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Kafka-ish: Kafka @Finborough

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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

The agony and the misogyny: Banging Denmark @finborough

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Banging Denmark, the comic play by Van Badham, answers the question, what lengths does a misogynistic pickup artist go to date with a frosty Danish librarian? It may be an uneasy farce given the subject matter, but it is made more palatable by the cast assembled to convince you of it. It's currently having its European premiere at the Finborough Theatre .  It opens with Guy DeWitt (Tom Kay) at one end of the stage. His real name is Jake, and he's a part-time podcaster whose expertise is misogyny and playing the role of the pickup artist. That is, someone who attempts to coax women into having sex with a mix of flattery or manipulation. His podcast attracts a variety of involuntarily celibate men (or incels), so call in asking for advice. And while he gives the impression of living the high life, he is in a grimy flat strewn with empty pizza boxes.  At the other end of the stage is feminist academic Ishtar (Rebecca Blackstone). She lives out of the photocopy room, losing all her

Wannabes in the woods: The Retreat @Finborough

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The Retreat takes us back to the Canada of the mid-nineteen nineties—the clothes, the politics, both geopolitical and sexual. But even though it's long before the #metoo era, it has plenty to say about power, business and the lure of showbiz. Jason Sherman's funny script and engaging performances make this piece too good to miss. It's currently having its European premiere at the Finborough Theatre. The play opens with Rachel (Jill Winternitz) not apologising to her boss for equating Jewish settlers on the West Bank as terrorists. As a teacher at a Hebrew school whose pupils have relatives living in the West Bank, this wouldn't go down well. But Rachel has other things on her mind. She has written a screenplay and been invited to what she thinks is a prestigious retreat for aspiring screenwriters. And her father, who fought for Israel, is dying in a hospice. The apology can wait. Perhaps forever. Meanwhile, David (Max Rinehart) and Jeff (Michael Feldsher), two film prod

The sweet smell of progress: The Sugar House @finborough

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Watching The Sugar House at the Finborough Theatre reminded me of the comment made by journalist  Evan Whitton that Sydney was the most corrupt city in the world. Except, of course, after Newark, New Jersey and Brisbane Queensland. But corrupt cops and underworld figures of the Sydney scene are only part of this epic family story that spans three generations of a working-class Sydney family. It's currently playing at the Finborough  Theatre. The story opens with Narelle (Jessica Zerlina Leafe) looking over a new conversion property on the former site of a sugar refinery in Sydney. It was near where she grew up. She's a lawyer now and could afford to buy one of these bland modern conversions. But all she can see are memories of the place where she grew up with her mother and grandparents.  What unfolds next focuses on the harsher side of the lucky country. Where jobs were precarious and poverty, poor health and crime were not too far away. The police were a force to be feared.

Dying: A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the (etc etc) @Finborough

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Halley Feiffer’s A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre of New York City explores the fine line between laughter and grief. It’s having its European premiere at the Finborough Theatre . In this case it is facing grief, cancer and death in a pink hospital room. Complete with wall art that’s evocative as much as it’s hideous. You have to laugh that even facing death stereotypes persist. But it could be a hospital anywhere. These waiting rooms for those between life and death with their safety signs, equipment all look the same. And for anyone that’s had to visit someone in such a room, there is something funny about that. Even if you aren’t working on a stand up routine. Feiffer, who dramatised a dysfunctional playwright and his actor daughter in I’m Gonna Pray for You So Hard , explores the funny side of death here. It opens with Karla (Cariad Lloyd), a stand up comedian trying out jokes on her mother, Marcie (Kristin

Privileges and power: White Guy On The Bus @Finborough

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It’s always grim in Philadelphia in White Guy On The Bus. It’s a sharp, insightful and unsettling piece to remind us that race, power and inequality loom large over everything that happens in America. Or even here. It’s currently playing at the Finborough Theatre . It opens with what appears at first to be a series of lectures among two white couples about unconscious bias and latent racism. They’re on the lawn of a lovely house in Philadelphia. It seemed as topical as the aftermath of a recent Quentin Letts review . But that’s just a starter to what writer Bruce Graham really wants to tackle. The piece zeroes in on the divide in Philadelphia between low income blacks and the well-off white communities. The two remain separate and unequal. Philadelphia may be edgier than other parts of America, but it’s a story that applies anywhere. London too given the growing incidence of gang violence.   The play focuses around Ray (Donald Sage Mackay - in his London Theatrical debut). He works in

Sing like nobody’s watching: Songs for Nobodies @WiltonMusicHall

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Songs for Nobodies starts as if it is a theatrical happening. There’s a hush at Wilton’s Music Hall as it descends into darkness. And when the lights go up there is a small, middle aged woman on stage looking somewhat meek. But soon there is an astounding transformation as she channels a range of musical greats. Mimicking their style and intonation. Starting with Judy Garland, then Patsy Cline, Edith Piaf, Billie Holiday and finally Maria Callas. It’s thrilling and bewildering.  The piece is billed as a play with music by Joanna Murray-Smith, created to suit the vocal talents of Australian singer Bernadette Robinson. The premise is that a series of “nobodies” whose lives briefly intersect with these stars. There’s the lady, Beatrice who fixes Judy Garland’s hem and the usher Pearl who becomes backup to Patsy Cline and so on.  It’s clear that Robinson has a unique talent and she holds your attention. And the production shines in Wilton’s music hall.  The faded grandeur of the venue ble

Personal atrocities: Into The Numbers @finborough

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Into the Numbers is a haunting exploration into the mind of writer Iris Chang and her struggle with success and demons. Written by Christopher Chen, it’s having its European premiere at the Finborough Theatre . Iris Chang wrote a best selling book about the massacre of 300,000 civilians in Nanking at the hands of Japanese soldiers. The book, The Rape of Nanking , describes in graphic detail the way in which people were brutally murdered. Including an estimated 80,000 women and young girls were raped. Seven years later, Chang would kill herself at the age of 36, leaving a suicide note that was meticulously edited and rewritten. What’s fascinating about the piece is how Chen uses fragments from her personal and professional life to explain why this happened. In doing so, he not only explores the subject matter but also gets beneath the surface of mental illness. Opening as a lecture and an interview with Chang, the piece sets the scene and recounts facts from the book. But things begins

Mother and son: The Busy World Is Hushed @Finborough

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Family and faith is at the forefront of The Busy World Is Hushed by Keith Bunin. The characters here have their faith tested, gained and lost over the course of the piece. It's having its European Premiere at the Finborough Theatre. There's Hanna (Kazia Pelka), a widowed minister and bible scholar. She's received a recently discovered gospel and engages the help of writer Brandt (Mateo Oxley), to help her turn her research into a publication. As they start work her only son Thomas (Michael James) returns home from a trip out in the wilderness. And Brandt and Thomas take an almost-instant liking to each other. But Brandt has just discovered his father has a brain tumour. And Thomas is still searching for reasons why his father died before he was born.

Life goes on: Footprints On The Moon @Finborough

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  There's no place like home. Except when everyone around you wants to leave you and someone has scrawled your phone number on a wall of a dodgy bar. These are all important revelations in Footprints On The Moon. Canadian playwright Maureen Hunter's story of life in a small town is having its European premiere at the Finborough Theatre .  With its well-defined characters it's a fascinating insight into small-town Canadian life. It opens with Joanie ( Anne Adams ) sweating in a dress waiting at the station for her daughter to arrive back home. But even after writing a prize-winning essay about how fabulous life is in her small town things aren't quite what they seem. What becomes clear is that Joanie doesn't want anything to change and as her daughter grows up and wants to leave her world starts to fall apart. I Sharing the abstract set with Jam (with is running alongside this production) makes the audience have to work hard to believe that we're

The not-so merry widow: Ballroom @Waterlooeast

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There's a terrific band and a real nice crowd... So one of the opening songs goes. Not all the magic is here in this lost musical of loneliness and rediscovering life. But as a vehicle for a star performance by Jessica Martin, it's great. Martin plays lonely widow Bea who runs off to a ballroom and finds herself living life again. She's vulnerable, she's stunning and she has a great singing voice. It's currently playing at Waterloo East Theatre .