16 posts categorized "Bush Theatre" Feed

Review: Fair Play, Bush Theatre

Fair Play at the Bush Theatre is set in the world of female athletics. Ann (NicK King) joins a running club and meets Sophie (Charlotte Beaumont), and the two bond over their love of running, drive and ambition to compete at the highest level. 

L-r NicK King and Charlotte Beaumont in 'Fair Play' at Bush Theatre. Photo credit Ali Wright-2
L-r NicK King and Charlotte Beaumont in 'Fair Play' at Bush Theatre. Photo credit: Ali Wright

It is simply staged with the lines of a running track marked out and a couple of scaffolding frames. The dialogue weaves around their training regime, the warm-ups, practice races and competitions. 

There is banter, encouragement, anger at bad performances and revelations about the sacrifices the two make and the impact training at such a high level has on their bodies.

With snatches of races imaginatively performed, the stop-start pace creates bursts of energy like that which goes into the runs. It envelops you into the landscape of serious athletics.

And so the first half jogs, and it is fun and interesting, but after a while, it starts to feel like it is circling as Ann and Sophie circle the running track. I did wonder if it was leading anywhere.

In the second half, the circle is broken. Just as the two are competing on the world stage, Ann's ambitions for reaching the Olympics are shattered - and the friendship tested. 

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Review: Lava, Bush Theatre - 'witty, weighted and lyrical'

Last year a critic described a dramatic response to the Black Lives Matter protests, to which Benedict Lombe contributed, as 'more lecture than theatre'. The quote is projected onto the set of her debut play, Lava, at the Bush Theatre.

Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo in 'Lava' at the Bush Theatre. Photo credit Helen Murray_47
Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo in 'Lava' at the Bush Theatre. Photo credit: Helen Murray

It appears about three-quarters of the way through the play, a punctuation point, a punch, perhaps a poke but certainly a powerful note that underlines what has gone before and the overarching message of the piece.

What has gone before is the story of a missing first name in a passport. Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo plays Benedict, recounting the story of getting her British passport renewed and finding out why her first name is missing.

Her investigation takes her back to Congo, the country where she was born but much further back in history to colonialism and the years that followed that have shaped her life and the lives of so many.

It is the tale of a family moving from place to place as Benedict's parents seek out a country where they can lead fulfilled lives - and just be.

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Review: Overflow, live stream via Bush Theatre - toilet drama makes for clever and powerful storytelling

Travis Alabanza's play Overflow is set in the toilet of a club from where transgirl Rosie (Reece Lyons) has locked herself in.

Overflow bush theatre reece lyon
Overflow, Bush Theatre. Photography by Elise Rose. Art direction by Mia Maxwell

She talks about the power of a 'pre-emptive pee' but it isn't just about being organised enough to empty your bladder knowing the facilities, later on, will be less than ideal for a comfort break.

As she talks there is the possibility that she might want to avoid public toilets for reasons other than queues and cleanliness.

The toilet setting is the literal backdrop for stories of her past experiences from primary school to more recent club visits but each is revealing, peppered with revelations about life as a transgirl, how friends and society views her.

At first, the club toilet experience is about acceptance and friendly camaraderie where the girls bolster each other with compliments and rally to help out when one of them is in need.

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Review: Strange Fruit, Bush Theatre - an exposing and painful play which distracts from its key themes

It is the women that come to the fore and feel like the more interesting and sympathetic characters.

Rakie Ayola as Vivian in 'Strange Fruit' at the Bush Theatre. Photo credit Helen Murray.
Rakie Ayola as Vivian in 'Strange Fruit', Bush Theatre. Photo: Helen Murray.

Caryl Phillips' play Strange Fruit focuses on cultural identity in 1980s Britain.

Vivian (Rakie Ayola) left the Caribbean with her two young sons Errol and Alvin seeking a better life but after 20 years in England, the family finds themselves caught between two cultures.

The grown-up brothers are disaffected and angry. Errol (Jonathan Ajayi) rages at society and that includes his mother and white girlfriend Shelley (Tilly Steele) - which doesn't make for comfortable viewing.

England is riddled with racism and prejudice, neither brother feels welcome or that it is the land of opportunity their mother believes. 

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Review: Class, Bush Theatre - classroom and class tensions

Class layers marital tensions with social class tensions and the pressures of being a teacher and learning.

L-r Sarah Morris  Stephen Jones and Will O'Connell   in 'CLASS' photo by_Helen Murray 73B&W
L-r Sarah Morris, Stephen Jones and Will O'Connell in 'CLASS'. Photo: Helen Murray

Brian (Stephen Jones) and Donna (Sarah Morris) are separated but having to put on a united front for the sake of their 9-year-old son Jayden who is having problems at school.

They've been called in to see Jayden's teacher Mr McCafferty (Will O'Connell) but classrooms hold bad memories for both of them.

As Mr McCafferty nervously broaches the subject of Jayden's learning difficulties feathers are ruffled and someone shows they have a chip on their shoulder.

Set entirely in Jayden's classroom, the walls a tempting chalkboard, sitting on the little chairs literally and figuratively brings the adults down to a child's level. 

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Review: While We're Here, Bush Theatre Studio

Tessa Peake-Jones and Andrew French in While We're Here at thenew Bush Studio. Credit Mark Douet
Tessa Peake-Jones and Andrew French in While We're Here at thenew Bush Studio. Photo: Mark Douet

Carol (Tessa Peake-Jones) is making up the sofa in her Havant home for Eddie (Andrew French) to sleep on. A chance meeting has thrown the former lovers together; they've not seen each other for 20 years and he's got no where to stay. She's happy to help, happy to have the company as her daughter has moved out. Eddie babbles with nerves and Carol is awkwardly sweet, something has been kindled.

There is a lot of humour in their chit chat as they share their views on TV, the local area and news stories but that chat is pregnant with their own philosophy, how they attempt to rationalise and organise their lives to get through. As the two get re-acquainted we learn of Eddie's struggles with mental health and Carol's loneliness and sense of regret.

At times they are on the same page, leaping on those moments of understanding while at others they are worlds apart. Both have built their own safety nets, Eddie keeps moving while Carol stays still making few changes. Eddie returning to her life ignites a spark that might break her out of the shell, seduced as she is by the potential rekindling of their romance. Eddie, however, is driven by a bleakly fatalistic outlook, believing happiness is transitory and consequently fearful of what he sees as the inevitable end.

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Review and production photos: Dark, powerful and funny Guards At The Taj, Bush Theatre

Darren Kuppan and Danny Ashok in Guards at the Taj at the Bush Theatre. Credit Marc Brenner.
Darren Kuppan and Danny Ashok in Guards at the Taj at the Bush Theatre. Photo: Marc Brenner.

Director Jamie Lloyd has moved on from dark dystopian Philip Ridley plays performed in the basement at Shoreditch Town Hall to something that is arguably even darker but set in 17th century India. Guards at the Taj, at the newly revamped Bush Theatre (thumbs up for the more spacious ground floor), is a play by Pulitzer shortlisted Rajiv Joseph about two friends Humayun (Danny Ashok) and Babur (Darren Kuppan) who are guarding the Taj Mahal.

They've been assigned the lowliest guard duty - the graveyard shift - keeping watch as the finishing touches are made to the mausoleum. With their backs to the construction site they aren't allowed to turn around and look - that is a privilege only afforded the workers and the King - but as dawn starts to light up the sky the temptation grows.

The two characters - and the scenario - have echoes of Waiting for Godot and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Babur is a stickler for following the rules, knows all the punishments for the various crimes and misdemeanours whereas Humayan is the rule breaker, a dreamer with a head full of fanciful inventions. They aren't supposed to talk but they do. 

However, sneaking a glance at the Taj doesn't have the consequences you might imagine, ironically it is following orders that sets in motion a series of dark and barbaric events that changes their lives and those of thousands of others.

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Thoughts and production photos: The Angry Brigade at the Bush Theatre this time

Harry Melling and Mark Arends in The Angry Brigade ∏Manuel Harlan
Harry Melling and Mark Arends in Angry Brigade at the Bush Theatre. Photo Manuel Harlan

Saw The Angry Brigade at the Watford Palace Theatre last Autumn and it's found it's way to the Bush Theatre with Harry Melling returning and three new actors taking the other parts.

It's the story of Britain's answer to the Baader Meinhof and 1st of May guerilla groups in the 1970s and the police efforts to unmask them. You can read more detail about the play itself and my thoughts in the Watford review, the second viewing is a bit of a clue as to how much I enjoyed it, but I was also curious how it would change in a different theatre space.

Watford is an old theatre, a very formal setting for a play that has anarchy at its heart. The Bush has a flexible studio space allowing more freedom.

In the first half when the story follows the police the action is appropriately contained within the marked performance space but when it turns to the Angry Brigade themselves in the second half it is a different matter.

The audience is sat on three sides, slightly raised from the main performance space which has a walkway sized shelf around it. "Please keep bags and feet behind the rail," those of us on the front row were instructed and yes at one point Harry Melling was lying at my feet.

There are multiple entry points which the 'Brigade' made the most of. Actors often appearing behind the audience or sitting in a seat at the back. It can have quite a startling effect particularly when the filing cabinet 'bombs' start going off.  It all adds to the atmosphere although I must admit that it felt just a little bit more rebellious watching it from a red velvet upholstered seat in a traditional theatre.

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Review: Nick Payne's Incognito at the Bush Theatre


Amelia Lowdell in Incognito. Photo by Bill Knight.

The title of Nick Payne's latest play (gosh he's prolific) gives a hint of its themes primarily the hidden self. Incognito is an exploration of the sense of self, whether through our own perceptions, relationships or straightforward biology and whether it is truthful.


There are three stories interwoven and presented like overlapping jigsaw pieces, boundaries blurring as the four cast members stride in and out of scenes with only differing accents to distinguish the multiple characters they play.

Two of the stories are set in the fifties. In one After conducting his autopsy, Thomas Harvey steals Einstein's brain to use for research.  In the other Henry's life is changed fundamentally after brain surgery leaves him with only a short term memory.

The third, set in the present, follows a clinical neuro-psychologist Martha who is struggling to cope with her patients and with her own radically changing life choices.

Each of the central characters is in some way hidden from their self and it is interesting how they cope with that. Harvey is obsessed with his research to the point where it takes over his life to the exclusion of most others. Henry's life has become frozen at the time in which he was about to go on honeymoon and he can't remember anything outside that for longer than a few minutes.

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Review: Rory Kinnear’s debut as a playwright – The Herd at the Bush

The-Herd-by-Rory-Kinnear--010Have always admired Rory Kinnear as an actor - his Iago is currently stealing the show in the National Theatre’s production of Othello. He’s also admired by those important theatre biz people who hand out awards having had two Evening Standard's, an Olivier and an Ian Charleson bestowed on him in recent years. But what’s he like as a playwright?

Promising, is how I’d describe him. His family drama, at the Bush Theatre, has some wonderful moments in it, raising laughs in between its darker moments but it isn’t perfect.

Set around the preparations for Andy’s 21st birthday lunch, tensions are running high. Andy is severely disabled and mother Carol (Amanda Root) distrusts his carers at the home he is in. Daughter Claire (Louise Brealey) has announced a male “friend” Mark (Adrian Bower) is to join the gathering and grandmother (Anna Calder-Marshall) just can’t help being nosey.

If all that weren’t enough tension for one family gathering, Carol’s ex-husband Ian (Adrian Rawlins) turns up out of the blue.

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