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Finishing the hat: Far Away @Donmarwarehouse

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Young Joan can't sleep. Was there a bump in the night? Or a scream? She is staying with her Aunt Harper, and she reassures her it's probably an owl. They seem to be in the English countryside. But with her aunt's responses becoming less and less convincing as she pauses and thinks about them, young Joan knows she has stumbled on something sinister about the world. And not just because aunty isn't a convincing liar or her armchair is filthy and worn. Thus begins the short descent into a dystopia where people are rounded up for inexplicable reasons, and you're never sure who is with you or against you. It’s currently playing at the Donmar Warehouse.

It's a short descent as Caryl Churchill's piece runs only forty-five minutes. But in that time it's an unsettling enough to leave the audience nervously laughing. In the twenty years since its premiere, the fears of all controlling entities have only grown thanks to a vibrant network of social media, pseudo-n…

Shameless tricks: Musik @lsqtheatre

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A trip down memory lane with Billie Trix takes on many dimensions in Musik. The jokes fly fast in this piece written by Jonathan Harvey. And in between the gags, there are songs by the Pet Shop Boys. Frances Barber, as the under-appreciated artist Billie is incredible. But as fast as Billie explodes on stage with her anecdotes and antics, it ends. And while more a series of gags and songs than a story, it’s hard not to like given Barber’s intensely funny and gripping performance as this hard-living star. It’s currently playing at the Leicester Square Theatre.

Billie opens on stage wearing an eye patch claiming that Madonna stole her look. And that she is now stalking her by taking the theatre nearby and cancelling her shows so she can secretly watch and her act. It sets the scene for an hour of musing about her career as an artist. And those who stole her ideas. Andy Warhol when she gave him soup in a can. Trump when she put up a wall and so on.

The character of Billie first appeared…

Nursing crisis: Persona @Riversidelondon

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There’s something reassuringly contemplative about Ingmar Bergman’s Persona. No matter what humdrum life you may be leading, at least you haven’t gone mute from too much acting. It’s not the only message to take away from this stage adaptation. Even when things seem lost in translation from screen to stage, the blurring of lines of the roles people play in life still resonates. It’s currently playing at the newly reopened Riverside Studios at Hammersmith.

The piece centres around a famous stage actress Elizabet (Nobuhle Mngcwengi), who has stopped speaking and appears to have had some form of breakdown. As part of her recuperation, she travels with a nurse (Alice Krige) to a remote summer beach house. Alone with the waves and silence, they both are left to recover.

Krige and Mngcwengi create an intimate and engaging portrayal of this ambiguous relationship between the actress and the nurse. Are the conversations real or imagined? Who is the patient and who is providing the treatment?…

Dealing with it: Tarot @Feathers_circus @VaultFestival

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The circus is dealt another twist with live tarot readings in Tarot. It concludes its run at The Vaults tonight, but the concept is compelling enough that I suspect it won’t be the last time we’ll see this show from The Feathers of Daedalus in London. With a live band and energetic and up-close performances, it’s fascinating even if you’re not into the hocus pocus of reading someone’s fortune from a deck of cards.

It’s held together by gender-fluid compère Ruby Wednesday. With deadpan detachment, we’re given an explanation about tarot readings. Members of the audience are also given a chance to have their cards read while the performers move about behind them. It’s educational for those who have no idea about the practice of tarot card readings. But it’s also a little bit unnerving. In the tight confines of the Forge space in the Vault, you could have a circus performer land on your lap. And there’s something slightly perverse yet curiously engaging about watching a total stranger re…

Bad Teacher: The Glass Will Shatter @OmnibusTheatre

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The Glass Will Shatter by Joe Marsh focuses on a young teacher continues to relive a harrowing event that took place at an inner-city school. School is a battleground of crowd control and regulations. Pieced together through a series of flashbacks, it’s a smart piece of storytelling which turns the incident on its head.  And a lack of understanding and inherent biases lead a to both a disaster and new opportunities. It’s having its world premiere at Omnibus Theatre.

Rebecca (Josephine Arden) can’t sleep. She keeps having the same nightmare where her former student is about to cause some act of terror. She meets her old boss, Jamilah (Alma Eno) to see if she can get over the past. There through the flashbacks, we see her encounters with the young student Amina (Naima Swaleh). But Amina isn’t the student from hell we’re expecting. Sure there’s the backchat and the classroom banter. But there’s the curiosity and interest in Rebecca that’s dismissed out of hand by her.

As the piece progr…

Fitting in: The Canary and the Crow @Arcolatheatre

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What do you do when you're the only working-class black kid who has a scholarship to a prestigious grammar school? Written and performed by David Ward, The Canary and The Crow is a funny and lively story about what it's like growing up black in Britain. And how trying to fit in leads to all sorts of unexpected life lessons. It's currently playing at the Arcola Theatre.

It's a bit like joining a party coming to see it. There's a party atmosphere happening on stage thanks to the music by Prez 96 (Nigel Taylor). As the show gets going, he becomes Ward's neighbourhood friend. They're joined by musicians Rachel Barnes and Laurie Jamieson on cellos, keyboards and vocals to tell a story about identity and belonging in modern Britain. It may be called gig theatre here, but it's also a compelling and funny piece of storytelling.

It's kept in focus by Ward. He's constantly reminding the audience of being that young kid so excited about finding a place in…

Gay Gore: Sex/Crime @sohotheatre

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At a point early on in Sex / Crime, the lights go dark in a room covered in plastic with a rubber floor, and all you can hear are the screams. The mind is left to imagine just what pre-negotiated terror is unfolding. Until it becomes clear, nothing is happening, and we can all laugh. Part tease and part terror, the piece unfolds against a backdrop of gay fetishism and modern-day neuroses. It’s currently playing at the Soho Theatre upstairs.

Written and performed by Alexis Gregory, he’s visiting a man with a specialism, who goes by the name of A (Jonny Woo). He provides a service of reenacting the works of famous gay serial killers for the right fee. Just the thing for a man who is bored with his life and searching for the next extra special thrill.  With the promise of experiencing what it was like to be a victim of one of these killers. Or as close as far as health and safety regulations allow.

If gay serial killers and the people who fetishise them seems a queasy topic for a night…

The woke and the trolling: Scrounger @Finborough

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Athena Stevens takes her experiences with an airline that damaged her wheelchair and refused to pay for a replacement into a sharp and an incisive piece on how discrimination affects disabled people. The incident led to her confinement in her flat in Elephant and Castle for months while she tweeted about the experience and gained media attention. And was called a scrounger by the usual band of internet trolls. It’s currently playing at the Finborough Theatre.

It's an exciting piece of storytelling that puts you in her shoes. Stevens is a detailed storyteller, and she expertly covers the everyday ordeals that people with disabilities face. From the passive aggressive remarks uttered by flight attendants to friends who have trouble thinking that Elephant and Castle is a part of central London. It's all told with humour, warmth and a healthy amount of outrage.

While the case was eventually settled, she explains as far as her non-disclosure agreement allows, how people, including…