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December 2019

January 2020

Review: The Sunset Limited, Boulevard Theatre - great performances, problematic play

Cormac McCarthy isn't known for cheery topics as anyone who has sat through (or read) The Road will testify and his play The Sunset Limited is no exception.

Gary-Beadle-and-Jasper-Britton-in-Sunset-Limited.-Photo-Marc-Brenner
Gary Beadle and Jasper Britton in The Sunset Limited. Photo: Marc Brenner


But where there was the drama of danger and survival in the apocalyptic The Road, in The Sunset Limited drama is somewhat lacking.

It's a two-hander between two unnamed men identified, somewhat ironically given their immovable viewpoints, as Black (Gary Beadle) and White (Jasper Britton).

Black is an ex-con who stops White, a professor, jumping in front of a commuter train - the eponymous Sunset Limited. He sits him down in his tenement apartment to persuade him that life is worth living after all.

Faith vs faithless

The reformed criminal has found god while White remains a staunch atheist admitting that the thought of meeting people in an afterlife fills him with horror.

They debate each other's views, neither conceding ground only occasionally acknowledging a particular view or train of thought as good.

And this is the problem with The Sunset Limited, as interesting as the debate is, there isn't any tension perhaps mild frustration from White that Black won't let him leave.

Continue reading "Review: The Sunset Limited, Boulevard Theatre - great performances, problematic play" »


Review: You Stupid Darkness! Southwark Playhouse - funny, haunting, moving and strangely uplifting

Sam Steiner's play You Stupid Darkness! is set in a decaying office where four volunteers man a helpline - Brightline - trying to help people look on the bright side.

Andrew-Finnigan-Lydia-Larson-Andy-Rush-and-Jenni-Maitland-in-You-Stupid-Darkness-Credit-Ali-Wright
Andrew Finnigan, Lydia Larson, Andy Rush and Jenni Maitland in You Stupid Darkness! Photo: Ali Wright.

Inspirational posters cover water stains and holes in the wall with messages such as 'It will be alright in the end and if it's not alright, it's not the end."

The world outside the office isn't in a much better state. Nothing is directly discussed but the volunteers arrive wearing gas masks, you can hear sirens going off outside and there are hints from occasional remarks.

Frances (Jenni Maitland) the team leader is heavily pregnant and at one point is asked if she regrets it.

New volunteer 17-year-old Joey (Andrew Finnigan) comments that he hasn't seen a pregnant woman since he was 12.

Not looking ahead

When he says he prefers not to look too far ahead, it isn't the words of an apathetic teenager but a young person for whom the future genuinely doesn't hold a lot of promise.

Brightline, it seems, is like the cheery posters covering up far more serious problems.

Continue reading "Review: You Stupid Darkness! Southwark Playhouse - funny, haunting, moving and strangely uplifting" »


Interview: The Vault Festival's head of lates, Laura Drake Chambers on finding the unique and edgy late shows

The Vault Festival kicks off next week promising to be bigger and better than ever. I asked Laura Drake Chambers, head of lates, how she goes about putting together the programme and advice for first-timers.

V20 Class Image (Credit Tom Shannon)
Image by Tom Shannon

With 500+ shows at the festival, where do you start when putting together the programme?

Working to find the right companies is one of the most enjoyable parts of the process.

London is full of incredible creativity, it’s saturated with artists and communities expressing themselves through late-night work, it’s definitely not a chore going out and finding great work to programme.

Making sure to look at the balance between companies that are hungry to expand into larger venue spaces, or in a place that would benefit from the support that VAULT can offer and also partner well with the ethos of VAULT Festival to bring in new and exciting audiences into our festival is key.

What is the process and what is the most difficult part?

I approach a lot of the Lates companies personally, to gauge how right they are for the scale of the event spaces we can offer.

Once I’ve approached everyone on my radar for that year, it’s then just piecing it together like a fabulous jigsaw puzzle!

I think the most challenging part can be fitting the shows together in the right order. I try to see the festival programme as an arc of connected events and focus on giving each company the right spot within it.

What are you looking for when deciding if a show is suitable?

A few simple things really – with the larger events in The Underbar on Saturdays, I need to be confident that the night will sell, so artists aren’t exposed to unnecessary risk and taking the show space is a positive move.

Continue reading "Interview: The Vault Festival's head of lates, Laura Drake Chambers on finding the unique and edgy late shows" »


Production photos for Uncle Vanya starring Toby Jones and Richard Armitage (Harold Pinter Theatre)

Excited about this production of Uncle Vanya at the Harold Pinter Theatre?

It's currently in preview and due to officially open this week but in the meantime here are the official production photos to whet your appetite.

Toby Jones and Richard Armitage lead a starry cast which also includes Aimee Lou Wood, Ciaran Hinds, Rosalind Eleazar, Anna Calder-Marshall, Dearbhla Molloy and Peter Wight.

It's directed by Ian Rickson, for more details and ticket information head to the official website.

All photos by Johan Persson.

 

 

 


Review: The Co-op, White Bear Theatre, Kennington - fun, if sometimes clunky comedy

Make It Beautiful Theatre's first production, The Co-op, is about three actors who have set up their own acting agency.

The Co-op Make It Beautiful Theatre
They spend their day, drinking and trying to get auditions for each other, being supportive and barely hiding jealousy and rivalry.

But a crisis is looming for the agency and it isn't just that Caza is skint.

The narrative thread is more of a vehicle for a series of sketches that are part homage to famous films and different genres and part gentle satire on the fickleness of the acting industry and audition process.

Don't look for too much coherence and consistency in the story because there isn't much.

Continue reading "Review: The Co-op, White Bear Theatre, Kennington - fun, if sometimes clunky comedy" »


Review: Lullabies For The Lost, Old Red Lion - emotionally vivid and powerful but a problem ending

Lullabies For the Lost is one of two plays by Rosalind Blessed about mental health that are being performed in rep at the Old Red Lion.

Rosalind Blessed and cast  Lullabies for the Lost  courtesy of Adam Trigg
Rosalind Blessed and cast Lullabies for the Lost, Old Red Lion Theatre. Photo: Adam Trigg

It starts with Larry (Chris Porter) agonising about going out to dinner with his friends, as the clock ticks closer to the time he needs to leave.

His dilemma is nothing to do with the company but his anxiety about social situations and he tests out excuses for why he isn't able to go - which raise a few laughs - but it is nonetheless heartbreaking to see the pain his anxiety causes.

And there is a lot of that in Lullabies for the Lost as it cycles through 8 stories of different mental health conditions - depression, anorexia, bulimia, chronic low self-esteem, hoarding, among others.

Lighter moments

Some of the stories are harrowing but some show a more humorous side bringing lighter moments. 

Blessed has the sufferers stuck in a white room, doomed to retell their stories until they can find the key that will unlock their condition - let them back out into the world.

'We have to solve our riddles.'

The room feels like a slightly clunky device and the conversations between its occupants - a mixture of bickering and encouragement - adds little to the overall narrative or tension.

Continue reading "Review: Lullabies For The Lost, Old Red Lion - emotionally vivid and powerful but a problem ending" »


Review: NoFit State's Lexicon, Roundhouse - a few nail-biting thrills and an air of carefree fun and mischief

NoFit State's latest circus show Lexicon starts before the start with the band larking among the audience as they arrive making a competing cacophony with various wind instruments.

Luke-Hallgarten-in-NoFit-States-Lexicon-at-the-Roundhouse.-Credit-David-Levene-3
Luke Hallgarten in NoFit States Lexicon, Roundhouse. Photo: David Levene.

Do I sound old if I say it was a bit loud and well, annoying?

It doesn't settle down much when the show officially starts with the performers forming an unruly class of school kids, complete with old fashioned school desks for props.

There is a lot of competing noise and activity accompanied by loud live music and it wasn't until the show moved on to the first solo aerial act with straps that it got into a (calmer) stride.

Singers accompanied the live music and it is as much about grace as it is strength and the jeopardy of being so high with no safety net.

Continue reading "Review: NoFit State's Lexicon, Roundhouse - a few nail-biting thrills and an air of carefree fun and mischief" »


Quick video review: The Duchess of Malfi, Almeida Theatre and a bit of a Lydia Wilson gush

Some quick, morning after, thoughts on the Duchess of Malfi played by Lydia Wilson at the Almeida Theatre.

’Duchess of Malfi’ transcribed as ’Duchess of mouthy’ in the captions which I thought was slightly unfair 😂.

You can read my full review here - it's great to see Lydia Wilson back on stage again after too long away.

 


In pictures: Toby Jones and Richard Armitage in rehearsal for Uncle Vanya, Harold Pinter Theatre

Uncle Vanya starring Toby Jones and Richard Armitage (who was brilliant in The Crucible) is one of the hot theatre tickets of 2020 and the rehearsal images landed today.

The cast also includes Aimee Lou Wood, Ciaran Hinds, Rosalind Eleazar, Anna Calder-Marshall, Dearbhla Molloy and Peter Wight.

It's directed by Ian Rickson it opens for previews at the Harold Pinter Theatre on 14 Jan, for more details and ticket info head to the official website.

Excited? Moi?

 


Happy New Year and here's to 2020 - and an anniversary

I wanted to start off the year with a big thank you.

Bunbuns new year

Thank you for taking the time to read my reviews and bits and pieces.

And thank you for taking the time to comment or like posts on Instagram or Facebook.

My love of theatre and love of writing was the starting point for this blog but knowing that people read what I've written is the icing on the cake (and still surprises me).

This year Rev Stan's Theatre blog is going to be 10 years old and I'm not sure it would have made it this far without you.

I've got a few things planned to celebrate 😉.

Happy New Year here's to lots of theatre treats in 2020.