263 posts categorized "Fringe/pub theatre" Feed

Review: Strange Fruit, Bush Theatre - an exposing and painful play which distracts from its key themes

It is the women that come to the fore and feel like the more interesting and sympathetic characters.

Rakie Ayola as Vivian in 'Strange Fruit' at the Bush Theatre. Photo credit Helen Murray.
Rakie Ayola as Vivian in 'Strange Fruit', Bush Theatre. Photo: Helen Murray.

Caryl Phillips' play Strange Fruit focuses on cultural identity in 1980s Britain.

Vivian (Rakie Ayola) left the Caribbean with her two young sons Errol and Alvin seeking a better life but after 20 years in England, the family finds themselves caught between two cultures.

The grown-up brothers are disaffected and angry. Errol (Jonathan Ajayi) rages at society and that includes his mother and white girlfriend Shelley (Tilly Steele) - which doesn't make for comfortable viewing.

England is riddled with racism and prejudice, neither brother feels welcome or that it is the land of opportunity their mother believes. 

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Review: Little Bulb Theatre's The Future, Battersea Arts Centre - science and rock songs (guess which I liked more?)

The eccentric inventiveness of what Little Bulb has done is thoroughly entertaining.

Little Bulb  The Future at Battersea Arts Centre 2019  PHOTOCREDIT Adam Trigg - www-naturaltheatre-photos Future-006
Little Bulb Theatre: The Future, Battersea Arts Centre 2019. Photo: Adam Trigg

I loved Little Bulb Theatre's last production Orpheus so much I saw it twice, so I was really excited to see their new work The Future.

It projects us into the world of three scientists who, with the help of a compere/conductor/presenter (Clare Beresford), explore super intelligence - AI - and the impact it will have on humanity. 

This being Little Bulb their take is executed with quirkiness, music and song.

The scientists wear tinfoil on their heads and have an idiosyncratic way of talking that manages to be nerdy, dry and humorous all at the same time. Shamira Turner is particularly brilliant in her style of delivery.

Living with super intelligence

AI is represented by a box on a stand - the genie contained - and the play (and it's rock-inflected songs) explore the good and bad of living with super intelligence.

Scenarios and presentations are played out by the scientists in their own quirky style of fun and you find yourself laughing at them just as much as with.

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Review: Woke, Battersea Arts Centre - powerful and atmospheric

Apphia Campbell gives a powerful and engaging performance and the play's message... is firmly nailed to the mast.

Woke New 1 photocredit MIHAELA BODLOVIC
Apphia Campbell, Woke. Photo Mihaela Bodlovic

Woke is an appropriate title for Apphia Campbell's play about what makes an activist and the battle for civil rights and.

She weaves together two stories, set in different time periods, contrasting the Black Panthers with Black Lives Matter to ask how far things have progressed.

First, we meet the naive - 'unwoke' - university fresher Ambrosia whose first semester coincides with the murder of Michael Brown by a white police officer which sparks social unrest near her college campus.

Views challenged

She's been brought up to believe that the law is just and justice will prevail until she meets Trey, the law student who challenges her views and inadvertently introduces her to the realities of the legal system for African Americans.

Then we meet Assata Shakur who, while a member of the Black Liberation Army in the 1970s, was jailed for shooting a police officer despite the prosecution case not having to prove that she actually fired the fatal shots. 

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Review: Simon Stephens' Country Music, Omnibus Theatre - seeking out meaning in the silence

There is much to be gleaned from the subtlety of the play but it requires work and attention to seek it out.

Country music omnibus theatre2
Cary Crankson, Country Music Omnibus Theatre

Country Music opens with two teenagers 18-year-old Jamie (Cary Crankson) and 15-year-old Lynsey (Rebecca Stone) sitting in a car talking about a trip to Southend.

It appears relatively innocent, a boy trying to impress a girl until we discover that Jamie has stolen the car and is putting distance between himself and a violent crime he has committed which we later find out resulted in a death.

Lynsey, who lives in a care home, may enjoy the attention and this moment of fun and promise but is savvy and when Jamie reveals exactly what he has done she gets cold feet.

The play goes on to visit Jamie at three further pivotal moments in his life in a series of two-handers. 

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Review: F*ck You Pay Me, Bunker Theatre - lifting the lid on life working as a stripper

Backstage there is camaraderie among the strippers and 'office' politics, personal dramas and worries just like any place of work.

Fuck You Pay Me  The Bunker (Credit David Monteith Hodge) Joana Nastari (2)
Joana Nastari  F*ck You Pay Me The Bunker. Photo: David Monteith Hodge

There's a DJ deck and DJ (Charlotte Bickley), faux fur walls and palm trees and three mini circular stages. This is a strip club, Holly's (Joana Nastari) place of work and she'll take us behind the scenes to her world as a stripper to see the good, the bad and the ugly aspects.

Holly isn't student who needs the cash, neither is she paying for a drug addict, she likes the work, the flexibility of it and can earn good money.

Her job title maybe stripper but that means she is also in sales, marketing, PR, acting and dancing but she doesn't have the same level of workers rights.

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Review: The Half God of Rainfall, Kiln Theatre - Battling deities, basketball and a god for modern women

In the same way that the Marvel Universe mixes superpowers with mortal flaws, the scope of The Half God of Rainfall stretches to another galaxy but all the time remains profoundly human.

Kwami-Odoom-and-Rakie-Ayola-in-Inua-Ellams-The-Half-God-of-Rainfall-c-Dan-Tsantilis-2
Kwami Odoom and Rakie Ayola in Inua Ellams' The Half God of Rainfall. Photo: Dan Tsantilis

Inua Ellams' play The Half God of Rainfall at the Kiln Theatre is an epic battle of gods from Greek and Yoruba myths anchored in contemporary culture by the sport of basketball and a bit of girl power.

Given the god-like status afforded sporting stars - if you are a fan of basketball there are plenty of nods - it's not a huge leap from battles on the court to battles among deities.

#metoo and mythology

And neither is it a leap from the #metoo campaign to the abused women of Greek mythology.

Straddling the realms of gods and humans is Demi (Kwami Odoom) born out of the violent rape of his mortal mother Modupe (Rakie Ayola) and thunder god Zeus.

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Rakie Ayola in Inua Ellams' The Half God of Rainfall. Photo: Dan Tsantilis

Demi's emotions can make it rain to the point of flooding and he also has a god-like knack for scoring basketball hoops.

However, he lives in times when the gods feel easily threatened by powers beyond their own and status.

Protection from jealousy

His fiercely protective and devoted mother takes him from his small village in Nigeria to the US to keep him out of the way but when Demi becomes a star basketball player Zeus's jealousy puts him in danger.

Ellams script paints a vivid picture that is both intimate and epic and it wouldn't work as well if not for the skilful performances of Odoom and Ayola.

Kwami-Odoom-in-Inua-Ellams-The-Half-God-of-Rainfall-c-Dan-Tsantilis-4
Kwami Odoom in Inua Ellams' The Half God of Rainfall. Photo: Dan Tsantilis

They effortlessly mix the stature of ancient myth with a contemporary inflection.

Demi is, for the most part, a kid with innocent wonder, sometimes petulant, sometimes cheeky but with a good heart.

However, it is Modupe who, in channelling the power of a mother's love and female exasperation at the male ego, the violence and abuse, proves the hero.

She is a god for modern women.

Powers and flaws

In the same way that the Marvel Universe mixes superpowers with mortal flaws, the scope of The Half God of Rainfall stretches to another galaxy but all the time remains profoundly human.

It is one hour and 20 minutes without an interval and I'm giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.

See it at the Kiln Theatre until 17 May.

You might also like to read:

Interview: Libby Liburd and Cathy Tyson talk about writing and performing in women's boxing drama Fighter.

From the archive: How the theatre obsession started as explained in my first Rev Stan's Theatre blog post.

 

 

 


Review: Fighter, Stratford Circus Arts - A single mum steps into the ring to fight for equality

Fighter's message is punchy and it's an important story to be told.

(c) Alex Brenner  no use without credit  Libby Liburd - Fighter (_DSC1109)
 Libby Liburd and David Schaal in Fighter. Photo: (c) Alex Brenner


Set in a boxing gym, Libby Liburd's play Fighter opens with girls and boys (from Fight for Peace's Newham Academy) training alongside each other.

The year projected on the wall at the back of the stage slowly dials back to 1998 and as it does the girls slip away. When single mum Lee (Libby Liburd) enters the gym, she is stepping into a man's world.

At this point in time, women have only been allowed to box as amateurs in the UK for two years and Tommy (David Schaal), who owns the gym, says he only trains men. 

He points Lee in the direction of the nail bar down the road.

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Review: Funeral Flowers, Bunker Theatre - getting drawn into the world of a 17-year-old trainee florist

Emma Dennis-Edwards has created a character that gets under your skin - you laugh with her, feel for her and desperately want someone to ask the right questions and be there for her.

Funeral Flowers by Emma Dennis- Edwards (courtesy Kofi Dwaah) (25)
Funeral Flowers by Emma Dennis-Edwards. Photo: Kofi Dwaah.

Angelique's boyfriend Micky is in trouble with his gang leader and wants her to help him out - if she doesn't he says she'll be making his funeral flowers.

The 17-year-old at the centre of  Emma Dennis-Edwards' play is living with a carer while her mum is in prison, learning floristry at college and dreams of setting up her own business.

A cascade of flowers down the back wall of the performance space together with buckets of flowers give the theatre a hint of that wonderful florist's scent and Angelique a place to escape the outside world.

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Review: Wow Everything Is Amazing in an imagined digital future (Battersea Arts Centre)

While the raps, music and dance bring a celebratory, uplifting feel there are hints at the price of it all.

Sounds Like Chaos_WOW Everything Is Amazing_BAC _ Albany. Photo Ali Wright (3)
Sounds Like Chaos - Wow Everything Is Amazing. Photo: Ali Wright

Youth theatre group Sounds Like Chaos imagine the digital world 50 years in the future, presenting the vision as a pseudo-church service where citizens worship at the altar of the internet. 

To one side is a congregation, dressed in jumpsuits complete with the logos of digital companies. On the other is a 'choir' wearing a futuristic version of the traditional chorister robes.

They worship and offer praise to 'Godhead' who glides up the aisle on a self-balancing scooter (hoverboard) on a promise to 'be here for you'.

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Review: Cry Havoc, Park Theatre - can forbidden love bridge the cultural divide?

Cry Havoc is refreshing take on the immigration story but this is not quite matched by other elements of the play.

CryHavoc - James El-Sharawy and Marc Antolin - Photo by Lidia Crisafulli - Press 8
Cry Havoc, Park Theatre - James El-Sharawy and Marc Antolin. Photo by Lidia Crisafulli


Tom Coash's play is inspired by his time living in Egypt and learning of how a gay man had been arrested and tortured by police.

Marc Antolin plays Nicholas a naive, romantic Brit who wears a coat of colonial arrogance. James El-Sharawy plays Mohammed his boyfriend who has just been released from prison having been picked up in a sweep on a club by police.

Tortured, scarred and scared, Mohammed has already been rejected by his father, ostracised by the local community and knows he could be targeted by the police again. 

Nicholas thinks he has the answer: Take Mohammed back to England and sets about trying to get him a visa. 

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