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Showing posts from 2017

Mixed race privilege: White @ovalhouse

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I always knew what I was. I was mixed race. I was... And so begins Koko Brown’s monologue White. It’s about being mixed race and being an outsider and growing up in modern Britain dealing with labels when sometimes none really fit.

It’s currently playing at the Ovalhouse Theatre as part of its Autumn Series of shows.

Koko Brown uses spoken word, live vocal looping and multimedia to create a powerful and compelling statement on how we view people.

Distant and remote: The Dark Room @theatre503

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Angela Betzien’s hard-hitting play The Dark Room at Theatre 503 explores the underbelly of neglect and violence in outback Australia. Or the Northern Territory to be precise. But this isn’t the Northern Territory famous for its obscure newspaper headlines. This is a much darker, isolated place where the people meant to protect vulnerable people mistreat them instead.

It’s billed as a disturbing psychological thriller but the resemblance to real events makes it feel more like a horror show. Betzien wrote the play after witnessing first-hand the shortage of accommodation for children in care in these communities. In the end you leave the theatre feeling shocked and numb from what you’ve seen.

Set in a run-down motel room, a series of characters come together to tell the story of stretched resources, limited patience and a tyranny of distance. Time moves forward and back as this bleak plywood motel room as each character recalls another.



It opens with youth worker Anni (Katy Brittain) b…

Stuck on you: Quaint Honour @Finborough

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It’s a boys life in Quaint Honour. It’s currently having a sold-out run at the Finborough Theatre. It’s set in a boarding school in 1950s England. Where among the study, cricket and Shakespearian productions, homosexual activity is rampant.

It’s not encouraged, but its seen as something to pass the time between all that study and sport. And there’s enough ambiguity about these relationships for the house master to turn a blind eye.
The premise is that Tully (Harley Viveash), a prefect, accepts a challenge to seduce younger pupil Hamilton (Jack Archer). It’s all meant to be harmless fun but the pair develop stronger feelings for each other.

And even as the play reaches its predictable conclusions, you can’t help but enjoy the time you spent with these characters.

Keeping up appearances: The House of Bernarda Alba @SpanishTheatreC

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You’re never in doubt with this production of The House of Bernarda Alba that the heat and the attitudes are oppressive in this small Spanish town.

A thin veneer of respectability and status barely conceals the urges and desires lurking beneath. And women, as second class citizens have only gossip, traditions and the church to cling to.

This passionate, topical and emotional production is currently playing at the Cervantes Theatre near Southwark, in both English and Spanish.

Rubbing the wrong way: The Red Lion @Trafstudios

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Patrick Marber commented that his play The Red Lion dramatises something about England. One part is about community and belonging, and the other part is about business. But it also could be about not being terribly good at the sport, either in playing it or managing it unless you're importing it. It's currently playing downstairs at Trafalgar Studios.

It's a locker room comedy-drama set in a semi-professional football club in the north. Kidd (Stephen Tompkinson) as manager has spotted Jordan's (Dean Bone) potential and puts him on as a reserve. But his real plan is to transfer him to another team. With a transfer, he and the club stands to gain financially.

Victims of circumstance: Mother Courage And Her Children @swkplay

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War is hell. War is a bitch. But everyone has to scrape by and make a living. Tony Kushner's translation of Mother Courage And Her Children was given an epic staging at the National Theatre in 2009. Here in the more intimate surroundings of Southwark Playhouse, there's less spectacle. But it's still worth a look. Particularly if you're sitting on the right side of the traverse.

Brecht's piece should make you feel uncomfortable with sharp observations about capitalism, war and religion. This production just makes you feel uncomfortable. If you're sitting on the wrong side you will have to make do with either stretching your neck or imaging what's going on behind you.

Smirking out loud: The Diary of a Nobody @KingsHeadThtr

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The Diary of A Nobody returns to the Kings Head Theatre for a short run over the next few weeks. Rough Haired Pointer’s reimagining of the classic Victorian lower middle class tale was a hit a few years back. First at the White Bear Theatre and then at the Kings Head. But something seems amiss this time around. The comedy seems strained and the pacing a little slow. At best it elicits smirks out loud rather than belly laughs.I recalled it being it funnier and full of energy, allowing you to overlook some of the more curious interpretations of the source material. This includes the decision to have an all-male cast play a range of female roles.

Bad stuff happens: Insignificance @arcolatheatre

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Insignificance at the Arcola Theatre takes four famous people from the 1950s and puts them in a hotel room. Is it a nostalgia piece or is there a deeper meaning? Written by Terry Johnson, it’s having its first revival in over twenty years.
In the second act, the senator (meant to be Joeseph McCarthy) talks about how heroes, geniuses and stars serve as a convenient distraction. It’s also tempting to see parallels with the present day.
Thirty five years ago it was the Reagan era and the threat of nuclear war from a trigger-happy b-movie actor-president. In the intervening years there have been desert storms, coalitions of the willing (with or without poodles). In the future maybe there’ll be a battle between little rocket man and the oversized Oompa Loompa. Horrible stuff happens. And the heroes, geniuses and the celebrities exist just to make us feel there’s hope.

A broad range: Jinkx Monsoon Sings Everything @lsqtheatre

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Thanks to Ru Paul’s Drag Race being one of the shows available to stream for some time on Netflix, series five winner Jinkx Monsoon is a bit of a star over here. Now she’s here in London for a few days at the Leicester Square Theatre singing songs, improvising and doing stuff. For the few people that don’t have a Netflix subscription, Ru Paul’s Drag Race is a hilarious send up of the reality show format. But it’s also given rise to a new breed of drag super stars. They sing, they strut, they teach you how to throw shade. In this show, with her combination of improvised comedy and a relentless voice, Jinkx Monsoon gives you a night to remember.

Mother and son: The Busy World Is Hushed @Finborough

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Family and faith is at the forefront of The Busy World Is Hushed by Keith Bunin. The characters here have their faith tested, gained and lost over the course of the piece. It's having its European Premiere at the Finborough Theatre.There's Hanna (Kazia Pelka), a widowed minister and bible scholar. She's received a recently discovered gospel and engages the help of writer Brandt (Mateo Oxley), to help her turn her research into a publication.As they start work her only son Thomas (Michael James) returns home from a trip out in the wilderness. And Brandt and Thomas take an almost-instant liking to each other.But Brandt has just discovered his father has a brain tumour. And Thomas is still searching for reasons why his father died before he was born.

Lost and distant: All The Little Lights @arcolatheatre

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All the Little Lights by Jane Upton is a dark and moving story about girls who have slipped through the net. But the unsettling part of the piece is that they can come from all sorts of backgrounds and how easy it can happen to anyone. It's playing at the Arcola Theatre.

It opens with Lisa (Sarah Hoare) and Joanne (Tessie Orange-Turner). Once they were like sisters but something has happened and now they're distant.

Easy Extensions and free love: Hair #jointhetribe @thevaultsuk

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Last week marked the fiftieth anniversary of Hair. It's the original rock / concept musical about hippies, the anti-war movement and Western hypocrisy. And with this slick and seductive production, you would have to be a member of the alt-right to not want to join the tribe and get up and dance.

The cast, the music, the production and the performances make this not just a must see show, but one that deserves repeat viewings. You get a sense of the freshness and fun that must have amazed and shocked audiences fifty years ago.

The underground space of The Vaults at Waterloo have been transformed into an immersive enclave for the alternative. There's a strong ensemble cast with seductive vocals (and bodies). There's also a terrific sound from the band under the music direction of Gareth Bretherton.

The man in the rubber mask: The Toxic Avenger @toxicavengeruk

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An eighties rock ballad score and a terrific energetic cast make The Toxic Avenger a lot of fun. It’s back in London at the Arts Theatre.

With just a small cast of five performers, they change characters, change sex and mutate. All while singing an eighties inspired rock score. It’s amazing and exhausting to watch.The story is meant to be B-movie schlock. In Tromaville New Jersey, a nerd metamorphasises into a toxic superhero after being dumped into some New Jersey sludge by some jocks. He had discovered his local evil Mayor’s plans to use the town as a dumping ground for toxic waste from New York. Or something like that. And he falls in love with a girl. Who is blind. But the story is probably not as important as the people performing in it. Since they’re determined to show the audience a good time.

Chopping and ageing: Le Grand Mort @Trafstudios

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If you ever wondered what eating a light dinner might be like at Julian Clary’s place, Le Grand Mort at Trafalgar Studios gives you an idea.

It's a meticulous affair. Everything is stainless steel in Justin Nardella’s sterile kitchen set. As you would imagine a gay man might do to a Notting Hill flat. Food is already prepped and portioned into little bowls or packets. And any spillage is sprayed and wiped up. Based on Clary’s public persona you could assume it is him, even if his character's called Michael.

And  while the show and the food may not be to everyone’s taste, it's amusing and disturbing enough to keep you fascinated.

Copy that: Dolphins and Sharks @Finborough

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At the end of the piece one of the characters asks the rest of them “So we’re just going to sit back and accept this?” Before turning to the audience and asking the same question.
This is a key question in Dolphins and Sharks, a firey and sassy take on the world of work, dead end jobs, race and power. Written by James Anthony Tyler it’s having its European Premiere at the Finborough Theatre.

The story is set in rapidly gentrifying Harlem, where non-white people can’t get a break. But the argument about just going to sit back and accept this might ring true to many of the residents of Kensington and Chelsea, where the Finborough is based. Afterall this is the borough that has continued to convulse over the horror from the Grenfell Tower disaster in June. A disaster that feels like the culmination of negligence, a gulf between rich and poor and general disinterest.

Boys town: Eyes Closed, Ears Covered @BunkerTheatreUK

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In the year since opening, The Bunker at Southwark has established itself for new and experimental pieces. Alex Gwyther’s Eyes Closed, Ears Covered is no exception. It’s a dark and confusing world where laughs and kicking about is a cover for something more sinister. It opens with an incident on the beach in Brighton in the late eighties. A boy’s been attacked and the police arrest two boys and question them about the events of the day.The two boys questioned, Seb and Aaron, had planned the day for weeks. They’ve planned and saved enough money and are going to bunk off school. But something has gone horribly wrong.There’s Aaron (Danny-Boy Hatchard), the cocky yet short-fused one. He’s got the plan to make it happen. And it was Seb’s (Joe Iris-Roberts) idea of the wide-eyed to visit his mum in Brighton. They seem like ten year olds as they bounce off each other and run about the stage recounting their mate ship. But as they tell their stories separately neither seem to provide a cred…

The lady’s not for turning: Doubt A Parable @swkplay

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It feels as if Doubt, A Parable, has transformed the Southwark Playhouse into a church. There’s the smell of incense, the stained glass and way too many seats for the audience in attendance. But a sensational subject, the ambiguity of the story and terrific performances make this a must see.It’s a tense and brisk and ambiguous piece that will leave you debating exactly what you saw.

The award-winning play by John Patrick Shanley is set in a fictional Catholic school in the Bronx in 1964. Sister Aloysius (Stella Gonet) is the head of a grade school. She’s convinced that Father Flynn (Jonathan Chambers) has had an inappropriate relationship with a boy in her school.

Shortwave: Talk Radio @ORLTheatre

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Thirty years on from its first premiere, Talk Radio was a hint about what lies in store for the future of radio. And the future of journalism. It’s an early insight into the media world we now accept where you no longer have to be an expert, you just have to have an opinion. It’s currently playing at the Old Red Lion Theatre.

It’s a step back in time to the eighties with this piece. But in doing so its a chance to reflect on the self-loathing monster writer Eric Bogosian created.

The controversial, opinionated, provocateur achieving fame and fortune but hating himself in the process seems quaint in an era of various bile-producing columnists and radio hosts. Nowadays to be sacked for being too provocative is a badge of honour; Merely a stepping stone to a bigger book deal or show. So you can be forgiven for not understanding all the angst in this piece.

The wipers times: Windows @Finborough

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Windows is yet another rediscovery of a play that resonates with the issues of today. It’s set in the period after the First World War, but the issues it tackles seem familiar. Class, rehabilitation and liberal minded values are put to the test. Politicians are despised for their incompetence and the changing economy makes it hard to find help at the right price.Written by John Galsworthy, better known for The Forsyte Sage, it’s currently playing at the Finborough Theatre. And it’s having the first professional UK production in 85 years.
We’re introduced to the March family, who are living in Highgate. Geoffrey March (David Shelley) is a successful writer of novels. His son Johnny (Duncan Moore) is still suffering the effects of three years in the trenches. But they are in desperate need of a woman to help clear the table. Surely in Highgate they could not be expected to do that for themselves?

Mum’s the word: Loot @ParkTheatre

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In the fifty years since Joe Orton’s death, Loot has lost none of its bite. In fact, with the naughtier, dirtier bits restored, it presents a hypocritical and corrupt British society that feels like present day. It’s currently playing at Park Theatre.
The targets here are religion, the police, corruption and our perception of death. It’s intended to shock. It’s intended to be funny. But taking in all the banter and word play you realise Orton’s attacking the veneer of polite respectability that pervades Britain. Here rhetoric clashes with reality. But at least it’s damn funny.
It opens with Mr McLeavy (Ian Redford) grieving over the death of his wife and getting ready to go to her funeral. He’s lived a respectable life. He is with Nurse Fay (Sinéad Matthews) who looked after her in her final weeks. But as she talks and talks about piety and respectability all is not what it seems.
McLeavy’s son, Hal (Sam Frenchum), has strayed from the righteous path. Attracted to petty crime, prostitute…

Love and marriage: Mrs Orwell @ORLTheatre

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London in 1949 was a grim time with ration books and strange fish from South Africa. But it's amazing the lengths people will go to keep up morale. Or secure a future income. The business of marriage is explored in Mrs Orwell, currently playing at the Old Red Lion Theatre.

It opens shortly after the publication of Nineteen Eighty-Four. George Orwell is dying of tuberculosis in hospital. But in his rage against the dying light he believes he has at three more novels in him. So to keep up his morale he proposes to his friend Sonia Brownell, an assistant magazine editor.

Brownell is clear that she is not in love with him, but she does care for him. And she realises she could be his only hope to keep him going. Her heart is with a French Philospher and her body is often with Lucien Freud. Well, such is the glamorous life living with artists.

Grudge match: The Wasp @JSTheatre

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Just how long can you hold a grudge? Well it probably depends on what exactly went down at school. Morgan Lloyd Malcolm's The Wasp is back in the West End. It last appeared in 2015 at Hampstead Theatre and then transfered to Trafalgar Studios.
Two years on, it's at the Jermyn Street Theatre and just as chilling and just as spooky. Although perhaps having seen it all before, you see more of the mechanics behind the story that evolves over cups of tea. 
The story is about Carla and Heather. They were once schoolmates but drifted apart due to their different backgrounds. And one or two horrible incidents. Heather has become a successful businesswoman. She drinks lattes and has nice clothes. Carla is probably just about managing - pregnant and in a track suit - and prefers builders tea. The scene is set for what you think will be a class struggle and then Heather asks Carla if she would help her kill her husband.

Unfinished business: Continuity @Finborough @Continuityplay

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It's an odd feeling to laughing along with man about plant a bomb... But such is the world you're drawn into with Gerry Moynihan's Continuity, currently at the Finborough Theatre.

What's chilling about this this monologue is how it hooks you in to the story . Here the cause is taken as a given. Unquestioned, unflinching and ongoing... The Good Friday Agreement is the thin veneer of peace that conceals what's really happening on the ground. The ongoing rough justice, score settling and resistance that is largely unreported.

The story involves Padraig (Paul Kennedy), a member of the Continuity IRA. He is dedicated to the cause. But after meeting a girl from Barcelona, he soon finds his colleagues questioning him  about his commitment. And he begins to wonder about it himself.

Jam: Just To Get Married @Finborough

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What's exciting about watching Cicely Hamilton's Just To Get Married is how it captures the spirit of a changing world. The piece is having its first London production in over 100 years at the Finborough Theatre.

It's lost none of its bite with its central argument that women are forced into marriage for their own survival. It's the only way they are judged as a success and they don't get the same opportunities as men.

It also captures life in Edwardian England where there was a fine line between living comfortably and just about managing. Here there is no safety net. No pensions. And if you're a woman, no right to vote either. Today, while some of the attitudes and priorities may have changed, some of the values may still seem familiar...

Remote arguments: The Marriage of Kim K @arcolatheatre @marriageofkimk

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The Arcola Theatre's annual Grimeborn Opera Festival opened this year with Leoe & Hyde's The Marriage of Kim K. It contrasts the life of Kim Kardashian and her brief marriage to basketballer Kris Humphries with the different backgrounds of the count and countess in Mozart's opera.

But this piece really boils down to who has the remote control in the living room. There is a third couple in the proceedings - Amelia and Stephen. She is a law student and likes to watch trashy television and he is a composer who wants to watch something more challenging.

You would think they would get a tablet and headphones and stream like everyone else. But this story was added after composer and director Stephen Hyde fell for his leading lady Amelia Gabriel. So a show about a reality show becomes its own reality show. It's so meta it is enough to do your head in.

Feeling bleat: Sheep @whitebeartheatr

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Sleep deprivation, angst and strange goings on in London are things we all can relate to. But Sheep, a dystopian take on London doesn't disturb or amuse in the end. It's more a tease. It's currently playing at the White Bear Theatre in Kennington.

The problem is that the central character Dexy hasn't slept for 21 nights. Played by Ciaran Lonsdale he looks too calm, clean and controlled to be believable in this dreamlike scenario. There's no bloodshot eyes, erratic behaviour or general wandering about looking like shit. Even for a comedy getting the mood right is important.

It opens with him complaining about the duck down pillow and brooding over his missing girlfriend. Soon he is visited by some strange men in his life. There is the overly camp Leo and the dull bus driver Vic. Then there is the mysterious lady Margot who likes to go out dancing.

Murder on the dance floor: Disco Pigs @TrafStudios

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Twenty years on, Enda Walsh's Disco Pigs still manages to shock and fascinate with its evocative and provocative world of deprivation. It's currently playing at Trafalgar Studios.

But with its endless slang and two unpleasant characters, it's often an an impenetrable world. Even with two masterful performances and slick production values, this is still a journey through hell.

The piece is about Pig and Runt. Born on the same day and at the same time in the same hospital, they've been inseparable all their lives. They have their own language, own rules, and exist in a world of petty crime, violence, drinking and dancing...

But as they approach adulthood, Pig's feelings for Runt grow. Runt struggles to break away from Pig's advances and the world in which they have built over their lives.

The best of all possible worlds: Candide in Concert with @LMTOrch @CadoganHall

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It is possible to see the best of all possible worlds after experiencing the passion and sublime music making from London Musical Theatre Orchestra's concert version of Candide.

Playing for one night only at Cadogan Hall, you left the theatre sharing the joy and passion the musicians felt for Bernstein's work.

Based on a story by Voltaire, it's about a young man determined to cling to optimism despite the frequent tragedies he encounters. Along the way he's expelled from home, dragged into the Bulgarian army, brought before the Spanish Inquisition... But the plot is not so important...

As a concert version, Bernstein's operetta lets you overlook the sillier parts of the story and focus on the music and performances.

Eat it up: Mumburger @ORLTheatre

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If barbecues and eating bring people together, Mumburger takes it to a new level in dealing with death and loss. Currently playing at the Old Red Lion Theatre  Sarah Kosar's take on death, family and meat is funny and thought-provoking. And a little off-putting if you're squeamish.
Mum's dead. She got hit by a truck on the M25. The two people she left behind - a father and daughter are grieving. There are the usual funeral plans and picking up relatives from the airport. But there is also the arrival of a brown package of meat patties to deal with.
Did their mum arrange for them to be delivered on her death, knowing full well that unlike her they were only part-time vegetarians? Or are they symbolic of something more?

Silly monkey: King Kong (A comedy) @thevaultsuk

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King Kong (A Comedy)is currently at the Vaults at Waterloo. A show that needs to tell you it's a comedy (albeit in parenthesis) might give you reason to hesitate. If it's funny why does it need to tell you that it will be? But fortunately it is like a sketch show put together to tell the story of the beast that almost conquered New York. 
King Kong is such a silly story that giving it a comic treatment actually doesn't change much of it. Struggling producer needs a leading lady for his next animal picture. No self-respecting actress would work with him and so he finds a lady off the street. Only this time she can speed read ancient texts and maps. There is enough silliness to appeal to children and enough adult themes to keep the rest of us tittering away.
A cast of serious (and not so serious) actors; Ben Chamberlain, Rob Crouch, Sam Donnelly, Aix Dunmore and Brendan Murphy play a range of characters that featured in the film.

Carpe diem: Mr Gillie @Finborough

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Poor Mr Gillie. A headmaster at a small village  school railing against the norms and expectations of the time. It's like a poor mans Dead Poets Society... Without the privileged young men, the cliches or the sentimentality. It's funny too which makes this piece enjoyable even if it is a little long. Here life is the pits, and Mr Gillie was the only hope for anyone who didn't care for that.

It's playing at the Finborough Theatre and is the first London production in over 60 years of James Bridie's work.

It opens with the a judge and barrister discussing the life of Mr Gillie. Mr Gillie and his wife had been evicted from their schoolmaster's house after the closing down of the school. The furniture van was coming to clear out his things but had run over and killed him. Now the  judge and barrister would have to decide whether his life had any point.

Music and monarchists: Blondel @TheUnionTheatre

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The legend of Richard the Lionhart's dubious rescue from captivity by his minstrel Blondel is the subject of this rock musical by Tim Rice and Stephen Oliver at the Union Theatre. With its youthful cast it's well sung and funny in a pantomime sort of way.

It's a pity that our hero Blondel (Connor Arnold) comes across less as a rock star and more of a folk singer in this version. It could do with a throbbing beat and a few guitar riffs to keep the action moving. But you'll find a few wry observations about austerity which will seem as relevant as when the show first premiered in 1983.

Gender whatevers: Rotterdam @artstheatreLDN @RotterdamPlay

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The years have been kind to Jon Brittain's Rotterdam. Since its first outing in 2015 the awareness about transgender issues has grown. Whether it is from Caitlyn Jenner or gender-neutral toilets at the Barbican, it's topical and thought-provoking.

And following its win at the 2017 Oliver Awards and a run off-Broadway, Rotterdam is back in London. After catching it again it's great to report that it still feels as funny and bitter-sweet as ever. And don't call it a lesbian-transgender-whatever comedy. That would be too binary to give it a label. It's just complicated and that's probably what gives the show its brilliance.

Cheers Mum, Cheers Dad: Punts @theatre503

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Watching Punts, which is currently playing at Theatre 503, reminded me of that joke about the boy who asked his parents if he could have a watch for Christmas. And so they let him. Here a young man's sexual awakening is organised by his parents. It all seems very modern.
Sarah Page's comedy about the sexual awakening of a young man has a twist. His parents pay for a prostitute to help him as he has learning difficulties. But the piece moves quickly from being a bit  awkward (or a bit gross), to being a very funny and sophisticated story. It's also made believable by the convincing performances.

The girl with the animal tattoo: Vixen @thevaultsuk

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There's something about the girl with vixen tattoo in Vixen. If you're standing in the bar at the Vaults at the beginning she is likely to push you out of the way singing and asking for spare change.

It's a confronting introduction to this part promenade performance of Silent Opera's Vixen. It re-imagines Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen to the streets of London. Here Vixen is homeless, taken in by a different kind of predator only to escape.

Rosie Lomas in the role of the Vixen holds your attention with her performance of a determined and resourceful woman of the street.

Along the way she escapes a foster carer, kicks out another homeless man from his shelter and falls in love.

Life goes on: Footprints On The Moon @Finborough

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There's no place like home. Except when everyone around you wants to leave you and someone has scrawled your phone number on a wall of a dodgy bar. These are all important revelations in Footprints On The Moon.

Canadian playwright Maureen Hunter's story of life in a small town is having its European premiere at the Finborough Theatre.  With its well-defined characters it's a fascinating insight into small-town Canadian life.


It opens with Joanie (Anne Adams) sweating in a dress waiting at the station for her daughter to arrive back home. But even after writing a prize-winning essay about how fabulous life is in her small town things aren't quite what they seem.

What becomes clear is that Joanie doesn't want anything to change and as her daughter grows up and wants to leave her world starts to fall apart. I

Sharing the abstract set with Jam (with is running alongside this production) makes the audience have to work hard to believe that we're in a remote provinc…

Secret marriages and other rivalries: Il Matrimonio Segreto @popupoperauk

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Cimarosa’s Il Matrimonio Segreto (The Secret Marriage) continues Pop-up Opera's tradition of semi-staging rarely seen works in unusual locations. It's playing at various sites across the country until 30 July.

This rarely-seen work is perfect for their style. It's a little bit silly. It has some great arias. And it showcases some fabulous voices from its young and energetic cast. Of course being Pop-up Opera, they add some 21st century flourishes to this  18th century opera. There are endless references to politics and on-point trends.

Batter up: Jam @Finborough

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No doubt there are days when teachers just wish they had a baseball bat to put a little bit of distance between themselves and their students.

In Jam by Matt Parvin, teacher Bella Soroush is lucky enough to do just that. It's currently playing at the Finborough Theatre.

The premise in this two-hander is that ex-pupil Kane ruined Bella Soroush's life. Something happened and so she moved schools, moved towns and got on with her life. But now Kane has tracked her down and claims they have unfinished business.

Flipping memories: Catch Me @FlipFabriQue @UnderbellyFest

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It's the start of summer. The weather's hot and the Underbelly Festival at the South Bank Centre is opening with its usual eclectic mix of circus acts, comedy and cabaret. And Flip FabriQue's Catch Me fits this bill well.

There is beauty and fluidity in the performances. The premise is that ten years later a bunch of friends reunite for another weekend at a cottage together. They play. They have fun. And they do strange and unusual things with straps, trampolines and diablos.

The not-so merry widow: Ballroom @Waterlooeast

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There's a terrific band and a real nice crowd... So one of the opening songs goes. Not all the magic is here in this lost musical of loneliness and rediscovering life. But as a vehicle for a star performance by Jessica Martin, it's great.

Martin plays lonely widow Bea who runs off to a ballroom and finds herself living life again. She's vulnerable, she's stunning and she has a great singing voice. It's currently playing at Waterloo East Theatre.

Talks preview: Preservation during conflict @WorldMonuments

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As part of a series of talks about heritage in conflict zones, on Tuesday 16 May at the Royal Geographic Society World Monuments Fund Britain presents Zaki Aslan, Director of ICCROM-ATHAR - an international body that works to conserve cultural heritage in the Middle East. Zaki Aslan will provide significant insight into the state of heritage in the region and discuss how the world’s nations could help more with conservation. The evening will be introduced by Tracey Crouch, Minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage at DCMS.

This event follows the 2015 inaugural talk World Monument Fund talk in which Professor Maamoun Abdulkarim, the Director-General of Syrian Antiquities, visited the UK for the first time. With the recent news that Palmyra in Syria has just been freed from ISIS for a second time, Maamoun Abdulkarim will join the lecture by video to give us the very latest position on his country’s besieged cultural heritage.

Conflict continues to dominate the Middle East and we regular…

Beautiful at the ballet: No Place For A Woman @Theatre503

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No Place For a Woman combines music, movemement and storytelling to present a haunting tale on human emotions and the desire to survive. And that despite it all, everything really is beautiful at the ballet. It's currently at Theatre 503.

Written by Cordelia O'Neil, this two-hander brings out the fine detail of two women's lives that are intertwined during conflict. It is set in Poland at the end of the Second World War, but there is something universal about the themes that make you feel as if it could be any time or place during conflict.

The premise is that as allied forces are interviewing the two women a story emerges. The wife of a prison camp commandant was throwing a party and she asks her husband to get champagne. But instead he brings home a ballet dancer from the camp. And they keep her.

Swinging and projecting: Soho @PeacockTheatre #sohotheshow

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A journey through London's soho with its street workers, artists, drag queens and everyday people is the theme of Soho. It is a  physical movement spectacular at the Peacock Theatre for a brief run.

Acrobats, dance and projections combine with a throbbing soundtrack to make for a breathtaking evening.

At times there is so much going on that it's hard to know where to look. But it's a slick piece of circus artisty and projections

The bizarre and the demented: Out There On Fried Meat Ridge Road @Trafstudios

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Out There On Fried Meat Ridge Road is a great title for a play. And it's a laugh out loud hour or so of bizarre antics. After a run in January at the White Bear Theatre it's at Trafalgar Studios. They've transformed the space into a dump of a motel and it's a fabulous experience. There are stains on the walls, mismatched furniture and endless country music.

It's difficult to describe the plot without giving away some of the surprises. It opens with JD (Keith Stevenson). He's a friendly kind of hillbilly living in this grimy place. Mitch (Robert Moloney) arrives answering an ad JD's placed in the paper looking for a roommate. Mitch has lost his job, his girlfriend and his apartment and so is desperate. But he's surprised to find JD living in motel. And then arrive the neighbours. There's the cranky old Flip (Michael Wade), the owner of the motel. Then there's meth-head Marlene (Melanie Gray) and her hot-headed boyfriend Tommy (Alex Ferns).

Will…