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Keep it gay: Twang!! @TheUnionTheatre

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Any time of the year you can watch Oliver! on television. Lionel Bart’s musical take on the tale of Dickens made him a fortune and is memorable for its music and a slick movie musical. A few years later under the influence of alcohol and LSD he wrote Twang!! A notorious and expensive disaster than ran for only 43 performances, it would cost him his fortune.But rest assured the Union Theatre hasn’t resurrected a curiosity for the benefit of musical theatre aficionados. As amusing in its own way that would be. This Twang!! is new. Or at least with a story that makes some form of sense. With a new book by Julian Woolford and updated orchestrations by Richard John, it’s a chance to see a lost Lionel Bart musical. The premise is that after years of robbing from the rich and giving to the poor Robin Hood has lost his twang. It’s a bit like the Middle Ages equivalent of mojo. It’s now his merry men who do most of the heavy lifting. Meanwhile Much, the millers son, has run away from home. He’s…

Cough medicine: Quiz

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You don’t often expect to go to a show where coughing during the performance is essential part of it. James Graham’s Quiz at Noel Coward Theatre elevates a minor moment in history into a melodrama fit for television. The story is around the trial of Charles and Diana Ingram who were convicted of trying to defraud the quiz show “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” in 2003. Mostly through a series of well-timed coughs.Cameras roll, music roars, the mob votes on little gizmos. There’s even a nod to the humble pub quiz as its origins. It is fun. But it’s also a night that leaves you thinking about another quiz show. Pointless. The production is drunk on the television gimmicks it’s trying to critique. The glamour of television, instant polls and dazzling lighting.  All come at the expense of character development and a convincing argument about confirmation bias. You get a chance to vote on whether they’re guilty twice. Once before interval and once at the end. It’s set up to get people to be m…

Pass it on: Reared @Theatre503

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Living with your mother in law and a daughter who’s pregnant sets the scene for some tough Irish mothering in Reared. A play by John Fitzpatrick that sets inter-generational conflict as both a tribute and a tribulation. And no matter how hard you fight it, you’ll always end up like your mother. Or in this case, your mother-in-law. It’s currently running at Theatre 503.Eileen (Shelley Atkinson) is worried about her mother in law, Nora’s increasing forgetfulness. Could it be a sign of dementia? She’s also worried about her daughter Caitlin (Danielle Philips). Caitlin’s pregnant and putting her her dreams of drama school (or at least a shot at university) on hold. They’re just about managing and living under one roof as it’s Nora’s home. For now.  Then there’s Eileen’s ineffectual husband Stuart (Daniel Crossley). And Caitlin’s best friend Colin (Rohan Nedd). But the men are there for the comic relief. Through a series of monologues and scenes, Fitzpatrick creates a layered story about in…

Those were the days: Plastic @ORLTheatre

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Even if the subject matter and setting is a bit grim, there’s a lot to like about Plastic. Kenneth Emson’s gritty and evocative play about growing up in Essex. School can be the best of times and the worst of times. And here is a tale about school life that defines and haunts two characters in the years to come. It’s currently playing at the Old Red Lion Theatre.Coming of age can come quickly. Girlfriends, peer pressure, schoolyard beatings. And football of course. The piece mixes drama and performance poetry to tell the story of young people forced to grow up.  There’s Lisa (Madison Clare - making her professional debut) with her blazer and bold personality. Kev (Mark Weinman) the former captain of the football team who scored the winning goal in the final, but who can’t seem to make much of a living now. Ben (Thomas Coombes) who always got beaten up and now’s an accountant. And his loyal mate Jack (Louise Greatorex) who will stick up for him no matter what.The cast work well to bring…

Privileges and power: White Guy On The Bus @Finborough

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It’s always grim in Philadelphia in White Guy On The Bus. It’s a sharp, insightful and unsettling piece to remind us that race, power and inequality loom large over everything that happens in America. Or even here. It’s currently playing at the Finborough Theatre.It opens with what appears at first to be a series of lectures among two white couples about unconscious bias and latent racism. They’re on the lawn of a lovely house in Philadelphia. It seemed as topical as the aftermath of a recent Quentin Letts review.But that’s just a starter to what writer Bruce Graham really wants to tackle. The piece zeroes in on the divide in Philadelphia between low income blacks and the well-off white communities. The two remain separate and unequal. Philadelphia may be edgier than other parts of America, but it’s a story that applies anywhere. London too given the growing incidence of gang violence.   The play focuses around Ray (Donald Sage Mackay - in his London Theatrical debut). He works in fina…

Chats and swipes: Love Me Now @TristanBates

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Casual encounters are in the spotlight in Love Me Now. It’s a new play by Michelle Barnette playing at Tristan Bates Theatre. Not so much about love gone wrong but about the young and the loveless. There are no names in this piece as three characters move in and out of each others lives with sex and idle chatter. Set over a series of hookups, the main focuse of the piece is on a  woman (Helena Wilson) and her regular date (Alistair Toovey). Much of the piece is set in and around the bed. Before and after sex. She wants something more from the regular encounters. He’s more blow and go. And her attempts to get equal treatment only lead to disaster.   Later she finds another man (Gianbruno Spena) who says the right things but it turns out to be the same man in a different package.Along the way the hedonism and partial nudity are at times hilarious. Wilson is engaging as the frank and seemingly carefree woman with one-liners about blowjobs. Toovey is convincing as a fit young man who’s alt…

Sing like nobody’s watching: Songs for Nobodies @WiltonMusicHall

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Songs for Nobodies starts as if it is a theatrical happening. There’s a hush at Wilton’s Music Hall as it descends into darkness. And when the lights go up there is a small, middle aged woman on stage looking somewhat meek. But soon there is an astounding transformation as she channels a range of musical greats. Mimicking their style and intonation. Starting with Judy Garland, then Patsy Cline, Edith Piaf, Billie Holiday and finally Maria Callas. It’s thrilling and bewildering. The piece is billed as a play with music by Joanna Murray-Smith, created to suit the vocal talents of Australian singer Bernadette Robinson. The premise is that a series of “nobodies” whose lives briefly intersect with these stars. There’s the lady, Beatrice who fixes Judy Garland’s hem and the usher Pearl who becomes backup to Patsy Cline and so on.  It’s clear that Robinson has a unique talent and she holds your attention. And the production shines in Wilton’s music hall.  The faded grandeur of the venue blend…