38 posts categorized "Soho theatre" Feed

Review: Don't Make Tea, Soho Theatre - Funny and clever

Birds of Paradise - Don't Make Tea - Thu 21 March 2024 (© photographer - Andy Catlin www.andycatlin.com)-4140
Neil John Gibson and Gillian Dean in Don't Make Tea © photographer - Andy Catlin

Don't Make Tea at the Soho Theatre is one of those plays that, if you wrote down all the elements, you'd think 'this isn't going to work' but somehow, on stage, it does.

It's the latest production from Birds of Paradise Theatre Company and is set in the flat of Chris (Gillian Dean), who has a degenerative disease, which means she's slowly going blind and has increasing levels of debilitating pain.

The Government has introduced a new assessment for eligibility for disability benefits, which is supposed to be fairer.

Chris' benefits have been frozen until she passes - or rather fails - her assessment because working is framed as the 'positive' outcome despite her level of disability or inability to work.

Ralph (Neil John Gibson), the assessor, arrives with recording equipment and a pulse monitor (to detect lies). It's a tricksy, ridiculous, definitely bureaucratic and sometimes invasive assessment.

Chris' frustrations begin to bubble up despite her best efforts to stay calm (and polite). The second half deals with the fallout of her frustrations in an increasingly surreal turn of events.

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Review: Flip!, Soho Theatre - lively, fresh and face-paced

Jadesola Odunjo and Leah St Luce in FLIP!  © Tristram Kenton
Jadesola Odunjo and Leah St Luce in FLIP! © Tristram Kenton

One of the challenges theatre has when it looks at life for Gen Z (and Millenials) is how to represent the digital world on stage. Modern communication is often embedded in texts, Whatsapps and DMs. Commentary is in social media posts and comments.

Racheal Ofori's play Flip! focuses on two friends and wannabe social media influencers, Carleen (Leah St Luce) and Crystal (Jadesola Odunjo), who make funny, sassy videos and are growing a following - but not enough to generate an income. 

In the pursuit of more clicks, they start pushing the boundaries with their content, which results in getting cancelled. They decide to have another go and join the controversial new social video channel Flip!, which promises quick growth and money per play (flip).

You are thrown straight into 'CC's' fast-paced world of fun, funny and catchy videos as they pose and perform for the camera. Jadesola Odunjo and Leah St Luce also play the 'commenters' and other influencers delivering reactions in a dizzying range of different voices.

There is only a slight shift in gear when the friends are talking 'off-camera'. The lines between video performances and the real Carleen and Crystal sometimes blur, but that's the point.

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Review: Boy Parts, Soho Theatre - a refreshingly unstereotypical female character

Aimée Kelly in Boy Parts at Soho Theatre (c) Joe Twigg Photography web
Aimée Kelly in Boy Parts at Soho Theatre (c) Joe Twigg Photography

When I interviewed director Sara Joyce about Boy Parts, how she talked about the central character in Boy Parts immediately piqued my interest. She describes Irina (Aimée Kelly) as not immediately likeable but that her story is nonetheless compelling. 

This 'pitch-black psychological thriller' is adapted from Eliza Clark's novel by Gillian Greer, Boy Parts tells the story of how photographer Irina has a chance at making it in the art world when a London gallery expresses an interest in her work.

She persuades ordinary men she meets to model for her in increasingly erotic photos. Irina subverts the idea of the male gaze and enjoys her power over the men from behind the lens, getting them to do what she wants and being in control. 

But there is something darker lurking beneath, which is drawn out as the door of opportunity begins to close. She can be charming and intimidating, controlling and unpredictable.

There is something broken and twisted in her. She gets into fights and into situations where her laughter response isn't really about humour.

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Review: The Boy, Soho Theatre - Light touch story of refugees

The boy soho theatre poster

On a bus carrying people fleeing a war-torn country, a man (Jerome Ngonadi) takes a boy (Eve Von Elgg) under his wing. When they arrive in the country where they seek refuge, the assumption is they are father and son, and the man plays along, deciding it is better they stick together.

Joakim Daun's play follows the two through the process to get refugee status - the man can't work until he has the official paperwork - and afterwards when their path crosses that of a woman (Shereen Roushbaiani) who has recently lost a baby.

The early scenes touch on the trauma of refugees and the impersonal process of applying for refugee status.

It also explores the tension between assimilating into a new country and culture without losing your own. The boy's youth means he picks up the new language quickly, but the man is keen that he doesn't lose the language and culture of his home country.

Eve Von Elgg's performance brilliantly captures the energy and innocence of the boy, and where the play is at its best is in its exploration of the struggles of refugees in their adopted country - albeit it does it with a light touch.

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Theatre in 5 questions with director Sara Joyce - "We wanted to fight for her without making her inherently likeable"

Sara Joyce  Aimée Kelly  Gill Greer  Eliza Clark (c) Rebecca Need-Menear
L-R Sara Joyce with fellow Boy Parts creatives: Aimée Kelly (actor), Gill Greer (adaptation) and Eliza Clark (novel). Photo: Rebecca Need-Menear

Theatre director Sara Joyce's previous work includes Dust by Milly Thomas and Fringe First winning The Last Return. Here she talks about her new project, Boy Parts, what drew her to working in the theatre, her favourite theatre and how she'll be feeling on press night.

Boy Parts is described as a pitch-black psychological thriller adapted by Gillian Greer from Eliza Clark's novel and is at the Soho Theatre from 19 October. 

This is an edited version of the interview; scroll down to watch the full interview.

What made you want to work in theatre?

I wanted to work in something to do with entertainment or storytelling. I was acting, and I thought: well, I'm going to be an actor, and I don't think I saw anything outside of theatre as accessible.

Maybe it was just narrow-mindedness, or I didn't really think about it. And I think luckily so because I love it.

And then there's the question of why you keep working in theatre. I enjoy the event of it. I was thinking about it this week in rehearsal, and it feels a bit like you're planning a party that's going to be on every night.

There's something both vital and redundant about it at the same time.  

I love rehearsals. I love making things from scratch and figuring things out. And I love the shared experience with a team - people coming up with ideas you'd never think of.

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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: The Ministry of Lesbian Affairs, Soho Theatre - fun, flirtation and representation

The Ministry of Lesbian Affairs is one of those plays that unashamedly bursts off the stage, much like the lesbian choir around which the story revolves.

1. The Ministry of Lesbian Affairs_Production_Helen Murray
The Ministry of Lesbian Affairs, Soho Theatre, May 2022. Photo: Helen Murray

Fed up with being invisible, Connie (Shuna Show) puts the choir forward for an audition to perform on the main stage at Pride. They stand a good chance of landing the gig as there are no other lesbian choirs and the organisers of Pride want more lesbians on the bill.

The choir practice is full of banter, flirting and drama (and a bit of singing), but it's a safe, inclusive and supportive space. Until a badly thought through T-shirt slogan threatens to tear the happy band apart.

And that's what makes Iman Qureshi's The Ministry of Lesbian Affairs a potent piece of theatre. It is witty, laugh out loud, funny and warm, but at the same time doesn't shy away from more serious themes.

Not all in the choir are out or can be out for cultural or religious reasons. The play also presents the harsh reality of prejudice which can turn violent.

There is also debate around exclusive vs shared spaces and what that means for trans women. And the lack of lesbian representation and spaces where they can safely meet up, have fun and flirt.

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Review: Shedding A Skin, Soho Theatre - witty, fun and moving

Myah (Amanda Wilkin) is adrift. She goes from one dead-end job to another, trying to fit in until one day she gets called on to be the 'diversity quota' in her company's photos.

Shedding A Skin_Production_Soho_Helen Murray2 smll
Amanda Wilkin in Shedding A Skin, Soho Theatre. Photo: Helen Murray

She snaps, the restraints are off, and this departure is both dramatic and funny - think less eloquent and powerful speech, more scrawling expletives on the office wall.

On a roll, she walks out from her unsupportive boyfriend and finds herself homeless and jobless. She realises too late that it wasn't a good idea to tell her boyfriend he could do what he wants with all her stuff.

Answering an ad on the Tesco notice board, she finds herself living with an elderly Jamaica lady called Mildred on the 15th floor of a tower block with a broken lift.

This time she's going to try harder to make things work. She's going to get her shit together. No, she is.

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Lockdown London theatre walks: Soho Theatre and the Ben Whishaw and Phoebe Waller-Bridge connection

Headed into town for my weekend lockdown exercise and visited the Soho Theatre - we go back a long way, to pre-blog days and pre-fame days for two notable names.

Soho Theatre lockdown Jan 2021
Soho Theatre in January 2021

It was at the Soho Theatre I first saw Ben Whishaw on stage. He'd just come to my notice in the film Perfume and when I saw that he was doing a play I bought a ticket out of curiosity to see what he'd be like on stage.

The play was Leaves of Glass, by Philip Ridley and he co-starred with Maxine Peake.

I actually saw him in person the week before, passed him on the stairs at the theatre as I was heading to see some comedy (Soho has more than one performance space).

Whenever I'm walking up those stairs with @polyg I point out the spot where we passed - it never wears thin. For me, anyway.  Poly is very good at humouring me.

Seeing Leaves of Glass cemented my opinion of Mr W, and I've tried to see everything he's done on stage and screen ever since.

But this wasn't the only 'early in their career' spot at the Soho Theatre.

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Video: 60-second review of Fleabag, available to stream via Soho Theatre

Fleabag the play is back. It started off life at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2013, won awards then transferred to the Soho Theatre.

The ridiculously successful TV series, which I loved, followed and Phoebe Waller-Bridge subsequently revived the play for a sell-out run in the West End last year.

To raise money for covid-19 charities it's available to stream for a couple of weeks via the Soho Theatre website. All you have to do is make a donation (minimum is £4).

I saw it during its Soho run and have very fond memories but having gone from fringe production to household name does the original play still stand up?

Details on donating and streaming Fleabag can be found here.

If you'd like to read my original review of Fleabag at Soho Theatre you will find it here.

Want more theatre to watch online during lockdown? Here's my list of some of what has already been announced and I'm updating it as and when there are more announcements.