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Review: F**k Off, Bread and Roses Theatre - real live theatre for the first time in 5 months

I sat in a theatre and watched actors performing on a stage this week for the first time since the beginning of March. It was wonderful and strange and made me realise how the pandemic has changed the experience.

F*ck Off play poster

The play was called F**k Off, at the Bread and Roses pub theatre in Clapham. Kudos to Integrity Theatre for taking the gamble and planning the production without knowing if live performance would be allowed.

Henry (Michael Dunbar) is the protagonist of the piece; a boxer trying to make a comeback, training hard and trying to get his head in the right space.

A win in the ring would mean money and opportunities.

Complicated life

But outside of the ring, it is complicated. His ex has moved on, there is a court case, an absent father who wants to get back in touch and a trainer who has a dodgy side-hustle.

All good threads for creating tension and drama in Henry's story, shaping the character, except they leave more questions than they answer.

The order of events isn't clear which makes it difficult to get a feel for how they influence Henry's mindset and behaviour.

Building drama

Where the play works really well is in building the psychological drama around his training for the comeback fight - and how it draws in those around him.

The big fight itself is seen through different lenses which powerfully shows the different relationships and what Henry means to people.

And it was wonderful to watch it unfolding in front of me on an actual stage rather than on screen.

I'm not sure what the rules are about social distancing for performers but there were a few occasions where there was contact - and at one point kissing.

Human contact

It made me realise how quickly I've become conditioned to seeing human contact as unusual - it made me nervous.

And the performers themselves didn't seem that at ease with it, which may have added to my feeling of unease.

That said, it was still a huge thrill to be back at the theatre watching a live performance and let's hope it isn't too long before the next time.

F**k Off is at the Bread and Roses Theatre until 29 August and you can find details here on the website.

I'm giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️ and it's 60 minutes long.

You might also like to read:

Review: Blindness, Donmar Warehouse - the intimate social distancing experience.

Theatre poll: Which play/production would you go back to see if you could?

From the archive: Bakkhai post-show Q&A with Bertie Carvel and Ben Whishaw