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Showing posts from February, 2020

Little grey pills: Be More Chill @theotherpalace

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What do you do when you're a gawky young teenager trying to fit in? If you get the chance to take a particular pill from a shoe salesman that will make you more popular, why wouldn't you? And so begins an science fiction take on the high school story about trying to fit in. Where it's hard to be yourself when the voices inside your head are telling you how to fit in.  And these voices  have an uncanny resemblance to Keanu Reeves from The Matrix. With an enthusiastic cast, infectious music and a quirky take on the high school musical genre, it's fun even if you're not a devotee of the book or the social media phenomena. It’s currently playing at The Other Palace.

Be More Chill is based on a book by Ned Vizzini, which drew on his experiences at high school. Vizzini struggled with anxiety and depression throughout his life, and it led to his death by suicide in 2013.

The story translates remarkably well to stage capturing in song the doubts and struggles of the chara…

Dog gone: The Dog Walker @JSTheatre

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In a city of strangers, two struggling eccentrics come together in Paul Minx’s The Dog Walker. The only trouble is that they’re not particularly likeable and it’s a pretty unconvincing story. Nevertheless, the two performers throw everything at it. And with terrifically trashy production design, it makes this piece interesting, if ultimately unsatisfying. It’s currently playing at the Jermyn Street Theatre.

A tragicomedy of sorts, Keri (Victoria Yeates) doesn’t go out and awaits the arrival of a ghost. Her tiny New York flat is strewn with liquor bottles and dead plants. She shouts tirades at anyone from her window and seems to eke out a living by writing e-books. Her mother delivers casseroles, so she isn’t starving. But apart from that, she’s entirely alone. Except for her dog - an old Pekingese - that she hires a dog walker to take out from time to time. And so enters Herbert Doakes (Andrew Dennis), a devout Jamaican immigrant with an ethical streak who is holding down a few jobs …

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…