Posts

Showing posts from February, 2018

DIY whodunit: Murder, She Didn’t Write @lsqtheatre @degreesoferror

Image
Improvised comedy can be hit or miss, but Degrees of Error might be onto something with this do-it-yourself whodunnit. It’s currently at the Leicester Square Theatre on the last Sundays in February, March and April. It could be described as what Agatha Christie might have written if she hit the sherry a bit too much. Audience suggestions set the scene for the murder and the murder weapon. One person in the audience gets to choose both the murderer and the victim by picking their name from a deck of cards. The Leicester Square Theatre with its range of bars inside the theatre sets the scene to loosen up the audience with ideas. It seems to work. Much is up for grabs, in this unscripted murder mystery. Not only is the victim unknown until part way through the show to the cast, but so is the murderer. The end result of this in February was it was at a hen night when the future Bride was murdered by her friend. The murder weapon was a wet tea towel. It’s fascinating and hilarious to watch …

Mad as hell and serving Cava: Derailed @Ovalhouse

Image
Sometimes the best laid plans go awry. But when life gives you lemons make lemonade. Or in the case of Derailed at Oval House, make gazpacho. And serve Cava. The premise is that in the post-Brexit UK, they are heading back to Spain. But rather than leave downtrodden and defeated, they’re going to stage the mother of all leaving parties. The music blares, the party poppers fly and the party begins.The piece opens with a series of photos from Patricia and Mercè‘s 12 years living in the UK. With the grey skies and dismal towns you start thinking Brexit wasn’t the only reason for their decision to leave.And with a series of improvised scenarios you’ll find yourself live tweeting a petition, having a long hug with a complete stranger. Or wearing an unconvincing wig holding a banner protesting something. Along they way they chart some of their life in London and in Spain.  The premise of Patricia Rodríguez and Mercè Ribot‘s work is to use physical theatre and improvision to create something …

Carmen follies: Carmen 1808 @TheUnionTheatre

Image
Carmen died twice for me last week. The first time at the Royal Opera. Barrie Kosky’s black, minimalistic yet infuriating production of Carmen has large chunks of plot read to you in French. The effect stops the action dead and bores the audience to death. Then there was this Union Theatre production. Here in Carmen 1808, Carmen’s working for the resistance and standing up to the French during the atrocities of the Peninsular War. But it’s a passionless 90 minutes of political posturing. The inspiration has been taken from the Goya’s Los fusilamientos del tres de mayo. There’s probably a great story about Goya and his transition to his black period. But it would have been nice to leave Carmen out of all that.  Bizet’s Carmen is sensual and sexy. Sexual politics not hard politics is what’s at stake. Here it’s given a flat musical treatment that feels part Les Miserables and part Allo Allo. Gypsies join the partisans to support the king, the ladies work in a cigarette factory (despite no…

Love and Marriage: Mad As Hell @JSTheatre

Image
The life of Peter Finch is forever intertwined with his final film role in Network. Being ”mad as hell” is the topic of this play, Mad as Hell currently showing at the Jermyn Street Theatre. In Network, Finch plays Howard Beale. He transforms from a mild mannered news anchor at a struggling television network to a modern day prophet. Tired of reporting the bullshit of the world he urgess his viewers to get “mad as hell”. The story has enough relevance today to warrant a exciting reimagining at the National Theatre.Here writers Adrian Hope and Cassie McFarlane, imagine the character Finch plays has many parallels with his own life. A hard living angry man tired of the bullshit that goes with being a celebrity. He finds solace with a woman who helps him escape and live a normal life. It’s also a sensitive tale about a mixed race marriage in a time of tremendous change.  McFarlane took inspiration from her mother’s retelling of the story. This includes the Jamaican reaction to Finch’s rel…

Sweet smells: Cyril’s Success @Finborough

Image
The Finborough Theatre, celebrating its 150th year in 2018, is presenting a series of plays also first produced in 1868. This time around it’s Cyril’s Success by H.J. Byron. It’s a funny semi-autobiographical take on marriage and life at the theatre from a resident playwright. Well, resident in nearby Brompton Cemetery. Byron may be largely forgotten today, but he was big in the mid-Victorian era. Here the fun in this piece comes from making much out of a simple premise of mistaken identity and the vagaries of marriage. Cyril (Tim Gibson) is at the peak of his fame and power as a playwright, novelist and newspaper writer, when his wife (Isabella Marshall) leaves him. She read a letter sent to one of Cyril’s friends thinking it was for her husband. It all ends well of course. But not before Cyril has a string of flops, falls ill and briefly ends up living a life of bohemian squalor.  Stirring up the insanity are two supporting characters. Susan Tracy as the husband-hating Miss Grannet i…

Once more without feeling: Again @Trafstudios

Image
The nuclear family seems to be a little unstable in Again. Presented by Mongrel Thumb, Stephanie Jacob’s intriguing new play explores the underbelly and soft belly of family relationships. Just as you think everyone’s coming together they explode into rage. Or crack a bad joke. And then they do it all over again. But with less rage, more rage or acceptance. It’s currently running at Trafalgar Studios.Presented as a family reunion after a period of estrangement, nothing is what it seems to be. Scenes start and then restart as multiple perspectives play out. Is it the mother’s wish, the son’s wish, the father or the daughter? In the end you can’t be sure any of it happened. But slowly it pieces together a story of fractured family determined to get things right. Or get their own way.  Tom (Chris Larkin) has deserted his wife Louise (Natasha Little) for a younger woman. Their son (Charles Reston) spends most of his life in the library and studies poetry. Their daughter (Rosie Day) is a fr…

Bleak house: The Moor @ORLTheatre

Image
The scene is set for a moody mystery when you enter the Old Red Lion Theatre to see The Moor. It’s almost as if you can feel the peat bog as you take your seat. A girl is bent over a chair as you enter the theatre. Is she crying? Has there been a crime?Bronagh (Jill McAusland) and her boyfriend Graeme (Oliver Britten) go out for a party across the moor. The next day they discover a man they met that night is missing. From the outset you understand that Bronagh is terrified of her possessive and abusive partner. But she is also grieving over the recent death of her mother, and suffering post-natal depression.  Did a man disappear and did her boyfriend have anything to do with it? McAusland is engaging as the trapped and confused Bronagh. Amongst all her dreams and mad stories about elves, is something sinister really at play?As her account of events becomes confused and contradictory, you’re not sure if she saw or took part in a potential crime. Unfortunately attempts to get to the bott…

The happening: Ken @BunkerTheatreUK #Ken

Image
How do you make a play out of the life of theatre maverick Ken Campbell? Turn it into Ken, which is more like a happening than a straight play. A writer comes on stage as if to give a lecture and then things get weird.Terry Johnson has crafted a fitting tribute with his mostly true stories about his life. The focus is on Terry’s encounters with Campbell. But over the course of the piece you get a sense of the man and his contribution to British Theatre. It’s currently playing at The Bunker following a previous run at the Hampstead Theatre.The Bunker is a quirky and intriguing space at the best of times with its different seating options. Old seats from the Chocolate Factory and comfy lounge chairs and tables. Thanks to designer Tim Shortall, for Ken it’s been overrun with a fabulous orange shag pile, throws, divans and cane lounges. Get in early if you want the best seats, but be aware that Ken might kick you off them for a bit if the drama requires it. With incense burning and a range…