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Bear with me: Sun Bear @ParkTheatre

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If The Light House is an uplifting tale of survival, Sarah Richardson’s Sun Bear gives a contrasting take on this. Sarah plays Katy. We’re introduced to Katy as she runs through a list of pet office peeves with her endlessly perky coworkers, particularly about coworkers stealing her pens. It’s a hilarious opening monologue that would have you wishing you had her as a coworker to help relieve you from the boredom of petty office politics.  But something is not quite right in the perfect petty office, where people work together well. And that is her. And despite her protesting that she is fine, the pet peeves and the outbursts are becoming more frequent. As the piece progresses, maybe the problem lies in a past relationship, where Katy had to be home by a particular hour, not stay out late with office colleagues and not be drunk enough not to answer his calls. Perhaps the perky office colleagues are trying to help, and perhaps Katy is trying to reach out for help. It has simple staging

This mean and unpleasant land: Allelujah! @_BridgeTheatre

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Watching Alan Bennett’s Allelujah! at the Bridge Theatre , you can’t help but admire him for putting it up his fellow Englishmen. After all he’s a national treasure, living legend, man of letters, all round octogenarian. And here’s an angry play about how this country doesn’t care. It neglects its elderly, it causes hardship for immigrants and so on. There’s a long list of grievances that the bigoted press have not unnoticed in their reviews. But it’s presented with all the charm and wit Bennett can muster. You can feel the irony as he evokes the noble yesteryear, contrasting it with the neglect of today.  A nurse quips that the patients are living long enough to form a choir. But it’s a performance nobody sees. Even as the cast work their way through an increasingly elaborate set of musical numbers. It’s as if Bennett’s making the case to the audience that you’re having such a darn good time with the performers why keep putting your old folks on the scrap heap? Life for the elderly w

Batter up: Jam @Finborough

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No doubt there are days when teachers just wish they had a baseball bat to put a little bit of distance between themselves and their students. In Jam by Matt Parvin, teacher Bella Soroush is lucky enough to do just that. It's currently playing at the Finborough Theatre . The premise in this two-hander is that ex-pupil Kane ruined Bella Soroush's life. Something happened and so she moved schools, moved towns and got on with her life. But now Kane has tracked her down and claims they have unfinished business.

Needs a little more mascara: Madame Rubinstein @Parktheatre

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Madame Rubinstein at Park Theatre should be a camp romp covering the rivalry between Helena Rubinstein, Elizabeth Arden and Revlon. But instead it is a dragged out affair that has few laughs and some  unintended ones. The jokes are so stale you could think that John Misto wrote it in the 1950s rather than the present day. Miriam Margolyes as Rubinstein looks the part and has fun with the role. But in the end she can't do much with a lumbering script and odd looking production. Frances Barber as Arden is terrific as her foil, but she doesn't get much to do other than look fabulous in fur.

The Corsican Job: Sublime @Tristanbates

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With Sublime, the premise of a new heist drama and a promise of it being a provocative play is hard to resist. Its short run at the Tristan Bates Theatre has ended but there were some things to admire about the piece by by Sarah Thomas. The story is that the heistess, Sophie, is back in town. And she's got one week to pull off three jobs to pay back the Corsicans. It's assumed knowledge that you don't want to fuck with the Corsicans . But if you have been to Corsica you probably will understand that immediately. She enlists her brother Sam to help her. But Sam is trying to lead a straight and boring life with his mousy new girlfriend Clara ( Suzy Gill ). But there is so much sexual chemistry between the two you begin to wonder what sort of siblings they are.

Cattle class: Dubailand @Finborough

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There is a line in the play Dubailand about all the astronauts around the world looking down and seeing people in Dubai. The implication is they will see these masters of the universe. Labourers earning loads of money. Expats in offices making a bundle. But they will see tiny people of insignificance. That's the point of the play. Whether you're a labourer or marketer, you're all the same. You're second or third or fourth-class citizens. And don't forget it. The play by Carmen Nasr is running at The Finborough Theatre on Sundays Mondays and Tuesdays. It was first performed there as a staged reading in 2015.

Hopes for 2017: The Doppel Gang @tristanbatestheatre

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Things I am hopeful about for theatre this year after catching The Doppel Gang at the Tristan Bates Theatre : More shows featuring the music, drama and comedy of music hall.  The Mother Goose panto at Wilton's last year gave a few quick flashes of music hall style with a few numbers. Here this show is set in the pre-television era where an evening's entertainment is a night out at the theatre. It's a lost art that could do with being resurrected. More borrowing of classic comedy sketches that don't involve Monty Python.  There is a Faulty Towers Live show that is winding its way around Australia as part of John Cleese's pension plan. But there are is plenty of other comedy that could be recreated, borrowed, or repurposed. The Marx Brothers are a case in point.

Spooky things at night: Benighted @ORLTheatre

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Benighted is a taut Christmas thriller that is a welcome relief for anyone who doesn't buy into all that cheer this time of year. Or pantomimes. There is thunder, a spooky house and dark secrets. It's currently playing at The Old Red Lion Theatre . It is a dark and stormy night. And close to Christmas. A car has broken down and there is a rising flood. Three people seek shelter from the weather in a gloomy mansion. But all is not what it seems and their hosts, the mysterious Femm family, are not particularly hospitable. As others arriving seeking shelter from the rain the group begin to wonder if they will make it through the night. First published in 1927, this early novel by J.B. Priestley was adapted for the screen by James Whale in the 1932 as The Old Dark House. It was the original horror picture movie that would inspire many others and be the blueprint for future stories. Including the Rocky Horror Picture Show. It has been adapted for stage by Duncan Gates.

Peace is our profession: The Acedian Pirates @Theatre503

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Keeping the peace and stopping depravity is all and good, but in The Acedian Pirates it comes with a few unintended consequences. It is an evocative and testosterone-fuelled piece currently running at Theatre 503. Watching this piece had me pondering what Donald Rumsfeld said once about unknown unknowns . After all this piece is set in some unknown remote lighthouse in some unknown battleground. The mission is unknown and the outcome also unknown. You’re as confused as the characters about the point of it all, but you get drawn into it anyway. There is never a dull moment with the fights, the explosions and a strange lady upstairs.

Sweat shops: The Great Divide @Finborough

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  The Great Divide uses the worst industrial accident in history as the backdrop to explain the lives and times of some of the workers who lived and perished in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.  It is playing on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday at the  Finborough Theatre  until 20 September.  What is exciting about Alix Sobler's piece is how fragments of stories comes together to tell a much bigger one about immigration, dreams and unionisation against the backdrop of the deadliest workplace disaster in American history.    The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was on the lower east side of Manhattan located on the top floors of an 11 storey building. Most of its workers were migrants working for low pay and long hours. The custom and practice in factories was to lock doors and limit exits to prevent theft. Smoking was banned but people did anyway.  So when fire broke out on 25 March 1911, the combination of flammable materials and no means of escape let to a fire of such intensity that

Eat your young: Unfaithful @found111

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The central message from Unfaithful by Owen McCafferty is that it is still an older persons world. The older generation is screwing the younger generation over and over. They get the early retirements, they clinched Brexit, and they get free TV licences. All at the expense of the younger generations who will pay for it. And here those youngsters are also fair game for sex. For fifty-something couple Tom and Joan, it’s too late to do anything else. They are stuck with each other. But the play opens with Tom confessing that he had a sexual relationship with a younger woman. So Joan seeks revenge sex by hiring a male escort. Meanwhile Tara is bored working at the checkout at Tescos and her frustrated her partner Peter - a male escort - doesn’t have a day job. And thus begins this four hander about relationships. It is full of dirty talk about eating this and fucking that. But mostly it is middle-aged sex fantasy and I suspect an excellent show to catch if you’re over fifty. For

Mad about the boy: Britten in Brooklyn @wiltonmusichall

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Britten in Brooklyn currently playing at Wilton’s Music Hall is a good looking production. But the trouble with a piece about artists at their least artistic period of their lives is that not a lot happens. In the end you feel as if you have been watching Celebrity Big Brother, without the cheap thrills of seeing anyone being a cat ... Or getting confused about which David died . At the height of the Second World War, Benjamin Britten takes off to America, avoiding conscription and the conflict in Europe. He stays in Brooklyn in an artistic commune with his friend poet WH Auden. Writer Carson McCullers and Gypsy Rose Lee are also staying there. I was half-expecting an evening of debauchery and creativity. But it was mostly introspection. Still upset over the death of his mother and reception of his works in England, Britten is seeking solace from all that. He also is coming to grips with his homosexuality, budding relationship with Peter Peers and his pacifism.

Anywhere alone: Rotterdam @TrafStudios, @RotterdamPlay

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The best thing about the West End transfer of Rotterdam to Trafalgar Studios is the chance to see it again after its sellout run last year at Theatre 503 . Maybe it is just as good as it always has been, but seeing it in the space of Trafalgar Studios 2, the drama seems heightened and the comedy funnier. The piece is a unique and hilarious story about gender, sexuality and drifting through life abroad by Jon Brittain . A combination of great writing and performances make it a must-see. The premise is it is New Year in Rotterdam. Alice has finally worked up enough courage to tell her parents she is gay and living with her girlfriend Fiona. But the email is never sent. Just as Alice was about to send the message Fiona reveals that she wants to start living as a man named Adrian. While Adrian starts transitioning Alice now has to decide what this means for her, and does that mean she is now straight? To add to the complications Alice’s ex and Fiona’s brother Josh is there. And s

Quick snatches: The Future of Sex @wardrobensemble

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The sexual revolution wasn't quite as it seemed in this style over substance account of sex in the seventies (or should that be present day)? The Wardrobe Ensemble had a hit in Edinburgh last year with this show that goes beneath the hype of the sexual revolution, only to find that things were just as awkward then as they are now. Narration, inner monologues and jump cuts to the present day pepper this story of a group of young people discovering sex in the 70s.

You gotta get a gimmick: Hand to God @handtogodlondon

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Hand to God has landed in the West End after a successful run on Broadway. It's been described as Sesame Street meets the Exorcist but something seems lost in translation in its trip across the pond. The comedy seems forced and the attempts to shock seem like they miss the target for London audiences. After all, this is a city where its buses advertised that God probably doesn't exist. Fanaticism and seeing things only in black and white is not really what we do over here. It's a shame as while there is a heavy handed preachy message that misses its mark, there are also some great performances. And some very funny use of sock puppets.

Dire sheep: Big Brother Blitzkrieg @KingsHeadThtr

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It seems like a great concept: after many rejections from Vienna's art school and a botched suicide attempt, Hitler wakes up in the Big Brother House. But what could pass for a five minute sketch is dragged out for an excruciating seventy minutes with few laughs.

Passing through: Rotterdam @Rotterdamplay @Theatre503

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Rotterdam is a unique and hilarious story about gender, sexuality and life abroad by playwright Jon Brittain. It is made even more memorable by the strong and tender performances by the leads. It’s having its world premiere at Theatre503 , which is continuing to nurture original new writing in London. It has to be the first “gay play” or perhaps the first "lesbian transgender comedy" in a long time to explore something that feels like real characters.

Larking about: And Then Come The Nightjars @Theatre503

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  And Then Come the Nightjars , currently playing at Theatre 503 , is a funny and at times touching two-hander that charts the period of the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001 and its aftermath from the perspective a a farmer in South Devon and his friend and local vet. It is astonishing to watch such a finely drawn characterisations  and a beautiful looking production in the intimate space of Theatre 503.

Sultry and sweaty: In The Dead of Night @LandorTheatre

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A sexy cast, terrific dancing and high drama make In The Dead of Night a fun, fascinating and classy take on the film noir thrillers of old Hollywood. The dialogue is clipped, the dancing is tight and the bodies are hot. So hot you can smell the sweat coming off them. Or it might be baby oil looking like sweat... The Landor Theatre is a pretty intimate space so sometimes nothing is left to the imagination. In the Dead of Night is set in a dodgy South American shanty town at the end of the war, and  everyone is on the take. The men work on the docks. The women sell their bodies. And if the men are up for it they sell their bodies too.

A gran day out: Animals @Theatre503

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Note: this post was updated in December 2022 in an attempt to comply with Google content guidelines - however if a phrase about putting children in bubble wrap and eating nan violates these guidelines it still may have a content advisory… 🤷‍♂️ There is something dark and unsettling about Animals, a brilliant new play by Emma Adams at Theatre 503 . Its frank humour and intense performances from a terrific cast will have you loving every minute of it. It might also have you wondering what your grandmother really gets up to when she tells you she spent most of the day finishing a crossword. This surreal story set in a dystopian English seaside town where the old people are being displaced by incomers who dress smartly and keep their children in bubble wrap. For them life is a dream. But for anyone past their prime, life is pretty grim and involuntary euthanasia is the norm. Of course some people still manage to get by. Norma, a stubborn yet resourceful old lady who told aut

I'm OK you're OK: Death Row Cowboy @CourtyardHoxton

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Death Row Cowboy , which has just finished a short run at the Courtyard Theatre is a gritty and realistic piece of writing that leaves you wondering if it was based on a real life incident. But of course if that were the case there would need to be a different ethnic makeup of the cast, given that the majority of inmates on death row  are not white... But real life is less important than the character study of the three key people in the piece. Carl, who is on death row, prison officer Bobby and a police officer’s widow Hillary. It is written by Andrew Lynch and Mark McCabe who play Carl and Bobby and serves as a vehicle to explore some intriguing themes on relationships, loneliness, love and regret.