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Hitting the pause button

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Life in London has taken a pause... As theatres have gone dark and we stay indoors, it makes you appreciate the open and vibrant cultural offer a place like London has. Always connected. Always something new. And going out to do something. But not for now. Now it is the time for going in... 

Going out is a trip to the supermarket to buy food for the day. It isn’t so much as stockpiling groceries as the realisation that eating three meals a day at home means you need more food. Heading outside for exercise means a walk around the block or to the nearby park. And keeping two metres away from everyone... Especially the annoying jogger who is coughing incessantly.

What lies ahead? We will find out soon.

Mostly harmless caper: Corpse! @parktheatre

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In times of national crisis, there is nothing like a good old fashioned comic murder-mystery to take your mind off social distancing and voluntary isolation. Or perhaps a silly murder-mystery. And even if the story is a bit suspect, Corpse! is mostly harmless fun and staged with a lot of panache and energy by Tom York. It's currently playing at the smaller space of the Park Theatre.

Set against the backdrop of another national crisis, Edward VIII's abdication, Gerald Moon's Corpse! (complete with an exclamation point) was first seen in the early eighties. It is about two identical twins who despise each other. The oldest (by a few minutes) Evelyn, is poor and living in a squalid Soho flat. His acting career hasn't progressed much after being accused of poisoning cast members. He gets by shoplifting from Fortnum and Mason and promising favours to his lonely landlady. His younger brother Rupert is incredibly rich after inheriting the family fortune. Evelyn has decided t…

Not quite change: Not Quite Jerusalem @finborough

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Has anything changed in England in the forty years since Paul Keebler’s Not Quite Jerusalem premiered at the Royal Court? A play about a country full of crap towns, no opportunities and a class divide could have been written today. It’s currently playing at the Finborough Theatre and unexpectedly has new resonance about the opportunities afforded to people in this country.

Set in 1979, the play centres around Mike, Carrie, Pete and Dave who travel to Israel to volunteer working on a kibbutz. In the pre-EasyJet revolution, that was a thing. They were expecting the trip to be full of sun, sex and beer. But they find themselves instead mucking out cow sheds and working in the sweltering heat. But Mike, a lost Cambridge dropout, fed up trying to fit in understands why he ran away from England. When he takes a liking to the straight-talking Gila who is completing her final year military service on the kibbutz, it leads to an unlikely meeting of minds across cultures.

Things come to a head…

Lock ‘em up, get ‘em out: The Special Relationship @sohotheatre

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You usually expect to see the phrase “special relationship” as part of an undemanding British news article about the imaginary special connection between Britain and the United States. But the focus of this piece by Hassan Adbulrazzak is the plight of foreign nationals being deported from America after serving prison sentences. It is a misleading title. And my initial thought was, why would anyone choose to live in America? The food is terrible, healthcare expensive and you only get two weeks holiday a year. But often the people in this piece had no choice. They were born there or moved there with their parents and started a life there. And what makes this interesting is how, through verbatim interviews, the complexity and messiness of life emerges. It’s currently running at Soho Theatre.

An ensemble cast has been assembled to tell the stories of (mostly) British nationals who lived most of their lives in the United States. And how most of them through circumstances were convicted of…

Spring Awakenings: Love Loss and Chianti @Riverside London

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Death and desertion are on the menu in Love Loss and Chianti. A dramatisation of the poems A Scattering and The Song of Lunch by Christopher Reid. Grief and fantasy are explored at first for drama and then for comedy. It’s not always successful in the translation from poetry to stage. But watchable for the performances and staging at the Riverside Studios.

The first half, A Scattering, was Reid’s response to the death of his wife, Lucinda. Told in four parts, with the first part written while she was still alive, the poems won the Cost Book Prize in 2010. But on stage, it feels cold and unengaging. Perhaps there are too many distractions with events as the stages of dying, death and loss are explored. It might have been more engrossing if he just sat on a chair and told to the audience.

Fortunately, things pick up in the Song of Lunch in the second half, which is centred around a man’s attempt to connect with an old flame over lunch. Memories conspire to build a fantasy that bears li…

Sinewy encounters: Meat @theatre503

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Meat is an engaging exploration of relationships power and consent by writer Gillian Greer. Characters are cut and dissected like the animal carcasses hanging in the background of this production. With emotionally engaging performances, it's a gripping take on modern relationships and reconciliation with the past. It's currently playing at Theatre 503.

It is set in a concept restaurant where meat is the only thing on the menu (vegetarians and vegans can go fuck off). There are simple table settings and fine wine. And some animal carcasses in the background. It's a hot spot to go to in Dublin (well butcher restaurants are fashionable in London anyway). Max (India Mullen), a blogger and writer is there to meet the owner and ex-boyfriend Ronan (Sean Fox). She's there to tell him that she's put in her forthcoming book an account of the night she was sexually assaulted by him. But she's also there wanting answers.

From the start, the expectations are misaligned. Ro…

Little grey pills: Be More Chill @theotherpalace

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What do you do when you're a gawky young teenager trying to fit in? If you get the chance to take a particular pill from a shoe salesman that will make you more popular, why wouldn't you? And so begins an science fiction take on the high school story about trying to fit in. Where it's hard to be yourself when the voices inside your head are telling you how to fit in.  And these voices  have an uncanny resemblance to Keanu Reeves from The Matrix. With an enthusiastic cast, infectious music and a quirky take on the high school musical genre, it's fun even if you're not a devotee of the book or the social media phenomena. It’s currently playing at The Other Palace.

Be More Chill is based on a book by Ned Vizzini, which drew on his experiences at high school. Vizzini struggled with anxiety and depression throughout his life, and it led to his death by suicide in 2013.

The story translates remarkably well to stage capturing in song the doubts and struggles of the chara…

Dog gone: The Dog Walker @JSTheatre

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In a city of strangers, two struggling eccentrics come together in Paul Minx’s The Dog Walker. The only trouble is that they’re not particularly likeable and it’s a pretty unconvincing story. Nevertheless, the two performers throw everything at it. And with terrifically trashy production design, it makes this piece interesting, if ultimately unsatisfying. It’s currently playing at the Jermyn Street Theatre.

A tragicomedy of sorts, Keri (Victoria Yeates) doesn’t go out and awaits the arrival of a ghost. Her tiny New York flat is strewn with liquor bottles and dead plants. She shouts tirades at anyone from her window and seems to eke out a living by writing e-books. Her mother delivers casseroles, so she isn’t starving. But apart from that, she’s entirely alone. Except for her dog - an old Pekingese - that she hires a dog walker to take out from time to time. And so enters Herbert Doakes (Andrew Dennis), a devout Jamaican immigrant with an ethical streak who is holding down a few jobs …