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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

Billy don’t be a hero: Billy Bishop Goes To War @Jstheatre

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On the centennial anniversary of the end of the First World War, Proud Haddock and the Jermyn Street Theatre gives us Billy Bishop Goes To War. A story about an unlikely Canadian layabout who becomes a star pilot and legend of the Great War. In this atmospheric production with great performances you‘ll find yourself swept away in the adventure. And the horror. Billy Bishop was a Canadian fighter pilot who was credited with 72 victories. But from the outset it wasn’t obvious he’d be feted as a hero. He was about to be thrown out of military school when war was declared. He escaped the trenches and the mud by becoming an observer in the newly formed Air Force. And thanks to a wealthy patron, Lady St Helier, he managed to rise the ranks. Being from the colonies he was a second class citizen. But something funny happened during the war. And out of necessity perceptions of things start to change. Afterall, he was invaluable keeping up morale in the colonies. The piece is a two hander and d

Those magnificent men: Square Rounds @Finborough

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After watching Square Rounds it’s tempting to ponder did the toilet inspire some of the great discoveries of science. The toilet features prominently in this production. The invention of the modern toilet created the need for synthetic fertiliser. Which in turn led to the creation of the chemical weapons and explosives used to devastating effect in the First World War. And so goes Tony Harrison’s anti-war polemic about those who invented the great weapons of mass destruction. It’s having it’s first production in almost 30 years at the Finborough Theatre . The set is in blacks and whites. Just like the world of science.  But the clarity of science is lost in the fog of war as each great invention with a noble purpose also serves a more destructive one.  It’s depicted by an all-female ensemble to underscore that at wartime it was the women manning the factories. Doing all the work. And mostly spoken in verse. It’s a fascinating and provocative piece. With songs, projections and magic tri

Love and marriage: Mrs Orwell @ORLTheatre

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London in 1949 was a grim time with ration books and strange fish from South Africa. But it's amazing the lengths people will go to keep up morale. Or secure a future income. The business of marriage is explored in Mrs Orwell, currently playing at the Old Red Lion Theatre . It opens shortly after the publication of Nineteen Eighty-Four. George Orwell is dying of tuberculosis in hospital. But in his rage against the dying light he believes he has at three more novels in him. So to keep up his morale he proposes to his friend Sonia Brownell, an assistant magazine editor. Brownell is clear that she is not in love with him, but she does care for him. And she realises she could be his only hope to keep him going. Her heart is with a French Philospher and her body is often with Lucien Freud. Well, such is the glamorous life living with artists.

Loyal and obedient: A Subject of Scandal and Concern @Finborough

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John Osborne's incisive look at freedom and intolerance is given a fresh look in this resourceful production playing for a short run at the Finborough Theatre . Originally written for television in 1960, simple staging and riveting performances will have you transfixed. The story follows George Jacob Holyoake, the last man to stand trial for blasphemy in England. He is played here by Jamie Muscato who gives the role a dark intensity and determination as a man whose world crumbles around him while he holds onto his beliefs.