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I see a river: The Fishermen @Trafstudios

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A Booker-Prize nominated novel by Chigozie Obioma about families, vengeance and fate, is adapted into a two-hander play and currently playing at the downstairs space at Trafalgar Studios. It’s an intense, haunting and brisk adaptation by Gbolahan Obisesan of two men reunited after a tragedy.

A prophecy of foreboding trouble haunts four brothers living in a small Nigerian town. Two brothers, Ben (David Alade) and Obembe (Valentine Olukoga), secretly fish at a forbidden river along with their two older brothers. They risk both their lives and angering their father by fishing there. Until one day, they come across a madman who changes their lives permanently.

It opens with the two brothers meeting on either side of a riverbank. Some time has passed, and their reunion at first brings joy. And then takes a darker turn as family relationships, guilt and superstitions are remembered.

As the two storytellers, Alade and Olukoga bring humour and warmth to their roles as they portray a variety …

Fluffing it: Rouge @Underbellyfest

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It's not enough for a circus act nowadays to offer a series of acrobatic feats. Nowadays, they are pushing all sorts of conventions. There's the all-male, the all-female, the all minimalist. Rouge is the all gender fluid pan-sexual circus for grown-ups who like a bit of everything. But only if that everything includes a little bit of nudity and a bit of mild titillation. 
The men wear eyeliner, the pairings are male-female, male-male and female-female.Strong female types abound throughout. It's a unique concept that's marred by its own timidity. It's currently playing at the Underbelly Festival on the Southbank.
The performers are interesting enough. There's the aerial trapeze, the ring, and the strap. All are deftly executed. There's a terrific flame swallowing routine which seems all the more intense in the confines of the Spiegeltent.
An inventive sequence happens where the performer is wearing a lampshade and combines hula hoops with a frantic strip dance …

Musicals on the precipice: Queen Of The Mist @Charingcrossthr

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When sexagenarian Anne Edison Taylor becomes the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel, she thinks it will lead to fame and fortune. But achieving recognition is one thing. Maintaining it is harder. Particularly if you're a bit boring. Or old. Or a woman. And it's 1901 by the way. Thoroughly modern women didn’t exist back then. Nor could they vote.
Queen Of The Mist is an unconventional musical for an unusual subject. It’s currently playing at Charing Cross Theatre. Against the backdrop of anarchists, suffragettes and presidential assassins, a woman designs her own barrel and goes over Niagara Falls as a way to make money and financial independence. A feat that no one else had yet achieved. Yet fame is fleeting, and things don't work out how she envisaged. Her Manager Frank Russell (Will Arundel) runs off with the barrel. People lose interest in her story. Suffragettes dismiss her as a carnival act. And she ends up spending the rest of her life (and most of the …

Jerry’s Children: Showtune @TheUniontheatre

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An evening of songs by composer Jerry Herman weaved into a song cycle about the excitement of being on stage, or anywhere for that matter is an unexpected joy. Particularly when it's sung by a young and energetic cast. It's currently playing at the Union Theatre.
It's been over thirty years since an original Jerry Herman musical has been on stage. That none of the cast were born when these songs were written probably isn't lost on the audience. But Herman's work remains almost a regular feature of the West End as Andrew Lloyd Webber's Evita or Joseph. Recent years have seen La Cage Aux Folles, Hello Dolly! Or Mack and Mabel. 

For a period from the sixties through to the early eighties, Jerry Herman wrote musicals that helped define the idea of what a musical show should be. Emotional, funny and always tuneful.  Now there's a chance for a new generation of musical theatre graduates to take on his work. With the young cast of ten performers assembled, the optim…

Taking the leak: Count Ory @arcolatheatre

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August at the Arcola Theatre is an opportunity to see fresh takes on classic operas or forgotten works by up and coming opera companies and artists. They call it Grimeborn (just so you’re not to be confused with that other opera festival near Lewes). This year’s series included a chance to see Rossini’s Le Comte Ory translated into English by company Opera Alegria.

The time and place have shifted from the Crusades to the Second World War, but it’s still the same story.  A  slightly randy Count Ory (Robert Jenkins) tries to woo his way into the life of Countess Adéle (Naomi Kilby) while her brother is off fighting the war. While the women wait for their men to return, they’re growing vegetables and making do on the home front. But Count Ory hatches a scheme for him to appear as a hermit who can advise on matters of the heart. That doesn’t go to plan, and Adéle falls in love with a farm boy. So his next idea is to reveal his true feelings to her, disguised as a nun.


It’s a silly story,…

Horse Play: Equus @Trafstudios #EquusWestEnd

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Peter Shaffer's play Equus is given a slick and stylised turn in this English Touring Company production that's currently playing on the West End at Trafalgar Studios. With everything stripped back to the bare essentials, all that's left is a white curtain, muscles and guilt. And the occasion flash or scream. If you missed it earlier this year at Theatre Royal Stratford East, see it now as it's a fresh look at this psychological thriller.

The premise of the piece is that seventeen-year-old Alan (played by Ethan Kai with moody intensity), has blinded six horses in a stable he worked in on weekends. Rather than go to jail, he's sent to a psychiatric hospital for treatment.  And where Dysart (Zubin Varla) has to uncover the motive for this madness.

Even if it was inspired by a real-life crime, it's rather clever of Schaffer to focus on cruelty to horses in England. Nothing surely can be more shocking in a country that worships the very ground the equine beast tro…

Donkeys have fun too: My Son Pinocchio Jr @SWKPlay

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The British Theatre Academy, which provides theatre training and performance opportunities for young people is back at the Southwark Playhouse for the summer for a series of shows, including My Son Pinocchio Jr. It’s a condensed version of the 2006 musical, My Son Pinocchio: Geppetto’s Musical Tale. This was based on a television movie musical Geppetto.
The show is a retelling of the Pinocchio but from Geppetto’s perspective. It opens with the ever cheery Blue Fairy telling everyone that she is going to celebrate the story of one of her wishes that came out perfectly lovely. Only for Geppetto to appear and say he wants her to take him back. 


It turns out that Pinocchio wasn’t all that lovely after all. And not what he expected. Mainly because he did boy things like ask the wrong questions, gets in a fight at school and then runs away to a puppet show. Which is fair enough, but then again Geppetto was forcing Pinocchio to be a toy-maker rather than a train driver. The story in its shorte…

A room with a song: The View Upstairs @Sohotheatre

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The View Upstairs imagines a dialogue between the trailblazers of the LGBT+ community and today's self-absorbed gender-fluid Millennials. The dialogue is through a series of songs by Max Vernon that veer from soft rock, disco and glam. It has some wry observations about what has and hasn't improved for the community since the 1970s. So the conversation becomes more like a musical theatre bitch slap to anyone who takes for granted the right to be themselves. It's currently playing at Soho Theatre.

Set in 2017, internet influencer and conflicted fashion designer Wes (Tyrone Huntley) has fled New York for New Orleans. He's bought a building intending to show off his work. But he's either mixed his citalopram with his cocaine or trapped in a time warp as he found himself back in 1973. And the building he bought was the site of a largely forgotten arson attack on the gay bar Upstairs Lounge that killed 32 people. This had been the deadliest attack on the LGBT+ communit…