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February 2024

Review: A Family Business, Omnibus Theatre - smartly performed but connection issues

A Family Business by Chris Thorpe. Photography by Andreas J. Etter. Designer & Costume Designer Eleanor Field. Lighting & Video Designer Arnim Friess 7
A Family Business by Chris Thorpe. Photography by Andreas J. Etter.

A Family Business is based on conversations with academics, activists and diplomats, and is part interactive educational lecture on nuclear weapons and part drama about the campaign for nuclear disarmament.

Writer and performer Chris Thorpe takes the part of the educator. He greets people as they arrive to take their seats, asking names, which he squirrels away for later. (A skill that I'm always hugely impressed by as someone who finds names skim through my brain at an alarming speed.)

He throws questions out to the audience to test knowledge and hands out biscuits for correct answers. He asks other questions too about where people live, favourite places etc. When a Google map is projected on the back wall, the direction is pretty clear.

However, woven between lecture segments is the story of some campaigners trying to get a treaty on nuclear disarmament signed and ratified by enough countries. 

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Review: Ralph Fiennes and Indira Varma in Macbeth, Dock X

Macbeth poster

Ralph Fiennes and Indira Varma's Macbeth is being staged in an industrial warehouse in Canada Water, south east London, which means there is space around the auditorium to start setting the scene.

As you step in from the dockside entrance, there are banners emblazoned with an 'M' and the sound of jet aircraft flying overhead. A military base-style siren goes off to let you know that the house is open.

Getting to your seat involves a walk through a battle-scarred street scene, and once inside, there are military personnel. The ominous post-battle sounds continue. It's a charged atmosphere.

The raked seating is on three sides of the stage, so even sitting almost at the back, it didn't feel too far away from the stage. The aisles are used during the performance for some even closer encounters.

A bomb-damaged concrete slab and a series of steps form the performance space. At the back are electronic sliding doors with frosted glass, which obscures all unless objects - or people - are very close.

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Review: 10 Nights, Omnibus Theatre - well-paced, funny and warm

10 nights omnibus theatre poster Feb 2024

The 10 nights of the title of Shahid Iqbal Khan play refers to itikaf, spending the last 10 days of Ramadan at the Mosque. The idea is to cut yourself off from worldly affairs, focus on prayer and read the Quran.

Yassar (Azan Ahmed) is always on TikTok, gets drunk with his friends and is generally a disappointment to his father.

When he half-seriously volunteers for itikaf, seemingly out of grief for his dead friend Aftab, it is the first time his father has been proud of him, so he can't back out.

Isolated from the distractions of social media and 'life' and with a strict routine of prayer, reading and breaking fast, it forces introspection.

Yasser has to confront some harsh truths about his behaviour, his faith and the death of his friend. 

Azan Ahmed deftly gives voice to Yasser's thoughts and conversations with the few people he encounters in the Mosque. From his frenemy Usman to the itikaf expert assigned to guide him.

This was an interesting insight into a world I'm not familiar with. Naturally, there were references and jokes that went over my head, but there were plenty that did land.

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Review: A Mirror, Trafalgar Theatre - truth and lies in theatre

Tanya Reynolds and Samuel Adewunmi for A Mirror at the Trafalgar Theatre - photo by Marc Brenner
Tanya Reynolds and Samuel Adewunmi in A Mirror at the Trafalgar Theatre - photo by Marc Brenner

The wedding between Layla and Joel is back on, having found a new venue at the Trafalgar Theatre.

Sam Holcroft's play A Mirror, which won rave reviews when it opened at the Almeida Theatre, has brought its lies to the West End.

That isn't a spoiler, it tells us the play is a lie in a tagline. And we, the audience, are complicit; we play along as wedding guests, standing for the bride and later to take an oath.

But for which lie are we complicit?

Inspired by Sam Holcroft's visit to North Korea, this is a play about culture in a repressive regime. What theatre is suitable for public consumption in the eyes of the state? Who is it for, and what does theatre mean in that scenario?

It is also about the truth and lies of theatre arts.

Layla and Joel's wedding is a performance, not so much a play within a play but a play to hide a play. 

That play follows Čelik (Jonny Lee Miller), the director at the Ministry of Culture, who believes he is a connoisseur of the arts and wants to improve the quality of what gets approved for performance.

When a play written by car mechanic Adem (Samuel Adewunmi) lands on his desk, it contains so many infractions of what is 'acceptable' theatre that Čelik should report him to the Ministry of Security.

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