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Grief and fluff: Tiger @OmnibusTheatre

Death is something we all will face. After all, nobody gets out of here alive. But how do you get past it when grief is all you can feel? And this is the premise of Tiger, currently playing at Omnibus Theatre . It's a fascinating exploration of the stages of grief. And with a terrific cast to take you on this journey, it's an endearing and sweet story that has you engaged from the start, wondering what will happen next.  We are introduced to Alice (Poppy Allen-Quarmby) as she gives a stand-up routine. It's not particularly funny and starts to veer into the topic of dying. Something isn't right. She used to be good at this but can't move forward. Soon, she is back in her London apartment with her partner Oli (Luke Nunn), discussing that they need to get a lodger to make ends meet.  Oli is a doctor working night shifts at the local NHS hospital. Alice is not ready to face a return to stand up or anything. So when the first potential lodger arrives (Meg Lewis), looking

Nasty boys: Gentlemen @Arcolatheatre

It's a tough life in an elite university. If you thought college was a place for caring, understanding, nurturing and tuition, you might be in for a big surprise. In Matt Parvin's Gentlemen, it's the latest battleground for the culture wars. Everything is a score to be settled with sanctimony, mind games or both. Everything is about fitting in or resisting all attempts to conform. It's currently playing at the Arcola Theatre

The premise is that Greg (Charlie Beck) is meeting with the college welfare officer, Timby (Edward Judge). Kaspar (Issam Al Ghussain) has alleged bi-phobic comments about his sexual orientation. Greg is also potentially up for charges of assault. 

Both freshmen, the hormones and the anger race as fast as their minds. Soon, the concept of right and wrong, fitting in or being an individual, gets into many grey areas. Will an example be set of loudmouth Greg from a struggling background, or will he be given one last chance? Each takes turns pleading their case (or manipulating) Timby. And he seems sincere yet impotent. 

It's a tightly written piece, with the scenes moving between one character and the next. You also get some sense of the pressure facing young people to study, to succeed, to fit in or not with its perverse results. And while kudos for featuring a bi character, it's not the most positive depiction of bi-inclusion. 

The cast does well, perhaps too well, at creating this insular world where outrage or fitting in seems to be the only two paths to follow and where common ground seems elusive. 

And perhaps that's the point of the play. We're running out of safe places to learn and reflect. And that appeasing the polarised is not particularly satisfying. Whether you find it an enjoyable piece of theatre might depend on where your sympathies lie. I settled on the two boys being two little shits, so I remained ambivalent about the piece's politics and arguments.

Directed by Richard Spier and written by Matt Pravin, Gentlemen plays at The Arcola through to 28 October. 


Production photos by Alex Brenner

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