266 posts categorized "Fringe/pub theatre" Feed

Review: Queens of Sheba, Battersea Arts Centre or this is why I go to the theatre

Queens of Sheba is a play of contrasts it is angry and joyous, fun and sad, quietly contemplative and in your face loud.

Queens of Sheba - Ali Wright-56
Queens of Sheba: Photo: Ali Wright

Re-Review: Nouveau Riche's Queens of Sheba was one of my favourite shows of the Edinburgh fringe last year. It reminded me of why I go to the theatre and how powerful and entertaining good theatre can be.

So I was thrilled to get the chance to see it again, this time in London at the Battersea Art Centre.

Based on real experience, its narrative reflects the dual prejudices faced by black women today - racism and sexism, or 'misogynoir'.

Powerful and reflective

Four performers bring to life a series of powerful vignettes each reflecting different experiences.

It starts with the workplace before moving on to a date with a white man, being refused entry into a nightclub, treatment by a black boyfriend and getting unwanted amorous attention while out.

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Review: Crisis? What Crisis? Colab Factory - Parabolic Theatre's political role-playing in the winter of discontent

It's 1979 and the Labour Government is facing a vote of no-confidence, out on the streets there is civil unrest, lorry drivers are on strike and more industries threaten to follow. Can you save the day?

Crisis What Crisis  Courtesy of Russell Cobb (3)
Crisis? What Crisis? Photo: Russell Cobb

Parabolic Theatre's latest immersive experience is more of a role-playing game than theatre thrusting the audience into decision-making, negotiation and media interviews.

'Staged' on the floor of an old office building near The CoLab Factory in Borough, the space is divided up with clusters of furniture either desks and chairs or sofa's set around coffee tables or TV.

The walls have Labour campaign posters and charts on which to monitor industrial unrest and economic performance - inflation, FTSE, Government spending power etc - this is the pre-computer, pre-digital world.

Telephones ring, a fax-machine hums, the door buzzer sounds and there is general hustle and bustle.

Players in a crisis

There is no introduction, you are thrown straight into the world of the Winter of Discontent and it is up to you and your fellow 'players' to defeat the no-confidence vote and get the unions back on side without pushing the economy over the edge.

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Review: Black Chiffon, Park Theatre - emotional disturbances and a family dilemma

Lesley Storm's 1949 play is part family drama, part exploration of mental health but to a contemporary audience, the notion of what was then labelled an 'emotional disturbance' is no doubt quite different.

Black Chiffon at the Park Theatre. Photo by Mark Douet 650A2426
Abigail Cruttenden in Black Chiffon,  Park Theatre. Photo by Mark Douet

It makes me wonder how audiences then and now perceive central character Alicia Christie (Abigail Cruttenden).

She is the height of middle-class respectability and an attentive mother and wife. Her two children are grown up but still hold a lot of affection for their 'darling' mother.

Daughter Thea (Eva Feiler) is heavily pregnant with her first child and her son Roy (Jack Studden) is excited about his imminent marriage to Louise, (Jemima Watling) something even his tense relationship with his father Robert (Ian Kelly) isn't going to mar.

But this happy picnic is about to be unsettled by a wasp.

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Review: Jade City, Bunker Theatre - an interesting verbal boxing bout that ends up on the ropes.

In the confined space of the boxing ring and armed with just a couple of low bar stools Calvert and Quinn make the dialogue a dynamic sparring match.

Jade City  Barry Calvert and Brendan Quinn (credit Ali Wright) (3)
Jade City: Barry Calvert and Brendan Quinn. Photo: Ali Wright


Alice Malseed's play starts with Monty (Barry Calvert) and Sas (Brendan Quinn) standing in the audience either side of the stage which has a boxing ring at its centre.

It's the only time you'll see them outside the ring, the Belfast men talk of their childhood, bikes they coveted, japes and fun - champion times before life's battles became more challenging.

As they move into the ring they are older and a fight has begun, for freedom, for a place in the world and a simple happiness of cans of Harp.

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Interview: Director Harry Mackrill on his new play, working on Angels In America and dream casts

"I can’t begin to describe everything I’ve learnt from some incredible directors. Their passion and dedication is perhaps the most immediate thing that comes to mind."

Harry Mackrill - World's End
Harry Mackrill

Director Harry Mackrill lastest work is World’s End, the debut play from upcoming writer James Corley at The King's Head Theatre and he's recently been announced one of the theatre's new artistic associates.

As an associate director, he's worked on two epic productions at the National Theatre: Angels in America and Peter Gynt and spent a year at the Kiln Theatre.

I asked him about his latest work, the role of an associate director and if he knew Angels was going to be such a huge success.

Tell us a bit about World’s End the play you are directing at the King’s Head and what drew you to the work?

World's End is a story, set in 1998 against the backdrop of the approaching Millennium and the Kosovo war, which charts two neighbouring families – both single parents – and how their sons fall in love whilst playing Zelda on the Nintendo.

This is a play about first love. When we meet Ben and Besnik they are both dealing with their own fears and insecurities about the outside world, but together they find security and passion.

I think James [Corley] has written two wonderful LGBT figures in the two characters, but the love they find in each other is something that is universal.

It is a profoundly moving, visceral piece of storytelling. I am drawn to work that embraces stillness, and James understands the power of simplicity.

It’s a gift to be able to work on the play – both in the writer-director relationship, but also with the actors and seeing the characters come to life.

How would you describe your directing style and what was your approach for this play?

I’m not sure I’m best placed to answer this question – I have set of rules that I approach each production with.

My main passion for directing comes from a love and respect for actors: what they do and the fact that they are brave enough to do it.

I think my role as the director, in the rehearsal room, is to create a space that is supportive and rooted, so that actors can do their best work.

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Camden Fringe Review: All The Little Lights, Tristan Bates - brittle and tense

"If he knew I'd seen you, he'd kill me and worse"

CoLABorate All the little lights Jan 2019-311

What could be worse than being killed? For Joanne, the victim of child sex grooming gang you don't want to imagine but delivered in such a throwaway manner its potency is subtle. 

Jane Upton's play, All The Little Lights was inspired by news headlines about the Rochdale child sex abuse ring, not an easy or comfortable topic to broach. 

It is delicately handled, the story told through the eyes of Joanne (Lucy Mabbitt), her friend Lisa (Erin Mullen) and young newcomer Amy (Emily Fairn).

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Review: Actually, Trafalgar Studios 2 - complex and gripping college date-rape trial drama

Is saying 'actually', the same as saying 'no'? This is a question posed very early on in Anna Ziegler's play about two students whose drunken date night ends up in a rape accusation. 

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Yasmin Paige and Simon Manyonda in Actually at Trafalgar Studios 2

It is the first term at a prestigious university. A time for making new friends, enjoying the freedom of being away from home, finding out who you are and where you fit in.

Amber (Yasmin Paige) is Jewish at turns shy, awkward, talkative and forward. Tom (Simon Manyonda) is black, good looking and confident, occasionally to the point of being 'dickish', something he acknowledges.

When we first meet them they are on the fateful night out. It appears from the nature of the conversation that they are in the early stages of getting to know each other.

The narrative jumps back and forth piecing together the events leading up to the alleged rape and the college hearing that results from the accusation.

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Review: The Colours, Soho Theatre - quiet ordinariness is this play's secret power

Harriet Madeley's The Colours is a verbatim play based on interviews with people with life-limiting illnesses and those working in palliative care.

Morfydd-Clark-and-Mark-Knightley-in-The-Colours-Photographer-Hannah-Anketell
Morfydd Clark and Mark Knightley in The Colours: Photo: Hannah Anketell

While researching the play, Madeley herself was diagnosed with a potentially life-limiting illness but rather than fraught emotional meaning-of-life drama this a piece of quiet ordinariness - which is its secret power. 

It starts in darkness projecting the audience by way of a soundscape to the seaside but what it is, in reality, is a therapy session at a Welsh hospice.

Sands of time

Sand is a physical motif throughout. It represents the shoreline, the beach from patients' therapy sessions but also the flowing sands of time as seen from the bucket at the back of the stage.

We are introduced to two cancer patients and another with motor neurone disease, getting snatches of their conversations with family, doctors and their thoughts through diagnosis, initial treatments and then palliative care.

The tone, for want of a better comparison, is like animation series Creature Comforts which is voiced by ordinary people.

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Review: The Actor's Nightmare, Park Theatre - a few giggles but it needs more bite

The Actor's Nightmare is six short plays, linked by themes of acting, theatre and performance and brought together for the first time at the Park Theatre.

The Cast of The Actor's Nightmare. Photo credit - Ali Wright
The Cast of The Actor's Nightmare. Photo: Ali Wright

It kicks off with a monologue, Mrs Sorken, which is in part a lecture about the etymology of words such as 'theatre' and part reflection from a theatre-goer.

While observations about the ancient origins of the language around theatre and performance elevate the importance of the medium, the theatre-goer brings things down to earth with a bump, talking about the practicalities of outside theatre and wanting to be home by 10.30.

The irony of the arts perceived lofty importance pitched against mundane reality is refreshing and I'd have liked to have seen more of the audience perspective explored.

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Coming soon klaxon...a fringe play you should see

Squarehires
One of the highlights of my trip to the Edinburgh Fringe last year was Nouveau Riché's Queens of Sheba.

It was an exhilarating watch and sparked a strong emotional response so I'm chuffed to see that it is touring the country in the Autumn.

Details of the tour can be found here and if you are London-based, like me, then Queens of Sheba will be at the Battersea Arts Centre 18-23 November.

It's a show I can't recommend enough and if you want to know more, you can read my review here.