310 posts categorized "New plays" Feed

Review: The Elephant Song, Park Theatre - twists, turns and the unexpected

The Elephant Song credit Giacomo Giannelli
Jon Osbaldeston, Louise Faulkner and Gwithian Evans in The Elephant Song, Park Theatre, Jan 2023. Photo: Giacomo Giannelli


Michael Aleen (Gwithian Evans) is a resident at a secure mental hospital obsessed with elephants. He also seems to hold the key to understanding the disappearance of one of the psychiatrists, but can the hospital director Dr Greenberg (Jon Osbaldeston), believe what he says?

Nicolas Billon's The Elephant song takes us through a game of cat and mouse as Dr Greenberg tries to talk Michael into revealing the information he has.

Michael, with his toy elephant always in his hand, knows the information he has might give him some leverage. He wants to leave the hospital. 

Nurse Peterson (Louise Faulkner) warns Greenberg that Michael is manipulative. And Michael is, using his keen, sometimes cruel, observation and sharp intelligence to his best advantage.

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Review: No One, Omnibus Theatre - fun and lively physical theatre with superb fight scenes

 

No One Omnibus Theatre jan 2023
No One, Omnibus Theatre, Jan 2023


No One at the Omnibus Theatre bursts onto the stage with a scene in a club, complete with a live DJ, which quickly descends into a fight. Then we jump to a police station and investigation into a missing girl and the violent attack of a man.

 

It sounds dark, but how it is performed brings a humourous touch.

The policeman, with a strong West Country accent, listening to a drug-fuelled, seemingly odd and improbable explanation of what happened has hints of Edgar Wright's Hot Fuzz.

The mystery behind the attack, the missing girl and the odd occurrences then steadily unfolds. It is logical and simultaneously illogical, which is part of the fun.

Based thematically on HG Wells's The Invisible Man, the piece has been devised by Akimbo Theatre who trained in physical theatre at Jacque Lecoq, Paris. And they put that training to good use.

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Review: The Manny, King's Head Theatre - laugh out loud funny and honest observations

Sam McArdle in the Manny  Credit - Gabriel Bush
Sam McArdle in the Manny, King's Head Theatre, Jan 2023. Photo: Gabriel Bush

Sam McArdle plays 'the manny', a male nanny working for rich, single women in West London. He is a charmer, charming his employers, his charges and the women on dating apps he wants to sleep with. But 'living the life' isn't all it's cracked up to be.

In a solo performance, McArdle weaves the narrative, switching between scenes in his working life and social life. 

He lands a mostly cushy job except for difficult-to-charm 7-year-old Michael. McArdle has a witty take on child care and amusing observations of the children of the rich, presumably gleaned from his time working as a male nanny.

His fictional Manny uses his own brand of charm to win over parents and other mums at the school gates.

Outside of work, casual sex takes a back seat when, bored and lonely one day, he ends up at a community improv class and falls for teacher Molly, an out-of-work actress.

Molly is in a relationship and doesn't fall for his charms, but he is smitten. He starts to feel deeper human connections and a sense of community, there is encouragement and support in the group, both of which have been absent from his own circle of friends.

But not everything works out the way he wants.

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Theatre best of: Stan's top 10 plays 0f 2022

Best of theatre 2022
This feels like a moment; I haven't been able to do a best-of theatre list since 2019 because of 'you know what'. It's been huge fun revisiting the plays I've seen - nearly 50. And while that total is down on pre-pandemic levels, it was still tricky to narrow down my choices, but here goes.

1. The Collaboration, Young Vic

Synopsis in a sentence: Andy Warhol's star is waning, and young artist Jean-Michel Basquiat's star is rising; they have nothing in common but are persuaded to collaborate.

From my review: "I was gripped in the presence of two great artists and gripped by their stories. I laughed, I gasped, I cried, and if I felt compelled to tap my toes at the start, by the end, I was on my feet, and that's something I rarely do."

The play is now on Broadway, and look out for a film version (an actual film, not a filmed stage version).

2. Henry V, Donmar Warehouse

Synopsis in a sentence: The wayward Prince becomes King and has to prove himself to his country and foreign powers.

Not going to lie, Kit Harington surprised me with his performance in this.

From my review: "This is a powerful production of Henry V. Harington's nuanced, often quiet and considered Henry V perfectly highlights the complexity and often contradictory nature of the character and the role of leadership.

3. The Human Voice, Harold Pinter Theatre

Synopsis in a sentence: A woman has a final phone call with her lover, who is getting married the next day.

From my review: "It hasn't gone down well with all the critics, but I thought it was mesmerising and gripping. Hats off to Ruth Wilson."

4. Ministry of Lesbian Affairs, Soho Theatre

Synopsis in a sentence: A lesbian choir get a coveted spot on the main stage at Pride, mainly because they are the only lesbian choir to apply.

From my review: "It is a funny, interesting and occasionally challenging play that had me walking out of the theatre with a big grin on my face. And that is a big win."

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Review: Emma Corrin in Orlando, Garrick Theatre

 

Orlando Garrick Theatre Dec 2022
Orlando, starring Emma Corrin, Garrick Theatre, Dec 2022

 

Twice during Orlando at the Garrick Theatre, Emma Corrin says 'gosh' and to my ear, it was her Princess Diana in The Crown saying it. I'm hoping it was intentional as it would fit with the contemporary references which are peppered throughout Neil Bartlett's adaptation of Virginia Woolf's novel.

Some of it is subtle, some less so, but it's part of what makes this a fun and playful production of a story with serious themes.

Corrin plays the eponymous Orlando, sometimes a man, sometimes a woman, whose story spans from the 16th century to the second world war, all the time remaining in their 20s or 30s.  

They are a character that is forever searching: Who am I? But in essence, it's a search for the freedom to be themselves, to express who they are and openly love who they love.

There is a chorus of 'Virginias', all dourly dressed, who step in to play additional characters. The casting is ethnicity and gender-blind, something that wouldn't normally raise an eyebrow, but here it feels particularly smart; the fluidity of gender and roles in the context of the story nails the point.

Clothes as labels

As Orlando passes through the centuries, they work their way through a dizzying array of costumes, but these become symbolic of society's labels and expectations of binary genders.

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Review: Mary, Hampstead Theatre - politics and patriarchy in this tight historical thriller

There's a line towards the end of Rona Munro's play, Mary, that changes your perspective of the central character, Lord Melville, played by Douglas Henshall.

Douglas Henshall (James Melville) and Brian Vernel (Thompson) in Mary at Hampstead Theatre_credit Manuel Harlan
Douglas Henshall (James Melville) and Brian Vernel (Thompson) in Mary at Hampstead Theatre. Photo: Manuel Harlan

Set during the turbulent reign of Mary Queen of Scotts, Melville is her most loyal advisor. But, with a string of scandals and seemingly bad choices threatening her position, Melville is under increasing pressure to turn his back on the Queen. 

The play is a series of increasingly tense conversations between Melville, Thompson (Brian Vernel), who has risen rapidly up the ranks at court and Agnes (Rona Morison), a maid and vocal Protestant.

Thomspon and Agnes have little sympathy for the Queen and believe Scotland would be best served if she abdicated.

Can Melville win them around to his way of thinking and onto the side of the Queen, or will they convince him that putting the infant prince James on the thrown with a regent is the better path?

Queen Mary (Meg Watson) makes only two brief appearances and says very little, but her presence is a constant throughout as every decision, every look and smile is analysed and interpreted.

Simply staged with a wood-panelled backdrop, two chairs and later a desk, the focus is firmly on a debate about the Queen's suitability to rule.

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Review: King Hamlin, Park Theatre - important issues are drowned out

King Hamlin at the Park Theatre starts before it begins with three teenage boys joshing around; it's noisy and boisterous with an undercurrent of tension.

Steve Gregson- KingHamlin-Full-029
Kiza Deen and Harris Cain in King Hamlin, Park Theatre, October 2022. Photo: Steve Gregson

When the play formally starts, Hamlin (Harris Cain) is having a nightmare about being late for a job interview. He wants to help his mum (Kiza Deen), who has just lost her job and can't get benefits for five weeks.

They have a good relationship, and Hamlin wants to finish college, go to university and become a software engineer.

But circumstances start to conspire against him. His mum can't afford wifi, he doesn't have a laptop, and he's losing out on job opportunities because he can't work from home.

Added to this, the area he lives in is rife with gangs, making it a dangerous place to be as a young male.

There is an element of pride in that Hamlin doesn't want to work in a supermarket but do something that is less manual - and paid better.

Would it have mattered if he had got any old job?

His friend Quinn (Inaam Barwani) is, by his own admission and his behaviour, not cut out for studying and college but has a proposition for Hamlin which could help solve his money issues.

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Review: Dmitry, Marylebone Theatre - interesting story but stylistically it didn't gel

Written by Peter Oswald and Alexander J Gifford 'after' an unfinished play by Friedrich Schiller, Dmitry is the story of the much loved, youngest son of the Tzar of Russia who was murdered - or was he?

Dmitry  Marylebone Theatre  credit Ellie Kurtz (03)
Dmitry, Marylebone Theatre, Oct 2022. Photo: Ellie Kurtz

Years later, when a young man turns up in Poland wearing Dmitry's jewelled crucifix but knowing nothing of his past other than he grew up in a monastery, people believe he is the beloved Tzarevich and rally behind him.

It is a story about identity and what that means against a backdrop of religious and political manoeuvring. It's also a play about the future direction of Russia as Dmitry (Tom Byrne), backed by an uneasy alliance of Polish Catholics and Russian Orthodox Cossacks, marches on Moscow to claim his rightful place as Tsar.

And it's a bold play to launch the new 200-seat Marylebone Theatre, bold in that it clocks in at nearly 3 hours (including an interval).

At times it rocks along at a satisfyingly rapid pace with plotting, countermoves and in-fighting. The sense of jeopardy grows, although it's not a case of 'if' but rather 'when'.

But at other times, it is loaded with stodgy exposition and wordy speeches, that do little to move things along.

There are some odd production choices which pull you out of the story. Modern costumes, grungy heavy metal music and sporadic segments of movement give it a contemporary feel but the performances and delivery often feel like it would sit better in a more traditional production. It didn't quite gel.

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Review: Eureka Day, Old Vic - sharp and very funny

There is a scene in Eureka Day at the Old Vic during which the audience is roaring with laughter, but it isn't anything to do with the actors who are on stage or what they are saying.

And it isn't a mistake, it is intended, and it's a genius scene for a couple of reasons, how the actors carry on regardless and the relatable source of the comedy.

Kirsten Foster  Mark McKinney  Helen Hunt  Ben Schnetzer and Susan Kelechi Watson in Eureka Day at The Old Vic  photo by Manuel Harlan
Kirsten Foster, Mark McKinney, Helen Hunt, Ben Schnetzer and Susan Kelechi Watson in Eureka Day at The Old Vic, Sep 2022. Photo by Manuel Harlan

Eureka Day is the name of a private school in Berkeley, California, which is welcome to all children. That is until there is a health crisis which tests the ideas and values of five members of the PTA.

At first, the play is a satirical stab at the 'woke' left as they debate the appropriate racial groups to reference on the school's website. Everyone is seemingly doing their best to listen, suggest, understand and reach a consensus without causing offence. And it raises a good few laughs.

Of course, the irony is that they are so busy demonstrating what the school stands for and its inclusivity they don't realise the voices they are trying to include are getting stifled.

However, when a child at the school comes down with mumps, the play shifts gear into the debate around vaccines.

Where it gets very funny is at an emergency meeting about what to do, conducted via live video call with the rest of the parents. The PTA are huddled around one laptop, remaining polite and respectful to each other's views.

Then on the back wall of the classroom set, the comments from the video chat start popping up.

At first, it is a mixture of gossip, random remarks and polite comments about vaccines, but it soon descends into chaos, a mixture of wacky ideas, passive-aggressive comments and plain insults about each other's views.

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Review: The Clinic, Almeida Theatre - an intoxicating and befuddling brew

Tea drinking features heavily in Dipo Baruwa-Etti's posh kitchen-set play The Clinic at the Almeida Theatre. But this tea may or may not have intoxicating or calming effects; even those who fervently dislike infusions get a taste for it. 

The Clinic. Mercy Ojelade  Gloria Obianyo  Maynard Eziashi  Donna Berlin  Simon Manyonda. Photo - Marc Brenner (2)
The Clinic, Almeida Theatre Sep 22. Mercy Ojelade, Gloria Obianyo, Maynard Eziashi, Donna Berlin and Simon Manyonda. Photo: Marc Brenner

And that is The Clinic, a mix of contemporary family drama and something more difficult to put a finger on.

It opens with the 60th birthday celebration of Segun (Maynard Eziashi) with his wife Tiwa (Donna Berlin), son Bayo (Simon Manyonda, daughter Ore (Gloria Obianyo) and Bayo's wife Amina (Mercy Ojelade).

The dialogue crackles and sparks; this is a familiar family dynamic that is a mix of love and frustration. There are harsh jibes and sharp digs centring on politics and activism.

Segun is a therapist and author, and Tiwa volunteers at a women's refuge. They have made a comfortable life for themselves and vote Tory. Bayo is in the police, Ore is a junior doctor and both vote labour. Amina is a labour politician.

Job choice comes under scrutiny, as does who is best placed to force change and drive racial equality and what is the most effective tactic. Sparks fly in a fierce, passionate, angry debate that quickly spills over into hurtful remarks.

Into this mix comes Wunmi (Toyin Ayedun-Alase), a suicidal widow with a baby, whom Ore thinks her parents can help.

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