11 posts categorized "Bush Theatre" Feed

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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Review: Cush Jumbo's Josephine and I at the Bush Theatre

30165-squareCush Jumbo's debut play is as bold and brave as its titular character: Josephine Baker. It is also bold and brave in that it is a one woman show, performed by Cush who also lays herself bare with some scenes that draw on her own life experiences. 

As the unnamed 'I' she plays an actress whose life has reached a crossroads. On the one hand she is down to the final two in a casting for a breakthrough role in a US TV series, while on the other her loving and stable boyfriend is keen to start a family.

'I' has had a fascination with Josephine Baker since watching her in the film Zouzou as a child and so her chaotic personal and professional life is interwoven with Josephine's story from dancing in bars as a child to famous actress, singer and political activist.

Moving deftly between the two characters there are some parallels. Josephine Baker grew up in an America still segregated, moved to Paris where she enjoyed a life relatively free from racism and became a huge star only to return to the US and find herself being asked to use the back entrance of hotels she was staying at.

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Rev Stan's theatre best and worst of 2012

Usain-Bolt-has-lost-all-respect-for-Carl-Lewis-TO21ONR9-x-largeIt was a Jubilee Year, an Olympic year but while all eyes were on the Queen and the lycra wearing athletes I was quietly breaking my annual record with 109 theatre trips. So which were the gold medal winners which took home the booby prizes?

Well it's been a good year for the National Theatre and in particular the Lyttleton which, perversely, is one of my least favourite theatres. And I have to say it's been quite difficult narrowing it down as you can tell from the rather long highly commended list. The flip side is it feels like there has been more obvious stinkers this year although I've only listed the three worst to spare blushes.

The Usain Bolt of my theatre going year was easy: Curious Incident at the Cottesloe. It was a superb and imaginative adaptation of a much loved booked so convincingly performed I saw it twice and might be tempted to give it a third look when it transfers to the West End in the Spring. Here is the full list:

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Straight review: The stars allign to produce one of my favourite plays of the year

AN12643455Henry-Pettigrew-aI hate to use the word perfect because if you look hard enough you will inevitable find a flaw but both in watching and on reflection I can find nothing bad to say about DC Moore's play Straight. It is as if the stars of script, direction and performance aligned.

Straight's central premise is a drunken challenge between two university friends - Lewis (Henry Pettigrew) and Waldorf (Philip McGinley) - who are reunited after Waldorf returns from seven years travelling.

Lewis is married and thinking about starting a family with his wife Morgan (Jessica Ransom). Waldorf burst into their settled idyll - well cramped studio flat - with tales of adventure and sexual exploits. To say that Lewis re-evaluates his own life as a result would be doing the plot a disservice but I think to explain the challenge and how it changes the men's friendship and the relationship between husband and wife would be too much of a spoiler

Straight is an adaptation of the film Humpday and what you get is a script crackling with wit, humour and carefully observed behaviour. It was interesting and intriguing and under Richard Wilson's direction performed with perfect pitch - an achievement considering it is essentially a comedy about sex. It is laddish without being crude and exploitative; a situation that is contrived without being farcical, funny without being silly.

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Has theatre critics vs bloggers just become critics vs Twittersphere?

Twitter-logoThe critic vs blogger debate is a well trodden path and I can't be bothered to re-visit the arguments - I'm sure one of the critic-bloggers can be relied upon to bring up the topic again at some point in the not too distant future. 

What does interest me in the whole theatre and the social media discussion though is how it is moving beyond bloggers writing reviews before or after press night.

More and more theatres are cottoning on to the power of the internet and I don't mean having a website through which you can buy tickets, I'm talking about Facebook, Twitter, blogs and YouTube.

The National Theatre, Donmar Warehouse and Royal Court are just three to have Facebook pages using them to post links to reviews, productions photos, videos, news and more. It not only acts as a promotional tool generating interest in productions weeks before they open but also a news outlet and means of interacting with audiences. 

And there are a growing number of theatres with Twitter accounts too. Today an email from the Bush Theatre in West London took social media usage to a new level. Included in the usual marketing blurb about its latest production The Kitchen Sink was a link to a hash tag search on Twitter:

Screen shot 2011-11-19 at 16.51.12

It is the first time I've seen this done but essentially what the Bush is doing is linking to audience opinion about the play. And it is still in preview. It has decided to promote the views of the audience ahead of the critics. Of course I can't imagine them doing the same thing had the comments been stinkers but it certainly puts a different spin on the critic vs blogger debate. 

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Did The Aliens cough up a storm*?

Tn_536_aliens_1281481646 First visit to the lovely little Bush Theatre where it's so small that I could see, clear as day, the shock on the face of the elderly lady sat on the opposite side of the stage when one of the characters asked another: "Did you finger her pussy?"

And what makes it all the more special is to see actors such as Mackenzie Crook (in vain hope I scanned the audience for his pal Johnny D) and Ralph 'Anthony Royle' Little so close, they are a step away from sitting on your lap.

It is also great to see such a small space turned over so thoroughly to the plays setting: a cafe's back yard complete with gravel, wheelie bins, graffiti-decorated corrugated fencing and grill covered back door.

The rest of the stage setting is simple, a couple of beat up chairs and a pile of crates that doubles as a table.

So all the ingredients were there it just needed a fine play to turn it into something tasty. And it is a fine play, well the second half is. The first half establishes Jasper (Crook) and KJ (Little) as a couple of slackers or layabouts as the elderly lady would have probably called them. They spend their time hanging out at the back of the cafe, talking about a bit of this and that namely poetry, Jasper's ex and the novel he's writing and gently teasing, the impressionable 17-year old Evan who has just started working at the cafe.

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