249 posts categorized "Fringe/pub theatre" Feed

Review: Drag, self-discovery and civil war in Lipstick: A Fairy Tale of Iran, Omnibus Theatre

Mixing the more colourful and camp with the harsh realities of inequality and creative restaint for the Iranian women is a powerful storytelling device.

1_Nathan Kiley in Lipstick A Fairy Tale of Iran_Flavia Fraser-Cannon
Nathan Kiley in Lipstick A Fairy Tale of Iran. Photo: Flavia Fraser-Cannon

A catwalk divides the seats at the Omnibus Theatre on which drag queen in green sequined dress is lip synching.

However, this isn't a Friday-night cabaret performance of a power ballad or pop song instead she tells the story of an Iranian woman, blinded and disfigured in an acid attack by a jealous man.

Mixing contrasting forms with narrative is a clever and powerful feature of Sarah Chew's play based on her real experiences when her six-week, Arts Council-funded cultural exchange trip to Iran coincided with the Green uprising.

While Orla (Siobhan O'Kelly) is in Iran, her best friend Mark (drag artist Nathan Kiley) is putting the finishing touches to their new club back in Soho.

Candid voicemail messages

As the story of Orla's trip unfolds, Kiley plays all the other characters as well as Mark who leaves long, amusingly candid voicemail messages for her.

It is inventive storytelling mixing boylesque, drag, Vaudeville with more traditional forms, and at times it feels like a fairytale - a dark, modern fairytale laced with very real modern life horrors.

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Review: The Orchestra, Omnibus Theatre - interesting snapshot of an often overlooked period of social history

Anouilh's humour doesn't ignite as well as it probably should but The Orchestra is otherwise an interesting snapshot of a period of social history that is often overlooked.

2 Stefania Licari (Suzanne Delicias) pic credit Jacob Malinski
Stefania Licari (Suzanne Delicias). Photo: Jacob Malinski

Set just after WWII, Jean Anouilh's black comedy The Orchestra is set in a French café during an evening performance when the harmony in the playing isn't matched by the musicians' conversations between pieces.

Mme. Hortense (Amanda Osborne), the leader of the orchestra flirts with piano player M. Leon (Pedro Casarin) which inflames jealousy in his lover Suzanne (Stefania Licari).

And while the tension increases between the three, the rest of the orchestra bicker, show off and complain about their lives.

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Vault Festival review: Kompromat, a gripping, sexy, spy thriller

The performances ooze with sexual tension and sensuousness; the backdrop is an atmosphere of isolation and threat and it is this combination which elevates Kompromat above your average spy thriller.

Kompromat. VAULT Festival. Photo Mark Senior-3
Guy Warren-Thomas and Max Rinehart in Kompromat. VAULT Festival. Photo: Mark Senior


The 2010 'spy in the bag' murder is the inspiration behind Kompromat, a new play by David Thame which imagines the murderer using a honey trap to ensnare his victim.

A two-hander, the story is told through a series of monologues and flashbacks primarily through the eyes of Zac (Max Rinehart) who picks up Tom (Guy Warren-Thomas) at a club.

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Interview: Kristine Landon-Smith on directing the 'understated' and 'pricelessly funny' The Orchestra, Omnibus Theatre

Kristine Landon-Smith headshot
Director Kristine Landon-Smith

Jean Anouilh’s play The Orchestra tells the story of a third-rate orchestra in France just after the second world war and it is a play that made a big impression on director Kristine Landon-Smith.

"I had never seen anything quite like it: a play set in France just after the war where the musicians between arrangements try to work out who had "collaborated".

"Understated yet pricelessly funny, I knew I wanted to direct this classic gem," she says.

Landon-Smith, who was founder member and artistic director of Tamasha for 22 years and a senior lecturer in acting at The National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) Australia, got her wish 10 years later. 

However, she's now been drawn back to the play a second time.

I asked her what has changed and whether she thinks the landscape is changing for the better for women theatre-makers.

The Orchestra obviously had a big impact when you first saw it but watching is different from directing - what did you want to explore in directing it?

I was a young actress when I first saw it and just making a foray into directing.

There was this beautiful mix of understated throw away comic delivery and then these heightened moments where the actors mime the musical numbers.

I could see it required great skill and precision to play well and I was very drawn to this aspect of it.

And now you are revisiting it a second time, what has changed?

Everything has changed. I have changed and the world has changed so you do come to things with that experience behind you and also with a sensibility of how you are feeling at the moment.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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