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Kafka-ish: Kafka @Finborough

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In offering proof that Kafka is everything to everyone - writer-performer Jack Klaff plays various roles, including the man himself in what is a part tour, part immersion and part legend of Franz Kafka. He is a writer who achieved fame after his life was cut short due to succumbing to tuberculosis at the age of forty. He is probably better known for his reputation and the Kafkaesque style attributed to his writing than his life. But after this piece, you’re left curious to learn more about the man and his works. And that has to be the best theatrical tribute you could give a writer, even for a writer who stipulated that his works be destroyed upon his death. It’s currently playing at the Finborough Theatre . Franz Kafka was born in Prague in 1883. In 1901, he was admitted to a university and began studying law. While studying, he met Max Brod, who would become his best friend and eventual literary executor. Brod would posthumously publish many of his works and writings. Kafka’s life co

Theatre of Blood: The Bleeding Tree @Swkplay

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Domestic violence in Australia is never far away from the news. Some statistics suggest it is more prevalent down under than other similar countries . There are podcasts about women who mysteriously disappear only to find that the suspect, the male partner, was never charged with a crime.  The Bleeding Tree is an evocative tale of revenge against a backdrop of domestic violence and cruelty. And what happens when the women take back control? With painstaking and, at times, gruesome descriptions of the despair and their support for each other, it’s a harrowing yet rewarding tale of resilience and survival. It’s currently playing at the Southwark Playhouse, Borough .  Set in a remote homestead in the Australian outback, a mother (mum played by Maria Gale) and her two daughters, Ida (Elizabeth Dulau) and Ada (Alexandra Jensen), come to terms with the decision they take to kill a man who was a source of cruelty and abuse. While a cover story that he went to visit his sister “up north” moves

Belters and bohemians: Opera Locos @Sadlers_wells

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At the start of the Opera Locos performance, the announcement says that they really are singing. You could be forgiven for wondering that, given the amplification turns up the backing track and the voices so loud that you can't always tell what's real. But this is a mostly harmless and slightly eccentric blend of opera classics fused with the occasional pop classic. However, recognising the pop tunes would help if you were over a certain age. The most recent of them dates back twenty years. It's currently playing at the Peacock Theatre .  Five performers play out a variety of archetype opera characters. There's the worn-out tenor (Jesús Álvarez), the macho baritone (Enrique Sánchez-Ramos), the eccentric counter-tenor (Michaël Kone), the dreamy soprano (María Rey-Joly) and the wild mezzo-soprano (Mayca Teba). Since my singing days, I haven't recognised these types of performers. However, once, I recall a conductor saying he wanted no mezzo-sopranos singing with the s

Same but indifferent: Laughing Boy @JStheatre

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Stephen Unwin's Laughing Boy, adapted for the stage from Sara Ryan's Justice for Laughing Boy, is a powerful and moving story about a mother and a family that keeps asking questions despite the victimisation and harassment from the institution - the NHS - that was supposed to protect her son. It's a moving, celebratory account of a life cut short due to indifference held together by a remarkable performance by Janie Dee as Sara. It's currently playing at the Jermyn Street Theatre .  Sara's son, Connor, is a little different to others. He is fascinated by buses and doesn't like things like loud noises. But as he becomes an adult, his seizures and unexpected outbursts mean the family turn to their local NHS for support. Little did they realise they would receive such little care from a service that was institutionally incompetent and covered up thousands of unexplained deaths of people with disabilities, including Connor's. The search for answers about why he

The agony and the misogyny: Banging Denmark @finborough

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Banging Denmark, the comic play by Van Badham, answers the question, what lengths does a misogynistic pickup artist go to date with a frosty Danish librarian? It may be an uneasy farce given the subject matter, but it is made more palatable by the cast assembled to convince you of it. It's currently having its European premiere at the Finborough Theatre .  It opens with Guy DeWitt (Tom Kay) at one end of the stage. His real name is Jake, and he's a part-time podcaster whose expertise is misogyny and playing the role of the pickup artist. That is, someone who attempts to coax women into having sex with a mix of flattery or manipulation. His podcast attracts a variety of involuntarily celibate men (or incels), so call in asking for advice. And while he gives the impression of living the high life, he is in a grimy flat strewn with empty pizza boxes.  At the other end of the stage is feminist academic Ishtar (Rebecca Blackstone). She lives out of the photocopy room, losing all her

Bear with me: Sun Bear @ParkTheatre

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If The Light House is an uplifting tale of survival, Sarah Richardson’s Sun Bear gives a contrasting take on this. Sarah plays Katy. We’re introduced to Katy as she runs through a list of pet office peeves with her endlessly perky coworkers, particularly about coworkers stealing her pens. It’s a hilarious opening monologue that would have you wishing you had her as a coworker to help relieve you from the boredom of petty office politics.  But something is not quite right in the perfect petty office, where people work together well. And that is her. And despite her protesting that she is fine, the pet peeves and the outbursts are becoming more frequent. As the piece progresses, maybe the problem lies in a past relationship, where Katy had to be home by a particular hour, not stay out late with office colleagues and not be drunk enough not to answer his calls. Perhaps the perky office colleagues are trying to help, and perhaps Katy is trying to reach out for help. It has simple staging

Man Overboard: The Light House @ParkTheatre

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Lightness and dark are in the balance in The Light House, writer and performer Alys Williams's story about the complexity of love. It is a love story about the highs and the lows of falling in love with someone who doesn't always want to be alive. But with some deft storytelling and some inspired audience participation, the piece is an uplifting and funny tale about the joys and otherwise of being in love. After a tour of the UK, it is having its London premiere at Park Theatre as part of their Make Mine a Double season of short plays. From the outset, Williams sets the piece's tone by calling for audience involvement to help shout "Man overboard" or blow whistles. She is a reassuring navigator, so while every show differs depending on who agrees to participate, you get the sense that you're in safe hands with her. And that becomes the story here as well. After falling in love with a fellow acting student, how does she find a way to keep the lights on, deal w

Take me to the world: Hide and Seek @parktheatre

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In a small town where everyone knows everyone, if you don't like it, you might feel that the only logical thing to do is to disappear. Especially if you think it will help your social media rankings. The loneliness and isolation of youth meet influencers in the wild in Tobia Rossi's Hide and Seek. And while events take a darker turn, the humour and the intimacy make this piece about youth on the edge (of trending) fascinating and enjoyable. It's currently playing at Park Theatre .  Mirko (Nico Cetrulo) is exploring a cave with his camera when he stumbles on Gio (Louis Scarpa). Gio has been missing for a while, and the town has been looking for him. But Gio is more interested in how much he is trending on TikTok. He also had a crush on Mirko. Soon, they establish a friendship and a bond. In the cave, they explore feelings they would not dare share outside. However, things turn darker when Gio is confident enough to leave the cave, while Mirko doesn't want his double life