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Showing posts from October, 2019

[title of show]: [Blank] @DonmarWarehouse

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From 100 scenes that run over 500 pages comes [Blank], which is currently running at the Donmar Warehouse. It’s a do it yourself play by Alice Birch where the production can choose the number of scenes and the order of them. Thumbing through the play text, I first assumed it would be an epic night out at the theatre. Thankfully Director Maria Aberg has chosen thirty of them, and the end result is an evocative and emotional journey of women on the margins of society. Or at least that’s what it seemed to me. It becomes a do-it-yourself play for the audience too as you begin to piece together the various characters before and start making connections about what you’re seeing.

And as windows smash, crockery breaks or salty pasta gets eaten, what emerges are the struggles of a range of different women who find themselves in circumstances they cannot escape from. Women in prison, or a refuge, or selling themselves to get by. In the light of the #metoo era, which is hilariously put down as …

No country for old men: The Ice Cream Boys @JSTheatre

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America has Trump, Britain has Boris, and South Africa had Jacob Zuma. Old men fade from power and eventually die, and no skeleton is left in the closet in the Ice Cream Boys by Gail Louw. For ninety minutes, they bitch and moan about the state of their country and the path their lives have taken. It just so happens that one of the men is Jacob Zuma, former President of South Africa. The other is Ronnie Kasrils, former Minister for Intelligence Services and critic of Zuma.

It sets out in a breathtaking edge-of-your-seat way, both a historical and personal account of the struggles of the country. Full of passion and fire, it's currently playing at the Jermyn Street Theatre. The two men meet by chance in a hospital. Kasrils (Jack Klaff) is there to have a melanoma removed. Zuma (Andrew Francis) is there to have his prostate checked. They are in adjacent rooms tended to by a young nurse, Thandi, who lives in a township some distance away (Bu Kunene).


For those familiar with South Af…

Low-calorie stories: Fast @ParkTheatre

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The pseudoscience of detox diets and fasting is given some historical context in Fast. Kate Barton's tale of Linda Hazzard, a quack doctor who inadvertently killed many of her patients is given the once over in this brisk adaptation of her life and crimes against science. It's a fascinating tale, but the roundabout way in which the story unfolds seems to undermine the tension, absurdities and horror of the story. It's currently playing at the Park Theatre.

The piece centres around two wealthy English sisters travelling in Washington who stumble across Linda Hazzard's book, Fasting For The Cure Of Disease. The book is a curious polemic about how any disease can be treated through a series of fasting to cleanse the body of unspecified toxins. Available to read on the internet, it's like reading one of those self-published books on Amazon that has a curiously high number of five-star reviews. Hazzard was clearly ahead of her time. If she were alive today, she would n…

I know what you did last summer: Last Orders @ORLTheatre

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The Old Red Lion Theatre during the summer months is hot and oppressive at the best of times. But theatre troupe The Knock Knock Club decided to hold a seance and a ghost hunt at the venue to see if there was any truth the number of hauntings that people have reported.

There's been a pub on the site of the Old Red Lion since 1415. Over the years, there's been reported sightings of spirits of the non-alcoholic kind.  There are enough witness accounts of a ghost on every floor of the venue. There's the ghost who likes the drama (but not lost Arthur Miller plays) on the theatre floor. There's the ghost at the bar level that wants to fling glassware and frighted the resident dog. And below the bar at cellar level, there's something like the gateway to the underworld that freaks everyone out.

The show is part documentary about what the troupe did over the summer and part unearthing bizarre facts about the Old Red Lion. It's funny and intriguing as the team uncover …

Racing with the clock: Tick, Tick... Boom! @BHTse20

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Watching Tick, Tick... Boom at the Bridge House Theatre, a play about young thirty-somethings in 1990 makes you realise that if they were alive today, they would be becoming sexagenarians. The passing of time and the struggles of being creative in New York are at the heart of this piece. Now it's over to a new generation to sing about about Jonathan Larson's anxieties about creativity, composition and getting older.

It's made all the more bittersweet given the composer (and lead character Jon), Jonathan Larson died in 1996, six years after this piece is set. His death was also just before his show, Rent would open and become a big success.

Tick, Tick... Boom!  was initially conceived as a solo work for Larson after his struggles to mount a show he was developing. After his death, it was reworked into a three-hander which is the version that we see today.

While there are many musical theatre references, particularly to Sondheim, what’s interesting about the show is how it …

Little rocks: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes @TheUnionTheatre

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Two ladies looking for wealthy men to marry might seem like an unusual musical for revival in this #metoo era. But with Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, the Union Theatre transforms into a bubbling 1920s escapist fantasy. Amongst the froth, there are also some shrewd observations about harassment and survival in a man’s world. And with a terrific cast, exhilarating dance numbers and a fabulous set and costumes, it has to be one of the best things to see on the fringe right now.

The tale of blonde gold-digger from Little Rock may be forever associated with Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell. Walking into the Union Theatre with its red stage feels like a reminder this is the show where Marilyn performs Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend. But the musical, which dates from an earlier, more risque time has a lot more to say than the film. Unwanted advances, criminal charges and a revolutionary device that will change the face of fashion. It’s all here among some exuberant musical numbers.

The mood is…

Gone to the dogs: The Border @TCLive

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You know things have really gone to the dogs when four-legged friends are being rounded up and used as collateral. The dogs are used by migrants to pay to escape to a better life in East Oolia. Such is the slightly absurd but strangely familiar tale called The Border by Afsaneh Gray. It’s just finished playing at the Peckham Theatre but continues touring other sites and schools.

It opens with a young girl from the fictitious town of East Oolia called Julia. She’s just lost her dog as a border wall went up to divide East and West Oolia, and he ended up on the wrong side of the fence. The mayor did it to deliver on an election promise and to stop those West Oolians taking jobs from the East Oolians (or something like that). As Julia embarks on a quest to find her dog, she stumbles into a divided country. Her own family is divided, and immigration and crime (in the form of dog theft), is spiralling out of control.

Things get really interesting towards the end when the actors break the f…

Last orders: We Anchor In Hope @BunkerTheatreUK

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The only thing missing when you walk into The Bunker and see it transformed into a working pub is the smell. That unmistakable smell of stale beer that permeates those old places is missing. But everything else is there. The worn carpet, the pool table, the tat on the walls. It's a terrific way to set the scene for the next two hours of comedy and drama that is Anna Jordan's We Anchor In Hope.

Set on the last night of the Anchor, a pub trapped in the eighties when it's 2016 and located somewhere around Pimlico in London. The pub's been sold and about to be redeveloped into luxury flats (or perhaps a Tesco Express). The night before it was packed for the formal closing. But on the final night, a couple of regulars, the bar staff and landlord get together for one last time. But as the bar slowly runs dry and everything is cleared out (even the Aperol), things take a darker turn. And what's revealed is less of a community than a series of frustrations and unrealised …