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Crossfire: One Who Wants To Cross @finborough

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One Who Wants To Cross is having its UK premiere at the Finborough Theatre. It is a topical exploration of people on the move. There are no names or nationalities in the piece. After all, this is a story we only know about through statistics and angry news headlines.  By contrast, this story unfolds through the power of narration. The piece attempts to shed light on the ones who undertake informal or irregular migration, crossing borders by any means necessary. And the people and industries along the way helping them. For a price.  Irregular migration and small boat crossings conjure up the rhetoric about hostile environments and posturing about getting tough on illegal immigration. In 2018 there were 299 small boats detected crossing the Channel. By 2021 there were over 28,000, and the estimate for 2022 was 40,000 . Either the current policy is a failure, or there is no interest in changing the status quo. And while a flight may be cheaper and safer, travel rules conspire to prevent

Diplomatic banter: The Ballerina @khaoseurope

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One person's waterboarding is another person's banter in The Ballerina. It has a short but somewhat delayed run as part of the Vault Festival under the railway arches at Waterloo. It was due to appear in 2020, but the pandemic got in the way. Since then the world post George Floyd, post dumping of a slave trader statue in Bristol Harbour seems to have diminished the novelty of the piece. But you never quite know if it's all a bit of a mind game or some friendly banter. The Vaults is a dystopian theatre setting at the best of times. Damp, cold and with the constant rumbling of trains overhead. When you throw in a piece that includes mind games and the odd bit of torture, it certainly is a confronting piece of theatre. Although perhaps not for the intended reasons. While there are various trigger warnings about the content, perhaps the audience could have also done with a bit of reassurance that no actors were harmed in making the piece too.  Told over a series of short scen

La vie en rose: Dirty Dancing @DDonstage

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Just like you can't keep Baby in the corner, you also can't let the West End live without the musical Dirty Dancing for long. Dirty Dancing - The Classic Story on Stage is back in the West End at the Dominion Theatre . I'm assuming the classic story has been added to the title since more time has elapsed since the film came out and today than when the film came out and the period where the action takes place.  Dirty Dancing has been a regular feature on the West End since it first premiered here in 2006. But in the space of the Dominion Theatre, everything about it enhanced and enlarged. The theatre is big. The volume is cranked up, so you feel the bass. The dancing is full of high kicks. The mousy role of Baby, here played by Kira Malou, seems even mousier. And Michael O'Reilly playing the Patrick Swayze role, is so big that when he appears in his underwear in one scene you wonder where the show is going. But don’t worry this is a family show. The only thing dirty in t

Previews: The Elephant Song @ParkTheatre

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On Monday evening, I was to cover a mystery thriller, The Elephant Song. Instead, I was uncovering the mysteries of the London Underground, having found several lines out of action and an emergency evacuation. Only the London Underground would mess with my mind for the evening. But for those who manage to navigate the traffic and public transport (or better yet, can walk or cycle there), it’s currently playing at the Park Theatre.  The Elephant Song is a Canadian play by Nicolas Billon. It premiered in 2002 and has had performances around the world. There’s also a film adaptation which is available to stream. But this is the first time it has premiered in the UK.  Its premise is hospital director Dr Greenberg (Jon Osbaldeston) is questioning a disturbed patient Michael (Gwithian Evans), about a missing psychiatrist. Against the advice of colleagues, he continues the questioning to find out what happened to his colleague. The questioning leads to Michael’s accounts of elephants, opera a

Hostile environments: On The Ropes @ParkTheatre

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On the Ropes, currently playing at Park Theatre , tells the real-life story of Vernon Vanriel. The show tells his story over twelve rounds, using the boxing ring as a metaphor. It's a compelling and emotional story of a life interrupted by the Windrush scandal using narration, songs and drama. Perhaps a few trims and a cast in fit and fighting form (without colds, flu or covid) could be a knockout. Vernon Vanriel's story is about a man who, against all odds, never gives up. Despite the obstacles his way, including ones from his demons. From a trainee electrician to the number two lightweight boxing champion in the UK, he had to deal with crooked promoters and a rigged boxing competition. He never got the opportunity to claim the number one title, and soon, drugs and mental health meant he would lose everything. But he would next find himself up against an even more formidable opponent, the institutionally racist policies of the British government. These policies led to him beco

Salty romance: Salt-Water Moon @finborough

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Salt-Water Moon, currently playing at the Finborough Theatre , is like watching a feel-good romantic comedy. Albeit one set in Newfoundland in 1926. You may know where the piece is heading. After all, it is part of a series of plays with the same characters by playwright David French. But it’s the journey of getting there that matters. There’s a tenderness to the story brought to life by two charismatic performances that will have you on the edge of your seat, wondering what will happen next. And not just because of the necessity to sit five abreast on the Finborough’s bench seats.  It’s a clear night in Coley’s Point, Newfoundland, a quiet and remote fishing village, in 1926. Mary Snow is stargazing, waiting for her fiancé to return. However, she is interrupted by the unexpected return of Jacob Mercer. He had left her to go to Toronto a year earlier without even a goodbye, and he seemed determined to win her back.  What then unfolds from small talk and idle chatter about the stars is

Santa’s coming for us: The Grotto @draytonarmsSW5

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The Grotto is an alternative Christmas show for those who feel there isn’t enough blood, gore, and science fiction in traditional Christmas outings. Or you can’t stomach the usual good cheer this time of year. It plays at the Drayton Arms Theatre to satiate those who want to wish less good tidings to people at this time of year. It opens at a Santas Grotto in some shopping centre.  Layla and Pete are in some Christmas purgatory—dressed as an elf and Santa, Welcoming in children and taking a photo of them on Santa’s lap. They are on a repeat loop all day to the tune of I wish it could be Christmas every day. The music speeds up as the day continues in a frenzy of desperate Christmas cheer. It’s as if the music starts sounding like, “I wish shit could be Christmas”. After finishing up for the day in this Christmassy purgatory, Leyla and Pete are visited by a ghostly presence as they have lost their Christmas spirit. Christmas is an endurance event for them of annoying family members and

Le film du jour

Film: Belle Du Jour Saturday night I caught the Film Belle Du Jour (not to be confused with the blog) with A which is showing as part of a Catherine Deneuve retrospective. During the movie I was impressed with the number of cableknits on display, but it was an interesting tale about a bored French housewife who despite being married to Jean Sorel decides to dabble in prostitution. At this point I was ready to slap Deneuve's character. She could have all the Yves Saint-Laurent dresses and cableknits in the world, but what she really wanted was big fat Asian men and gangsters with metal teeth. What is wrong with the woman??? Still it was a fascinating movie that holds up well nearly forty years after it was made. After the movie A asked me what did I think the moral of the story was. I suggested that the moral was that one should not take up prostitution in the afternoon. It would be probably safer to do it in the morning when you get the milkmen coming off shift rather than creep