Monday, May 30, 2016

Kitchen sink dramas: Knife Edge @BigHouseTheatre

Chicken! Chicken and chips! Chicken! Chicken and chips! Chicken! Chicken and chips! Chicken! Chicken and chips!

Early on in Knife Edge, the cast bursts into chanting this. Soon there is a driving percussion backing it and it sounds like it is not just a call to eat but a way of life. And so unfolds a tale written by David Watson and directed by Maggie Norris about a girl with big dreams and more than a few issues.

The piece is produced by The Big House. It is a charity that helps young people in care to fulfill their potential. Almost half of all prisoners under 21 have been in care and the charity uses drama, mentoring and support to tackle breaking this cycle.

Over 12 weeks they developed the piece and the cast - most have never acted before - worked to devise the production.

Cooking with gas: Kenny Morgan @ArcolaTheatre


Gay angst, cigarettes and gas. Kenny Morgan at the Arcola Theatre re imagines Terrence Rattigan’s play The Deep Blue Sea as how things might have happened.

The suicide of bit actor Kenneth Morgan may have been the inspiration for this work about a woman abandoned by her alcoholic younger lover. Here Mike Poulton takes the story and places it in gritty, closeted post war Camden.

After a decade of living in a closeted relationship with Terrence Ratigan, Kenny Morgan leaves him for a young bisexual actor, Alec.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Loyal and obedient: A Subject of Scandal and Concern @Finborough


John Osborne's incisive look at freedom and intolerance is given a fresh look in this resourceful production playing for a short run at the Finborough Theatre.

Originally written for television in 1960, simple staging and riveting performances will have you transfixed.

The story follows George Jacob Holyoake, the last man to stand trial for blasphemy in England. He is played here by Jamie Muscato who gives the role a dark intensity and determination as a man whose world crumbles around him while he holds onto his beliefs.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Lost and found: Stone Face @Finborough


Stone Face by Eve Leigh, tackles the subject of abuse and recovery in a sensitive and humorous way. It is currently playing at the Finborough Theatre. With its gentle storytelling, it draws you into the story and allows the performers to shine.

Inspired by true events, the story revolves around Catherine. Found after her mother killed herself, nobody is sure if she ever left the one bedroom flat they shared. She can neither walk nor speak.

It starts with her receiving medical care thanks to a tabloid newspaper campaign that manages to finance it. Catherine's half sister Ali, her doctor and a tabloid journalist are the only people in her life. Over the course of roughly ninety minutes we are drawn into a world of lost children, mental health and isolation.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Tits and Teeth: Devilish! @LandorTheatre


Strong performances and a marvellously silly premise can't overcome Devilish feeling not much of a guilty pleasure.

Currently playing at the Landor Theatre, the venue has been the home of a number of inspired (if a little rough around the edges) new works or fresh revivals of older ones. 

With Devilish, an interesting premise did not lead to a particularly engaging show. The paper thin plot and various superfluous characters and songs made it a tough night. And for a show with cardboard characters, it takes itself a bit too seriously.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Monkey Business: Frank Sumatra @TheatreN16

 
Frank Sumatra is a funny piece of monkey business playing at the N16 Theatre, now confusingly situated in Balham. 

The audience that finds its way to the theatre at the famous Bedford pub in Balham will be treated to an amusing piece of theatre presented as a live radio play. 

The piece focuses on Bev and Keith. They're a nice, do-gooding young couple trying for a baby. They only eat organic, they separate their recyclables and so on. They also briefly adopted an orangutan in a Sumatran sanctuary.

But despite letting the direct debit on the sponsorship lapse after a few months, the orangutan shows up on their doorstep one day and then starts wrecking havoc on their lives as he first eats them out of their organic food, and then starts behaving like a moody teenager. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Reminder to get writing: The Adrian Pagan Award 2016


The Adrian Pagan award is back for a third year. If you think you’ve got what it takes to address the state of the nation rather than reading random blogs on the interwebs, then this might be for you.

The King’s Head are looking for directors, producers and creative teams to pitch plays that capture the current mood in an exciting, thought-provoking and entertaining way. Other than that, anything goes - new writing, revivals and musicals... They will take anything that pokes them the right way.

The winning company will receive a full King’s Head production budget to produce their show at the venue.

Applications are open until 31 July. To enter, you need to download an application from the King’s Head website and it by the deadline.

Monday, May 09, 2016

On long runs and intervals: 90 minutes straight through


When is too much of a good thing, too much? I love going out to the theatre, but there is nothing more I love than hearing that what I am seeing is ninety minutes straight through. The fun of going out, the magic of theatre, brilliant performances, terrific writing... All in an hour and a half.

I was thinking about this during the week when at The Maids at Trafalgar Studios I misread the play length. I thought it was one hour fifteen but it actually was one hour fifty. "Do make sure you go to the bathroom beforehand," I thought I heard the usher say in a motherly voice. I'm sure they didn't say that but that is what I heard.

The Maids is a stylish new translation where two maids plot macabre ways of killing their mistress. It is a new translation of the Jean Genet play by Benedict Andrews and playwright Andrew Upton. It was first staged by Sydney Theatre Company in 2013.

In this production Uzo Aduba (from Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black) and Zawe Ashton (Fresh Meat) plot the downfall of Laura Carmichael (Lady Edith Downton Abbey). It is a bit of a star fest (particularly for fans of any of these television shows). The choice of casting firmly puts economic servitude at the front of your mind.

In the era of the gig-economy it also seems topical. The fourteen hour workdays seem closer than ever to the real life story that the piece took inspiration from.

Previews: It curtains with Ron Arad’s Curtain Call this summer


Bloomberg Summer at The Roundhouse returns for its fifth year this August with Curtain Call by architect and designer Ron Arad.

It is a return performance of this piece after its original outing in 2011. This time around Arad will reinvent the curtain experience by inviting new collaborators to work with him on the 360° immersive installation, alongside returning artists from 2011.

The work will be showcased at the Roundhouse from 6 – 29 August 2016.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Play that song again: Blind Man's Song @ThePleasance


Theatre Re's Blind Man's Song is a fascinating meditation on the subject of dreams and immagination. For just over an hour you are mostly entranced by the story unfolding before you.

As the theatre opens you are informed that the best views were from the back of the theatre. This was intriguing (and counter-intuitive). But here the seating has been reduced at The Pleasance, making the space more intimate than usual.

Taking my seat, I couldn't help but notice the eerie haze that hung over the stage at the begining. What space were we staring at?

The main character, a blind musician soon enters. The space turns out to be his room. He is tapping about to find his way and soon this becomes the soundtrack.