293 posts categorized "Fringe/pub theatre" Feed

Back at the theatre at last...to see socially distanced stand up comedy at Battersea Arts Centre

When theatres had to close in March, I thought it might be a month or two before I was back watching live performance again.

Stan fran andrew

As the weeks passed, it became obvious that it was going to be much, much longer and I stopped thinking about when I might return.

Did I imagine, that at the beginning of August I'd be sitting on a wooden bench wearing a mask with 30, socially distanced, others waiting for a live performance to being?

No.

The live performance was a series of stand-up comedian's headlined by Ed Gamble and wooden bench was in a courtyard at Battersea Arts Centre. 

With indoor theatres still closed, it is a genius use of outdoor space which also has a balcony level where some more people could stand.

So what was the experience like?

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Review: Black Women Dating White Men - a candid exploration of interracial relationships

There is a lot that is fabulous about Somebody Jones' verbatim play Black Women Dating White Men, one of which is that it works so well on Zoom.

 

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Black Women Dating White Men by Somebody Jones

 

Five black women, sometimes with a glass a wine in hand or in a dressing gown, come together lockdown-style for regular chats via Zoom during which they discuss and share their experiences of being in an interracial relationship.

The nature of Zoom means the characters are at home, while you are watching at home which makes for an intimate experience, it feels like you are part of the chat.

They talk about how their friends and family reacted when they first met their white boyfriends, how they are treated when out and the ups and downs of their relationship.

It's a candid discussion, relaxed and matter of fact, sometimes humourous but no less powerful in what it exposes.

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10th birthday list: My favourite comedy plays and a few I didn't like so much

Humour is personal, what one person finds hilarious might fall flat for someone else. And it is really difficult to get right, comic timing is a great skill.

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Now I love dark comedy, the uncomfortable laugh that makes you think but I'm also partial to the silliness of a good farce.

Here are my favourite comedies from the past 10 years of writing this blog and I would love to know what your favourites are - tell me in the comments.

Upstart Crow, Gielgud Theatre

A clever and funny play that twists and weaves Shakespeare's plots - often exposing their ridiculousness and prejudices - with modern references.

Teenage Dick, Donmar Theatre

Based loosely on Shakespeare's Richard III the setting is an American high school and the machiavellian protagonist is a hemiplegic student Richard who is fed up of being bullied and teased about his disability.

It was a great combination of fun and dark comedy - and had a brilliant dance sequence.

Emilia, Vaudeville

A potent mix of humour, fun and feminism. It had a powerful message delivered in a deliciously entertaining and clever way.

Present Laughter, Old Vic

Director Matthew Warchus put a fresh spin on the well-trodden Noel Coward play which, coupled with Andrew Scott's performance, made this a sublime comedy.

I reviewed it alongside Noises Off at the Lyric Hammersmith, in a compare and contrast of the two comedies which you can read here.

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Review: We R Not Virus - powerful exploration of Covid-19 and racism (streaming via Omnibus Theatre)

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, hate crime targeted at East and South-East Asians has tripled and We R Not Virus is a series of monologues, films and poetry responding to that.

We R Not Virus
Kirsty Rider in We R Not Virus

Over the course of an hour, you see a selection of the 10 specially commissioned pieces by East and South-East Asian artists exploring racism and prejudice within Western cultures and outside it.

The complexity and rootedness of racism are evident, often spurred by a heavy dose of ignorance and cultural stereotypes.

One piece explores the double threat facing the Chinese community in the UK: the virus, coupled with the increasing risk of being the target of verbal abuse and violence purely because of ethnicity or looks.  

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Interview: Brixton House's Owen Calvert-Lyons on the future of fringe theatre post lockdown

Head of theatre and artist development at Brixton House (formally Ovalhouse*) Owen Calvert-Lyons talks about life during the lockdown, the post-Covid future for fringe theatre and exciting streaming plans.

Owen Calvert-Lyons  Head of Theatre and Artist Development at Ovalhouse (credit Ludovic Des Cognets) 1
Owen Calvert-Lyons Head of Theatre and Artist Development at Ovalhouse/Brixton House. Photo: Ludovic Des Cognets.

How are you doing during lockdown?

Lockdown has been a very strange experience so far. Of course, it has lots of negatives, but I’ve been surprised by the number of positives too.

Working in theatre can be all-consuming and this has given me an opportunity to redress the work/life balance and spend more time doing things I love other than theatre.

What does the future look like for fringe theatres post-lockdown?

While things look pretty bleak right now, I think it’s important to remain positive. Theatre is not just about entertainment, it plays a really vital role in many people’s lives, so it will certainly survive this crisis.

I think the most important thing is not to feel that we have to return to the status quo.

There are many things which need to change about our industry and this hiatus should give us an opportunity to imagine what theatre could look like in the future.

One of the most pressing needs is to solve the inequalities in arts funding which leave so many freelance artists struggling to earn a living.

If we can use this moment to fix that, then theatre post-lockdown could be better than ever before.

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Review: The Machine Stops - Big Telly Theatre draws on prescient EM Forster story for latest live stream

Following on from two fun-filled, family-focused, live-streamed shows, Big Telly Theatre, in collaboration with Riverside Theatre, has chosen a seemingly prescient EM Forster story for its latest piece.

The Machine Stops

The story, The Machine Stops, was written in 1909 and sees people living underground in individual cells, communicating via telephone.

An early speech - the cast all perform via Zoom from home - beautifully sums up our current predicament, how being connected via phone and video doesn't quite satisfy in making you feel connected in the same way as being with each other.

Life underground is governed by rules set out by the machine. You have to get permission to go to the apparently uninhabitable surface and reproduction is carefully managed.

The latter point is particularly pertinent to our situation given UK Government recent guidance and rules on social distancing.

If you've seen any of Big Telly's previous shows the format will be familiar, green screens enable the actors to be transported to different locations using projections and props, costumes and makeup are all what the actors have to hand or have made themselves.

Given the theme of the piece the interactive elements, getting the audience involved in the story doesn't feel necessary or as relevant as it did for the more family-focused pieces. 

The dialogue - influenced by EM Forster's text - is weighty and sometimes the lighter more humorous moments serve to detract from the themes of the piece rather than add to it.

As a result, I'd have perhaps preferred more time given to exploring the experience of living isolated from others and the break down of blind obedience - this is where the play worked best for me. The parallels between what EM Forster wrote and expressed through his characters and our own experiences in lockdown are spookily similar. 

The Machine Stops is a different beast to the previous shows and shows Big Telly going in a slightly different direction and just about getting away with it.

It is 60 minutes long and there are two more shows today (7 June) at 3 pm and 7.30 pm - visit Big Telly's website for more details.

You might also like to read:

Matt Smith and Claire Foy to perform a socially-distanced version of Lungs and 5 other plays that could have the same treatment.

My 11 favourite actresses.

From the archive: Review of the first James Graham play I saw and still a favourite - The Man, Finborough Theatre.

 

 

 


Coming soon: Isolation story The Machine Stops becomes the latest live Zoom production by Big Telly Theatre

A short story written by E. M. Forster in 1909 about people living in isolation will get the Big Telly Theatre live performance in lockdown treatment next month.

The Machine Stops

Eerily pertinent to now, the story is about people living underground on their own in cells and illustrates the Victorian era's culture, thinking and fears just as the western world was beginning its accelerated journey into modernity.

Big Telly describes the piece as an escapist adventure into a steampunk world of curious Victoriana - flowers with secret messages, dining in the dark, tea-duelling, crystal gazing, parlour games and more and that audiences should expect to be surprised, charmed and possibly slightly unnerved.

“A story written over 100 years ago about lockdown about the impact of isolation, what we stand to gain from technology and what we stand to lose from the absence of human contact.

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10th Birthday list: My 10 (ok it's 11) favourite stage actresses plus who I'd really like to see on stage more

While there might not be quite as many meaty stage roles for actresses as there are actors (is that changing?) the plethora of acting talent I've seen over the past 10 years made this quite tricky to narrow down. Hence the list of 11 rather than a neat 10 (and presented in no particular order).

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Patsy Ferran in My Mum's a Twat, Royal Court Theatre. Photo by Helen Murray.

I've also added a few names I've only seen once or twice but really want to see do more stage work.

Who would you add, let me know in the comments?

1. Imelda Staunton

Who can forget Margaret in Good People or Martha in Who's Afraid Of Virginia Wolf? It's always a treat when she treads the boards.

2. Jade Anouka

She was the best Hotspur I've seen when Phyllida Law did her all-female Henry IV at the Donmar Warehouse. She also did a fantastic one-woman show at the fringe (Chef) and I still remember the bit of subtlety she brought to Jamie Lloyd's lively production of Dr Faustus.

3. Patsy Ferran

Patsy, Patsy, Patsy. Have seen her in fringe productions, small studio theatres, one-women shows and taking lead roles in classics which have ended up in the West End (and winning her awards). So pleased to see her career taking off and can't wait to see what she does next.

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Review: Operation Elsewhere - Big Telly Theatre bring their live, virtual, interactive, family show to your living room

Operation Elsewhere is Big Telly Theatre's solo digital interactive theatre project having worked with Creation Theatre on The Tempest recently (review here).

Operation Elsewhere big telly theatre 1

It is similar in style, using Zoom to bring live performance and audience together virtually.

Based on Irish myths but with a contemporary twist, the world of the fairies - Elsewhere - collides with the human world as a fairy becomes a changeling for a bride-to-be.

With the help of various characters from the fairy world, the audience goes on a mission to help rescue the bride from Elsewhere before she forgets who she is.

The actors use green-screen to transport themselves and the audiences to various places including a particularly fun fly-over.

Elsewhere's magical and mythical landscape is cleverly brought to life with the use of other digital gizmos which turn actors hands and body into images as if you can 'see' through them to another world. 

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10th Birthday list: 10 plays that, in hindsight, feel strangely appropriate for lockdown during a pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic and lockdown has thrown a whole new light on certain plays, the ones about isolation, loneliness and surreal landscapes. So I've compiled a list of plays that I think reflect the current weirdness and how we might be feeling.

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Photo by Timon Studler on Unsplash

These aren't plays that are for escapism but more seeing the human condition through a pandemic lense. They are also all plays I've actually seen.

Got a suggestion? Leave it in the comments.

1. Mr Burns, Almeida

This play is set in the future when for some reason there is no electricity so people spend their time trying to recall episodes from The Simpson. The more you remember the greater currency it gives. I didn't get on too well with it at the time but given how inventive we are having to become to entertain ourselves in lockdown it feels appropriate.

2.Pitchfork Disney, Shoreditch Town Hall

Quite a few Philip Ridley plays feel appropriate because of their dark, broken, near-future feel. But I chose Pitchfork Disney because it is about 'outsiders' arriving and disturbing the routine in a disconcerting and threatening way. Taken metaphorically it works for COVID-19.

3. You Stupid Darkness, Southwark Playhouse

Set in a decaying office, a group of volunteers man a helpline called Brightline for people looking for help in seeing the positives when the world outside is not in a very good state (think stormy weather and people having to wear gas masks outdoors).

4. Misterman National Theatre

Cillian Murphy plays a man living in isolation having a series of encounters that might be real or might be imagined.

 

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