Previous month:
May 2024
Next month:
July 2024

June 2024

Review: The Constituent, Old Vic - promises, promises

Old Vic The Constituent

There's been a lot of buzz on social media about The Constituent at the Old Vic, and on paper, it holds a lot of promise. But did it live up to expectations?

Anna Maxwell Martin plays Monica, a back-bench opposition MP who is having new security cameras and a panic button fitted at her constituency office. The person doing the work, Alec (James Corden), happens to be a constituent and has gone to the same school.

Monica is a politician with a lot of empathy. Ex-army Alec's marriage has ended, and he is fighting to see his kids. He thinks laws need to change, and Monica can help with that.

The play starts with an almost jovial comic tone, with funny quips and ripples of laughter. But the story starts to take a darker turn.

Monica receives rape and death threats, and her office is smashed up. The name Alec means 'defender of men', which is the position Alec, the character, takes when it comes to father's rights.

Is this a comedy or a dark drama? It is difficult to discern. The comedy is too cheery in tone to make it a black comedy, and given the subject matter, it gets harder and harder to laugh. 

Continue reading "Review: The Constituent, Old Vic - promises, promises" »

Review: The Bounds, Royal Court Theatre - peculiar and perplexing

The Bounds production photo Von Fox Promotions
L-R Soroosh Lavasani, Ryan Nolan, Lauren Waine in The Bounds. Photo: Von Fox Promotions

Stewart Pringle's play The Bounds at the Royal Court Theatre upstairs is set in 1553. It's the day of a much-anticipated football game between two rival Northumberland villages.

But this isn't football as we now know it; Tudor football is played over a sprawling area, it's violent, and it lasts as long as it takes for there to be a winner.

Percy (Ryan Nolan) and Rowan (Lauren Waine) are positioned on one of the very outer edges of the game, keeping an eye out for any sign of play coming their way. Then Sam (Saroosh Lavasani) turns up. Neither Percy nor Rowan really know who he is or why he is there. 

In the introduction to the play text, Stewart Pringle describes The Bounds as the most peculiar play he's written, and as it progresses, it becomes evident why.

The opening scene of banter between Percy and Rowan about the previous year's games and what might happen at this one is full of witty lines, but the football game eventually becomes a background accompaniment to other things going on.

In 1553, the boy-king Edward VI was on the throne, and his advisors were instigating a wholesale purging of what was left of Catholicism—finishing what Henry VIII, Edward's father, had started.

We see the impact of this through the attitude of Percy and Rowan to Catholics, particularly when the reality of Protestant landgrabs hits home.

Continue reading "Review: The Bounds, Royal Court Theatre - peculiar and perplexing" »

Interview: Actor & writer Léa des Garets talks about her new play George and LGBTQ+ representation in theatre

Lea des Garets - press shot
Actor & writer Lea des Garets

Léa des Garets is a queer award-winning actor, writer and theatre-maker from France. Through her company MQT Productions, Léa aims to give more visibility to hidden voices from the past and the present, focusing particularly on international voices, female-led narratives and the LGBTQIA+ community.

Here, she talks to me about George, her new play, which opens at the Omnibus Theatre later this month, playing a writer writing a play and LGBTQ+ representation in theatre. (Scroll to the end for the video)

George is inspired by the story of queer French author George Sand. How did you discover her, and what made you want to write the play?

So I am French, and George Sand is quite well known in France, but in a very limited way. Although she sold more books than Victor Hugo and Honoré Balzac in her time, she isn't nearly as well known as they are today.

At school, I had only studied two of her works, so I wasn't drawn to her literary works. But what I did know was that she dressed as a man, she used a male pen name and allegedly had many lovers.

I had this sense that she was a free woman or expressed her gender in whatever way she wanted, and she was still really, really successful in 19th-century France.

In 2019, I was really exploring my own queerness and craving for figures, not only to study but also to potentially embody as an actor, and I re-stumbled upon her.

In spite of all the press slandering, she still fought for equality and went against the norms, not only in what she represented but also in what she was saying. She really has something to say to our time, so I needed to write about her. And how amazing would it be to play her?

You play George and wrote the play, how does being the playwright inform your performance process, particularly as George in the play is a writer?

I had this image of three circles, there was my world, Léa the writer, and her world, George Sand the writer and the work that she is writing in George the play, which is her play Gabriel.

So much of the writing process of George is included in the play itself. There was a lot of bouncing off ideas with loved ones who are in the industry and who aren't, as well as brainstorming. There was some getting up in the middle of the night to write and also not commanding inspiration but having things come at you from the outside.

But then there is also the tunnel vision for something that you end up being so incredibly passionate about. I really found and experienced that, and I know what it feels like to hold on to what you believe in.

Continue reading "Interview: Actor & writer Léa des Garets talks about her new play George and LGBTQ+ representation in theatre" »

Review: GRILLS, Camden People's Theatre - a fun play with a powerful roar

L-R Olivia Dowd Ishmael Kirby Jaye Hudson India JJ - credit Harry Elletson
L-R Olivia Dowd, Ishmael Kirby, Jaye Hudson and India JJ. Photo: Harry Elletson


GRILLS at the Camden People's Theatre is set in two time periods and two places connected by the queer experience and history.

Four modern self-professed queer nerds - Vall, Bee, Jaz and Mo - are visiting the Glasgow Women's Library, which is where the archive from the Camden Lesbian Centre and Black Lesbian Group is now kept. 

The CLC and BLG joined forces in the 1980s, and we are transported back to life in their centre through their discoveries while rifling through the archive.

There are revealing snippets from documented phone calls the centre received, which paint a picture of the work the centre did to support queer people. It is a place which created community, support and camaraderie in the face of prejudice and abuse. 

The documents also expose the challenges the centre faced from the politics of the day. Conservative Party rhetoric stoked homophobia, and Section 28 decimated funding for the centre, which was eventually forced to close. Attitudes towards transwomen are also revealed through the internal politics.


Continue reading "Review: GRILLS, Camden People's Theatre - a fun play with a powerful roar" »

Review: Eddie Izzard's Hamlet, Riverside Studios - grappling with performance and personality

Eddie Izzard hamlet poster

When someone plays not just many characters but all the characters in a classic play as Eddie Izzard does here for Hamlet, I have two key questions: How will they do it and why, i.e. what will it add?

When I saw Andrew Scott's one-man Vanya, while a technically brilliant performance, it didn't add to or elevate the play. I missed seeing him riff off other actors.

The jury was still out at the interval of Eddie Izzard's Hamlet. I simply wasn't sure what to make of it, but for different reasons to Vanya. It didn't feel like it was missing other actors, perhaps because I'm used to Eddie Izzard being a solo performer.

Here, the problem was how inextricably linked Eddie Izzard's persona is with her stand-up, at least in my mind. She has a distinct comic style and tone, which is evident in the 23 different characters she plays.

Was she being tongue-in-cheek? I could see her doing little bits of Hamlet in her stand-up show, but this is the whole play, which, while there is some humour to be found, is a tragedy.

But while I grappled with the question of comedy, some scenes worked really well with some interesting decisions.

She plays the characters mostly by taking a step into a different position. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are the exceptions; here, she talks with his hands, which is very silly, but it works for the characters who are puppets of Hamlet's uncle Claudius.

Continue reading "Review: Eddie Izzard's Hamlet, Riverside Studios - grappling with performance and personality" »