243 posts categorized "Fringe/pub theatre" Feed

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:

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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:

via GIPHY

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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2018 theatre review: My 10 favourite fringe plays

Edinburgh Fringe media pass2018 was my first year at the Edinburgh Fringe which produced a bumper crop of excellent plays (look out for transfer details) but London has delivered some gems too.

Out of the 50-odd fringe plays there are 10 that really stand out but what strikes me most when revisiting them is how many evoked such a strong emotional reaction.

Yes, some are on the list for being highly entertaining but others made me feel angry or empowered or rebellious, some even a bit teary.

The other thing that strikes me is their diversity in ethnicity and gender balance tipped away from male dominance but I'll be writing more about that in another post.

So, in no particular order:

1. The Claim, Shoreditch Town Hall

Based on research into Home Office procedures this exposes the farcical system that asylum-seekers encounter but more than that, how incompetence endangers people's lives. It made me very angry.

2. My Mum's A Twat, Royal Court Upstairs

It's been an incredible year for Patsy Ferran, kicked off in fine style with this solo performance in a play about a girl's relationship with her mother who has joined a cult. Funny and spirited it also had dark edges.

3. Coconut, Ovalhouse

An effervescent love story and a coming of age story that challenged stereotypes.

4. Flesh and Bone, Soho Theatre upstairs

Shakespeare-esque lyricism combined with East End vernacular cleverly takes you on a revealing and entertaining journey that elevates the stories of those that often overlooked. Shakespeare would, no doubt, have approved.

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Theatre recommendation for the festive season: Orpheus, Battersea Arts Centre

Orpheus_web_landscape
It's not a Christmas-themed show but Orpheus by Little Bulb Theatre is a such a joyous experience to watch it is perfect for the season.

I saw it twice when it had its first run at the Battersea Arts Centre back in 2013 and I'm so glad it's back so more people get to enjoy it.

The theatre is decked out like a French jazz cafe from the 1930s with tables so that you can sit back and enjoy a bottle of wine and perhaps some food. 

Describing what it is about and like is difficult - read my attempt here - but I was grinning throughout.

See it at BAC as part of the Phoenix Season until December 30

 


Review: The Night Before Christmas, Southwark Playhouse - festive fun for grown-ups?

Despite the laughter and hints of substance beneath the glitter and lights you'd expect from a Christmas show it is clunky at times and shows its age.

L -R Douggie McMeekin and Dan Starkey star in The Night Before Christmas at Southwark Playhouse - credit Darren Bell
L-R Douggie McMeekin and Dan Starkey star in The Night Before Christmas at Southwark Playhouse. Photo: Darren Bell


It's Christmas Eve and Gary (Douggie McMeekin) catches an elf (Dan Starkey) in his knock-off goods warehouse who claims to have fallen off Santa's sleigh.

His friend Simon (Michael Salami) thinks the elf is a just a burglar trying it on.

But with Gary's ex-wife on the way around to pick up their son's Christmas present and local prostitute Cherry (Unique Spencer) also after him for a promised Power Rangers toy for her own kid, the elf's timing isn't perfect.

Grown-up fun?

This is adult Christmas fare, counter-programming to the Dr Seuss musical which is on next door but what constitutes grown up festive fun?

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Review: Boys, New Diorama - joy, silliness, subtlety and enlightenment

It is a play of joy and silliness that is also multi-layered, subtle, touching and enlightening.

PappyShow Boys
The PappyShow's Boys is introduced as a 'celebration of manhood' which is then swiftly followed by a fight.

In hindsight, it isn't ironic rather getting a misconception or common viewpoint out of the way.

There will be scuffles periodically throughout the hour-long show but while there is much that is celebratory - you will leave with a smile on your face - the subhead should be 'it's not all toxic masculinity'.

It is refreshing to have gender stereotypes smashed, to see young men displaying joy, tenderness and myriad other emotions.

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Review: The Dark, Ovalhouse - vivid and rich writing

Makoha's writing is vivid and rich but it is the slower, more considered exchanges which have a bigger impact. 

THE DARK_Production_HelenMurray-14
Akiya Henry and Michael Balogun in The Dark, Ovalhouse. Photo: Helen Murray.

Nick Makoha's play The Dark tells his own story when, as a child, his mother smuggled him out of Idi Amin's Uganda in search of a better life in the UK.

It is a story of a dangerous, overnight, bus journey shared with a group of strangers and told through a series of recollections and sketches.

The narrative jumps back and forth in time as if memories and the landscape are being pieced together.

Tense moments and encounters

Nick and his mother's fellow passengers are an assortment of stoic survivors, rebels and the mysterious. The journey becomes a mixture of anecdotes, politics, history and tense moments with life-threatening encounters. 

The set, cleverly designed by Rajha Shakiry, is a deconstructed bus with an overloaded roof rack hanging precariously above bench seats.

These are moved around into different configurations for flashbacks and journey breaks.

Lighting by Neill Brinkworth throws long shadows around the edges of the stage, creating a darkness from which danger can emerge and passengers can disappear.

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3 brilliant Edinburgh Fringe shows to see in London

LADY KILLERSome great Edinburgh Fringe shows are heading to London, here are three I saw that I can highly recommend.

The Fishermen, Arcola (until 1 December) 

Based on a Man-booker listed novel, The Fishermen is about four brothers who go fishing somewhere they aren't supposed to and the consequences of that fateful night.

It is fast-paced, the narrative rich with detail, the characters beautifully drawn.

Read my full The Fishermen review here. 

Ladykiller, Pleasance Theatre (30 Nov - 1 Dec)

A hotel room, a dead body, a maid covered in blood with a knife in her hand. This isn’t what it looks like, it definitely isn’t.

'Her' is a perverse figurehead for female empowerment and it is that contradiction and the darkness that I loved.

Read my full Ladykiller review here.

Angry Alan, Soho Theatre (5-30 March 2019)

An ordinary American man comes across a men's rights campaigner who seems to have answers to all his problems. It won awards at the Fringe and for good reason.

You'll laugh, scoff and roll your eyes at the irony of what Roger says but the final blow is a tragic irony.

Read my full Angry Alan review here.