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Eternal guilt: Dorian The Musical @SWKplay

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Dorian is a new musical that updates Oscar Wilde’s gothic novel from the uptight Victorian era to an undetermined period of gender fluidity and glam rock. On paper, musicalising the Picture of Dorian Gray to a period of glam rock, social media, and cheap shoes seems like a good idea. After all, Oscar Wilde’s gothic story is very adaptable. It has been the source of countless adaptations for the stage, television or movies. I was half expecting a trashy Dorian, similar to the early 1980s telemovie that shifted Dorian’s gender to a woman. This version falls into a so bad it’s good category with Anthony Perkins in a lead role, who as he ages under makeup starts to look like Andy Warhol.  And while it’s great to see a new show, a strong cast can’t compensate for such an earnest production with underpowered songs. There’s no sense of fun, and some curious staging and costume choices  -mismatched dresses, crocodile boots and furry suits - serve as a distraction. It’s currently playing at th

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

Dad Jokes: Dead Dad Dog @finborough

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So what happens if your dad returns from the dead to haunt you for fun in mid-eighties Edinburgh? The first London production of Dead Dad Dog in 35 years shows that new ideas of the past just become the old things of the present. It’s an amusing concept made enjoyable by the likeable leads in the piece. Written by John McKay, who would go on to find fame in television and film, it’s currently playing at the Finborough Theatre .  Due to cast illness, the second half of this show, Sunny Boy, has not gone ahead. It’s a shame, as the second half was a sequel to the piece set in Glasgow in 2023. And so, while we miss the update, we can enjoy the eighties in all its glory and marvel at the fashion, thinking, and the fascinating possibility that if you died in the early seventies, you would never know who Margaret Thatcher was.  The premise is that young man Eck (Angus Miller) is getting ready for an interview for the BBC in Edinburgh when his father, Willie (Liam Brennan), appears. The only

Seconds: Makeshifts and Realities @finborough

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The Finborough Theatre presents three short plays about women at the turn of the last century that feels both modern and foreign. The manners and traditions may have changed since the early 1900s. Still, something about the expectations for women and the challenges of being independent resonates today, not at least given the popularity of a particular summer movie .  Gertrude Robins wrote the first two pieces. She was an actor who turned to writing plays focussing on issues of the day; she died from tuberculosis in 1917, and performances of her works stopped. Her contribution to theatre may have been forgotten, at least until now.  The first piece, Makeshifts, introduces us to the Parker sisters, Caroline and Dolly. Caroline is the older sister with her shy demeanour and sense of duty to her family, which includes caring for their older mother and keeping the house in order. While Dolly is a teacher, she notes that "men fight shy of girls like me. They think we're too clever&

Outrageous Sustenance: The Return of Benjamin Lay @Finborough

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The Finborough Theatre has its windows open to the world outside in The Return of Benjamin Lay. The evening sunlight fills the theatre space, and a giant tree outside the building gives you peace and tranquillity. It's as if you almost forget you are in a theatre just off the A3320 - a road known for pollution, noise and traffic congestion. Yet, recreating a Quaker meeting room for the piece also provokes the audience to reflect on how the life and times of a slavery abolitionist from the 1700s has something to say about our current times of modern slavery, prejudice and ignorance. It's currently having its world premiere at the Finborough Theatre.  Benjamin Lay was a revolutionary slavery abolitionist who lived in the 1700s. Having witnessed first-hand the atrocities of slavery in Barbados, he campaigned against it vigorously, including kidnapping a child of enslavers so they could see how it felt. For a man ahead of his time, the Quaker community disowned him. This monologue

Death becomes her: A Brief List Of Everyone Who Died @finborough

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For a natural process, death is not a topic that comes up naturally for people. We ask how people are doing but expect the response to be “I’m great”, not “I’m not dead yet”. And so for the main character in A Brief List of Everyone Who Died, Graciela has a death issue. Starting with when she was five and found out only after the matter that her parents had her beloved dog euthanised. So Graciela decides that nobody she loves will die from then on. And so this piece becomes a fruitless attempt at how she spends her life trying to avoid death while it is all around her. It’s currently having its world premiere  at the Finborough Theatre . As the play title suggests, it is a brief list of life moments where death and life intervene for the main character, from the passing of relatives, cancer, suicides, accidents and the loss of parents. Playwright Jacob Marx Rice plots the critical moments of the lives of these characters through their passing or the passing of those around them. Howeve

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

Unfinished business: Pussycat in Memory of Darkness @finborough

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Shedding light on the origins of the conflict in Ukraine is what you find in Pussycat in Memory of Darkness. It returns to the Finborough Theatre after its original acclaimed run last summer. History can be tricky to grasp in the age of disinformation and flawed democracies. But here, the past and the future that awaits are woven together.  As one woman's account about losing everything, we're introduced to the Donbas circa 2014 with a woman in dark glasses trying to sell a few kittens. Homeless and disoriented, the prospective buyer of kittens remains off stage, asking questions about papers, documents and why she is wearing those dark glasses. And this sets in train the story of a woman in the Donbas. She fought for freedom and saw the collapse of the Soviet Union in the nineties. But now finds herself ostracised and caught up in false narratives and alternative facts.  Written by Nelda Nezhdana and translated by John Farndon, It's harrowing and emotional. But also thou

Crossfire: One Who Wants To Cross @finborough

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One Who Wants To Cross is having its UK premiere at the Finborough Theatre. It is a topical exploration of people on the move. There are no names or nationalities in the piece. After all, this is a story we only know about through statistics and angry news headlines.  By contrast, this story unfolds through the power of narration. The piece attempts to shed light on the ones who undertake informal or irregular migration, crossing borders by any means necessary. And the people and industries along the way helping them. For a price.  Irregular migration and small boat crossings conjure up the rhetoric about hostile environments and posturing about getting tough on illegal immigration. In 2018 there were 299 small boats detected crossing the Channel. By 2021 there were over 28,000, and the estimate for 2022 was 40,000 . Either the current policy is a failure, or there is no interest in changing the status quo. And while a flight may be cheaper and safer, travel rules conspire to prevent

Salty romance: Salt-Water Moon @finborough

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Salt-Water Moon, currently playing at the Finborough Theatre , is like watching a feel-good romantic comedy. Albeit one set in Newfoundland in 1926. You may know where the piece is heading. After all, it is part of a series of plays with the same characters by playwright David French. But it’s the journey of getting there that matters. There’s a tenderness to the story brought to life by two charismatic performances that will have you on the edge of your seat, wondering what will happen next. And not just because of the necessity to sit five abreast on the Finborough’s bench seats.  It’s a clear night in Coley’s Point, Newfoundland, a quiet and remote fishing village, in 1926. Mary Snow is stargazing, waiting for her fiancé to return. However, she is interrupted by the unexpected return of Jacob Mercer. He had left her to go to Toronto a year earlier without even a goodbye, and he seemed determined to win her back.  What then unfolds from small talk and idle chatter about the stars is

Double Indemnity: The Coral @ Finborough

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Coral can weather all sorts of undersea turbulence. Small and adaptable, it survives in its watery world. And so 100 years from when it last performed in the UK, we have The Coral. A piece about the forces of capitalism in a dystopian dog-eat-dog world. It's currently playing at the Finborough Theatre. Whether it has survived the forces of change over the last 100 years might be a topic of post-theatre debate on your way home. There are no names in the piece. There are just people with characteristics such as the secretary, the daughters and the millionaire. The focus of the piece is on the millionaire. A play from 100 years ago will not keep up with inflation, but he is wealthy and powerful in this world. It is also a dangerous world. And so he also uses his secretary, his doppelgänger, so he can be everywhere while also sitting back on his yacht with his daughters.  But besides the troubles at his factories and pamphlets calling for change, he has other problems. When his daughte

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.

Virtually live @curtaincall @finborough @pbp_podcast

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Virtual readings and podcasts for those in need of a theatre fix... And finding that they have more time in the evenings... A Separate Peace On Saturday 2 May at 7pm, David Morrissey, Denise Gough, Jenna Coleman, Ed Stoppard and Maggie Service headline Tom Stoppard’s, A Separate Peace . This is the first in a series of live-streamed virtual readings called The Remote Read . It will raise money for creatives, stage technicians and food charities. Tickets for the live reading are available from £10. The One Day of the Year Alan Seymour’s play ‘One Day of the Year’ was seen at the Finborough a few years back. It takes an unflinching and honest look at the day Australians, and New Zealanders commemorate their war dead. This live reading, presented by Kathy Lette, is directed by Wayne Harrison. The Australian and New Zealand cast, including Mark Little, Kerry Fox, Daniel Monks, Celeste Dodwell and Paul Haley. Commissioned by the Australian High Commission as part of its Anza

Online and lifelines during lockdown...

As life in London remains in a suspended state, theatres are moving online... and requesting some lifelines. Here are a few so far: Finborough Theatre The Finborough Theatre is updating its archive of shows over the years. And you can donate online to help keep the theatre open . There is also Continuity, a gripping monologue about a man with a bomb, last seen in 2017 and now available to watch online . Jermyn Street Theatre The Jermyn Street Theatre has launched an emergency fund to keep it running. And they just recently had a burst water pipe to deal with. Check out their twitter feed for performances as well. Omnibus Theatre Clapham's Omnibus Theatre Online launched with a performance of Our Day's coming-of-age comedy-drama DEM TIMES. Recorded live at King's Place for London Podcast Festival 2019. There is also a section on the website for donations. Battersea Arts Centre Battersea Arts Centre's groundbreaking film, Performance Live: The Way O

Not quite change: Not Quite Jerusalem @finborough

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Has anything changed in England in the forty years since Paul Keebler’s Not Quite Jerusalem premiered at the Royal Court? A play about a country full of crap towns, no opportunities and a class divide could have been written today. It’s currently playing at the Finborough Theatre and unexpectedly has new resonance about the opportunities afforded to people in this country. Set in 1979, the play centres around Mike, Carrie, Pete and Dave who travel to Israel to volunteer working on a kibbutz. In the pre-EasyJet revolution, that was a thing. They were expecting the trip to be full of sun, sex and beer. But they find themselves instead mucking out cow sheds and working in the sweltering heat. But Mike, a lost Cambridge dropout, fed up trying to fit in understands why he ran away from England. When he takes a liking to the straight-talking Gila who is completing her final year military service on the kibbutz, it leads to an unlikely meeting of minds across cultures. Things come t

The woke and the trolling: Scrounger @Finborough

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Athena Stevens takes her experiences with an airline that damaged her wheelchair and refused to pay for a replacement into a sharp and an incisive piece on how discrimination affects disabled people. The incident led to her confinement in her flat in Elephant and Castle for months while she tweeted about the experience and gained media attention. And was called a scrounger by the usual band of internet trolls. It’s currently playing at the Finborough Theatre . It's an exciting piece of storytelling that puts you in her shoes. Stevens is a detailed storyteller, and she expertly covers the everyday ordeals that people with disabilities face. From the passive aggressive remarks uttered by flight attendants to friends who have trouble thinking that Elephant and Castle is a part of central London. It's all told with humour, warmth and a healthy amount of outrage. While the case was eventually settled, she explains as far as her non-disclosure agreement allows, how people,

Citizens of nowhere: A Lesson From Aloes @Finborough

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Relationships and friendships can be fragile. Like democracy and freedom. In a world falling apart to paranoia and suspicion, the only thing that grows in this barren land are little pots of aloe. In A Lesson From Aloes at the Finborough, it's 1960s South Africa. In a dreary Port Elizabeth suburb, Piet (David Minnaar) and Gladys (Janine Ulfane) are waiting for Steve and his family to visit. But the guests are late and for good reason. There’s suspicion that Piet turned informer which saw Steve imprisoned and interrogated. Shunned by their old friends, and under observation by the police, their world has collapsed. All that is left for Piet are his precious little plants of Aloe growing in their pots. And for Gladys what is lost is more than political discussion. By the time Steve (David Rubin) shows up there's a power keg ready to blow up. He's leaving South Africa after being granted an exit permit. A one-way ticket out of the country which strips him and his fam

Projections and doing time: Time Is Love @Finborough

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If there is hell on earth, it just might be in Los Angeles. The city is full of petty crime, bored lap dancers and the cops who after putting you away end up sleeping with your wife. Chè Walker’s play which is having its European premiere at the Finborough Theatre is often difficult to follow. It’s set in the last remaining barrios of East Los Angeles. Perhaps the central message is that even when a cop sleeps with your wife, no amount of revenge sex will make it better. But the produciton has assembled a great cast to tell the tale of bored friends and acquaintances who use sex and anger to pass the time. Benjamin Cawley and Gabriel Akuwudike establish a fascinating bromance as the petty criminals and longtime pals, Karl and Blaz. Karl leaves him to take the fall for a botched robbery. Three years later out of jail, nothing for Blaz seems right. Sheila Atim is mesmerising as the weary lap-dancer Rosa. And there’s a great scene with Sasha Frost the sex worker and ex school mate of B

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