287 posts categorized "New plays" Feed

Review: Lava, Bush Theatre - 'witty, weighted and lyrical'

Last year a critic described a dramatic response to the Black Lives Matter protests, to which Benedict Lombe contributed, as 'more lecture than theatre'. The quote is projected onto the set of her debut play, Lava, at the Bush Theatre.

Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo in 'Lava' at the Bush Theatre. Photo credit Helen Murray_47
Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo in 'Lava' at the Bush Theatre. Photo credit: Helen Murray

It appears about three-quarters of the way through the play, a punctuation point, a punch, perhaps a poke but certainly a powerful note that underlines what has gone before and the overarching message of the piece.

What has gone before is the story of a missing first name in a passport. Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo plays Benedict, recounting the story of getting her British passport renewed and finding out why her first name is missing.

Her investigation takes her back to Congo, the country where she was born but much further back in history to colonialism and the years that followed that have shaped her life and the lives of so many.

It is the tale of a family moving from place to place as Benedict's parents seek out a country where they can lead fulfilled lives - and just be.

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Review: Shedding A Skin, Soho Theatre - witty, fun and moving

Myah (Amanda Wilkin) is adrift. She goes from one dead-end job to another, trying to fit in until one day she gets called on to be the 'diversity quota' in her company's photos.

Shedding A Skin_Production_Soho_Helen Murray2 smll
Amanda Wilkin in Shedding A Skin, Soho Theatre. Photo: Helen Murray

She snaps, the restraints are off, and this departure is both dramatic and funny - think less eloquent and powerful speech, more scrawling expletives on the office wall.

On a roll, she walks out from her unsupportive boyfriend and finds herself homeless and jobless. She realises too late that it wasn't a good idea to tell her boyfriend he could do what he wants with all her stuff.

Answering an ad on the Tesco notice board, she finds herself living with an elderly Jamaica lady called Mildred on the 15th floor of a tower block with a broken lift.

This time she's going to try harder to make things work. She's going to get her shit together. No, she is.

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Review: Hymn, Almeida Theatre - brotherly love, eulogies and symbolic savings

The 'Chekhov's gun' in Lolita Chakrabati's Hymn is £10,000 in savings. When it gets mentioned early on, the warning light started flashing in my mind.

Hymn Almeida danny sapani adrian lester photo marc brenner
Hymn, on stage via the screen (Danny Sapani and Adrian Lester, photo Marc Brenner)

It belongs to Benny (Danny Sapani), hard-earned and put by bit by bit over the years.  But it is a victim of the story rather than the driver of the narrative.

Benny has recently found out his father is - or was - a local businessman and turns up at his funeral, where he meets his half-brother Gil (Adrian Lester).

The narrative quickly strides forward to when a strong bond has formed; they share a love of music and, in particular, the music of their youth.

There is a celebratory feel to their friendship - helped by some serious dancing and cool 80s beats - as if making up for the decades of missed shared experiences.

But Benny and Gil's relationship contrasts with that between Gil and their father.

Truthful eulogies

Two eulogies bookend the play. The first is revealed to be not quite truthful in how it represents a relationship while the other we'll never know if it was or not. And that made it a slightly problematic device for me.

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Review: Andrew Scott in Three Kings - a master in storytelling, compelling and gripping

If you've ever seen Andrew Scott perform Simon Stephens' monologue Sea Wall you'll know he is a master storyteller, deftly lifting words off the page and turning them into something compelling and gripping.

Andrew Scott Three Kings start

Three Kings, beautifully written by Stephen Beresford, gives him even more scope to sprinkle his performance magic.

Created especially for the Old Vic's In Camera, it is described as a scratch performance but only the lack of embellishments like set and fancy lighting give any sign of this. 

And who needs any of that anyway when you've got 60 minutes of you and Andrew Scott, albeit seen from the other side of a screen.

Funny and heartbreaking

Like Sea Wall, the power is in the story as it is told. And it is a powerful piece Scott drawing out the humour and heartache in equal measure.

Three Kings is about the relationship between a son and his an estranged father.

He meets him briefly at 8 years old but the meeting leaves an indelible mark which will go on shaping their relationship for many years.

His father leaves him a challenge of solving a puzzle involving three coins - the Three Kings of the title.

But it more than a simple test of puzzle-solving, solving this puzzle is hugely weighted.

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Review: Lungs, Old Vic - the 'live' theatre experience and a few thoughts on the play itself (I wasn't blown away)

I never got to see Lungs when it was on stage and I nearly didn't get to see this live online version because of the Old Vic's odd approach to ticketing - charging normal theatre prices for people to sit in their own homes to watch.

Lungs Old Vic on screen

But putting that to one side (I wrote about it here), on the final release of tickets, without expecting to find anything affordable, I managed to snag a £20 ticket.

The Old Vic has tried to inject as much of the live theatre atmosphere into the online experience as possible.

In the run-up to the live performance by Claire Foy and Matt Smith, you hear the hubbub of an audience and the bell that warns people the start is imminent and to take their seats.

It was a nice touch.

The performance itself looks like it's filmed on two cameras so you have the two actors appearing side by side on screen but in different shots.

You only get a sense that they are on the same stage in the occasional wide shot and when one of them walks across the other's shot to take up a new position.

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Review: Black Women Dating White Men - a candid exploration of interracial relationships

There is a lot that is fabulous about Somebody Jones' verbatim play Black Women Dating White Men, one of which is that it works so well on Zoom.

 

BWDWM still
Black Women Dating White Men by Somebody Jones

 

Five black women, sometimes with a glass a wine in hand or in a dressing gown, come together lockdown-style for regular chats via Zoom during which they discuss and share their experiences of being in an interracial relationship.

The nature of Zoom means the characters are at home, while you are watching at home which makes for an intimate experience, it feels like you are part of the chat.

They talk about how their friends and family reacted when they first met their white boyfriends, how they are treated when out and the ups and downs of their relationship.

It's a candid discussion, relaxed and matter of fact, sometimes humourous but no less powerful in what it exposes.

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Review: Spy Plays, Above The Stag - sophisticated gay spy thrillers

Spy plays by David Thame are two pieces based on real events, 55 years apart and linked by themes of espionage and gay liaisons.

Spy Plays programme

The first, London/Budapest, is set in 1955 where successful gay author Adam (Guy Warren Thomas) picks up handsome young airman Reg (Max Rinehart) at a sauna and takes him home.

Adam is erudite and eloquent, quick and observant but perhaps not quick enough - or maybe he doesn't want to see?

Flashbacks reveal more about his background, including a friendship with Guy Burgess who defected to the Soviet Union, which give the authorities enough grounds to be suspicious of his loyalties.

But while Adam may not be as innocent as he claims to be, is Reg being equally honest?

The tension mounts, is the sex functional, a ruse or is there something more, will this liaison end in the usual way?

Kompromat, which was first performed at the Vault Festival last year, has similar tensions although the narrative is reversed starting with final events so the question is how it got to that point.

It is set in 2010 and inspired by the death of GCHQ employee Gareth Williams whose body was found in a sports bag in his Pimlico flat while he was on secondment to MI6 in London. 

Tom (Warren Thomas) is the brainy country bumpkin for whom the freedom and accessibility of London's gay scene have made him joyously wide-eyed, naive or purposefully unobservant?

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Review: Scenes With Girls, Royal Court - intelligent, fresh and funny, I want more theatre like this please

I want to see more plays like Scenes With Girls. While women talking about sex and talking about liking sex, isn't as unusual as it once was, what I particularly enjoyed about Miriam Battye's play is how it moves the discussion into the context of feminism.

Scenes with girls ticket

Tosh (Tanya Reynolds) and Lou (Rebekah Murrell) are best friends.  While boyfriends and other friends have come and gone their friendship has endured.

They are feminists, eschewing conventional stereotypes of what women should and shouldn't do.

For Lou, this means subverting what she sees as society's prescribed narrative of women needing to be in a relationship.

Badge of honour

She is determined to create a new narrative, enjoying sex but nothing more. She sees the increasing number of sexual partners she's had as a badge of honour.

Tosh meanwhile hasn't had sex for a long time.

When their old friend Fran (Letty Thomas) turns up engaged to her 'boring' boyfriend it seems to confirm everything they believe about the 'female narrative'.

Cracks appear

But in dissecting Fran's relationship and everything they perceived to be wrong about it, it challenges their principles and exposes cracks in their friendship.

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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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