30 posts categorized "New writing" Feed

Review: On Bear Ridge, Royal Court - heart-wrenching, tense and laugh out loud funny

There is a vulnerability in the ordinariness and something epic in its simplicity. 

On Bear Ridge by the NTW and Royal Court Theatre Photo by Mark Douet I80A8399
Rhys Ifans and Rakie Ayola in On Bear Ridge by the NTW and Royal Court Theatre. Photo by Mark Douet

Warplanes occasionally roar across the sky above John Daniel (Rhys Ifans) and Noni's (Rakie Ayola) grocery store and butchers on Bear Ridge.

They wave knives and shout at them because it makes them feel better. Then the quiet of the falling snow returns.

It is reflective of the tone of Ed Thomas' play On Bear Ridge, emotions that momentarily crack and shatter before a jagged peace returns.

Up in the mountain, in an unidentified country - although it is easy to imagine it is Wales - Bear Ridge store has long ceased trading.

Customers and community have left

It's shelves empty, the fridge is quiet, John Daniel and Noni are down to their last bag of potatoes but they won't leave like the people who were once their customers have.

Grief and loss keep them on the desolate Bear Ridge. Loss of their son, loss of the community in which they were a part and loss of a language - a culture and identity.

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Review: Summit, Shoreditch Town Hall - a disappointing view from the top

Repeated phrases become vacuous in their repetition suggesting that the political narrative has similarly become empty.

Fuel Theatre's Summit in rehearsal

Ten minutes into Summit and I'm irritated.

It's not the woman loudly crunching on her supper next to me although that is annoying, rather the fact that on stage the same point is being made over and over again.

'Fast forward' my brain screams as the setting for the story is described with pleasant customer service smiles for the umpteenth time.

Standing in front of a music stand with a copy of the script, the pages of which are turned with great drama, three performers outline the structure of the play and ask us to imagine three scenarios in the past, present and future.

Repetition but to what effect?

All revolve around an important summit where the lights inexplicably went out. Just to emphasise the point the lights of the auditorium are turned out.

Several times.

Repetition is Summit's main performance tool, sometimes the same piece of narrative is delivered in three different languages by the performers: Alesha Chaunte, Nadia Anim and Jamie Rea - the latter performs with exceptional expression in sign language.

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Review: Teenage suicide told through the eyes of teenagers in Breathe, Bunker Theatre

Despite the continual presence of others, the feelings of isolation and vulnerability remain.

Breathe is a play about teen suicide told through the eyes of teenagers.

Breathe  The Bunker - courtesy of DF Photography (1)
Breathe at The Bunker - courtesy of DF Photography

In fact, it's produced by youth theatre company Athenaeum which gives it an interesting and insightful lens through which to explore the topic.

We know right from the start how this play is going to end, the story is the journey: What leads three teens to step over the edge?

Jack (Byron Easmon) displays symptoms of manic depression and is obsessed with how he looks, Sam (Martha Hay) has got herself into an inappropriate relationship with an authority figure and Leo (George Jaques - also the writer of Breathe) is struggling with his sexuality - and grief.

Overwhelming turmoil

Each story is told via a relationship to a significant person in their life: Girlfriend (Elizabeth Brierley), boyfriend (Douglas Clarke-Wood) and older brother (Gus Flind-Henry) and the narratives interweave with sometimes two or three playing out simultaneously.

It has the effect of giving the play spikes of an almost overwhelming turmoil. Frustrations are not just expressed verbally but also in action, often repetitive behaviour such as hammering on a laptop keyboard.

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Review: Some lovely lighter moments but something didn't gel - Reared, Theatre503

While there are some excellent individual scenes as a whole Reared just doesn't quite gel. I found myself wanting it to delve further.

There is a moment in Reared which reminded me of Jez Butterworth's The Ferryman when Aunt Maggie Far Away is having one of her lucid moments and telling the children stories.

Reared  Theatre503 - courtesy of The Other Richard (9) Paddy Glynn and Danielle Phillips
Paddy Glynn and Danielle Phillips in Reared, Theatre503. Photo: The Other Richard

In John Fitzpatrick's new play, it's the same scenario; Nora (Paddy Glyn) is telling her granddaughter Caitlin (Danielle Phillips) an old family story about the Irish potato famine but on finishing it she slips back into a confusion of memories.

It's a touching moment in a play about mounting family tensions as Caitlin's mother, Eileen (Shelley Atkinson), tries to persuade her husband Stuart (Daniel Crossley) that there is more to his mother's memory loss than simple old age. 

There is additional family drama as 15-year-old Caitlin is pregnant and doesn't want her parents to know who the father is. Caitlin's hapless friend Colin (Rohan Nedd) is the source of much humour as he tries to be supportive.

These lighter moments work really well but there aren't enough to make Reared a full-blown comedy but then neither does the play properly explore either dementia or teenage pregnancy/underage sex and, as a result, it lacks punch.


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Scratch performance: Lipstick - a fairytale of modern Iran, Omnibus Theatre

Considering this is a scratch performance it is only the scripts in hands that really give it away as a work in progress.

The costumes, props and set seem pretty fleshed out, only the physical necessity of holding the script slightly holding up the flow.

FB Banner - Lipstick - credit Aaron Jacob JonesIt is a colourful, vibrant piece with darker edges utilising various genres from boylesque, drag, Vaudeville and storytelling and is based on writer/director Sarah Chew's own experiences finding herself in Iran as part of an arts project during the Green uprising in 2010.

Laura Dos Santos plays Orla who makes the six-week trip to Tehran as part of a cultural exchange to teach and learn about theatre - just as protests begin and relationships between Iran and the UK are getting more strained.

Nathan Kelly plays her friend with whom she is setting up a club back home who leaves long rambling messages on her hotel voicemail. He also plays most of the other characters rapidly switching between costumes and props to distinguish between them.

Against a backdrop of civil unrest, the arts project seems like a frivolity but there is far more to this shared cultural experience than first meets the eye.

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Q&A: Writer/director Sarah Chew on mixing genres and the Beyond Borders theatre season, Omnibus Theatre

Lipstick: A Modern Fairytale of Iran is part of a series ‘Beyond Borders’ at the Omnibus in Clapham, tell us a bit about the season and its focus.
Beyond Borders is a series of conversations and provocations around current trends towards the hardening of National and cultural borders.

Beyond Borders Festival ImageWhen I was in Iran in 2010, Iran was part of the area the US Government still titled the Axis of Evil. The title coloured my assumptions of what I would find there - assumptions which were challenged on a daily basis throughout my stay in Iran. 

What does Brexit, and the threat of a hard border with Ireland, do to our perceptions of people we see as Other?

What role does tightened immigration here, and Trump's travel bans in the US, play in this?

How, specifically, are women affected by the process of being Othered?

These questions can be explored verbally, but it is sometimes easier to play with these ideas in non-verbal formats. Sometimes, removing language as the primary means of communication can provide a shortcut through anxiety and terminology and towards more instinctive engagement.
The inspiration for Lipstick came from the time you spent in Iran in 2010, what made you want to use that experience as the basis of a piece of theatre?

It was a life changing experience. I met some extraordinary people, I saw some extraordinary theatre, and I saw at firsthand what the courage to keep making passionate, beautiful, honest theatre, even under the threat of censorship and imprisonment, looked like. 

I would have loved to work in Iran more, but the relationship between our two countries makes getting visas and setting up projects almost impossible.

Theatre is made of the people who make it. I felt a sense of loss, after I left Iran, at the absence of collaborators I knew I could have made beautiful theatre with.

But that experience also made me cherish and celebrate the collaborators and the cultural community I have here. Lipstick is at once an acknowledgement of loss and a celebration of community and continuity.

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Review: A life in and of music - Nina, Young Vic and Traverse, Edinburgh

NinaWeb3PortraitimageJosette Bushell-Mingo is dressed as Nina Simone, a three piece band on stage plays out a rhythm and she describes the build up to her concert at Harlem Cultural Festival in 1969. It is vivid and evocative and you can almost feel the excitement of the occasion.

It also makes an interesting framing device - the piece finishes with Josette performing a mini-concert of Nina Simone songs - for a journey into Nina Simone's songs and the context behind the lyrics. But this isn't merely a history lesson, it is also a lesson in how little has changed.

When Josette unpicks the lyrics of key songs giving back the original meaning, she interweaves them with her own story and accounts of recent racist attacks in the US, UK and beyond. When Nina Simone wrote Mississippi Goddam it was a response to racist killings in Mississippi and a 'f*ck you' to white society. The message was clear then and in telling the story in both a historical and modern context it shines a light on how far society has and hasn't come in 50 odd years.

To drive home the point Josette turns a metaphorical gun back on the audience imagining a scenario where it is white people being shot simply because of the colour of their skin. It is a simple but powerful device that makes an important point, several important points. That injustice, inequality and racism are still alive and the revolution Nina Simone sang about and hoped for still has a long way to go.

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Review: This Must Be The Place, The Vaults #VaultFestival

This isn't a London story, we are told at the start of Brad Birch and Kenneth Emson's play This Must Be The Place, but London features in the two interweaving storylines. For Adam (James Cooney) it is a place to get on a (stolen) bike and get away from. For Tate and Matty (Feliks Mathur and Hamish Rush) it is a place to run to with the promise of a job and a new start. But while London connects the two stories the play feels likely it is loosely about surviving modern life.

Molly Roberts completes the cast as Lily, Adam's girlfriend and apart from the opening and closing segment the two pairs perform independently switching swiftly between the two tales. They hold mics which give the play a stand up/pub performance feel - I'm not sure if that was the point.

Adam is troubled for reasons that don't immediately become clear. He throws away his phone so that he is no longer a slave to calls, texts and social media. Disconnects from modern life, misses his phone when he can't get Deliveroo. Lily panics when he hasn't posted anything for a few hours and he doesn't return her calls. She wants to talk to him about the future.

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Review: You For Me For You, Royal Court upstairs

You For Me For You-Royal Court Upstairs-1198
Wendy Kweh and Katie Leung, You For Me For You, Royal Court. Photo Tristram Kenton

Who doesn't harbour a little curiosity for what life is like in North Korea? Mia Chung's play hints rather than shows, feeling sometimes like Alice through the looking glass crossed with Kafka - or maybe that is what it feels like?

Hunger is a feature - there were empathetic stomach rumblings from the woman sat next to me - the play opens with sisters Minhee (Wendy Kweh) and Junhee (Katie Leung) arguing over who should eat the meagre meal that's been prepared. Minhee is ill and therefore Junhee says she should eat it. Junhee works long hours so Minhee says she should have it. Their polite insistence is almost infuriating. It is Junhee who finally relents or rather is tricked by her sister into eating the food. It is symbolic for what later happens when the siblings decide to try and flee their homeland.

Minhee can't quite let go of the ideals of North Korea, that if you work hard enough everything will be OK. She gets left behind, sort of falls down the rabbit hole, where she goes on a mental journey through her tragic life, encountering absurd bureaucracy, musical rice and frog-like soldiers.

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Review: Jackson's Way: The Christmas Top-Up Power Seminar, Battersea Arts Centre

JW by Barney Britton12
Jackson's Way photo by Barney Britton

Chris Jackson (Will Adamsdale) is here to help you. He's here to show you how to achieve and reach your power with his own brand of life coaching together with some contractual obligations to mention Christmas.

The bedrock of his philosophy is that there is more pointless stuff in the world - activities and objects - than there are 'pointful', therefore you should throw your energy behind the pointless stuff. You should PTI (push through it) to achieve your pointless goal.

Using slides, video and various props, well tea towels mainly, he takes you step by step through his power tips and there is practical application too. You might find yourself doing something pointless or a "Jacktion" as he dubs them and I'd describe some of these 'activities' but I don't want to spoil the show.

Jackson then goes on to give you examples of how Jacktions are all around us, as are many pointless objects. It is tongue in cheek but equally, there is an element of truth. Learning the Jackson Way we also learn a little about the man himself, his past and his fight to reconcile his philosophy with its critics (a process that took ten years he tells us). 

It leads up to the Christmas bit - his own version of the Nativity using random pointless objects and members of the audience. CJ naturally steps into the role of JC.

Every now and again a show comes along that is blissfully silly and Jackson's Way is one such show. Brilliantly written as well as performed by Adamsdale there is a hint of satire in the silliness. On paper is sounds ridiculous and you probably have to be there to really appreciate it but I giggled, guffawed and even snorted at one point during the show's hour and a bit running time.

So if you fancy something that is part stand up and part theatre, something that is silly and funny because of it, then head to the Battersea Arts Centre where you can catch Jackson's Way: The Christmas Top-Up Power Seminar until December 12.