330 posts categorized "Fringe/pub theatre" Feed

Review: One Whole Night, White Bear Theatre - good performances but the play runs out of ideas

ONE WHOLE NIGHT White bear theatre
Tracey Ann Wood as “Marisa” and Charlie Buckland as “Victor” in One Whole Night, White Bear Theatre. Photo: Rebecca Rayne 

Ana-Maria Bamberger's play One Whole Night, White Bear Theatre, could easily be subtitled 'Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown'. It centres on Marisa (Tracey Ann Wood), a stage actress of note whose director boyfriend of 10 years has just dumped her for a young actress they are both working with.

She's not in a good state and is drinking heavily, having heart palpitations and suicidal thoughts, so she calls a doctor. By the time Victor (Charlie Buckland), the doctor, arrives, she's in a state of self-pity and watching herself cry in the mirror.

While Victor is checking over Marisa and administering calming drugs, she recognises him as someone she was at school with. So they end up reminiscing and comparing notes on their lives.

It turns out Victor has work and relationship stresses of his own. 

But this isn't a story of two people at a low ebb coming through together rather, the friendly conversation leads Marisa to believe that Victor is the answer to all her woes and they are meant to be together.

It results in some very awkward moments.

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Review: Flip!, Soho Theatre - lively, fresh and face-paced

Jadesola Odunjo and Leah St Luce in FLIP!  © Tristram Kenton
Jadesola Odunjo and Leah St Luce in FLIP! © Tristram Kenton

One of the challenges theatre has when it looks at life for Gen Z (and Millenials) is how to represent the digital world on stage. Modern communication is often embedded in texts, Whatsapps and DMs. Commentary is in social media posts and comments.

Racheal Ofori's play Flip! focuses on two friends and wannabe social media influencers, Carleen (Leah St Luce) and Crystal (Jadesola Odunjo), who make funny, sassy videos and are growing a following - but not enough to generate an income. 

In the pursuit of more clicks, they start pushing the boundaries with their content, which results in getting cancelled. They decide to have another go and join the controversial new social video channel Flip!, which promises quick growth and money per play (flip).

You are thrown straight into 'CC's' fast-paced world of fun, funny and catchy videos as they pose and perform for the camera. Jadesola Odunjo and Leah St Luce also play the 'commenters' and other influencers delivering reactions in a dizzying range of different voices.

There is only a slight shift in gear when the friends are talking 'off-camera'. The lines between video performances and the real Carleen and Crystal sometimes blur, but that's the point.

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Review: These Demons, Theatre 503 - atmospheric and funny but not quite the thriller it sets out to be

TheseDemons_Theatre503-61 - credit Lidia Crisafulli
These Demons, Theatre 503 Oct 23. Photo: Lidia Crisafulli

A dilapidated cottage in the woods, where a woman lives alone studying demons: The setting for Rachel Bellman's play These Demons has all the hallmarks of a dark, gothic tale.

Rather than a fantasy medieval setting, the present-day cottage owner is Mirah (Ann Marcuson), a teacher and writer whose pet subject is Jewish demonology.

Her niece Leah (Olivia Marcus) has bunked off school to visit, trailed by her serious and straight-laced older sister Danielle (Liv Andrusier), who has come to take her home.

But Mirah is being demonised by a local youth who possibly caused her knee injury, and her niece Leah is determined to confront him if only to test her own theory of demons, literal or otherwise.

Through Leah and Danielle's strained conversations and flashbacks to Mirah, we learn of an absent mother, sibling rows that led to estrangement and the pressures the younger family members feel.

Jewish demonology provides an atmospheric background, with strange sounds planting seeds of doubt and slightly translucent cottage walls giving way to shapes and movements in the darkness beyond.

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Review: It's Headed Straight Towards Us, Park Theatre - fun but lacking in bite

Samuel West (Hugh)  Nenda Neururer (Leela) and Rufus Hound (Gary) in It's Headed Straight Towards Us at the Park Theatre small. Pamela Raith Photography (041)
Samuel West (Hugh), Nenda Neururer (Leela) and Rufus Hound (Gary) in It's Headed Straight Towards Us, Park Theatre 2023. Pamela Raith Photography

Actor Hugh Delavois (Samuel West) has never made it big but has a steady stream of bit-part work. Meanwhile, drama-school chum Gary Savage's (Rufus Hound) star burned Hollywood bright for a while but has since faded under a cloud of being a drunk and unreliable.

Hugh is jealous of Gary's catalogue of past roles while despising his reckless and unpredictable behaviour. Gary sees Hugh as uptight and an uninspired performer.

In It's Headed Straight Towards Us, these frenemies are thrown together while filming on location on the side of a volcano in Iceland.

It is Hugh who has the more significant role and the bigger Winnebago, and Gary, when he remembers where he is, behaves like he's the biggest name on the film's poster.

When a natural disaster cuts them off from the rest of the unit and leaves them isolated, it is 21-year-old runner Leela (Nenda Neururer) who has to keep the peace while trying to manage their 'rescue'.

It's an interesting time to be watching a comedy set in the entertainment industry, given the news headlines surrounding a certain comedian/actor.

While some did, I couldn't laugh at Gary's lecherous behaviour towards Leela, even if it's intended by writers Ade Edmonson and Nigel Planer as a satirical poke at 'old school' behaviour.

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Review: Infamous, Jermyn Street Theatre - a light introduction to a richly interesting woman

Caroline Quentin and Rose Quentin in Infamous_Jermyn Street Theatre_ photography by Steve Gregson 4 sml
Caroline Quentin and Rose Quentin in Infamous, Jermyn Street Theatre. Photo by Steve Gregson

Can a woman be famous and respectable? That's the question posed by April De Angelis' play about Lady Emma Hamilton, but I'm not sure it's the right question in the context of this story.

Real mother-and-daughter actors Caroline and Rose Quentin play Emma at different stages of her life.

In the first half, Rose plays the young, flirtatious and ambitious Emma, set on catching the eye of newly victorious admiral Nelson. The fact that she's married doesn't give her a moment's reflection.

She's risen from poverty via maid, model and dancer to a place in society where she's not only a lady by marriage but the 18th-century equivalent of an influencer. And just as social media influencers continually seek clicks, Emma is determined to build on her fame.

Caroline plays her mother - put upon but grateful to have escaped her own dodgy and dark past. Age and experience have given her a more grounded outlook on their situation.

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Review: Spiral, Jermyn Street Theatre - growing unease and suspicion

Spiral image - Ben Wilkin
Abi Hood and Kevin Tomlinson in Spiral. Photo: Ben Wilkin

Last year Abi Hood's play Monster had one particularly shocking scene which has lingered in my memory; in contrast, Spiral is a play of unease and suspicion.

It centres on the friendship between Tom, a teacher (Jasper Jacob) and Leah (Abi Hood), an escort, the motivation for which has one or two grey areas and the impact that has on their other relationships - Tom's wife, Gill (Rebecca Crankshaw) and Leah's boyfriend Mark (Kevin Tomlinson).

Tom and Gill's teenage daughter Sophie has gone missing taking nothing with her, and they are coping in different ways. Gill has turned to drink and the church, while Tom meets with Leah, who looks a bit like Sophie.

Leah isn't in a good place herself. Her mother is no longer around, and she lost contact with her father when she was a child. Mark, who came to her rescue at a low moment, isn't the guardian angel he first appeared, rather, he is increasingly controlling and abusive.

His moods swing between the kicks he gets from her escort work, which he encourages her to do, and jealousy if punters show the wrong sort of attention.

I was mentally screaming 'leave him' from very early on.

But it's Leah and Tom where the unease really centres. They meet more and more to share chips and conversation; are they fulfilling an innocent need for each other? Is it merely that Tom's way of coping is to try and recreate his relationship with his beloved Sophie? Is Tom a much-wanted father figure for Leah?

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Review: Violated, Camden People's Theatre - raw and relatable

Violated rebecca holbourn art work
After watching Violated at Camden People's Theatre, we stood in the bar talking about what we related to, our own experiences and how the play had changed our perspective.

Rebecca Holbourn's play explores real-life experiences where consent isn't given or is assumed. It is the seemingly micro-violations that add up and can leave a lasting impact.

It's told from the perspective of a woman (Tamsin Harding) and a man (Arthur Perdreau), highlighting how stereotypes and peer pressure compound the problem of consent - or lack of it.

There is a range of incidents from playing kiss chase to having a stranger sat next to you on the bus and put their hand on your thigh when you were a child.

The play demonstrates the lasting impact these violations have: Anger, guilt, regret, problems with trust...

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Interview: Writer & director Rebecca Holbourn on her new play and what she loves about theatre

Later this week, writer, director and producer Rebecca Holbourn will be at Camden People's Theatre preparing for the opening night of her new play Violated.

I asked her about the play and her thoughts on theatre, and you can watch the interview, or there is a transcript below.

How would you describe your play Violated?

Violated is based on real-life experiences. It explores and discusses broken consent and violation in many different forms, not just sex.

Why did you want to tell this story?

This story is obviously very personal to me as it includes a lot of my past, and that gets explored, which is very tricky. But I think everyone has their own tricky memory that they don't necessarily want to face.

And everyone needs to consider if actually some of the things they're holding on to might be because they didn't say yes.

How will you be feeling on opening night?

Opening night sounds scary, but I honestly cannot wait for my actors to be in front of an audience because they're smashing it, and they deserve to be seen.

I should probably be proud of my words too, but I can't wait for people to see my actors.

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Review - the inventive, fun and moving Wonder Drug: A Comedy About Cystic Fibrosis, Omnibus Theatre (Edinburgh preview)

Wonder drug a comedy about cystic fibrosis
Wonder Drug: A Comedy About Cystic Fibrosis, Omnibus Theatre Edinburgh Preview

Wonder Drug: A Comedy About Cystic Fibrosis is more than its title suggests.

Writer and performer Charlie Merriman, who has cystic fibrosis (CF), takes us back to March 2020 when he's been told that a new drug treatment is coming; he just needs to stay healthy.  Charlie has also just met a woman he likes on an acting job who shares his love of 80s music.

But then the first COVID lockdown hits.

Having CF, which affects the lungs and digestive system, means he's at high risk and needs to shelter.

He mixes up his monologue with puppets, game show elements, audience prompt cards, impressions, rewriting famous song lyrics and snatches of 80s pop. He also gives his various treatments and drugs characters with different voices to distinguish them.

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Review: Bones, Park Theatre - rugby, mental health and toxic masculinity

Bones park theatre poster

Hot on the heels of Dear England at the National Theatre, which explores mental health and emotions in the England men's football team, we have Bones at the Park Theatre, which looks at men's mental health through the prism of a rugby team.

Both plays highlight some of the negative impacts of toxic masculinity, which forces self-reliance and emotional repression.

In Lewis Aaron Wood's play, the rugby team throws gendered insults and references to sexual acts with each other's mothers. Problems are 'solved' by drinking copious amounts of alcohol.

The story centres on Ed (Ronan Cullen), who is a reluctant participant despite scoring the winning try in an important game and is considering drastic measures to get out of the next big match.

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