273 posts categorized "Fringe/pub theatre" Feed

Review: You Stupid Darkness! Southwark Playhouse - funny, haunting, moving and strangely uplifting

Sam Steiner's play You Stupid Darkness! is set in a decaying office where four volunteers man a helpline - Brightline - trying to help people look on the bright side.

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Andrew Finnigan, Lydia Larson, Andy Rush and Jenni Maitland in You Stupid Darkness! Photo: Ali Wright.

Inspirational posters cover water stains and holes in the wall with messages such as 'It will be alright in the end and if it's not alright, it's not the end."

The world outside the office isn't in a much better state. Nothing is directly discussed but the volunteers arrive wearing gas masks, you can hear sirens going off outside and there are hints from occasional remarks.

Frances (Jenni Maitland) the team leader is heavily pregnant and at one point is asked if she regrets it.

New volunteer 17-year-old Joey (Andrew Finnigan) comments that he hasn't seen a pregnant woman since he was 12.

Not looking ahead

When he says he prefers not to look too far ahead, it isn't the words of an apathetic teenager but a young person for whom the future genuinely doesn't hold a lot of promise.

Brightline, it seems, is like the cheery posters covering up far more serious problems.

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Review: The Co-op, White Bear Theatre, Kennington - fun, if sometimes clunky comedy

Make It Beautiful Theatre's first production, The Co-op, is about three actors who have set up their own acting agency.

The Co-op Make It Beautiful Theatre
They spend their day, drinking and trying to get auditions for each other, being supportive and barely hiding jealousy and rivalry.

But a crisis is looming for the agency and it isn't just that Caza is skint.

The narrative thread is more of a vehicle for a series of sketches that are part homage to famous films and different genres and part gentle satire on the fickleness of the acting industry and audition process.

Don't look for too much coherence and consistency in the story because there isn't much.

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Review: Lullabies For The Lost, Old Red Lion - emotionally vivid and powerful but a problem ending

Lullabies For the Lost is one of two plays by Rosalind Blessed about mental health that are being performed in rep at the Old Red Lion.

Rosalind Blessed and cast  Lullabies for the Lost  courtesy of Adam Trigg
Rosalind Blessed and cast Lullabies for the Lost, Old Red Lion Theatre. Photo: Adam Trigg

It starts with Larry (Chris Porter) agonising about going out to dinner with his friends, as the clock ticks closer to the time he needs to leave.

His dilemma is nothing to do with the company but his anxiety about social situations and he tests out excuses for why he isn't able to go - which raise a few laughs - but it is nonetheless heartbreaking to see the pain his anxiety causes.

And there is a lot of that in Lullabies for the Lost as it cycles through 8 stories of different mental health conditions - depression, anorexia, bulimia, chronic low self-esteem, hoarding, among others.

Lighter moments

Some of the stories are harrowing but some show a more humorous side bringing lighter moments. 

Blessed has the sufferers stuck in a white room, doomed to retell their stories until they can find the key that will unlock their condition - let them back out into the world.

'We have to solve our riddles.'

The room feels like a slightly clunky device and the conversations between its occupants - a mixture of bickering and encouragement - adds little to the overall narrative or tension.

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End of year review: My favourite theatre of 2019, a year of dazzling performances, wit, drama and tears

It's been tough but I've managed to whittle down my 'best theatre of 2019' list to 10 plays, well, one isn't actually a play but deserves a place nonetheless. So here goes, in no particular order:

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Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

1. Downstate, National Theatre

A challenging, difficult play with humour and wit inflected with wisdom that carefully balanced entertainment without detracting from the seriousness of the subject matter.

2. Betrayal, Harold Pinter Theatre

I wasn't that enamoured with Jamie Lloyd's season of Pinter shorts and then came along Betrayal and it was utterly breathtaking.

The sparse script was layered with nuanced performances from Tom Hiddleston, Zawe Ashton and Charlie Cox. What wasn't said screamed loud.

3. Seven Methods For Killing Kylie Jenner, Royal Court upstairs

This made a lot of what is on stage in London look stodgy and staid. A fresh and achingly contemporary play that cleverly and boldly tackled social media and what it reveals about modern society.

4. Hansard, National Theatre

One of those plays that get mentioned a lot in theatre conversations, this was an extremely witty and acerbic political drama/comedy which had an unexpected emotional punch.

I loved it also for its balance approached in scrutinising both left and right-leaning politics.

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End of year review: My 5 favourite fringe plays of 2019

It's the end of year theatre review time and thought I'd kick off with my favourite fringe plays of 2019.

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Guy Warren-Thomas and Max Rinehart in Kompromat. VAULT Festival. Photo: Mark Senior


Some of these may well end up on my final top 10 list but this is my way of cheating highlighting some more great theatre.

In no particular order (links are to my original reviews):

1.Kompromat, Vault Festival

David Thame's sexy spy thriller is elevated by emotional depth. It was just as much a play about loneliness and connection as it was about a hitman and his target.

Can't wait to see what he writes next.

2. Seven Methods For Killing Kylie Jenner, Royal Court upstairs

This made a lot of what is on stage in London look stodgy and staid. A fresh and achingly contemporary play that cleverly and boldly tackled social media and what it reveals about modern society.

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Review: Nor Woman Neither, Tristan Bates Theatre - sharp comedy that has shades of Fleabag

If Nor Woman Neither sounds familiar it's from Hamlet when the prince is talking about losing interesting in life and feeling misunderstood by his friends.

Nor Woman Neither ©Laura Dorn Photography-38
Nor Woman Neither ©Laura Dorn Photography

It's a curiously poignant title for a sharply funny coming of age story about the struggle of turning childhood dreams into reality while navigating the slings and arrows of love and lust.

Written and performed by Ingrid Schiller and Verity Kirk we meet Laura (Schiller) as a child in South Africa reluctantly watching a Bond movie with her dad.

In her child-like way, she wants to be Honey Rider in the film - beautiful and the focus of attention. She also feels the first stirring of sexual desire, even if she doesn't yet understand what it is.

Desire to be seen

The scenario will be played out time and time again as we follow her through English boarding school, drama school and early career, a mixture of the desire to be seen, to fit in, to be loved... and sexual desire.

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Review: Land Without Dreams, Gate Theatre - quirky and clever but not the sum of all its parts

Land Without Dreams at the Gate Theatre is a surreal, existential meta 'drama' created by Danish company Fix&Foxy.

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Temi Wilkey in Land Without Dreams, Gate Theatre. Photo: © Cameron Slate

I use 'drama' because it isn't a story in the traditional sense, rather it is a solo performance (by Temi Wilkey) about the future and the power of the individual. Kind of.

She is both narrator and a character in the piece and tells us she's from the future.

The lights of the auditorium stay up as she addresses the audience directly, imagining who we are and what our expectations and experience of theatre is.

Audience impressions

So, for example, she decides there is a couple on a date, telling us what is going through their minds, how the date is going and their impressions of the play. 

It is meta and ironic as she tells us what we are thinking about the play: 'When is the play actually starting?' and later 'This is why I never go to the theatre' etc.

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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.

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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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