Showing posts from February, 2014

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Kafka-ish: Kafka @Finborough

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

Men chasing older women: The Fat Man's Wife

Remaining un-produced until 2004, The Fat Man's Wife by Tennessee Williams is having its UK Premiere at the Canal Cafe Theatre . It is a fragment of a play rather than a fully fledged piece that is about a sophisticated society lady who has to make a choice... Should she stay with her rich philandering husband or run off to Mexico with a poor young playwright?  It's Hobson's Choice set in the Upper East Side . Written in 1937, it is perhaps it is probably also the first case of a MILF relationship portrayed on stage. But it a fascinating look at how some of Tennessee Williams's observations on women, relationships and situations would later develop. And even if it is a bit predictable, running under an hour it makes for a none too taxing early evening diversion.

Northern Exposures: In Skagway @arcolatheatre

In Skagway , now playing at The Arcola Theatre is an intriguing piece about three women on the Alaskan frontier. It is the late nineteenth century and the Klondike Gold Rush is nearing its end. It is a journey to the wild west territory and well performed by the all-female cast. But you are never quite sure just how harsh and inhospitable these conditions really are. It is a pity the production did not try and take things up a notch (although the draughty conditions in the theatre appeared to be an attempt to recreate the Alaskan winter). The piece focuses around Francis Harmon (played by Angeline Ball), who for years traded off her reputation as a star actress traveling from city to city gold rush towns. You get the impression her talent is more about showing off her assets than being an actress but it provides a living for her assistant May (Geraldine Alexander) and her daughter T-belle (Natasha Starkey).

Lost in exposition: The Lost Boy

A musical based on Peter Pan growing up and heading off to fight in  the Great War is the premise of The Lost Boy musical currently playing at Charing Cross Theatre . It is an interesting concept. The generation of men who first grew up reading JM Barrie's Peter Pan did end up going to war. They may have even thought it was going to be an adventure rather than a nightmare. Legend also has it that Barrie's eldest adopted son, George Llewelyn Davies , who was the inspiration for Peter Pan and killed during the war in 1915, was carrying a copy of the story in his pocket. So in this story Llewelyn Davies, about to go out to the battle field, has a dream where Peter Pan reunites with the lost boys and goes to war to prove to Wendy he is a man. Along the way we find out that Tinkerbell has become a street walker, one of the lost boys is gay trapeze artist and so on and so on. If only a decision was made to focus on one or two of the characters. Things start to get a bit con

Harsh lighting: Carthage @Finborough Theatre

Carthage , currently playing at the Finborough Theatre lets the audience in on a world of social care, and the circumstances in which the state can take control of your life and take your life. Its brilliance is in taking what could be depressing subject and making it full of humour and humanity as people try to do what is best. But it also leaves you wondering if at the end is there anything that could be done differently and whether our systems and due processes are the best we really can do as a society. It is the debut play from Chris Thompson , who drew on his experiences as a social worker over the past 12 years. What is incredible about the play is how finely observed the characters are. There is the boy in care, a jaded social worker, the teenage mother in and out of prison and the prison wardens. There are no judgements on their actions but the consequences are clearly on display for the audience to see. The cast do well, particularly Jack McMullen as Tommy, the boy

Theatre: The Mercy Seat

The Mercy Seat by Neil LaBute is hard hitting and controversial. Originally staged in 2002, it no doubt caused a stir when first staged a dark and cynical look at human emotions against the backdrop of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Ten years on, time gives it a different perspective. It feels less shocking and the more understandable. Perhaps it helps having lived in London through a summer of mindless random criminal acts... Riots, police corruption, general economic malaise... Life can seem a lot like how LaBute describes it: random and opportunistic. And given the right set of circumstances anyone can do anything. Against this backdrop is Ben and Abby (played by Sean O'Neil and Janine Ingrid Ulfane). She is his boss and he is married. Both should have been at the Twin Towers but a morning dalliance meant that instead they were at her flat. And now against the tragedy there is a potential opportunity. To give too much away would spoil the play, but watching the chemistry be

Panto variations on a beanstalk: Jack & The Beanstalk

Jack & The Beanstalk currently playing at the Theatre Royal Stratford East is a fun off-beat panto that puts a bit of a modern twist on the story of young Jack, a boy who sells the family cow for a bunch of beans. Theatre Royal Stratford pantos tend to be offbeat with crazy ideas and original music. Some of these were confusing enough for me to be flipping through the programme to see if there was any background information on the traditional tale. But it was hard not to like the introduction of the "spider organ" character when he appeared towards the finale and wanted to fight Jack with his eight legs, musical instrument and enormous sac. It could have been the effects of the fine wine consumed at interval, but it felt like an amusing moment. While most pantomime productions are a mix of colourful costumes, elaborate sets and a selection of pop hits, the bar is set a little higher here as the production has original music written by Wayne Nunes and Perry Melius. Th

Triumph of the barihunks and projectionists: Don Giovanni @RoyalOpera

Opening night of the Royal Opera's new production of Don Giovanni shows that with the right cast and a few modern elements you can deliver a dazzling and memorable production that is sexy, funny and musically memorable. Original barihunk , Mariusz Kwiecień plays Don Giovanni. He looks the part and is charismatic enough to almost made you forget that he sounded a little tentative in the early part of the evening. His final damnation in this production appears to be that he is left alone rather than dragged down to hell to be left alone to contemplate hell and his hunky self.

Sex, Drugs and Downton: Guilt and Shame Addicted to Everything @sohotheatre

For a brief moment last week, Guilt and Shame took over the upstairs space at the Soho Theatre for some random therapy on addiction, drugs and masturbating penises through glory holes.  Alternating between the bizarre and the offensive, it made for a great night of comedy. Arriving at the theatre everyone is instructed by Gabe to put on a name tag as everyone is about to take part (unwittingly or not) in an addicts anonymous group. Then his best friend and eternal gay virgin Rob arrives dragging both themselves and the audience on filthy journey literally to hell and back. The journey includes acting out sex with a swan (pictured above), getting a member of the audience to confront his fear of penises in men's toilets and observations about gay men who have an unhealthy liking for Downton Abbey ...