275 posts categorized "New plays" Feed

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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: Maggie Smith recalls A German Life, Bridge Theatre

A German Life subtly asks important questions about culpability and responsibility.

A-germans-life-small

When Maggie Smith heads to the stage it is undoubtedly a big draw but I think the play, A German Life, is equally worthy of the attention.

I've long been fascinated with stories from the Second World War told from non-traditional perspectives.

A German Life is based on the life of Brunhilde Pomsel who was one of Goebbels secretaries. 

Smith's Hilde sits at a kitchen table, glasses in her hand and tells us about her life and how she came to be working at the Reich's propaganda ministry at the end of the war - something for which she spent five years in prison.

Telling forgotten details?

She tells us up front that she doesn't remember much - is it telling where she can recall details and where she cannot?

It is an exceptional story of someone extraordinary in their ordinariness.

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Review: Cillian Murphy's performance flies in Grief Is The Thing With Feathers, Barbican Theatre

Murphy's performance is a triumph, pitching with precision from one emotional extreme to another.

Cillian Murphy Grief Is The Thing With Feathers

Cillian Murphy and writer Enda Walsh's collaborations on stage tend to lean towards the surreal and avant-garde and Grief Is The Thing With Features is no exception.

Based on the award-winning novel by Max Porter, a man (Murphy) is holed-up in his London flat grieving the loss of his wife and the mother of his two sons.

The cacophony of different emotions he and his family is feeling invites a visit by Crow, a destructive, tricky character who threatens to stay until the father and sons no longer need him.

Cathartic vehicle

While crows traditionally represent death and tragedy in literature, here the creature is also a cathartic vehicle through which the family can express those deeper, raw emotions and ultimately learn to survive their grief.

Walsh has chosen to have Murphy play Crow as well as the father.

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