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My night with mum and me sisters: Straight and Narrow @abovethestag

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Update: since posting, Above the Stag has announced its permanent closure Above the Stag Theatre is going all retro with a revival of Jimmie Chinn's Straight and Narrow. Before the show begins, clips from television programmes and commercials are playing from the period to get you in the mood. In case you need to know (or be reminded) about what living in the eighties was like. And while time may not have been too kind to this piece with its views on women and foreigners, this production manages to create a vivid portrait of family dynamics in Manchester. Set in the 1980s in Manchester, Bob (Lewis Allcock) and Jeff (Todd Von Joel) are long-term boyfriends who also have a successful business installing kitchens. But spending years together doing the same thing every day, they seem stuck in a rut. A trip to Malta is an opportunity to do something differently. But the trip didn't go as either of them was expecting. Things get a bit explosive and emotional on the return. And Bob

Insane in the membrane: Yeast Nation, The Triumph of Life @swkplay

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A musical about yeast conjures up all sorts of things about what it could be. Is it about a nation's obsession with home baking during a lockdown? Or is it the latest infection outbreak? No, it's neither of these. Instead, it is a rock musical about the unicellular organisms living in the primordial soup. Purporting to be the oldest story of all time (as it’s probably hard to go back further than single-cell organisms), It's part rock musical, part history lesson, part Greek chorus and part bonkers. And it's currently playing at the Southwark Playhouse . Narrated by Jan, the unnamed, it tells the tale of a series of salt-eating yeasts (all called Jan) at the bottom of the primordial soup/sea. They are in stasis, following careful strictures, so they don't reproduce or change. They sing a catchy tune called stasis is the membrane and live a balanced life with the soup around them.  But not all yeasts are satisfied with stasis. And when some yeasts rise to the top to

Les seins et les culs: Jean Paul Gaultier Fashion Freak Show @RoundhouseLDN

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Is it a fashion show? Is it a cabaret? Is it a celebration of Jean Paul Gaultier’s work? Does it matter? Well, it’s a little bit of all of the above. Music, fashion, video projections, and dance collide in this slick and sexy profile of the world of Jean Paul Gaultier over the past five decades. With over 400 costumes, acrobats, singers, dancers, projections and a throbbing soundtrack, it’s a world where beauty is everywhere. And excess, raunchiness and a little bit of breast and buttock are de rigueur.  It even smelled like him. His fragrances wafted throughout the Roundhouse on the gala press night earlier this week, with the various reviewers, influencers and fashionistas grabbing the free samples in the toilets and spritzing them about so that you were living and breathing Jean Paul Gaultier.  First presented at the Folies Bergère in Paris in 2019, it has made it to London with a few updates, such as a catwalk. Lights, music and digital projections overwhelm the senses that sometim

Crime and pedagogy: The Lesson @Swkplay

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There's a moment in the Lesson when the Professor is giving his eager pupil tutoring in mathematics. She has excelled with additions to this point and can multiply infinitely. But the whole concept of subtraction baffles her. The Professor's disappointment is palpable, and his anger grows every time she says seven when trying to subtract three from four. Thus begins a descent into absurdity and madness in this briskly paced piece that appears to be about nothing and everything. It’s currently playing at the Southwark Playhouse . The Lesson is an early play by playwright Eugene Ionesco and is an excellent introduction to the theatre of the absurd. The premise is that a relatively mild-mannered professor provides an enthusiastic young lady tutoring so she can get her doctorates in everything. Well, if knowledge is power, why not learn everything? It made perfect sense to me. She is bursting with excitement to learn at first. But each time she struggles to comprehend and get it ri

Busted flush: The Throne @CharingCrossThr

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There appears to be a fascination with the bathroom habits of the Royal Family. In Melbourne, Australia, you can visit the royal bathroom at the Arts Centre in Victoria that the Princess of Wales refused to use . Or there is the toilet at the V&A in South Kensington built for Queen Victoria. Perhaps it is the great leveller. After all, everyone has to do it… And with that in mind, we are presented with The Throne by John Goldsmith, currently playing at Charing Cross Theatre .  The premise is that the Queen is locked in a bathroom with a republican. Two hours watching the Queen in a lavatory might not be everyone’s idea of a night out at the theatre. But it sounds like it could be funny. But this is a gentle comedy that has the purpose to put a republican and the monarch on a debate over British history.  The prominence of the bathroom is slightly jarring when you enter the Charing Cross Theatre, and audiences should be prepared to be looking at a urinal for the whole evening. Fort

For the birds: Of No Particular Order @theatre503

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Joel Tan's play, Of No Particular Order , currently playing at Theatre 503, is an unusual piece of theatre. For 90 minutes and a series of scenes over 300 years, it attempts to piece together the order (or disorder) of an unmentioned society. Individual scenes do not add too much. But together, they explore the many facets of what losing freedom, or not having it in the first place, means for everyday people.  It isn't good news for the people. Pointless orders from stupid leaders showing power have deadly consequences.  Tan's approach may not be for all tastes. The audience must do the work to put it together and make sense of it. However, it is a rewarding effort to make sense of what can sometimes seem like a series of random events and interactions.  A cast of four - Daniel York Loh, Pandora Colin, Jules Chan and Pía Laborde-Noguez - resourcefully play the various characters that exist over the 300-year timeframe. Characters come together either to help or to screw each

Sing from the heart: Liza Pulman - The Heart of It @riversidelondon

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Liza Pulman is on this week at the Riverside Studios . It’s in keeping with the series of shows that we should have seen two years ago or things that we should have been doing two years ago (if it weren’t for that pesky global pandemic). Her show is called The Heart of It , and there’s a lot of heart in it. Watching Pulman sing a series of classic and perhaps overlooked songs of the past feels like we’re all picking up where we left off. The songs she sings are part of a timeless series of classic standards by the likes of Irving Berlin and Fats Waller. Songs about love, loss and revelation all fit into the category of easy listening, and with her sublime vocals, they are easy on the ear. And they may not be songs for the young, but they are songs for the young at heart. Liza Pulman comes from a show business family. Her father was screenwriter Jack Pulman, and her mother was an actress. Growing up, she sang in a close harmony duo with her sister. She would then train as an opera singe

Cure for all ills: The Paradis Files @graeae

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The Paradis Files takes you back to the salons of 18 century Vienna. Albeit briefly There, Maria Theresia von Paradis is a star composer and pianist. World-famous in Europe, a pupil of the composer Salieri and possible lover of Mozart, if one believes the gossip. And there was one other thing about her. She lost her eyesight at a young age.  This new chamber opera by Errollyn Wallen uses opera to convey the story of Paradis, both her triumphs and humiliations. She was an object of desire and experimentation. This short piece sets out clearly that she had a colourful life. Being the daughter of Joseph Anton von Paradis, Imperial Secretary of Commerce and Court Councillor to Empress Maria Theresa, undoubtedly helped. But as the family sought to remedy her blindness, she was subject to various “cures” by quack doctors.   Wallen doesn't confine the musical style to any particular period. There are elements of classical music mixed with jazz and percussion. And as a chamber opera, there