Review: Emilia, Vaudeville Theatre - humour, fun and feminism

Music and a final dance metaphorically lifts Emilia and her message onto shoulders and had the audience leaping up for a standing ovation.

Clare Perkins (Emilia 3)  Saffron Coomber (Emilia 1) and Adelle Leonce (3) in Emilia at the Vaudeville Theatre. Photo credit Helen Murray.
Clare Perkins (Emilia 3) Saffron Coomber (Emilia 1) and Adelle Leonce (3) in Emilia at the Vaudeville Theatre. Photo credit: Helen Murray.

I've read reviews of Morgan Lloyd Malcolm's play Emilia that describe its feminist message as 'unsubtle' and the titular character's suffering as overblown.

It's comments like that, which reinforce the need for plays like this and why, perhaps, the time for subtlety is over.

An all-female cast tells the story of Emilia Lanier née Bassano regarded as the first professional female poet, one of the first feminist writers in England and possibly the inspiration behind Shakespeare's 'Dark Lady'.

Three actresses - Saffron Coomber, Adelle Leonce and Clare Perkins - play Emilia at three stages of her life.

Perkins' Emilia opens and closes the play with rousing speeches about the inequality and prejudice served upon herself and women generally.

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Review: Random Selfies, Ovalhouse - life through the eyes of a 10-year-old city girl

Kenny's writing is a window into a world of a 10-year-old where life is a series of fine balancing acts.

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Christina Ngoyi in Random Selfies, Ovalhouse. Photo: The Other Richard

Random Selfies by award-winning writer Mike Kenny (The Railway Children) is the story of child loneliness in a busy world.

Loretta or Lola as she prefers to be called is 10-years-old, lives with her mum and annoying younger brother in a ground floor flat in a big city.

She's finally got her own room, her older sister having left home - the circumstances of which Lola seems reluctant to talk about - but her privacy isn't complete because her mum won't knock.

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Review: My White Best Friend (And Other Letters Left Unsaid), Bunker Theatre

My White Best Friend (And Other Letters Left Unsaid) is clever, fresh, provocative and important theatre.

My White Best Friend - Inès de Clercq - Credit The Bunker 1
My White Best Friend - Inès de Clercq. Photo: The Bunker

There is a clubby feel to the Bunker Theatre.  A DJ in the corner, people standing in groups talking, drinking, laughing - there is no seating.

Projected on the wall is a countdown until the start, the DJ occasionally interrupting the music to make announcements about the bar and a reminder of how much time is left.

Curated by Rachel De-Lahay and Milli Bhatia, the performance will be three letters, each night opening with My White Best Friend written by De-Lahay and read by Inés De Clercq. The letters that follow, will be new each night and read by different performers each night.

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Review: Bruce Norris proves theatre can be challenging and entertaining with Downstate, National Theatre

It is a play that challenges your thinking and reactions.

Downstate poster

When I went to see Bruce Norris' Clybourne Park at the Royal Court I wrote: "Norris' skill at handling such a delicate and inflammatory subject in a way that makes you laugh but equally question yourself is quite genius."

And with Downstate he's done it again.

This time rather than tackling racism he's turned his attention to sexual abuse, setting the drama in a house share where four convicted child abusers are living on license having served their jail sentences. 

They are on the sex offenders register, GPS tagged, banned from using the internet and smartphones and restricted to where they can go.

It opens with the quiet, polite, wheel-chair bound Fred (Francis Guinan) being confronted by Andy (Tim Hopper) one of his victims. 

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Interview: Writer Kieran Hurley on bringing Fringe hit Mouthpiece to London and how theatre needs to change

I think that some of the people running theatres need to really ask who they’re making work for, and why, and what kinds of work they value.

Kieran Hurley

Following a 5 star run at the Traverse Theatre, Fringe First winner Kieran Hurley brings Mouthpiece to Soho Theatre next month.  Here he talks about the play, the point of theatre and making it more inclusive.

How would you describe Mouthpiece?

It’s a two-person play about a teenage artist with a traumatic home life, and a jaded middle-aged writer who meets him and turns his story into a play.

Performed by two wonderful actors in Lorn Macdonald and Neve McIntosh it also has a cracking original score by Kim Moore. It is funny and sad and angry, it’s a bit sexy and a bit weird, and it’s all done and dusted in about 90 minutes or so.

The play questions the purpose of art and theatre, what do you think the point of theatre is?

For all my continual frustrations with it, theatre is still where we come together to be present with each other and present with stories that help us understand how we live and how we might live better.

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Charity begins on stage: Special West London show aims to raise money for Pursuing Independent Paths

Head over to the Tabernacle Theatre on Saturday, March 30 for a very special performance.

Family Mis-Fortunes E-Flyer
Family Mis-Fortunes has been devised and is performed by adults with learning difficulties and proceeds from ticket sales and a raffle go to Pursuing Independent Paths.

PIP is a charity that supports adults with learning disabilities and autism helping them to achieve independence.

Its work includes empowering people to gain independent living skills such as cooking, managing money, travelling by themselves and being part of the community but they can't do it without help with funds.

Drama is one of the creative tools PIP uses to help the people it supports to achieve their potential, gain confidence and skills and express themselves.

The annual production is the highlight of the year and a real showcase of talent and creativity.

You can help support this important work either by buying a ticket for Family Mis-Fortunes, buying a raffle ticket or you can donate online.

Dig deep.

Family Mis-Fortunes is on Sat 30 March at 1.45 and tickets can be bought on the PIP website.

 


Review: Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Cox and Zawe Ashton in Betrayal, Harold Pinter Theatre - precise, layered, gripping

You need the laughs because it reminds you to breathe.

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Tom Hiddleston is sitting at the back of the stage, leaning against the wall one leg straight, the other bent with an arm resting on the knee.

It's casual in that model photo way. There is nothing in his posture that gives away any emotion but his eyes, which gaze off to the middle distance, betray him. It's subtle but he looks on the verge of tears.

This is the powerful essence of director Jamie Lloyd's production of Harold Pinter's play Betrayal. With a sparse script, there is a rich subtext played out in little looks, half smiles... and a glistening eye.

Physical presence of betrayal

All three of the play's main characters - Robert (Hiddleston), Emma his wife  (Zawe Ashton) and Jerry (Charlie Cox) his best friend - remain on stage throughout.

Lloyd uses the peripheral presence of a single character to powerful effect.

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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: Gillian Anderson and Lily James in All About Eve, Noel Coward Theatre - likes and dislikes

Anderson just oozes sexiness, carrying a confidence and slight aloofness that both draws people to her and pushes them away

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Ivo van Hove's production and stage adaptation of the film All About Eve is trademark van Hove and that is a good and bad thing. 

The play tells the story of stage star Margo Channing (Gillian Anderson) who is at the height of fame, has parts written for her, a loving, director boyfriend (Julian Ovenden) and loyal friends. 

But when a young fan, Eve (Lily James), turns up at the stage door and inveigles her way into Margo's life and inner circle, it doesn't bring out the best for either.

Filming on stage

Van Hove utilises live film with both fixed cameras  - in a dressing table mirror - and handheld to follow the action hidden from audience view, the footage projected on screens above the stage. 

The dressing table is a permanent feature of the set regardless of where the action moves, a symbol of the power and importance placed on women's looks and youthfulness in showbusiness.

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