235 posts categorized "Fringe/pub theatre" Feed

Interview: Peter Darney talks 5 Guys Chillin' success and directing the 'dangerous' and 'sexy' play Kompromat

"Theatre should challenge, should open your eyes to the nooks and crannies of life you wouldn't see otherwise."

Peter Darney studied drama at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and has acting, writing and directing credits to his name including the international fringe hit 5 Guys Chillin’.

He is currently directing gay crime thriller Kompromat by David Thame, which was inspired by the 2010 'spy in the bag' murders and opens at the Vault Festival next week.

Here he talks about what has made him a more empathetic director, how theatre should challenge and why Kompromat is a must-see.

Peter Darney
Writer/director Peter Darney. Photo by Oscar Blustin

You wrote while you were at drama school, subsequently studied directing and then took up writing again how do the disciplines compare?

I made a living from acting for six years and it's quite blissful because I feel like I've come full circle.

I think what I always wanted to be was a writer and I am now really exploring that again but I'm bringing the knowledge I learnt from being an actor, knowing that I have to be able to motivate any line of dialogue.

And from being a director, having an understanding of structure and the bigger picture of what works and what doesn't; what's going to be impossible to stage, what's going to be cheap to stage and then taking all of that back into my writing.

Does it make you a better director?

A good boss can always do your job and everybody else's, so I think [it’s good] understanding the three disciplines.

You know what it feels like to stand there as an actor and get crushed by a director and I would hope it stops me from crushing an actor.  

Similarly, knowing what it feels like to have a director say ‘oh no this is rubbish’... having empathy for each role I hope helps me work a little more holistically and with kindness.

What are you most proud of so far?

The thing I'm most proud of is a play that I wrote and directed called 5 Guys Chillin’ which is a verbatim drama about the chemsex epidemic.

It played in London for about six months, did two Edinburgh festivals, played Sydney and Toronto and it’s opening in a French translation in Paris this month.

Continue reading "Interview: Peter Darney talks 5 Guys Chillin' success and directing the 'dangerous' and 'sexy' play Kompromat" »

Review: Rosenbaum's Rescue, Park Theatre - finding truth in competing narratives

A Bodin Saphir's play, directed by Kate Fahy, is an engaging look at the nature of truth and whether it is merely a matter of perspective or personal belief.

David Bamber & Neil McCaul in Rosenbaum's Rescue at Park Theatre. Photo by Mark Douet _50A0544
David Bamber & Neil McCaul (L-R) in Rosenbaum's Rescue at Park Theatre. Photo by Mark Douet.

Set in 2001, Rosenbaum's Rescue at Park Theatre examines the circumstances surrounding the safe exodus of thousands of Jews in Denmark during the Second World War.

A tip-off and the absence of Nazi ships meant that in 1943, 7,500 Jews were able to flee to Sweden on fishing boats.

Abraham (David Bamber) and Lars (Neil McCaul) were both 8-years old at the time and have very different views about what happened and its significance but the truth might just fracture an already prickly friendship.

Continue reading "Review: Rosenbaum's Rescue, Park Theatre - finding truth in competing narratives" »

Review: Anomaly, Old Red Lion Theatre - blood is thicker than water in a #metoo crisis

Are the daughters victims of a controlling father whose success has brainwashed them into loyalty or complicit in his behaviour by helping protect him over the years?

Anomaly  Old Red Lion Theatre (Courtesy of Headshot Toby) (1) Natasha Cowley
Natasha Cowley in Anomaly Old Red Lion Theatre (Courtesy of Headshot Toby)

Liv Warden’s play Anomaly, inspired by the Weinstein scandal, focuses on the family of a media mogul who’s been caught up in a scandal that can't be hushed up by PR.

Daughters Piper (Natasha Cowley), Penny (Katherine Samuelson) and Polly Preston (Alice Handoll) are used to his affairs but family and family reputation always come first.

Privilege and press intrusion

They've had a privileged upbringing on the back of their father's wealth but given his success and the gossip that surrounded him, they were exposed to press attention from an early age.

It’s a small price to pay for the success they now themselves enjoy working in the business. All except Polly who is in rehab.

Continue reading "Review: Anomaly, Old Red Lion Theatre - blood is thicker than water in a #metoo crisis" »

Happy New Theatre Year: 9 plays I'm particularly looking forward to seeing in 2019

Starting off 2019 with plenty of theatre in the diary, these are the nine plays I'm particularly looking forward to seeing (in date order):

RG-3X9vs_400x400Kompromat, Vault Festival (23-27 Jan)

What the website says: Inspired by the still-unsolved 2010 murder of GCHQ agent Gareth Williams, Kompromat is a tense drama of double agents and our capacity for self-deception played out against a high-stakes game of love.

Why I'm excited: Having read an early draft a couple of years ago and then attended a rehearsed reading at the Arcola I've got a good feel for what this might be like.

Tartuffe, National Theatre (9 Feb-30 Apr)

What the website says: A scalpel-sharp comedy looking at the lengths we go to find meaning – and what happens when we find chaos instead.

Why I'm excited: Tartuffe is one of the classics I've long wanted to see, John Donnelly has done the adaptation and Olivia Williams is in it. I love Olivia Williams.

Jesus Hopped The 'A' Train, Young Vic (14 Feb-30 Mar)

What the website says: From Pulitzer Prize winner Stephen Adly Guirgis (The Motherfucker with the Hat), comes this critically-acclaimed dark comedy about the American justice system and the contradictory nature of faith. 

Why I'm excited: I loved The Motherfucker With the Hat when I saw it in 2015 at the National and I've been waiting for another Stephen Adly Guirgis play to hit London ever since.

Continue reading "Happy New Theatre Year: 9 plays I'm particularly looking forward to seeing in 2019" »

2018 theatre review: Favourite moments from the surreal to the emotional and some awards

110+ plays and my first visit to the Edinburgh Fringe (15 plays in 6 days), 2018 was quite a year...

Magic and memorable moments:

Patsy Ferran in My Mum's A Twat, Royal Court. Photo: Helen Murray.

Feeling part of the set:  Sitting on a bean bag on the carpet in Patsy Ferran's 'bedroom' for My Mum's a Twat at the Royal Court (and she said hello to me).

Audience reaction #1: The audience gasping at the 'snap' during a scene in the RSC's Julius Caesar where a little boy's neck 'was broken’. Obviously, no child was harmed etc.

Audience reaction #2: Finding myself stood up singing Amazing Grace with the entire audience at the Royal Court during 'Notes From The Field'.

Actor interaction: Kia Charles winking at me and grinning during Quiz, Noel Coward Theatre (benefits of on-stage seating).

Surreal moment #1: Alex Hassell introducing himself to me and Poly was a bit surreal (stopped myself from blurting out 'I know, I saw you play Prince Hal/Henry V etc.)

But what made it more surreal is that we were in a church hall in Pimlico and after the meet and greet we sat in a circle to watch and sometimes be part of a production of Macbeth.

Continue reading "2018 theatre review: Favourite moments from the surreal to the emotional and some awards" »

2018 theatre review: My favourite plays of the year (and my first six star play)

So I've published my favourite fringe plays list and my least favourite plays list, time now for my best plays of 2018 overall, gleaned from everything I've seen - large productions and small, commercial theatres, subsidised and fringe:


Misty, Trafalgar Studios

A play which put the pulse back into the West End and as a result was a breath of fresh air.

A Monster Calls, Old Vic

I was nervous about seeing a stage adaptation of a much-loved book but the creativity with which it was staged combined with the performances meant I was an emotional wreck by the end. So much of an emotional wreck, I had to walk around for a bit afterwards to compose myself.

Queens of Sheba, Underbelly, Edinburgh Fringe

A play about the dual prejudice of sexism and racism encountered by black women that succeeded in being both angry, uplifting and empowering.

It left me feeling teary in a happy/sad/exhilarated way and ready to march if the call came.

There is another chance to see it at the New Diorama Theatre, Jan 30-Feb 3 as part of the Vault Festival.

Notes from the Field, Royal Court

It was an uncomfortable, seat-squirming, horrifying joy to sit and experience and I gave it an unprecedented six stars. Yes, six stars.

Continue reading "2018 theatre review: My favourite plays of the year (and my first six star play)" »

2018 theatre review: My 10 favourite fringe plays

Edinburgh Fringe media pass2018 was my first year at the Edinburgh Fringe which produced a bumper crop of excellent plays (look out for transfer details) but London has delivered some gems too.

Out of the 50-odd fringe plays there are 10 that really stand out but what strikes me most when revisiting them is how many evoked such a strong emotional reaction.

Yes, some are on the list for being highly entertaining but others made me feel angry or empowered or rebellious, some even a bit teary.

The other thing that strikes me is their diversity in ethnicity and gender balance tipped away from male dominance but I'll be writing more about that in another post.

So, in no particular order:

1. The Claim, Shoreditch Town Hall

Based on research into Home Office procedures this exposes the farcical system that asylum-seekers encounter but more than that, how incompetence endangers people's lives. It made me very angry.

2. My Mum's A Twat, Royal Court Upstairs

It's been an incredible year for Patsy Ferran, kicked off in fine style with this solo performance in a play about a girl's relationship with her mother who has joined a cult. Funny and spirited it also had dark edges.

3. Coconut, Ovalhouse

An effervescent love story and a coming of age story that challenged stereotypes.

4. Flesh and Bone, Soho Theatre upstairs

Shakespeare-esque lyricism combined with East End vernacular cleverly takes you on a revealing and entertaining journey that elevates the stories of those that often overlooked. Shakespeare would, no doubt, have approved.

Continue reading "2018 theatre review: My 10 favourite fringe plays " »

Theatre recommendation for the festive season: Orpheus, Battersea Arts Centre

It's not a Christmas-themed show but Orpheus by Little Bulb Theatre is a such a joyous experience to watch it is perfect for the season.

I saw it twice when it had its first run at the Battersea Arts Centre back in 2013 and I'm so glad it's back so more people get to enjoy it.

The theatre is decked out like a French jazz cafe from the 1930s with tables so that you can sit back and enjoy a bottle of wine and perhaps some food. 

Describing what it is about and like is difficult - read my attempt here - but I was grinning throughout.

See it at BAC as part of the Phoenix Season until December 30


Review: The Night Before Christmas, Southwark Playhouse - festive fun for grown-ups?

Despite the laughter and hints of substance beneath the glitter and lights you'd expect from a Christmas show it is clunky at times and shows its age.

L -R Douggie McMeekin and Dan Starkey star in The Night Before Christmas at Southwark Playhouse - credit Darren Bell
L-R Douggie McMeekin and Dan Starkey star in The Night Before Christmas at Southwark Playhouse. Photo: Darren Bell

It's Christmas Eve and Gary (Douggie McMeekin) catches an elf (Dan Starkey) in his knock-off goods warehouse who claims to have fallen off Santa's sleigh.

His friend Simon (Michael Salami) thinks the elf is a just a burglar trying it on.

But with Gary's ex-wife on the way around to pick up their son's Christmas present and local prostitute Cherry (Unique Spencer) also after him for a promised Power Rangers toy for her own kid, the elf's timing isn't perfect.

Grown-up fun?

This is adult Christmas fare, counter-programming to the Dr Seuss musical which is on next door but what constitutes grown up festive fun?

Continue reading "Review: The Night Before Christmas, Southwark Playhouse - festive fun for grown-ups?" »

Review: Boys, New Diorama - joy, silliness, subtlety and enlightenment

It is a play of joy and silliness that is also multi-layered, subtle, touching and enlightening.

PappyShow Boys
The PappyShow's Boys is introduced as a 'celebration of manhood' which is then swiftly followed by a fight.

In hindsight, it isn't ironic rather getting a misconception or common viewpoint out of the way.

There will be scuffles periodically throughout the hour-long show but while there is much that is celebratory - you will leave with a smile on your face - the subhead should be 'it's not all toxic masculinity'.

It is refreshing to have gender stereotypes smashed, to see young men displaying joy, tenderness and myriad other emotions.

Continue reading "Review: Boys, New Diorama - joy, silliness, subtlety and enlightenment" »