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Starmen: Briefs Close Encounters @LeicesterSqXmas

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Circus performers often seem out of this world. This Christmas The Briefs Factory, lands at the Leicester Square Spiegeltent. Briefs Factor is an all-male burlesque (or as they call it boylesque) group who use circus, drag and dance to show us a good time. The premise is they’re time-travelling aliens offering a message a hope and cheap thrills. And they don’t disappoint for a moment.With a pulsating soundtrack from music director Busty Beatz mixing disco, electronic and dance, this show never lets up. And when the entire cast come together this show is both breathtaking and breathless with it’s audacious spectacle and energy. It’s like watching a Vegas show up close. Holding the show together is host, emcee and artistic Fez Fa’anana. Even setting the ground rules for the night (no phones, no bad manners, no dramaturg) he’s hilarious. Then there are the performers. Mark “Captain Kidd” Winmill delivers both a beautiful aerial display and a slightly disturbing bearded lady drag act. Thom…

Camp as Christmas: Hot Gay Time Machine @Trafstudios

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Watching Hot Gay Time Machine by yourself at first is a bit like being the designated driver at a party. You’re just not drunk enough to appreciate it. But this high energy, high camp, gay gore extravaganza grows on you. The piece was a hit at Edinburgh Fringe and now has a brief run on the West End in the downstairs space of Trafalgar Studios.Written and performed by Zak Ghazi-Torbati and Toby Marlow, the time machine part of the story are the pivotal gay moments of Zak and Toby’s young lives. Mostly this involves gay sex and brief encounters in changing rooms. But from the moment Zak and Toby burst into the theatre foyer introducing themselves, the scene is set for a party of shimmying and sashaying. The stories are set to music performed by Marlow on keyboard. His lyrics tend to be less innuendo and more in your face. But even if artistically suspect, the filthier he gets the audience only seems to appreciate it more.
Marlow with Lucy Moss had the hit show Six, which was about the…

The best little warehouse in England: The Night Before Christmas @SWKplay

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If you’re not into the Christmas spirit, you might be into Christmas dust. It’s the joyful powder the little elves put everywhere and it’s addictive. And distracts you from the shitty life you’re having right now... Anthony Neilson’s dark anti-festive comedy is having its first revival at the Southwark Playhouse.Nothing’s off limits in this tale set in some out of town warehouse on Christmas Eve. Gary (Douggie McMeekin) has called his mate Simon (Michael Salami) for help. He’s caught some little bloke dressed up as an Elf trying to break in (Dan Starkey). He’s tied him up with Christmas lights and not sure what to do. But as they debate calling the police, a prostitute by the name of Cherry (Unique Spencer) comes calling. She’s after some Powers Ranger figures for her son’s Christmas present. It’s payment for the blowjob she gave Gary earlier. And nobody is sure if the Elf is who he says he is, or just a junkie trying to get his next fix. That pretty much sets the tone in this short, …

The cat mashes the hat: Seussical @SWKplay

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Seussical is a mash-up of Dr Seuss stories into a musical extravaganza that’s short in length and long on spectacle. It’s 75 minutes of flair, dazzle and fun songs. Perfect for little people, or people with little attention spans. It’s currently playing at the Southwark Playhouse.It’s a condensed version of the musical by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens and based on the stories of Dr Seuss. Trimmed from it’s bloated original form, it allows the show with it’s catchy broadway songs to be fun without being too dull or sentimental. This version focuses on the stories Horton Hears a Who and Horton Sits on the Egg. Both of these stories focus on a well-meaning elephant who gets more than he bargained for by the other animals in the jungle. And there’s a girl who gets the “thinks” too much for her own good.The cat in the hat acts as the mischief-making ringmaster. Here he’s played by the mischievously entertaining Marc Pickering. With his deadpan expressions, he only has to look around at …

Something cuddly and fluffy for Christmas: Buttons @KingsHeadThtr

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It’s hard not to like a show where the central character is a man in a giant bear suit. And with great performances, gorgeous costumes and high production values, Buttons is fun and entertaining. This is Charles Court Opera’s self-described “boutique panto” and it’s currently playing at the Kings Head Theatre.The show’s an eccentric yet panto-style reworking of the Cinderella story. Buttons centres around Cinderella’s teddy bear, Buttons. He’s is in love with Cinderella but as he’s a teddy bear it‘s all very platonic cuddly love. Until a fairy godfather visits Buttons and turns him into a man and things get interesting. And a little bit weird. Meanwhile and evil Prince Charming is persuing Cinderella. He’s been knocking off various fictional characters to say young and charming and sees Cinderella as his next victim. And Cinderella’s mother is trying to pull a policeman who is investigating the death of various fairy tale characters. Created by Charles Court Opera’s artistic direct…

Things to see: The Dark @Ovalhouse

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The Dark is Nick Makoha's retelling of an experience he tries to remember a forgotten journey. Fragments slowly come to light. It’s nighttime, November 1978. He’s four years old. Holding his mother’s hand they’re leaving Kampala buying safe passage. The journey of a young boy and his mother escaping a divided country under a brutal dictatorship is at the heart of this story.

Writer and performer Nick Makoha is a poet, playwright, performer, activist and mentor. He’s also the winner of the 2015 Brunel African Poetry Prize. The piece is currently playing at The Ovalhouse Theatre until 1 December.

Fried chicken runs: Cuckoo @sohotheatre

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Everyone hates Iona. She talks too much. Her only friend is non-binary mate Pingu who doesn’t speak at all. So they decide to get the hell out of Crumlin on the next Ryanair flight. Afterall it is the part of Northern Ireland that has the Airport. But their decision to leave makes them a bit of a celebrity.Despite the enthusiastic cast, Lisa Carroll’s play Cuckoo doesn’t cover much. It’s currently playing at the Soho Theatre. It’s your typical young person wanting to break out of shitty town story. If you’re unfamiliar with Crumlin in Northern Ireland, you can only assume it’s pretty grim. Much of the action centres around a place called Texas Fried Chicken. We don’t get to know the characters well. As they fight and film each other for instagram stories they become less and less interesting. I was hoping at one point we would understand why the two central characters were friends. But in this ninety minute play dragged out to nearly two hours, we get one fight or dance routine after …

Taking the moral high ground: Super Duper Close Up @Yardtheatre

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In Super Duper Close Up, Jess Latowicki is seven minutes early to a meeting. It’s a meeting that could give her work. I never arrive early to meetings so I figured this is a chance to find out what early arrivers do to pass the time. During this time, between taking the moral high ground for arriving early, she starts talking about her life and where it’s gone all wrong. It’s theatre we can all relate to. Funny, moving and often bizarre, it’s currently playing at The Yard Theatre.Latowicki with her robotic-like rapid fire delivery often feels like she’s a stand up comedian talking about her life. She gives phrases like “think pieces” and “scrolling” specific hand gestures so that they stick in your mind. Everything is filmed and projected. It’s like you’re trapped inside in an Instagram story or someone’s live feed on social media. At one point she moves into the audience. Then she takes someone to show her detailed beauty regime. A regime that’s described in French as it sounds more …