278 posts categorized "New plays" Feed

Interview: "It's a bit like being in an episode of The Thick of It... set in 1979" - Owen Kingston on his new immersive show.

Parabolic Theatre’s immersive theatre show Crisis? What Crisis? cracks open the government machine and gives the audience the chance to get hands-on with the levers of power.

Owen Kingston
Director Owen Kingston

I spoke to director Owen Kingston about the show, what immersive theatre adds to the audience experience, how the company prepare for the unexpected and advice for those who are shy about getting involved?

Crisis? What Crisis? Is an immersive experience - how does it work?

All the events of the show take place in a Government office building in 1979.

The country has just been through the “winter of discontent” where strikes brought the country to its knees, and now Jim Callaghan's government is facing a vote of no confidence.  

In our shows, the audience is firmly in the driving seat narrative-wise.

We don't go as far as giving our audience specific roles, but we do give them a reason to be present in the world of the show.

In “Crisis? What Crisis?” our audience members are special advisors to government ministers, and they have been gathered together to try and solve some of the big problems facing the country while all the MPs are in parliament debating in advance on the no-confidence vote. 

The audience as a whole has to actively engage with these problems and try and solve them.

This can involve negotiating with Union representatives over the phone or in person, persuading MPs to try and vote in a particular manner, or choosing financial policies to enact to try and stabilise the economy.

The whole thing feels like a cross between a theatre performance and a board game, where the decisions taken by the audience affect the direction of the story.

Tackling problems affecting one part of the country might worsen problems in another part, and it is down to the audience to prioritise what to fix and how, and to try and work out what will have the biggest influence on the no-confidence vote, which is the ultimate metric of success or failure.

Continue reading "Interview: "It's a bit like being in an episode of The Thick of It... set in 1979" - Owen Kingston on his new immersive show." »


Review: Hansard, National Theatre - exceptionally witty, acidic and punchy drama

Simon Woods' debut play Hansard, a political drama, is set in 1988 but feels like it was written for now. Certainly watching it on the day Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced he was going to prorogue Parliament added an extra frisson of meaning to some of the lines.

Hansard poster national theatre

Set in the Cotswolds home of Tory MP Robin Hesketh (Alex Jennings) he is reunited with his wife Diana (Lindsay Duncan) having returned from working in London for the week.

Thatcherism is in full swing, the UK economy is riding high on an economic boom and the Poll Tax is on its way but all is not right in the Hesketh house and it's not just the foxes digging up the garden or Diana's hangover.

A two-hander it starts off as the sort of bickering long term couples almost enjoy, the familiar digs and quips but the comments become increasingly barbed and weighted.

Diana isn't the traditional Tory wife, she doesn't like the Tories for a start and isn't shy about it but Robin doesn't hold back in his opinion of her more liberal, left-leaning views either.

Continue reading "Review: Hansard, National Theatre - exceptionally witty, acidic and punchy drama" »


Review: A Very Expensive Poison, Old Vic - feeling conflicted about this

I haven't felt this conflicted about a play for a long time.

A Very Expensive Poison running times

Lucy Prebble's' new work is based on a book by Luke Harding about the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko.

The play opens with Marina Litvinenko (MyAnna Buring) talking to a lawyer about getting justice for her husband in the face of a British Government reluctant to damage diplomatic relations with Russia.

We then jump back to when Alexander (Tom Brooke) first got sick, then back again further to his life in Russia. It threads together how the Russian ended up as a British citizen, a target for the KGB and the investigation into his poisoning

Gripping yarn

It's a gripping yarn but where I'm conflicted is in different styles of storytelling employed.

By turns, it is an edge of the seat thriller, witty satire and a Vaudevillian style farce and is the latter which sits uncomfortably.

The fact is a man died a prolonged, drawn-out unpleasant death in a state-sponsored assassination but many of the Russians of the play are presented as a mixture of 'Carry on the KGB'  and an Austin Powers movie villain.

Continue reading "Review: A Very Expensive Poison, Old Vic - feeling conflicted about this" »


Review: The Colours, Soho Theatre - quiet ordinariness is this play's secret power

Harriet Madeley's The Colours is a verbatim play based on interviews with people with life-limiting illnesses and those working in palliative care.

Morfydd-Clark-and-Mark-Knightley-in-The-Colours-Photographer-Hannah-Anketell
Morfydd Clark and Mark Knightley in The Colours: Photo: Hannah Anketell

While researching the play, Madeley herself was diagnosed with a potentially life-limiting illness but rather than fraught emotional meaning-of-life drama this a piece of quiet ordinariness - which is its secret power. 

It starts in darkness projecting the audience by way of a soundscape to the seaside but what it is, in reality, is a therapy session at a Welsh hospice.

Sands of time

Sand is a physical motif throughout. It represents the shoreline, the beach from patients' therapy sessions but also the flowing sands of time as seen from the bucket at the back of the stage.

We are introduced to two cancer patients and another with motor neurone disease, getting snatches of their conversations with family, doctors and their thoughts through diagnosis, initial treatments and then palliative care.

The tone, for want of a better comparison, is like animation series Creature Comforts which is voiced by ordinary people.

Continue reading "Review: The Colours, Soho Theatre - quiet ordinariness is this play's secret power" »


Review: Tree, Young Vic - spectacle and atmosphere but I wanted more digging around the themes

When it opened at the Manchester International Festival last month, Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah's highly anticipated immersive production Tree was marred in controversy over authorship credits - to which both have responded.

Cast-members-in-Tree-at-Manchester-International-Festival-runs-at-Young-Vic-from-29-July.-Credit-Marc-Brenner-12-Custom
Cast members in Tree at Manchester International Festival. At the Young Vic from 29 July to 24 August. Photo: Marc Brenner.

It's now in residence at the Young Vic and interest remains untarnished if the long queue of people waiting for the doors to open is anything to go by.

Tree tells the story of London-born Kaelo (Alfred Enoch) and his journey to scatter his white mother's ashes in her South Africa homeland.

There he meets his white grandmother (Sinead Cusack) and black half-sister (Joan Iyiola) for the first time and sets out to discover what happened to his father.

Dance with the cast

The play opens with a club DJ playing music from Elba's own album and the audience is encouraged to dance on the low circular stage among the cast.

I did see one couple getting a selfie with Alfred Enoch - not sure if that is in keeping with the character of the piece or not.

Continue reading "Review: Tree, Young Vic - spectacle and atmosphere but I wanted more digging around the themes" »


Quick review: Wife, Kiln Theatre - smart, vibrant and with a delicious sly dig at theatre

Saw Wife at the Kiln Theatre a few weeks ago but it was a really busy time with work and I got distracted from writing my review - which I now want to quickly rectify because I really enjoyed it.

Wife kiln theatre photo marc brenner
Karen Fishwick (Daisy) and Sirine Saba (Suzannah) in Wife © Marc Brenner

Samuel Adamson's play spans 60 years and while there is a connection between the different generations it isn't as simple as parents, children and grandchildren.

You have to pay attention as it time jumps, seeking out the connection when it isn't always immediately obvious, starting with an encounter in 1959 between a married woman and an actress.

The actress is starring as Nora in Ibsen's A Dolls's House and that first scene sets out the stall for the key themes - gay relationships and the changing role of women within the structure of marriage and family.

Continue reading "Quick review: Wife, Kiln Theatre - smart, vibrant and with a delicious sly dig at theatre" »


Review: The End of History, Royal Court - rebellious children, parental legacy and a sentimental misstep

While Sal and David may be passionate about righting the wrongs of the world and creating a more equal and inclusive society, when it comes to embarrassing their children it's a different matter.

Royal Court The End of History photo johan persson
The End of History, Royal Court. Photo Johan Persson.

Writer Jack Thorne and John Tiffany last worked together on the Harry Potter plays but family dynamics is the only parallel with The End of History at the Royal Court.

The play is set during three family gatherings in 1997, 2007 and 2017, in the Newbury home of Sal (Lesley Sharp) and David (David Morrissey).

They are left-leaning liberals who've brought their children up to be inquisitive and be socially aware.

Elder children Carl (Sam Swainsbury) and Polly (Kate O'Flynn) are at good universities and younger sibling Tom (Laurie Davidson) is still at school but when they come together it is a mixture of banter, jibes and warm familial bonds.

Views take their toll

Sal and David's liberal approach to parenting combined with their rigid views on social justice has taken its toll on their children.

In the first act, the gathering is to meet Carl's new girlfriend Harriet (Zoe Boyle). Behind closed doors, the kids are almost used to their parent's frank revelations and views but it is a different matter when Harriet arrives. 

The fact that she comes from money is an itch that Sal, in particular, just can't help scratching with amusingly cringe-worthy consequences.

Continue reading "Review: The End of History, Royal Court - rebellious children, parental legacy and a sentimental misstep" »


Review: Anna, National Theatre - a thriller in which sounds tell the story

This is a taut thriller and an interesting and different play watching experience.

Anna National Theatre poster

At the curtain call of Anna, the cast hold up a series of cards which spell out 'No Spoilers' so I'm going to attempt to write my review without giving anything away.

It's set in East Berlin in 1968 and centres on married couple Anna (Phoebe Fox) and her husband Hans (Paul Bazely) who are having a celebratory party but there is an underlying tension to the convivial atmosphere.

Staged in a unique style, the apartment is set is behind a glass screen and each audience member has a headset through which to hear the dialogue.

Continue reading "Review: Anna, National Theatre - a thriller in which sounds tell the story" »


Review: Small Island, National Theatre - "a cracking piece of theatre"

I enjoyed the book, admired the TV adaptation but did the stage adaptation of Andrea Levy's Small Island at the National Theatre hit the mark?

Small Island poster
Small Island is an epic story both in scope and subject. The narrative straddles Jamaica and England before, during and after World War II, exploring colonialism, racism, love and identity.

The novel tells the story from four different characters perspectives but Helen Edmundson's stage adaptation pares it down making the two women Hortense (Leah Harvey) and Queenie (Aisling Loftus) the primary focus.

Hortense and Queenie have very different personalities - the former is well-mannered to the point of being uptight and has a tendency to look down her nose at people while the latter is more convivial, open-minded but, initially at least, easily led.

Both want to escape their lives and the identity that has been prescribed for them.

Continue reading "Review: Small Island, National Theatre - "a cracking piece of theatre"" »


Review: Class, Bush Theatre - classroom and class tensions

Class layers marital tensions with social class tensions and the pressures of being a teacher and learning.

L-r Sarah Morris  Stephen Jones and Will O'Connell   in 'CLASS' photo by_Helen Murray 73B&W
L-r Sarah Morris, Stephen Jones and Will O'Connell in 'CLASS'. Photo: Helen Murray

Brian (Stephen Jones) and Donna (Sarah Morris) are separated but having to put on a united front for the sake of their 9-year-old son Jayden who is having problems at school.

They've been called in to see Jayden's teacher Mr McCafferty (Will O'Connell) but classrooms hold bad memories for both of them.

As Mr McCafferty nervously broaches the subject of Jayden's learning difficulties feathers are ruffled and someone shows they have a chip on their shoulder.

Set entirely in Jayden's classroom, the walls a tempting chalkboard, sitting on the little chairs literally and figuratively brings the adults down to a child's level. 

Continue reading "Review: Class, Bush Theatre - classroom and class tensions " »