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Showing posts from March, 2019

Perma-austerity: Killymuck and Box Clever @bunkertheatreuk

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The Bunker is currently presenting a double bill of what life is like for women in Britain with less opportunity. The two monologues chart growing up in different eras of inequality. But both are gripping as they mix anger, evocative storytelling and humour in equal measure. They're terrific pieces of writing with strong performances.

First up is Killymuck, written by Kat Woods. Niamh (Aoife Lennon) is living on a housing estate that was the site of a paupers graveyard in 1970s Northern Ireland. Locals think the estate is cursed. But there are plenty of real-life causes to her problems. Her mum is surviving on benefits. Her dad suffers from alcoholism. Teachers at school are only too keen to discriminate, even if she is clever. And violence is never far away.

There's salvation with the occasional babysitting job. Particularly with the neighbour when she's out turning tricks as she pays better than anyone.


Lennon conveys the passion, anger and humour of Wood's text. It&…

Little miss cellophane: Random Selfies

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Trying to fit in a tech-enabled world full of hashtags, make-overs and fear of missing out, is at the heart of Random Selfies. No matter how many followers you have on social media still can’t replace having friends to hang out with. Rather than being someone nobody sees. It’s a short but sweet tale that’s returned to Ovalhouse Theatre.

We’re introduced to Loretta (Christina Ngoyi) in her bedroom. But she prefers to go with the name Lola, not some granny’s name she was named after. There are text messages pinging her and her Instagram feed is buzzing. She never misses a chance to post a selfie. But living alone with her mother she’s actually very lonely. Her older sister’s moved out and nobody at schools seems to know she’s there. And so retreats to a world of drawing and social media trends. Dreaming of life as a vlogger.


That all changes when a new girl Maya arrives at school. She doesn’t quite fit in. And after a teacher asks Lola to show her around they become friends. Lola start…

Streaming Queens: The Crown Dual @KingsHeadthtr

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Even if you haven’t watched The Crown on Netflix, there’s much to be amused about in The Crown Dual. A meta-spoof on the public’s endless fascination for dramatisations about the lives of the royal family. And all things royal for that matter. It’s currently playing at the Kings Head Theatre.

The premise is that Beth Buckingham (Rosie Holt) and her dubious agent and patio specialist Stanley (Brendan Murphy) are going to recreate Beth’s showreel audition for The Crown. And prove that she would have been far more talented than that Claire Foy in the role.


And so beings a rather silly and at times hilarious recreation of the best and most preposterous bits of the first series of The Crown. With Holt or Murphy playing a range of cast members, sending up both the characters and their fictional television characterisations. Both have great comic timing and make a  somewhat regal pair.

The lives of the Royal Family often seem like the subject matter for a farce. Here it’s an entertaining jo…

Making it grate: Strike Up The Band @GatehouseLondon

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For many people, Gershwin songs conjure up sultry jazz singers in smokey basements singing in hushed deep tones about “the man I love”. So it might come as a surprise it’s sung by a soprano in a musical about a cheese war between the United States and Switzerland. But that’s not the only thing that jars in Strike Up The Band, currently playing at Upstairs At The Gatehouse.

The show is full of classic Gershwin songs such as The Man I Love and I’ve Got A Crush On You. Set to a bizarre book that’s intended to satirise the military industrial complex of the United States. But a plot featuring tariff wars, trade wars and real wars seem uncomfortably relevant today. After all we're in the era of slowbalisation, where nationalistic rhetoric and economic self-harm is the order of the day. To emphasise this point, there are some nice touches throughout the show, such as the “Make America Grate” caps enlisted to buy American cheese. So, on one hand, this revival is a stroke of genius.

On t…

Citizens of nowhere: A Lesson From Aloes @Finborough

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Relationships and friendships can be fragile. Like democracy and freedom. In a world falling apart to paranoia and suspicion, the only thing that grows in this barren land are little pots of aloe. In A Lesson From Aloes at the Finborough, it's 1960s South Africa. In a dreary Port Elizabeth suburb, Piet (David Minnaar) and Gladys (Janine Ulfane) are waiting for Steve and his family to visit. But the guests are late and for good reason.

There’s suspicion that Piet turned informer which saw Steve imprisoned and interrogated. Shunned by their old friends, and under observation by the police, their world has collapsed. All that is left for Piet are his precious little plants of Aloe growing in their pots. And for Gladys what is lost is more than political discussion.

By the time Steve (David Rubin) shows up there's a power keg ready to blow up. He's leaving South Africa after being granted an exit permit. A one-way ticket out of the country which strips him and his family of S…

Washing the red pills down with the kool aid: Angry Alan @sohotheatre

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There's a warning at the start of Angry Alan.  It's to alert you that some of the videos used in the production are available on Youtube. The ever-reliable platform for pop culture references, unsubstantiated conspiracy theories and hate speech. All three come together here to show how effective social media is at radicalising and over-amplifying the darkest corners of the internet. It's currently playing at the Soho Theatre.

We meet Roger (Donald Sage Mackay). He was a high powered executive once. But now he's working at part time at a supermarket,  bothered by his ex wife.  and his girlfriend is studying feminism at community college. But one day while wasting time on the internet with click bait he finds a video that points out how awesome men are. Published by a man by the name of Angry Alan.  Soon he's going down the rabbit hole of the Men Going Their Own Way movement (or MGTOW). A movement which argues marriage fails in the cost benefit analysis.


Next he'…

Girl jobs: A Hundred Words For Snow @trafstudios

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There may be A Hundred Words for Snow but no words for grief and loss. Written by Tatty Hennessy, it's a funny and emotional monologue told with panache, humour and enthusiasm by Gemma Barnett. It’s currently playing at Trafalgar Studios.

When Rory’s (Gemma Barnett) dad unexpectedly dies, she discovers his diary with plans for a trip to the Arctic. So she makes a plan to get her father's ashes to the North Pole. After all, spending an eternity in an urn is not going to be much fun. So borrowing her mother's credit card she takes a flight to Norway. But things aren't what she expects. Along the way she meets a boy and finds a friend. But she also discovers how big the world can be when you're fifteen years old.

The show creates a vivid portrait of a teenage girl growing up fast. But she also captures the changing landscape of the world and a woman's place in it. There are facts about famous male explorers and geography. And how global warming is changing the wo…

A little more mascara: Lipstick, a fairy tale of Iran @Omnibus_Theatre

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A nightclub. A cultural exchange to Iran. Rose flavoured marzipan. A drag nightclub. An unlikely series of elements come together to tell a polished and compelling tale of oppression and freedom in Lipstick: A fairy tale of Iran. Written and directed by Sarah Chew, it’s currently playing at the Omnibus Theatre in Clapham.

On a simple stage we’re introduced to Orla (Siobhan O’Kelly) and her best friend Mark (Nathan Kiley). They’re about to open a drag club night in Soho. But Orla’s just returned from a theatre residency in Iran as part of some government sponsored initiative.  And by chance she’s seen a failed revolution.

A daring drag cabaret stage show in soho pales in comparison to the everyday acts of defiance she sees in Tehran.  Life in Iran seems so much more complicated than how its depicted in western media. Meanwhile life in London is not without its drawbacks either.

The show uses lip syncing, drag cabaret, and fragmented memories to paint a picture of oppression and freedo…

For the boys: The Pirates of Penzance @WiltonMusicHall

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It’s still a man’s world in Cornwall. Or so it is in Sasha Reagan’s all-male version of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance. Ten years on from it’s first presentation, the show is still full of humour, energy and resourcefullness. And staged among the period features of Wilton’s Music Hall, it's a perfect match.
Over the years I’ve missed all the all-male cast versions staged by the Union Theatre. There’s been Iolanthe, The Mikado and HMS Pinafore. Which is too bad. What they lack in feminine presence they make up with in comic timing, energy and vigour. The show never misses a chance to bring out the humour in the situation, while still remaining largely faithful to the original material.

It’s a resourceful production too. Simple props like a broom turn into a horse. Which is then fed a carrot. In a most amusing way.A ladder and some fabric become a pirate ship on the high seas (or at least on English Chanel). And no doubt the all-male cast doubling as both the pirates a…