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Bear with me: Sun Bear @ParkTheatre

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

Singalong politics: Albion @bushtheatre

You would not expect karaoke and far right British politics to go so well together, but in Albion, currently playing at the Bush Theatre, they seem inexplicably linked.

The cast break out into songs throughout the piece, but instead of singing for joy what emerges instead are thoughts of isolation and fear.

Chris Thompson's new play looks at the rise of the new far right in modern Britain at the home of an East End boozer.

The cleverness in the piece is not the interwoven songs as if you're watching a night of karaoke down at the pub, but how the politics and motivations are presented within their context and without judgement. You may leave the theatre feeling slightly challenged by some crafty arguments and giddy from some terrific singing. 
The story centres around Jayson (played memorably Tony Clay) who lives for karaoke night. When everything else is crumbling around him, it is the singing that keeps him going. In the closing minutes of the piece this becomes heartbreakingly apparent that this is all he has to live for as events, circumstances and personal choices conspire against him.

But the story does not just focus on Jayson, and with a series of interwoven stories emerges. His older brother is trying to keep the English Protection Army from looking like a bunch of football hooligans, while his deputy Kyle (Delroy Atkinson) thinks a bit of action is exactly what is needed. Meanwhile ex social worker Christine (played convincingly by Natalie Casey), who loses her job for failing to report a Rochdale-style sex trafficking gang is sure that the key to success is in the language that you use.

Politics, Trojan horses, political correctness and riots are all thrown into the mix, along with an awful lot of karaoke to comment on the action. At times you could be forgiven the piece wants to be a jukebox musical but then something happens to remind you it's a lot more. Perhaps the ambition of the piece perhaps does not match the size or the scale of this production. But it is a strong and original piece that will be interesting to see what future lies for it. 

It runs at the Bush Theatre through to 25 October.

Worth a look just to see Natalie Casey belt out It's Raining Men, and plug her English cookbook for English people (which sounds like a ghastly concept), and Delroy Atkinson sing Delilah...


Photo credit: Production photos.

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