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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 male gaze: Turning the screw

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It's been a while since trips to the theatre. I've been busy. But it's nice to see that it's the creative process that is at the heart of Kevin Kelly's Turning the Screw. And what gives rise to it. It's a dramatisation of the creative process leading up to composer Benjamin Britten's premiere of his opera, The Turning of the Screw. With deadlines approaching, Britten seems stuck over melodies and unsure about completing the piece for its summer premiere. But the selection of twelve-year-old choirboy David Hemmings in the leading role of Miles within the opera is the spark that motivates him to complete the piece. And his presence may stir other feelings, too. It's currently playing at the Kings Head Theatre .  Britten's fascination with young boys has been the subject of a detailed book, Britten's Children. The book suggests that Britten saw himself as a young boy of 13. It's almost as if he saw himself as Peter Pan, albeit if Peter Pan was a

Two handers: No Strings Attached @KingsHeadThtr

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It seems apt that the first live theatre to watch since the pandemic kicked off in 2020 was about two men not entirely sure about who they are after an awkward encounter. After all, adjusting to new routines of mask-wearing, restrictions, bubble seating. It all feels just as awkward and enthralling as two men hooking up in a London car park for the first time. Charles Entsie’s No Strings Attached was to open the Kings Head Theatre in Spring 2020. But the delay has been worth it. Presented in an empty shop space in Islington Square, it feels more like you’re in a car park where the action takes place. And performing in an empty shop space is a reminder (whether intended or not), of the impact the year has had on retail and hospitality.  There are no names. There’s only a man (Razak Osman) and a boy (Shak Benjamin). Opening after the end of a brief encounter, the man tries to strike upon a conversation with the boy for reasons that aren’t entirely clear initially.  An awkward conversati

A class of their own: HMS Pinafore @KingsHeadThtr

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Charles Court Opera's production of Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore takes life below deck to a new level. Set on a bright yellow submarine in the 1960s, it is a treat. Particularly with some excellent vocal singing from the small cast. It's currently playing at the Kings Head Theatre . As a satire on the enduring preoccupation by the English on class, the piece never feels dated. So shifting the time and place doesn't seem such a bad thing. It's full title HMS Pinafore, or, the lass that loved a sailor pretty much sums up the story. The captain of the HMS Pinafore intends his daughter to marry the first Lord of the Admiralty, but she is in love with a lower-class sailor. Here with a small cast while the chorus is reduced, it allows us to focus on the main action. And the music under the direction of David Eaton on keyboard. The cast works well to balance the demands of the music with the comic elements of the piece. As the lovestruck sailor Ralph Rac

Animal Urges: Awkward Conversations with Animals I F*cked @kingsheadthtr

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Awkward Conversations with Animals I’ve F*cked certainly has an evocative and attention-grabbing title. There’s also an animal-like performance by Linus Karp. He’s part awkward young man, part woodland creature and so he holds your attention. But once you realise the animals are real the rest becomes a letdown. It’s less awkward conversations and more repetitive conversations. The species changes but it’s the same story. It’s currently playing at Kings Head Theatre .   It opens in what looks like a student dorm room. Dirty sheets, dirty clothes and food are strewn across the floor. And Bobby is lying there on the bed. It’s the morning after the night before. And then he starts talking. Soon you realise that the trying on the dog collar is not quite role-playing.  Next, he moves on to conversations with cats. Then sheep, monkeys and bears. Sure the conversations touch on his life and loneliness. There’s a hint about mental illness. But none of this is particularly con

Streaming Queens: The Crown Dual @KingsHeadthtr

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Even if you haven’t watched The Crown on Netflix, there’s much to be amused about in The Crown Dual. A meta-spoof on the public’s endless fascination for dramatisations about the lives of the royal family. And all things royal for that matter. It’s currently playing at the Kings Head Theatre . The premise is that Beth Buckingham (Rosie Holt) and her dubious agent and patio specialist Stanley (Brendan Murphy) are going to recreate Beth’s showreel audition for The Crown. And prove that she would have been far more talented than that Claire Foy in the role. And so beings a rather silly and at times hilarious recreation of the best and most preposterous bits of the first series of The Crown. With Holt or Murphy playing a range of cast members, sending up both the characters and their fictional television characterisations. Both have great comic timing and make a  somewhat regal pair. The lives of the Royal Family often seem like the subject matter for a farce. Here it’s an ente

Immigrants getting the job done: Carmen @KingsHeadThtr

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Carmen can survive being messed about. After all she’s wearing a gorilla suit at the Royal Opera's current production . Here she’s an immigrant working in a bar,selling NHS drugs on the side and picking up footballers to make ends meet. It’s a grittier, funnier take on Bizet’s opera complete with some fine singing. And it’s currently playing at the Kings Head Theatre . This version by Mary Franklin and Ashley Pearson is like La Tragédie de Carmen , adapted by Peter Brook in the early 1980s. Both dispense with a large ensemble to focus on the love triangle. But in this English version there’s more laughs. Albeit against a grim backdrop of low paid jobs, living out of cars and footballers looking for cheap thrills. You’re never quite sure if you should be laughing or recoiling from the comedy-drama unfolding as the vocals are soaring. But then again comedy is tragedy plus time... The role of Carmen is shared. I saw it played by American Mezzo Soprano Jane Monari. Her Carmen i

For the birds: Outlying Islands @KingsHeadThtr

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Life on Outlying Islands at the Kings Head Theatre is for the birds. Or  what happens on a remote island should stay on the island. David Greig's play is having its first revival. Buffeted by storms, death and primal forces even four weeks can seem like an eternity. But time flies in this expertly acted and imaginatively realised production. Set ahead of the outbreak of the Second World War, two young men travel to this remote Scottish island to conduct a survey of the birds for the government. But even in the summer months the harsh conditions, isolation and boredom make them turn inward. One of them, John (Jack McMillan), is a proper man. And a Scotsman. The other, Robert (Tom Machell) is a crazy idealist from London. Together they develop a special bond. There's another man, Kirk (Ken Drury) who has leased the land to the government and giving them a place to stay in a deserted chapel on the island. Puritanical and in search of profit he see's their mission a

Something cuddly and fluffy for Christmas: Buttons @KingsHeadThtr

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It’s hard not to like a show where the central character is a man in a giant bear suit. And with great performances, gorgeous costumes and high production values, Buttons is fun and entertaining. This is Charles Court Opera’s self-described “boutique panto” and it’s currently playing at the Kings Head Theatre . The show’s an eccentric yet panto-style reworking of the Cinderella story. Buttons centres around Cinderella’s teddy bear, Buttons. He’s is in love with Cinderella but as he’s a teddy bear it‘s all very platonic cuddly love. Until a fairy godfather visits Buttons and turns him into a man and things get interesting. And a little bit weird. Meanwhile and evil Prince Charming is persuing Cinderella. He’s been knocking off various fictional characters to say young and charming and sees Cinderella as his next victim. And Cinderella’s mother is trying to pull a policeman who is investigating the death of various fairy tale characters. Created by Charles Court Opera’s artistic direc

When in Rome: For Reasons That Remain Unclear @KingsHeadThtr

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A young screenwriter and an older priest walk into a hotel room in Rome. You just know it isn’t going to end well. But part of the suspense in For Reasons That Remain Unclear is you are never certain where things are heading. Mart Crowley’s sexually charged piece keeps you guessing. It’s having its UK premiere at The Kings Head Theatre as part of its Queer Season of theatre. Patrick (Simon Haines) is working for Warner Brothers in Rome living out of a fabulous hotel. He meets Conrad (Corey Petersen) on the street and after a long lunch they head back to Patrick’s hotel. What then ensues is a series of mind games as faith, sexuality and secrets are explored. Conversations about the trivial meander into the personal. Then it builds into something darker. It’s probably every gay priest’s fantasy to get picked up off the street by someone from Hollywood. But if you get past that it’s a rewarding piece, particularly given the performances.  Haines and Petersen are terrific. They hold your

Giving a toss: East @KingsHeadThtr

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Dirty, smutty and just a little bit Shakespearean. East takes you back to the rough and tumble of the good ol’ days of London. A time when fascists roamed the streets, baked beans on toast was considered cuisine and street brawls were just for laughs. Some time between the 1950s and the 1970s in East End London. It’s playing at the Kings Head Theatre . But in the forty or so years since it premiered something seems amiss with this piece. It feels desperate to shock rather than the genuine article. Every c-bomb and mother-son jerk off seemed telegraphed in advance rather than something new, fresh and gross. Perhaps nothing surprises us anymore in the city where the horrors are real. Modern day enslavement, sexual harassment, acid attacks and the Grenfell disaster. A punch up in a bar and a wank in the cinema are cute by comparison. Still it’s energy is fascinating. If a tad exhausting to watch. A series of scenes and monologues explode in front of you before disappearing. Leaving you to

Small yet perfectly formed: King Tut A Pyramid Panto @KingsHeadThtr

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Christmas is coming and so that means that pantomime season is in full swing. Charles Court Opera is back at the Kings Head Theatre with their off-kilter take on the panto genre with King Tut, A Pyramid Panto. Pared back so it’s called a “boutique panto” this one is small but perfectly formed with cheap laughs, a weird plot and some fine singing. Set in the Valley of the Kings, a small troupe of explorers are about to open up King Tut’s tomb only to find themselves whisked back in time to when King Tut ruled with his pal... Who just happens to be a talking Camel.

Smirking out loud: The Diary of a Nobody @KingsHeadThtr

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The Diary of A Nobody returns to the Kings Head Theatre for a short run over the next few weeks. Rough Haired Pointer’s reimagining of the classic Victorian lower middle class tale was a hit a few years back. First at the White Bear Theatre and then at the Kings Head. But something seems amiss this time around. The comedy seems strained and the pacing a little slow. At best it elicits smirks out loud rather than belly laughs. I recalled it being it funnier and full of energy, allowing you to overlook some of the more curious interpretations of the source material. This includes the decision to have an all-male cast play a range of female roles.