271 posts categorized "New plays" Feed

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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Vaults Festival review: Dead End, The Vaults - was it dead funny?

The vaults

There's a lot we don't know about death and a lot we don't know about the characters in Kathryn Gardner's play Dead End.

Things like why gravedigger Sue (Kathryn Gardner) keeps hiding the tools of the bumbling, church groundsman (Paul Collin-Thomas) and what happened to her friend Carol (Chloe Wigmore) whose ghost she chats to.

And why she suddenly wants to investigate the death of a cat she's been carrying around in a cool bag for two weeks or won't go over to grave plot 12b.

No answers

Don't ask about the dead body the groundsman sees and reports to the police because you won't get any answers.

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Review: Drag, self-discovery and civil war in Lipstick: A Fairy Tale of Iran, Omnibus Theatre

Mixing the more colourful and camp with the harsh realities of inequality and creative restaint for the Iranian women is a powerful storytelling device.

1_Nathan Kiley in Lipstick A Fairy Tale of Iran_Flavia Fraser-Cannon
Nathan Kiley in Lipstick A Fairy Tale of Iran. Photo: Flavia Fraser-Cannon

A catwalk divides the seats at the Omnibus Theatre on which drag queen in green sequined dress is lip synching.

However, this isn't a Friday-night cabaret performance of a power ballad or pop song instead she tells the story of an Iranian woman, blinded and disfigured in an acid attack by a jealous man.

Mixing contrasting forms with narrative is a clever and powerful feature of Sarah Chew's play based on her real experiences when her six-week, Arts Council-funded cultural exchange trip to Iran coincided with the Green uprising.

While Orla (Siobhan O'Kelly) is in Iran, her best friend Mark (drag artist Nathan Kiley) is putting the finishing touches to their new club back in Soho.

Candid voicemail messages

As the story of Orla's trip unfolds, Kiley plays all the other characters as well as Mark who leaves long, amusingly candid voicemail messages for her.

It is inventive storytelling mixing boylesque, drag, Vaudeville with more traditional forms, and at times it feels like a fairytale - a dark, modern fairytale laced with very real modern life horrors.

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Review: The Son, Kiln Theatre - gripping drama with a heartbreaking inevitability

The signs are glaring, a figurative and literal Chekhov's gun, it's a car crash in slow motion and you can't look away. 

The Son Kiln Theatre

There is a heartbreaking inevitability to Florian Zeller's play The Son which is currently on at the Kiln Theatre.

Nicolas (Laurie Kynaston), a once bubbly teenager has become withdrawn since his parent's divorce. He lies, skips school and his behaviour has started to frighten his mother Anne (Amanda Abbington).

Moving in with his father Pierre (John Light) and new wife Sofia (Amaka Okafor), it is hoped, will return him to his old self.

Denial or ignorance?

Anne talks about Nicolas being ill, his father believes it is 'a phase' but whether through denial, fear of stigma or ignorance neither addresses what is obviously wrong with their son.

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Review: When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other, National Theatre - 'you must be wondering what the hell is going on?'

Despite committed performances by Blanchett and Dillane, there is something cold and mechanical to what is going on.

Cate Blanchett national theatre poster

Cate Blanchett is clever casting for Martin Crimp's new play When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other at the National Theatre because without her I very much doubt it would have sold out before it opened.

I'm putting my hand up and admit it was her casting that persuaded me to buy tickets, it certainly wasn't the fact that the play is written by Martin Crimp - the last of his I saw I tried to fall asleep to escape the boredom.

But even the thrill of seeing the Oscar/Golden Globe/BAFTA winner on the stage couldn't elevate what was a tedious two hours at the theatre.

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