48 posts categorized "Southwark Playhouse" Feed

Review: Afterglow, Southwark Playhouse - passionate and poignant

Afterglow_011_Victor Hugo_James Nicholson_credit The Other Richard
Victor Hugo and James Nicholson in Afterglow, Southwark Playhouse, Jan 2024. Photo: The Other Richard

Afterglow at the Southwark Playhouse is a modern love story and a modern family story. Married couple Alex (Victor Hugo) and Josh (Peter McPherson) have an open relationship within certain boundaries.

The play opens with them having a steamy threesome with Darius (James Nicholson). Both are taken with the younger man and agree that they can meet up with him alone.

What starts as mostly about sex develops into something more for two of the men.

All this plays out against the backdrop of a soon-to-be expanded family as Alex and Josh are expecting a baby via a surrogate. It adds an extra layer of jeopardy to the relationship as there is more at risk than their marriage.

The staging is fairly simple, with shiny black surfaces that scream bachelor pad or nightclub. Although at one point, it is lit up and glitters beautifully to represent a clear starry sky.

A square framed platform makes up a bed or is dismantled and arranged into seats or a massage table to transport the narrative from apartments to workplaces and bars.

The centre of the stage is also cleared away to make way for a shower. Although how many shower scenes does one play need before it looks like an excuse to merely show off naked male bodies?

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Review: The Sex Lives of Puppets, Southwark Playhouse - cheeky and laugh out loud funny

The Sex Lives of Puppets  Southwark Playhouse
Simon Scardifield, Mark Down, Isobel Griffiths and Dale Wylde perform The Sex Lives of Puppets, Southwark Playhouse January 2024. Photo. Nigel Bewly

Puppets manipulated by humans talking about sex could be viewed as some sort of weird voyeurism, fetish or even an odd fantasy reenactment.

But in Blind Summit's The Sex Lives of Puppets at Southwark Playhouse, when one puppet bluntly corrects her lover's grammar while they are sexting, it moves it beyond the realms of titillation into a rich, observational human comedy.

Performed by four puppeteers - Simon Scardifield, Mark Down, Isobel Griffiths and Dale Wylde - The Sex Lives of Puppets is a series of interviews with individual puppets or 'couples'.

Each interview has a particular subject to do with sex, with the question to be discussed written on a piece of brown cardboard and displayed to the audience.

What goes on behind closed doors between two consenting 'adults' is naturally fascinating, and there is enough variety of questions and 'personalities' to keep it interesting.

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Theatre in 5 questions: Mark Down & Ben Keaton, co-writers/directors, The Sex Lives of Puppets, Southwark Playhouse

Ben Keaton Mark Down interview screenshot
What inspired theatre co-writers/directors Mark Down and Ben Keaton to create The Sex Lives of Puppets? I sat down with Mark and Ben ahead of the opening night at the Southwark Playhouse to find out more about Blind Summit's latest production and their theatre work.

Here's what they had to say (edited), and you can watch the full interview on YouTube by clicking here.

1. What inspired you to write The Sex Lives of Puppets? And why puppets?

Mark Down: We were messing around, and we loved them (the puppets) doing interview-style sort of backstage interviews, and they were very good when they talked about sex. 

Ben Keaton: You had a great title for a start.

Mark: I think it was a good title. And once we had it, it was sort of irresistible.

Ben: Mark brought me in, and I've said it many times, we just have to create a show around a great title. 

2. You are co-writers and co-directors. How does the collaboration work?

Mark: It's a f*cking nightmare.

Ben: I've made sure it's difficult. It's been my job to do this.

Mark: It came about because Ben auditioned, and he said, 'I know nothing about puppets'. And I was blown away by his voice.

I looked at who'd auditioned and said to my co-director, I want Ben, and if he really can't do puppets, I will do something else. And so that's how we got together, and then the arguments started.

Ben: Mark has an immense experience. He's incredibly passionate about what he does; he has a thing in his mind that he wants. And I come from a different world.

So the combination of our two skills come together in this, but not without bumping heads, that's for darn sure. What I love is we have one agenda, which is to make a great show, and everything clears its way for that.

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Review: Dumbledore Is So Gay, Southwark Playhouse

Charlottte Dowding  Alex Britt  Martin Sarreal - Credit to David Jenson
Charlotte Dowding, Alex Britt & Martin Sarreal in Dumbledore Is So Gay, Southwark Playhouse Aug 2023. Photo: David Jenson


Fans of Harry Potter will no doubt enjoy the references to the Wizarding World, but Robert Holtom's play Dumbledore Is So Gay is, in essence, a gay coming-of-age story.

It starts when Jack (Alex Britt) is 12 and joins in with his friends' homophobic name-calling out of fear of being on the receiving end. Meanwhile, his dad (Martin Sarreal) insists the TV is turned over when Graham Norton comes on because of his sexuality.

Jack's relationship with his parents and best friends Sally (Charlotte Dowding) and Ollie (also Sarreal), on whom he has a crush, plays out through his teen years, culminating in a devastating event.

But what if, like Hermione, you could use a time-turner and go back and change certain events in your life, make different decisions based on hindsight and experience? Would the outcome be different?

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Review: Hamlet, Southwark Playhouse: Slimmed down version has lost context and depth

Hamlet Southwark Playhouse Jan 2023
Hamlet poster, Southwark Playhouse, Jan 2023

This slimmed-down production of Hamlet by Lazarus Theatre Company at the Southwark Playhouse clocks in at just 95 minutes. It focuses primarily on the younger characters - Hamlet, Horatio, Laertes, Ophelia, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

The story is framed as a sort of therapy session, there is a circle of chairs, and a voice over a tannoy proclaims it is a 'safe space'. The tannoy is a device used for the 'adults' communicating throughout the play - on the few occasions they feature.

I'm definitely not a Shakespeare purist, I  like the idea of trimmed-down Shakespeare. There are chunks of his plays that were appropriate for the time they were written that can be easily cut for modern audiences without impact on the story.

Too many cuts

But too much has been removed in this production. If you aren't familiar with the story, I'm not sure you'd get much from it.

It's a play I've seen plenty of times (and studied), so I could easily fill in the gaps. What was lost for me was the context, the layers and the nuance.

If you never see Hamlet (Michael Hawkey) interacting with Claudius and Gertrude or see the adults plotting and manipulating, you lose part of what is driving him and what he is up against. You miss the politics of family and succession. 

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Lockdown London theatre walks: Southwark Playhouse and my stage debut with Freddie Fox

I made my London stage debut alongside Freddie Fox at the Southwark Playhouse. It's not how I anticipated the evening panning out as I chose a seat on the front row (it was unallocated seating) to watch a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Southwark Playhouse Feb 2021

Poly was supposed to be with me but hadn't been able to make it, so I was on my own. I entirely blame her for what happened. The actors would never have chosen me to play a flower had she been sat beside me. I'm convinced.

I should probably mention that a comic device of this production was that it had too few actors to play all the parts - seven actors when there are 17 characters  - and only about four props. The fourth wall was broken at the start as we were asked to use our imagination.  

But I didn't need to imagine being dragged onto the stage to play the 'love-in-idleness' blossom which Oberon uses for a love potion.

Despite wanting to imagine being back in my seat, it wasn't easy when the actor playing Oberon was holding my hand, delivering an impassioned speech while looking deep into my eyes.

I thought I conveyed mortification and embarrassment without words particularly well.

However, when the scene was over, and I was able to return to my seat, I got the first laugh of the play by stepping around the tree we'd been asked to imagine in the middle of the stage. #proud

But it didn't end there.

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10th Birthday list: My favourite theatre curtain call moments

I love curtain calls at the end of plays. It's a revealing time when characters are shaken off - or not - when faces perhaps show the person underneath the acting mask.

Swan Theatre view from the stage
View from the stage at the RSC Swan Theatre. Photo Rev Stan

They can also be a time of japes, fun and banter.

From time to time over the past 10 years of blogging I've mention curtain calls, they even have their own category in my end of year awards on occasions, so I decided to compile a list of  my favourites:

1. Only on the last night of the RSC's Richard II could the King (David Tennant) and his deposer Bolingbroke (Nigel Lindsay) have a final tussle for the crown. It was 2-0 to Bolingbroke in the end, David Tennant's curtain call lunge to take the golden circlet from Nigel Lindsay was not quite fast enough.

2. Another last night, this time the end of the run was all a bit too much for the cast of Mojo at the Harold Pinter Theatre. Daniel Mays looked like he'd been crying backstage and Ben Whishaw and Rupert Grint were fighting tears.

3. And another last night...Mark Strong couldn't hide his emotions at the end of A View From the Bridge at the Young Vic but instead of tears, he mouthed a satisfied 'yes' while making a fist.

4. At the curtain call of cold war drama Anna, National Theatre, there was a polite request from the cast who held up a series of cards which spelt out 'No Spoilers'.

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Video: 60 Second review of You Stupid Darkness! Southwark Playhouse

Recorded fresh home from the theatre, here is my 60 seconds worth of thoughts on You Stupid Darkness! at the Southwark Playhouse.

It's on until 22 February (official website here) and you can read my full review over on this post.

Have you seen it? Let me know what you thought.

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Review: You Stupid Darkness! Southwark Playhouse - funny, haunting, moving and strangely uplifting

Sam Steiner's play You Stupid Darkness! is set in a decaying office where four volunteers man a helpline - Brightline - trying to help people look on the bright side.

Andrew-Finnigan-Lydia-Larson-Andy-Rush-and-Jenni-Maitland-in-You-Stupid-Darkness-Credit-Ali-Wright
Andrew Finnigan, Lydia Larson, Andy Rush and Jenni Maitland in You Stupid Darkness! Photo: Ali Wright.

Inspirational posters cover water stains and holes in the wall with messages such as 'It will be alright in the end and if it's not alright, it's not the end."

The world outside the office isn't in a much better state. Nothing is directly discussed but the volunteers arrive wearing gas masks, you can hear sirens going off outside and there are hints from occasional remarks.

Frances (Jenni Maitland) the team leader is heavily pregnant and at one point is asked if she regrets it.

New volunteer 17-year-old Joey (Andrew Finnigan) comments that he hasn't seen a pregnant woman since he was 12.

Not looking ahead

When he says he prefers not to look too far ahead, it isn't the words of an apathetic teenager but a young person for whom the future genuinely doesn't hold a lot of promise.

Brightline, it seems, is like the cheery posters covering up far more serious problems.

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Review: The Night Before Christmas, Southwark Playhouse - festive fun for grown-ups?

Despite the laughter and hints of substance beneath the glitter and lights you'd expect from a Christmas show it is clunky at times and shows its age.

L -R Douggie McMeekin and Dan Starkey star in The Night Before Christmas at Southwark Playhouse - credit Darren Bell
L-R Douggie McMeekin and Dan Starkey star in The Night Before Christmas at Southwark Playhouse. Photo: Darren Bell


It's Christmas Eve and Gary (Douggie McMeekin) catches an elf (Dan Starkey) in his knock-off goods warehouse who claims to have fallen off Santa's sleigh.

His friend Simon (Michael Salami) thinks the elf is a just a burglar trying it on.

But with Gary's ex-wife on the way around to pick up their son's Christmas present and local prostitute Cherry (Unique Spencer) also after him for a promised Power Rangers toy for her own kid, the elf's timing isn't perfect.

Grown-up fun?

This is adult Christmas fare, counter-programming to the Dr Seuss musical which is on next door but what constitutes grown up festive fun?

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