Saturday, December 03, 2016

The sweet smell of rising damp: After October @finborough


A life in the theatre may be a threadbare, but there is always hope of tomorrow. Rodney Ackland's After October is getting its first London production since its premiere in 1936 at the Finborough Theatre. It's fascinating to see how it captures a slice of life but also the enduring drama of working on the edge of success.

Some things may have changed since when it was set. Nowadays waiting for the papers has given way to post show tweets and instant web reviews. And nobody would believe there is a shabby basement flat in Hampstead. Set designer Rosanna Vize seems to have seen the same London flats I have in her inspired transformation of the Finborough into a 1930s dive. Beige walls and bland 1930s fixtures dominate the space, along with a sense of rising damp. Perhaps she took inspiration from the Finborough's neighbours. But all told the piece focuses on the characters and their motivations so that it still feels relevant.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Previewing the graduates: Boys @LostTheatre

Ella Hickson’s acclaimed dark comedy about suicide and the worth of a university education, Boys, comes to the Lost Theatre, Stockwell this week.

It’s a hot summer night. Benny and his mates are due to leave their five bedroom flat in the morning. University is over. Exams are over. They drink to the end of an era. But is life over as well? Nostalgia soon turns to soul-searching and division. Soon everyone’s dirty laundry and an awful lot of bin bags are aired for one last time.

This is a new revival of the play last seen at Soho Theatre. It is directed by James Thacker who is associate director with the company and runs from Wednesday to Saturday.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Work life balance: The Sewing Group @RoyalCourt


The Sewing Group is a fabulously subversive piece of theatre at the Royal Court. The piece by EV Crowe explores secrets, the impact of technology, the overcomplicated and the over analysed. All within a wooden box-like set lit by candle light.

It starts out innocent enough, but then has you perplexed. There are a series of very short (and disorienting) scenes where very little is given away. There are long silences and long blackouts. In one scene all that takes place is a distant fart. It was so distant that it made me wonder whether it came from the audience.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Let 'em have it: An Inspector Calls @aninspector

 
Stephen Daldry’s enduring production of JB Priestley’s An Inspector Calls is back in London. Catching it this time around - the last time I saw it in 2010 did not leave much of an impression as I had forgotten I had seen it -  had me pondering its enduring popularity.

It’s a simple detective story set in 1912. A Detective arrives unannounced to interview a Yorkshire factory owner Arthur Birling (Clive Francis) and his family about the suicide of woman. Each scene serves to rub off a little more of the veneer of respectability of their lives. In what could be a tedious premise, the piece starts making you think about broader enduring issues in this country. Soon I found it evoking the polarised politics of the current day, the rise of fashionable far right politics and Scottish independence.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Previewing: The Mirror Never Lies @cockpittheatre


Coming up next week for one week at the Cockpit Theatre is The Mirror Never Lies.

The musical is returning to London after a one-off concert performance at RADA. It’s based on Barbara Pym’s novel, The Sweet Dove Died and will take you back to swinging 1960s London.

Secret loves, tangled relationships with a dramatic score combine to tell the story of a woman of a certain age who is fiercely resisting the changes all around her.

Director and playwright Joe Giuffre has written Glamorous Nights, based on the life and music of Ivor Novello, followed by The Grifters and The Mirror Never Lies.

Composer of film and theatre, Juan Iglesias has created film scores original music for a diverse range of movies, theatre and media. In the UK, he is a regular collaborator with film director James Bushe and playwright Eddie Coleman.

The Mirror Never Lies is at the Cockpit Theatre from 14 November to 18 November only. You can sample the music in advance.


Friday, November 04, 2016

Incestual manoeuvres: Fool For Love @Found111ldn

 
There are various things you can take from Fool For Love playing at Found111. There isn’t much of a plot. It is more a series of sparring rounds that serve as a star vehicle for great performances. But you walk away thinking how love fades, horse floats burn well and incest is rife.

It’s random in a way but enough to thrill and amuse. The couple in focus are Eddie (Adam Rothenberg) and May (Lydia Wilson). They take pot shots at each other and then kiss and make up. Along the way there is a mysterious old man (Joe McGann) and a new suitor Martin (Luke Neal).

Sam Shepard wrote this piece between love affairs. He covers how two people can simultaneously love and loathe each other. But past injustices give way to more secrets and lies that suggest that old wounds don’t heal. They just get ripped open again and again.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Peace is our profession: The Acedian Pirates @Theatre503


Keeping the peace and stopping depravity is all and good, but in The Acedian Pirates it comes with a few unintended consequences. It is an evocative and testosterone-fuelled piece currently running at Theatre 503.

Watching this piece had me pondering what Donald Rumsfeld said once about unknown unknowns. After all this piece is set in some unknown remote lighthouse in some unknown battleground. The mission is unknown and the outcome also unknown. You’re as confused as the characters about the point of it all, but you get drawn into it anyway. There is never a dull moment with the fights, the explosions and a strange lady upstairs.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Debauchery, drugs and diseases: 5 Guys Chillin @KingsHeadThtr


Life in London is just one big endless gory drug-fuelled sex party in 5 Guys Chillin'. It's a relentless look at the London gay chem-sex and chill-out scene by Peter Darney at the King's Head Theatre. It's not for the faint-hearted or those who have lived a sheltered life.

The piece has been created from interviews and sourcing material found through social media and apps. Darnley's uses the premise of a "chill-out" to get the guys talking. It's very effective, particularly once you get over the gay gore and start listening to the stories.

Among the graphic details is a picture of an empty and lonely gay scene in London. It also helps explain why with record rates of infection among men who have sex with men there is the push to provide PrEP (Pre-exposure Prophylaxis) free on the NHS.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Soul searching: From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads @waterlooeast @ibizabowie


If music is the soundtrack to our lives, From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads puts Bowie as the soundtrack for eccentrics, outcasts or just troubled teens.

Adrian Berry’s fascinating play covers a young Bowie fan's pilgrimage to London. He visits his music idol’s London haunts.

It’s part journey of discovering who he is, but also a desire to connect to his father with the music of his hero.

As Martin, Alex Walton contorts and moves about the stage as the lanky awkward teen and occasional other character on the journey. As the sole performer he captures the spirit of the young fan and the people he encounters. But he also engages you as a storyteller of this young man’s journey to London.

Along the way there are Bowie songs, therapy sessions about bulimia and a dream sequence where he speaks to Bowie. The conversation with the other-worldly Bowie is a pre-recorded voice supplied by Rob Newman. Projections of album covers, London locations also hit us along the way.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Make them hear you: Ragtime @CharingCrossThr


Ragtime at Charing Cross Theatre takes the late nineties musical and lifts it into another realm. With a compact cast on a compact stage, everything seems more intense. It is more musical, more melodramatic and more relevant than ever before.

The cast double as the musicians. One minute they are singing the next minute they’re on the drums or accordion. Pianos whizz about the stage. Music and drama explode in front of you. There is so much happening (particularly in the frenetic first half) that it is breathtaking.

The show opens with an extended prologue introducing the characters and the music of a new syncopation that sets the tone for the rest of the evening. After the rousing chorus that ends it the audience burst into cheers