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October 2018

November 2018

Review: Cuckoo, Soho Theatre - funny and poignant portrayal of Irish teens desperately seeking acceptance

Iona is a funny, bubbly, car crash character - you can see her driving towards the collision but can't look away.

Cuckoo  Soho Theatre (Courtesy of David Gill) (4) Elise Heaven and Caitriona Ennis
Elise Heaven and Caitriona Ennis in Cuckoo, Soho Theatre. Photo by David Gill.

Iona (Catriona Ennis) just wants to fit in, be one of the cool kids rather than the target of their ridicule and bullying.

Her best friend is Pingu (Elise Heaven) is non-binary, wears a tuxedo to school and has decided not to speak, but that's OK because Iona talks enough for both of them.

Set in Crumlin, a suburb of Dublin, writer Lisa Carroll's play Cuckoo follows Iona and Pingu over a couple of fateful days when they announce that they are moving to London.

It is a decision which catapults them into the spotlight in a way that they never anticipated.

Sharp, witty and descriptive

Iona has a sharp, often witty and descriptive way with words and the play opens with her enthusiastic and colourful recounting of a shoplifting trip.

Pingu's silent reactions speak volumes and Iona's story, while laugh out loud funny, paints a picture of a life where having a good TV and wearing the right labels are the difference between being accepted and being bullied. 

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Tom Hiddleston returns to the stage - what are the chances of getting a ticket?

Screen-Shot-2018-11-15-at-10.27.14-e69c5d5The last time Tom Hiddleston took to the stage it was playing Hamlet to raise funds for RADA and tickets were only available to the lucky few who got chosen in a ballot.

Before that, he played Coriolanus at the Donmar Warehouse which has a mere 250 seats - although it was broadcast via NT Live which did mean more people got the chance to see it.

Third time lucky, perhaps, for the post-Loki Hiddleston fans as he's not only returning to the stage but this time it's a big West End Theatre. 

Bigger capacity theatre

He's appearing in Betrayal next year, which will conclude Jamie Lloyd's Pinter at the Pinter season  - and the good news is that the Harold Pinter Theatre has a capacity of nearly 800.

Tickets go on sale at the end of the month* no doubt generating a ticket-buying scramble (details via the official Pinter at the Pinter website).

Will it be as fast-selling as Benedict Cumberbatch's 2016 Hamlet at the Barbican which sold out in record time? The Harold Pinter is a smaller theatre than the Barbican which has a capacity of more than 1,100 but Betrayal is a less well-known play which may take a bit of heat out of the demand.

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Review: Pinter 3, Harold Pinter Theatre - appreciating but not connecting

The very style of writing and performance, the visual and audio references while serving to emphasise the thematic points of the piece equally serve to isolate any emotional connection.

Pinter 3 flyerA mournful/despairing tune is playing in the auditorium, probably Radiohead or Thom York. The stage - an almost entirely sideless cube - slowly rotates and the seated Tamsin Greig glides around with it.

The audience carries on chatting or studying their phones as is the way - nothing to see here, it hasn't started so we won't pay attention.

It feels appropriate given the themes that are to come in this, the third collection of Pinter's short works in Jamie Lloyd's Pinter at the Pinter season.

When the lights dim and Greig does speak from her seated position it is with the aid of a microphone, her voice soft, Irish accent, her words lyrical. 

Stark contrasts

It is a stark contrast to Keith Allen who sits next to her: loud, gruff and matter of fact. No microphone.

They talk but not with each other. There is a hint of past intimacy, a hint of pride, a confession and a sense of loneliness and unfulfillment.

Two people who live together but have lost a connection somewhere along the way.

Cover version conclusion

A slow cover version of Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart concludes the piece which is titled 'Landscape'.

However, the very style of writing and performance, visual and audio references while serving to emphasise the thematic points of the piece equally serve to isolate any emotional connection.

It left me admiring the technicality of the performances and the skill of the writing but it didn't bring any twinges of empathy, in fact, it left me feeling as cold and unmoved as their relationship.

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Review: RSC's Don Quixote, Garrick Theatre - fun and poignancy but differing opinions on the 'musical' elements

Their adventures are vividly and cleverly brought to life utilising a variety of media including puppetry, acrobatics and wire work but it is the small, often background detail which richly elevates this production.

Rufus-Hound-and-David-Threlfall-in-the-Royal-Shakespeare-Companys-Don-Quixote.-London-2018.-Photography-by-Manuel-Harlan
Rufus Hound and David Threlfall in the Royal Shakespeare Company's Don Quixote London 2018. Photography by Manuel Harlan.

It's taken two years for the RSC's hit Don Quixote to make it to the West End with David Threlfall and Rufus Hound reprising their roles as the hapless knight errant and his squire.

Adapted by James Fenton it not only notches up the famous scenes from Miguel de Cervantes novel but the production design and direction find new niches of humour and fun.

It tells the story of Don Quixote (Threlfall) who, having read too many romantic novels, decides he is a knight errant and sets upon a mission to restore chivalry.

He takes with him illiterate farmer Sancho (Hound) to act as his squire and in the first half, we see them embroiled in a series of absurd scrapes brought about by Don Quixote's delusions and fantastical notions.

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From scratch to full production, a fringe play to look out for in London next year

 

Lipstick Production Shot_Credit Flavia Fraser-Cannon
Lipstick: A fairy tale of Iran. Photo: Flavia Fraser-Cannon
[Lipstick: A fairy tale of modern Iran] is a colourful, vibrant piece with darker edges utilising various genres from boylesque, drag, Vaudeville and storytelling.

I was invited to a scratch performance of Sarah Chew's Lipstick: A fairy tale of modern Iran back in March and loved it. I wrote then that I wanted to see a fully fleshed out production and now I'll get the chance.

It's returning to the Omnibus Theatre in Clapham from Feb 26 to Mar 24 as part of the 96 Festival which is a celebration of queerness and theatre. 

The play is based on Sarah Chew's own experiences while on a theatre residency in Iran in 2010 just as riots were breaking out over a contested election and I can highly recommend it.

Related reading:

Thoughts on the scratch performance.

Interview with Sarah Chew

 


Interview: writer Lisa Carroll on not festishising Ireland and laughing at her own jokes

Lisa Carroll's play Cuckoo opens at the Soho Theatre next week and follows two teenagers escaping bullies and seeking a new identity in another country. Here she talks about the inspiration behind the play, determining what is funny and how she got started as a playwright. 

Lisa Carroll

Cuckoo’s two central characters want to leave Dublin for London and you are an Irish playwright living in London - how much is the play based on your own experiences?

I came up with the idea for Cuckoo shortly after I made the decision to move from Dublin to London. Emigration has always been a pertinent part of the Irish experience and I wanted to explore ideas of home and what it means to leave.

Particularly after the financial crash, there was an exodus of young people from Ireland, and I knew the play could speak to that.

I used to live near Crumlin, where the play is set, and had close friends from the area.

Crumlin sits outside Dublin city centre and is full of vibrant, sparky, fascinating people, and I wanted to try and capture that unique energy on the page.

The Crumlin dialect is fast, ferocious and nuanced. I feel strongly about writing Ireland as I see it, today, rather than the wistful, nostalgic and often fetishised version Ireland we often see represented on stage.

While the idea of what it means to leave Ireland is inspired by my own experience of doing so, beyond that the play is entirely fictional, from the heightened world to the characters and events.

All I knew when I started writing Cuckoo was that I wanted to create two compelling central characters: Iona, a boisterous, larger-than-life young woman, full of spark and potential, but who was seen as simply ‘too much’ by the people around her.

Cuckoo  Soho Theatre (Courtesy of David Gill) (3)
Cuckoo, Soho Theatre. Photo by David Gill.

And Pingu, who steadfastly identifies as non-binary in a highly gendered world. Pingu has made the decision not to speak, in order not to have to constantly advocate for their right just to be themselves.

It was around these two characters and their desire to find their tribe in London that I built the play.

The play explores themes of gender identity and a sense of belonging, do you think social media makes it harder for teenagers growing up?

Being a teenager has always been a trying time and I think it always will be.

I think in general social media hasn’t changed us as a species, so much as drawn out and exacerbated our already deeply flawed nature, only in new ways.

Being a teenager has always been a phase of uncertainty trying to carve out your identity.

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