223 posts categorized "Fringe/pub theatre" Feed

Review: Cuckoo, Soho Theatre - funny and poignant portrayal of Irish teens desperately seeking acceptance

Iona is a funny, bubbly, car crash character - you can see her driving towards the collision but can't look away.

Cuckoo  Soho Theatre (Courtesy of David Gill) (4) Elise Heaven and Caitriona Ennis
Elise Heaven and Caitriona Ennis in Cuckoo, Soho Theatre. Photo by David Gill.

Iona (Catriona Ennis) just wants to fit in, be one of the cool kids rather than the target of their ridicule and bullying.

Her best friend is Pingu (Elise Heaven) is non-binary, wears a tuxedo to school and has decided not to speak, but that's OK because Iona talks enough for both of them.

Set in Crumlin, a suburb of Dublin, writer Lisa Carroll's play Cuckoo follows Iona and Pingu over a couple of fateful days when they announce that they are moving to London.

It is a decision which catapults them into the spotlight in a way that they never anticipated.

Sharp, witty and descriptive

Iona has a sharp, often witty and descriptive way with words and the play opens with her enthusiastic and colourful recounting of a shoplifting trip.

Pingu's silent reactions speak volumes and Iona's story, while laugh out loud funny, paints a picture of a life where having a good TV and wearing the right labels are the difference between being accepted and being bullied. 

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From scratch to full production, a fringe play to look out for in London next year

 

Lipstick Production Shot_Credit Flavia Fraser-Cannon
Lipstick: A fairy tale of Iran. Photo: Flavia Fraser-Cannon
[Lipstick: A fairy tale of modern Iran] is a colourful, vibrant piece with darker edges utilising various genres from boylesque, drag, Vaudeville and storytelling.

I was invited to a scratch performance of Sarah Chew's Lipstick: A fairy tale of modern Iran back in March and loved it. I wrote then that I wanted to see a fully fleshed out production and now I'll get the chance.

It's returning to the Omnibus Theatre in Clapham from Feb 26 to Mar 24 as part of the 96 Festival which is a celebration of queerness and theatre. 

The play is based on Sarah Chew's own experiences while on a theatre residency in Iran in 2010 just as riots were breaking out over a contested election and I can highly recommend it.

Related reading:

Thoughts on the scratch performance.

Interview with Sarah Chew

 


Interview: writer Lisa Carroll on not festishising Ireland and laughing at her own jokes

Lisa Carroll's play Cuckoo opens at the Soho Theatre next week and follows two teenagers escaping bullies and seeking a new identity in another country. Here she talks about the inspiration behind the play, determining what is funny and how she got started as a playwright. 

Lisa Carroll

Cuckoo’s two central characters want to leave Dublin for London and you are an Irish playwright living in London - how much is the play based on your own experiences?

I came up with the idea for Cuckoo shortly after I made the decision to move from Dublin to London. Emigration has always been a pertinent part of the Irish experience and I wanted to explore ideas of home and what it means to leave.

Particularly after the financial crash, there was an exodus of young people from Ireland, and I knew the play could speak to that.

I used to live near Crumlin, where the play is set, and had close friends from the area.

Crumlin sits outside Dublin city centre and is full of vibrant, sparky, fascinating people, and I wanted to try and capture that unique energy on the page.

The Crumlin dialect is fast, ferocious and nuanced. I feel strongly about writing Ireland as I see it, today, rather than the wistful, nostalgic and often fetishised version Ireland we often see represented on stage.

While the idea of what it means to leave Ireland is inspired by my own experience of doing so, beyond that the play is entirely fictional, from the heightened world to the characters and events.

All I knew when I started writing Cuckoo was that I wanted to create two compelling central characters: Iona, a boisterous, larger-than-life young woman, full of spark and potential, but who was seen as simply ‘too much’ by the people around her.

Cuckoo  Soho Theatre (Courtesy of David Gill) (3)
Cuckoo, Soho Theatre. Photo by David Gill.

And Pingu, who steadfastly identifies as non-binary in a highly gendered world. Pingu has made the decision not to speak, in order not to have to constantly advocate for their right just to be themselves.

It was around these two characters and their desire to find their tribe in London that I built the play.

The play explores themes of gender identity and a sense of belonging, do you think social media makes it harder for teenagers growing up?

Being a teenager has always been a trying time and I think it always will be.

I think in general social media hasn’t changed us as a species, so much as drawn out and exacerbated our already deeply flawed nature, only in new ways.

Being a teenager has always been a phase of uncertainty trying to carve out your identity.

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3 London theatre stories that caught my attention this week - and an actor encounter

SWEAT Donmar Warehouse Picture Spencer Platt  Getty Images1. Exciting casting announcement at the Donmar 

One of my favourite films growing up in the 80s was The Goonies so imagine my excitement when learning that Martha 'Stef' Plimpton is going to be starring in the Donmar Warehouse's production of Sweat (previews from Dec 7).

The Pulitzer Prize-winning play was written after playwright Lynn Nottage starting spending time in Reading, Pennsylvania - one the poorest cities in America.

2. Trevor Nunn returns to the Jermyn Street Theatre

The Jermyn Street Theatre announced its Spring/Summer 2019 season which sees the return of Trevor Nunn who is directing Agnes Colander, Harley Granville Barker’s play exploring love, sexual attraction and independence.

The play was written in 1900 but was only discovered at the British Library 100 years later and is described as a 'hidden gem'.

It's a revival of a production that ran at the Ustinov Studio at Theatre Royal, Bath earlier this year. Jermyn Street Theatre 12 Feb - 16 Mar.

 

 

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3 London theatre stories that caught my attention this week - and some belated actor spots

Twilight-zone-ctt-480wx280h-15389888801. The Twilight Zone to get a West End run

I described the Almeida's Twilight Zone as 'sinister and silly fun' when I saw it in December last year and now it's getting a stint in the West End. It will run from 4 March to 1 June at the Ambassadors Theatre and even if you haven't seen the TV series (I hadn't) it's worth seeing if you want something a little surreal, silly and occasionally thought-provoking.

2. Joe McGann and Josie Lawrence star in US play

The Print Room in Notting Hill will host the first UK production of American literary icon Don DeLillo’s Love-Lies-Bleeding, starring Joe McGann Josie Lawrence.  Described as a perceptive and witty story, it's about a family trying to take death into their own hands and I admit that it had me at 'jet-black humour'. It runs from 9 November to 8 December, find details on the Print Room website.

 

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Review: Summit, Shoreditch Town Hall - a disappointing view from the top

Repeated phrases become vacuous in their repetition suggesting that the political narrative has similarly become empty.

091218FuelTheatreSummitRehearsal-10116
Fuel Theatre's Summit in rehearsal

Ten minutes into Summit and I'm irritated.

It's not the woman loudly crunching on her supper next to me although that is annoying, rather the fact that on stage the same point is being made over and over again.

'Fast forward' my brain screams as the setting for the story is described with pleasant customer service smiles for the umpteenth time.

Standing in front of a music stand with a copy of the script, the pages of which are turned with great drama, three performers outline the structure of the play and ask us to imagine three scenarios in the past, present and future.

Repetition but to what effect?

All revolve around an important summit where the lights inexplicably went out. Just to emphasise the point the lights of the auditorium are turned out.

Several times.

Repetition is Summit's main performance tool, sometimes the same piece of narrative is delivered in three different languages by the performers: Alesha Chaunte, Nadia Anim and Jamie Rea - the latter performs with exceptional expression in sign language.

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Review: Bullet Hole, Park Theatre - a brave exposé of the physical and psychological impact of FGM

Bullet Hole is brave in its exposure of FGM and the culture around it and it feels like a starting point for a wider narrative. 

A play about female genital mutilation is never going to be an easy watch but I particularly was drawn to Bullet Hole to better understand the culture and tradition that supports it, particularly in a 21st-century Western context.

(L-R) Gloria Williams (Cleo) and Doreene Blackstock (Eve). Photo credit - Lara Genovese for Naiad Photography    (1)
(L-R) Gloria Williams (Cleo) and Doreene Blackstock (Eve) in Bullet Hole, Park Theatre.Photo: Lara Genovese for Naiad Photography

Gloria Williams' play is set in London and focuses on three women.

Aunt Winnie (Anni Domingo) is an African matriarch who follows and instigates the traditional practices; Eve (Doreene Blackstock) is a British African woman who has been cut but sits on the fence about its rights and wrongs and Cleo (Gloria Williams) is a young British African woman who has been cut and stitched is regularly assaulted by her husband and wants  a reversal.

Traumatised and broken

Cleo is sent to live with Aunt Winnie, where Eve finds her traumatised and broken. She becomes a sort of buffer between Cleo and Aunt Winnie having a foot in both camps.

Through their conversations, we learn of the physical and mental impact of FGM.

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Interview: Producer Katy Danbury on what spooky fun awaits at this year's London Horror Festival

In its 8th ghoulish and gory year, the London Horror Festival opens on 7 Oct at the Old Red Lion Theatre and I sat down with producer Katy Danbury to get the low down on what to expect.

A5 Final PosterWhat can we expect from the London Horror Festival?

First and foremost, enjoyment. The festival gives you a chance to escape from and purge yourself of the real-life horrors happening outside of the theatre.

You are united with your fellow audience members in an intimate space and together you enter an imaginary world where you can shiver, scream, laugh or spew (please don’t!) out your fears.

I like to think that the festival acts as a gateway for those who don’t often (or never) go to the theatre but want a spooky, fun Halloween experience.

Grand Guignol was popular in the early 20th Century but horror isn’t a genre that is often seen on stage these days, why do you think that is? 

To be honest, it is a tricky genre to perform well. People don’t want to see the actor clumsily place the blood capsule in their mouth or accidentally expose the vomit hose or see the string that’s pulling the floating chair.

You break the illusion, you break the suspense and it all unravels quickly from there as the audience lose interest.

Sadly, I have seen large-scale productions on the West End stage get it very wrong – this can do a lot of damage to the reputation of the genre within the theatre world.

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Review: The Other Place, Park Theatre - finding truth in imagined memories

Karen Archer's performance gives the impression of someone who has run off a cliff and is still running, her sarcasm and sharpness serving to emphasise her vulnerability in those moments she begins to realise she's falling.

Karen Archer & Neil McCaul in The Other Place at the Park Theatre. Photo by Mark Douet. C31B0305
Karen Archer & Neil McCaul in The Other Place at the Park Theatre. Photo by Mark Douet.

If you believe it happened does that make it true?

Karen Archer plays Juliana, a scientist in pharmaceuticals who is trying to arrange a meeting with her estranged daughter and divorcing her philandering husband Ian (Neil McCaul).

She also can't understand why there is a woman in a yellow bikini in the audience at her presentation.

Convinced she has brain cancer

These are Juliana's narratives, her reality, her history and memories. But her reality is also that after 'an episode' she is convinced she has brain cancer and won't hear her doctors say otherwise.

The Other Place is a play about dementia which reminded me a little of the 2014 film Still Alice for which Julianne Moore won an Oscar. Both show cognitive degeneration through the eyes of the sufferer.

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Review: The Sword of Alex, White Bear - power and violence overshadows identity debate

Meaningful debate, clever thought and persuasiveness get overshadowed by ego manifested as sneering, sarcasm and physical violence.

The Sword of Alex (c) Valeria Coizza (6)
The Sword of Alex. Photo: Valeria Coizza

Power and identity are at the heart of Rib Davis' play The Sword of Alex.

A confrontation between leader Antonio (Patrick Regis) and Karl (DK Ugonna), one of his ministers who is trying to get independence for the region of Nikal, interweaves with scenes of their own domestic problems.

Antonio's mistress Calantha (Kate Terence) wants to leave him while Karl's wife Gina (Georgia Winters) has similar plans.

The confrontation between the two leaders occurs during a ceasefire when they meet to try and persuade their opponent to back down from hostilities and violence.

Are ego and aggression the problem?

Antonio is arrogant, dismissive, sarcastic and grows aggressive easily. Karl, by comparison, has the demeanour of an underdog but has more fight than first appears.

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