315 posts categorized "Fringe/pub theatre" Feed

Review: The Elephant Song, Park Theatre - twists, turns and the unexpected

The Elephant Song credit Giacomo Giannelli
Jon Osbaldeston, Louise Faulkner and Gwithian Evans in The Elephant Song, Park Theatre, Jan 2023. Photo: Giacomo Giannelli


Michael Aleen (Gwithian Evans) is a resident at a secure mental hospital obsessed with elephants. He also seems to hold the key to understanding the disappearance of one of the psychiatrists, but can the hospital director Dr Greenberg (Jon Osbaldeston), believe what he says?

Nicolas Billon's The Elephant song takes us through a game of cat and mouse as Dr Greenberg tries to talk Michael into revealing the information he has.

Michael, with his toy elephant always in his hand, knows the information he has might give him some leverage. He wants to leave the hospital. 

Nurse Peterson (Louise Faulkner) warns Greenberg that Michael is manipulative. And Michael is, using his keen, sometimes cruel, observation and sharp intelligence to his best advantage.

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Review: No One, Omnibus Theatre - fun and lively physical theatre with superb fight scenes

 

No One Omnibus Theatre jan 2023
No One, Omnibus Theatre, Jan 2023


No One at the Omnibus Theatre bursts onto the stage with a scene in a club, complete with a live DJ, which quickly descends into a fight. Then we jump to a police station and investigation into a missing girl and the violent attack of a man.

 

It sounds dark, but how it is performed brings a humourous touch.

The policeman, with a strong West Country accent, listening to a drug-fuelled, seemingly odd and improbable explanation of what happened has hints of Edgar Wright's Hot Fuzz.

The mystery behind the attack, the missing girl and the odd occurrences then steadily unfolds. It is logical and simultaneously illogical, which is part of the fun.

Based thematically on HG Wells's The Invisible Man, the piece has been devised by Akimbo Theatre who trained in physical theatre at Jacque Lecoq, Paris. And they put that training to good use.

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Review: The Manny, King's Head Theatre - laugh out loud funny and honest observations

Sam McArdle in the Manny  Credit - Gabriel Bush
Sam McArdle in the Manny, King's Head Theatre, Jan 2023. Photo: Gabriel Bush

Sam McArdle plays 'the manny', a male nanny working for rich, single women in West London. He is a charmer, charming his employers, his charges and the women on dating apps he wants to sleep with. But 'living the life' isn't all it's cracked up to be.

In a solo performance, McArdle weaves the narrative, switching between scenes in his working life and social life. 

He lands a mostly cushy job except for difficult-to-charm 7-year-old Michael. McArdle has a witty take on child care and amusing observations of the children of the rich, presumably gleaned from his time working as a male nanny.

His fictional Manny uses his own brand of charm to win over parents and other mums at the school gates.

Outside of work, casual sex takes a back seat when, bored and lonely one day, he ends up at a community improv class and falls for teacher Molly, an out-of-work actress.

Molly is in a relationship and doesn't fall for his charms, but he is smitten. He starts to feel deeper human connections and a sense of community, there is encouragement and support in the group, both of which have been absent from his own circle of friends.

But not everything works out the way he wants.

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Theatre best of: Stan's top 10 plays 0f 2022

Best of theatre 2022
This feels like a moment; I haven't been able to do a best-of theatre list since 2019 because of 'you know what'. It's been huge fun revisiting the plays I've seen - nearly 50. And while that total is down on pre-pandemic levels, it was still tricky to narrow down my choices, but here goes.

1. The Collaboration, Young Vic

Synopsis in a sentence: Andy Warhol's star is waning, and young artist Jean-Michel Basquiat's star is rising; they have nothing in common but are persuaded to collaborate.

From my review: "I was gripped in the presence of two great artists and gripped by their stories. I laughed, I gasped, I cried, and if I felt compelled to tap my toes at the start, by the end, I was on my feet, and that's something I rarely do."

The play is now on Broadway, and look out for a film version (an actual film, not a filmed stage version).

2. Henry V, Donmar Warehouse

Synopsis in a sentence: The wayward Prince becomes King and has to prove himself to his country and foreign powers.

Not going to lie, Kit Harington surprised me with his performance in this.

From my review: "This is a powerful production of Henry V. Harington's nuanced, often quiet and considered Henry V perfectly highlights the complexity and often contradictory nature of the character and the role of leadership.

3. The Human Voice, Harold Pinter Theatre

Synopsis in a sentence: A woman has a final phone call with her lover, who is getting married the next day.

From my review: "It hasn't gone down well with all the critics, but I thought it was mesmerising and gripping. Hats off to Ruth Wilson."

4. Ministry of Lesbian Affairs, Soho Theatre

Synopsis in a sentence: A lesbian choir get a coveted spot on the main stage at Pride, mainly because they are the only lesbian choir to apply.

From my review: "It is a funny, interesting and occasionally challenging play that had me walking out of the theatre with a big grin on my face. And that is a big win."

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Review: Richard The Second, Omnibus Theatre - accomplished and timely revival

Anna Coombs' adaptation of Shakespeare's Richard II sees the story slimmed down for five actors, with three of the cast playing more than one character.

Richard the Second  Tangle 2022. Photo by Bettina Adela (6)
Raheim Menzies and Daniel Rock in Richard the Second, Omnibus Theatre, Nov 2022. Photo by Bettina Adela

It focuses the attention on King Richard (Daniel Rock) and his cousins, the loyal Aumerle (Lebogang Fisher) and Henry Bollingbroke (Raheim Menzies), and the power tussle between them for the crown.

The production sets out its stall dressing the stage with step ladders of various heights. Who will climb, and how high will they go?

From the opening scene, where Henry accuses Mowbray (Sibusiso Mamba) of lying and murder, and Richard flip-flops over his decisions, it's a one-sided fight in terms of who is most suited to lead, but with this position of power, it's more complex than suitability.

It is the first incident that chimes with contemporary British politics of the last few years.

Menzies' Henry is a born leader, he is level-headed compared to Richard, and his campaign for what he is entitled to feels just next to the King's abuse of power.

He seems thoughtful and considered, while Richard makes decisions on a whim and falls into poetic whimsy. His justification for what he does is a divine right; he is anointed in holy oil at his coronation, after all.

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Review: King Hamlin, Park Theatre - important issues are drowned out

King Hamlin at the Park Theatre starts before it begins with three teenage boys joshing around; it's noisy and boisterous with an undercurrent of tension.

Steve Gregson- KingHamlin-Full-029
Kiza Deen and Harris Cain in King Hamlin, Park Theatre, October 2022. Photo: Steve Gregson

When the play formally starts, Hamlin (Harris Cain) is having a nightmare about being late for a job interview. He wants to help his mum (Kiza Deen), who has just lost her job and can't get benefits for five weeks.

They have a good relationship, and Hamlin wants to finish college, go to university and become a software engineer.

But circumstances start to conspire against him. His mum can't afford wifi, he doesn't have a laptop, and he's losing out on job opportunities because he can't work from home.

Added to this, the area he lives in is rife with gangs, making it a dangerous place to be as a young male.

There is an element of pride in that Hamlin doesn't want to work in a supermarket but do something that is less manual - and paid better.

Would it have mattered if he had got any old job?

His friend Quinn (Inaam Barwani) is, by his own admission and his behaviour, not cut out for studying and college but has a proposition for Hamlin which could help solve his money issues.

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Review: Dmitry, Marylebone Theatre - interesting story but stylistically it didn't gel

Written by Peter Oswald and Alexander J Gifford 'after' an unfinished play by Friedrich Schiller, Dmitry is the story of the much loved, youngest son of the Tzar of Russia who was murdered - or was he?

Dmitry  Marylebone Theatre  credit Ellie Kurtz (03)
Dmitry, Marylebone Theatre, Oct 2022. Photo: Ellie Kurtz

Years later, when a young man turns up in Poland wearing Dmitry's jewelled crucifix but knowing nothing of his past other than he grew up in a monastery, people believe he is the beloved Tzarevich and rally behind him.

It is a story about identity and what that means against a backdrop of religious and political manoeuvring. It's also a play about the future direction of Russia as Dmitry (Tom Byrne), backed by an uneasy alliance of Polish Catholics and Russian Orthodox Cossacks, marches on Moscow to claim his rightful place as Tsar.

And it's a bold play to launch the new 200-seat Marylebone Theatre, bold in that it clocks in at nearly 3 hours (including an interval).

At times it rocks along at a satisfyingly rapid pace with plotting, countermoves and in-fighting. The sense of jeopardy grows, although it's not a case of 'if' but rather 'when'.

But at other times, it is loaded with stodgy exposition and wordy speeches, that do little to move things along.

There are some odd production choices which pull you out of the story. Modern costumes, grungy heavy metal music and sporadic segments of movement give it a contemporary feel but the performances and delivery often feel like it would sit better in a more traditional production. It didn't quite gel.

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Review: Rose, Park Theatre - a story of a life of love and tragedy told with wit and humour

Martin Sherman's play Rose at the Park Theatre is framed by two identical killings decades apart, and the titular character witnesses both.

Maureen Lipman  Rose  Park Theatre Photo Mark Senior
Maureen Lipman in Rose Park Theatre, Sep 2022. Photo: Mark Senior

Played by Dame Maureen Lipman, Rose sits Shivah on a wooden bench, reflecting on her life.

Born in Ukraine in the 1920s, it is a life of searching and surviving; she moves towards the excitement of Warsaw as a teenager, and when the Nazis arrive survives by hiding.

After the war, her searching and surviving continue taking her across Europe and then the US via Palestine. Once in America, she moves driven by economics and opportunity.

But while this is a life shaped by brutal war and racism, it is also a life of love, romance, and humour. Rose, as played by Lipman, is witty and deadpan.

"I have only vague, wandering images of my childhood, but yesterday - I remember everything single thing about yesterday. Nothing happened yesterday."

She is not shy about the details and talks about love and sex almost in the same tone as losing loved ones. There are occasional emotional outbursts - anger and tears - but mostly, she is matter-of-fact, her vitality as a person expressed in her actions as described - and that humour.

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Review: Monster, Park Theatre - shocking and powerful

There was a point while watching Monster at the Park Theatre when I realised I had my hand over my mouth. What was unfolding on stage was shocking, and I haven't had a reaction like that to a play for quite a while.

 

Monster credit Ben Wilkin-7741
Caitlin Fielding and Abigail Hood in Monster, Park Theatre Aug 22. Photo credit: Ben Wilkin

 

Abigail Hood's new play is set in Glasgow in 2006 and follows teenager Kayleigh 'Kay' Grey (played by Hood) and her best friend Zoe (Caitlin Fielding). Zoe is quiet and shy and gets bullied, and Kay is prone to retaliate on her behalf. However, the retaliations tend to get her into increasingly serious trouble.

One teacher, Mrs Hastie (Emma Keele), thinks Kay is at heart a good person, but something is going on to make her act up. She is trying to build trust so Kay will open up.

But before Mrs Hastie can find out if her hunch is right, events start to spiral out of control with horrific consequences.

(I'm being deliberately vague as I don't want to spoil anything.)

The structure of the play means it builds to a critical event, but rather than that being towards the end, it allows time to deal more fully with the consequences. And that's what makes this really interesting.

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Review: Freud's Last Session, King's Head Theatre - a compelling watch

Mark St Germain's play Freud's Last Session at the King's Head Theatre in Islington is a compact yet powerful play which imagines a clash of intellect and reasoning between two famous minds.

Freud's Last Session King's Head Theatre
Consulting couch on the set of Freud's Last Session, King's Head Theatre July 2022. Designer: Brad Caleb Lee

It's England on the day that World War II will be declared, and Freud (Julian Bird) has invited Oxford Professor CS Lewis (Séan Browne) to see him at his London home. The founder of psychoanalysis is in the later stages of painful mouth cancer, while Lewis is yet to become a famous writer.

Freud, an atheist, is fascinated with Lewis's sudden re-adoption of Christianity, having lost his faith as a teenager. With the threat of war looming, the two debate the existence of God, religion, sex and relationships.

St Germain's tight script allows the interrogation of both men's arguments, yet the conversations' seriousness also has flashes of wit and humour. It is not so much a case of one winning over the other but what they discover about themselves during the conversation.

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