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Fantasies: Afterglow @Swkplay

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Nowadays no self-respecting gay play can be staged without full frontal nudity of some kind. It feels like the default response for the modern gay play now that gay rights are no longer an issue. Afterglow, currently playing at Southwark Playhouse, serves it up in spades. From the beginning, three men are in a bed, naked. There’s what appears to be a very brief exhalation of ecstasy, before the obligatory rush to the shower. But the gratuitous nudity and excellent performances can’t conceal this is a pretty conventional and predictable story about a fantasy couple. 
The three men in the simultaneous orgasm at the start of the piece are Josh, Alex and Darius. Josh and Alex seem to live in a New York world where they can afford a rooftop apartment in Manhattan while holding jobs as a theatre director and a grad student in chemistry. As writer S. Asher Gelman based it on his own experiences, perhaps gay plays with full frontal nudity are the way to achieve financial security and great real…

Age of innocence: Country Music @Omnibus_Theatre

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The latest instalment of the Up series landed this week. It tracks the lives of a bunch of unrepresentative British people every seven years. Fascinating in its ordinariness and irritating by director Michael Apted's random and pompous commentary, it was on my mind as I was watching Country Music. It's a much more subtle exploration on how people change over time. Or at least your perception of them. And how your life can be shaped from your early years in ways you can never appreciate. It's currently playing at the Omnibus Theatre.

Jamie (Cary Cranson) and his girl from school, Lynsey (Rebecca Stone) are in a car Jamie has stolen. Along with a large bag of crisps. It's 1983, and they're just out of school. They talk about getting away and the benefits of different flavours of crisps. But beneath the surface, something isn't quite right. Jamie has a short fuse. There's talk about a mighty fight. And soon, Lynsey is scared.


Things jump forward a few years, …

Bit of a scuffle: Custody @ovalhouse

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Custody has returned to the Ovalhouse Theatre following an earlier run there. Seemingly taken from the headlines, it follows the fallout from after black man in south London was arrested and then dies in police custody.  “There was a bit of a scuffle, and I’m sorry to say he passed away,” Informs the police officer arriving at the home.

And then his family and his lover are left behind to pick up the pieces and pull together the strands of information about what happened. It’s a powerful piece inspired by creator Urban Wolf’s experience with the police and written in collaboration with Tom Wainwright.


Part poetry, dreams, reality and anger, a series of short scenes come together to paint a picture of how the system is against people from the start if they don’t look or act the right way. Written at the time of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (which has since been replaced by the Independent Office for Police Conduct), it details the petty bureaucracy and general ineffective…

Partying on: J’Ouvert @Theatre503

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The shadow of Grenfell looms large in J’Ouvert, It fills Theatre 503 with the colour and flavour of the Notting Hill carnival. It’s an epic and personal experience of three women during one day at the event. With its intricate storylines and sharp observations about life in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, it’s an impressive debut from writer Yasmin Joseph. Even with what appears to have been a difficult journey to bring it to the stage.

In the piece, three women play a range of characters. Two are best friends and locals who have been going to the carnival forever. Another girl has joined them for reasons that become clear later. As they spend the day trying to get a drink and a dance. And some overpriced food, the characters that make up the event come to the fore. What becomes clear is a slice of life of the need to party, the need to be angry and the need to get on with their lives, without harassment or violence looming large.


There are the old timers who have seen i…

The man with the banana: Flinch @ORLTheatre

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Flinch is a play about gender roles. But it’s also a timely reminder that you date actor-writers at your own peril. As you never know if you’re going to be the material for their next piece. Emma Hemingford writes and co-stars in this piece about modern relationships which is having its debut at the Old Red Lion Theatre.

She plays Jess, an actor of sorts struggling with auditions and lecherous directors. Mark (Joseph Reed) works in the city as a trader. Just as they move in together into his Bethnal Green flat, an incident happens. A violent mugger appears and threatens them both. Mark flinches (or according to Jess screams and runs away, leaving her alone). It turns out it was a bit of a joke since the mugger was brandishing a banana (and wearing a pretty camp t-shirt).


But this sets in motion a series of innocent conversations that lead into darker territory about the disappointments they have with each other.  The piece works at it’s best during these conversations. And it highlig…

Reality bites: Summer Street @WaterlooEast

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Shows that call themselves hilarious are setting a high bar for themselves. Summer Street the hilarious Aussie soap opera musical, alas does not live up to its name. Despite the enthusiastic cast, and a title song that will remain an earworm long after you've left the show. It's currently playing at Waterloo East theatre.

The premise is that a few years after the cancelling of the first (and ever) soap opera with musical numbers, its stars reunite for a one-off episode. The years have not been kind to the former cast members. Drugs, drinking or dirty costumes seemed to have befallen them. But the "secret" plan is to make this reunion show more geared to the reality era.


It works best when it's just a silly soap opera where the cast doubles as partners and parents of various characters on the neighbourhood street. But many of the jokes fall flat, and it also misses the opportunity to make others - such as the cast doubling various roles or how hideous the set loo…

Attracting attention: Amour @charingcrossthr

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Amour is about the brief charming life of an ordinary man who discovers he can walk through walls in 1950s Paris. With music by Michael Legrand, it’s a whimsical fantasy that it’s hard to dislike. As the piece says, “There’s magic in the air” even if the lyrics translated into English bring the piece crashing back to reality. It’s having its UK professional premiere at Charing Cross Theatre.

At the centre of the piece is an earnest young man Dusoleil (Gary Tushaw), who lives alone in a flat in Montmartre, dreaming about his neighbour Isabelle (Anna O’Byrne), who is married. He’s a hard worker in the civil service who gets his work done so he can write a letter to his dear mother. But one day during a power outage he discovers he can walk through walls. So he decides to put his new talents to good use to become a latter-day Robin Hood, winning the hearts of the locals and Isabelle.

The lyrics become predictable that it’s tempting to play a guessing game. You just know when the lead si…

Songs and dancing: Three / 8:38 / Seven @WiltonMusicHall

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It was meant to be ballet with songs. But instead after the cancelling of the original programming of Seven Deadly Sins, it became songs and a little bit of choreography. But with its beautiful singing and a chance to see a new dance piece choreographed by Javier De Frutos, Three / 8:38 / Seven shows that simple (although unplanned) premises can make a for a great evening of entertainment. It’s currently at Wiltons Music Hall.

The programme opens with “Three”, representing songs from Kurt Weil and Bertolt Brecht’s Threepenny Opera. Beginning with the overture, it sets the mood for the period of Weimar Berlin. It might help to understand the time and context of the piece, but by the time we’re into the Pimp’s Ballad and Mack The Knife (arguably Weil’s biggest hit) it probably doesn’t matter.


Next up is the dance piece, 8:38 performed by Viviana Durante and Mbulelo Ndabeni, set to music by Bach and Weil, ending with Lotte Lenya’s version of September Song. As the two dance in synchroni…