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Belters and bohemians: Opera Locos @Sadlers_wells

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At the start of the Opera Locos performance, the announcement says that they really are singing. You could be forgiven for wondering that, given the amplification turns up the backing track and the voices so loud that you can't always tell what's real. But this is a mostly harmless and slightly eccentric blend of opera classics fused with the occasional pop classic. However, recognising the pop tunes would help if you were over a certain age. The most recent of them dates back twenty years. It's currently playing at the Peacock Theatre .  Five performers play out a variety of archetype opera characters. There's the worn-out tenor (Jesús Álvarez), the macho baritone (Enrique Sánchez-Ramos), the eccentric counter-tenor (Michaël Kone), the dreamy soprano (María Rey-Joly) and the wild mezzo-soprano (Mayca Teba). Since my singing days, I haven't recognised these types of performers. However, once, I recall a conductor saying he wanted no mezzo-sopranos singing with the s

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

Man Overboard: The Light House @ParkTheatre

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Lightness and dark are in the balance in The Light House, writer and performer Alys Williams's story about the complexity of love. It is a love story about the highs and the lows of falling in love with someone who doesn't always want to be alive. But with some deft storytelling and some inspired audience participation, the piece is an uplifting and funny tale about the joys and otherwise of being in love. After a tour of the UK, it is having its London premiere at Park Theatre as part of their Make Mine a Double season of short plays. From the outset, Williams sets the piece's tone by calling for audience involvement to help shout "Man overboard" or blow whistles. She is a reassuring navigator, so while every show differs depending on who agrees to participate, you get the sense that you're in safe hands with her. And that becomes the story here as well. After falling in love with a fellow acting student, how does she find a way to keep the lights on, deal w

Take me to the world: Hide and Seek @parktheatre

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In a small town where everyone knows everyone, if you don't like it, you might feel that the only logical thing to do is to disappear. Especially if you think it will help your social media rankings. The loneliness and isolation of youth meet influencers in the wild in Tobia Rossi's Hide and Seek. And while events take a darker turn, the humour and the intimacy make this piece about youth on the edge (of trending) fascinating and enjoyable. It's currently playing at Park Theatre .  Mirko (Nico Cetrulo) is exploring a cave with his camera when he stumbles on Gio (Louis Scarpa). Gio has been missing for a while, and the town has been looking for him. But Gio is more interested in how much he is trending on TikTok. He also had a crush on Mirko. Soon, they establish a friendship and a bond. In the cave, they explore feelings they would not dare share outside. However, things turn darker when Gio is confident enough to leave the cave, while Mirko doesn't want his double life

You can’t stop the boats: Sorry We Didn’t Die At Sea @ParkTheatre

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Sorry We Didn’t Die At Sea by Italian playwright Emanuele Aldrovandi and translated by Marco Young, has made a topical return to London at the Park Theatre after playing earlier this summer at the Seven Dials Playhouse. In a week when leaders and leaders in waiting were talking about illegal immigration, it seemed like a topical choice . It also has one hell of an evocative title. The piece opens with Adriano Celantano’s Prisencolinensinainciusol , which sets the scene for what we are about to see. After all, a song about communication barriers seems perfect for a play about people trafficking and illegal immigration. One side doesn’t understand why they happen, and the other still comes regardless of the latest government announcement / slogan .  However, the twist here is that the crossing is undertaken the other way. People are fleeing Europe instead of escaping war or poverty in Africa or the Middle East. It’s set sometime in the not-too-distant future. There is a crisis causing p

Grand designs: The Garden of Words @ParkTheatre

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The Garden of Words explores what it is like when you're alone but surrounded by thousands of people. Projections, music and an engaging cast tell a unique story about an unlikely bond between a young boy and an older woman. The bond leads to a thoughtful and emotional journey about discovering yourself and being okay with that. After all, as the play reminds us throughout, people are indeed weird. Although being surrounded by peculiar people is probably good, it might make you feel a bit more normal. But that's not quite how the story pans out here. It's currently playing at the Park Theatre .  The piece introduces us to Takao (Hiroki Berrecloth) and Yukari (Aki Nakagawa). They first meet one day, escaping from the rain in a Japanese Garden. He's skipping school, seeking solace among the birds and the trees, and she is missing work. It's a chance encounter that, over the seasons, becomes a friendship bonding over poetry, shoemaking and exciting choices in cooking a

Life lessons even for vegetarians: The Winners Curse @parktheatre

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A play about the process of peace negotiations and negotiation theory might sound like a dreary way to spend the evening unless you’re already a student studying this stuff. But Daniel Taub’s play, The Winner’s Curse, has enough bad jokes and entertaining performances to give you some sense of the goings on, haggling and bargaining on the international stage. Whether it’s a play or an attempt at edutainment is another matter. It’s currently playing at Park Theatre . The title comes from the scenario where the winner ends up paying more than what the item they have won is worth. And in negotiations winning isn’t the most optimal outcome. And so, during the evening, we are given a demonstration of this against a fictional Eastern European peace negotiation process.  Clive Anderson, the former negotiator for a fictional country, is accepting an award and looking back on his career. Then we go back to his early days in understanding the process. Part dramatised with his younger self played

Previews: The Elephant Song @ParkTheatre

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On Monday evening, I was to cover a mystery thriller, The Elephant Song. Instead, I was uncovering the mysteries of the London Underground, having found several lines out of action and an emergency evacuation. Only the London Underground would mess with my mind for the evening. But for those who manage to navigate the traffic and public transport (or better yet, can walk or cycle there), it’s currently playing at the Park Theatre.  The Elephant Song is a Canadian play by Nicolas Billon. It premiered in 2002 and has had performances around the world. There’s also a film adaptation which is available to stream. But this is the first time it has premiered in the UK.  Its premise is hospital director Dr Greenberg (Jon Osbaldeston) is questioning a disturbed patient Michael (Gwithian Evans), about a missing psychiatrist. Against the advice of colleagues, he continues the questioning to find out what happened to his colleague. The questioning leads to Michael’s accounts of elephants, opera a

Hostile environments: On The Ropes @ParkTheatre

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On the Ropes, currently playing at Park Theatre , tells the real-life story of Vernon Vanriel. The show tells his story over twelve rounds, using the boxing ring as a metaphor. It's a compelling and emotional story of a life interrupted by the Windrush scandal using narration, songs and drama. Perhaps a few trims and a cast in fit and fighting form (without colds, flu or covid) could be a knockout. Vernon Vanriel's story is about a man who, against all odds, never gives up. Despite the obstacles his way, including ones from his demons. From a trainee electrician to the number two lightweight boxing champion in the UK, he had to deal with crooked promoters and a rigged boxing competition. He never got the opportunity to claim the number one title, and soon, drugs and mental health meant he would lose everything. But he would next find himself up against an even more formidable opponent, the institutionally racist policies of the British government. These policies led to him beco

The young and the infectious: Make Mine A Double @ParkTheatreLondon

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Ah, to be young, carefree and single. When the receptionist at the clinic testing for gonorrhoea knows you by sight, or you haven't yet found the right (Jewish) man to settle down and enjoy smoked salmon and bagels. You know that there is trouble afoot. Park Theatre has programmed a series of short plays from emerging artists called Make Mine A Double this month. Four shows are running for two weeks apiece. And the first two are hilarious.  The first piece is called Anything with A Pulse . It's a two-hander about twenty-somethings falling in and out of love in London. Describing all the action in the third person can sometimes be a bit jarring. The reviewer thought. The reviewer also struggled to keep up with the goings on in the drama. But that was probably more to do with his age than the writing. Still, things move fast in this boy meets girl on the dance floor and then returns to her place for some ambiguously unsatisfying sex before they go their separate ways, wondering

Support your local theatre @arcolatheatre @parktheatre @riversidelondon

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As the lockdown continues and theatres look to surviving for the next three months, here are a few other theatres to support: Arcola Theatre Arcola Theatre - The Arcola Theatre in Dalston has been featured on Newsnight about the economic impact of Covid19 on the creative industries. It’s seeking donations safeguard its future, and you can donate directly on its website. Park Theatre’s Park Life Fund The Park Theatre has launched the Park Life Fund. The theatre has depleted its reserves and production fund. It estimates it needs to raise a further £100,000 to fund a three-month run-up to being able to reopen. Riverside Studios Quiz Nights The Riverside Studios at Hammersmith, which was just reopened following a redevelopment, will be hosting a series of quiz nights with celebrity guests and isolation-friendly prizes. The proceeds will go to ensuring the centre will be able to resume operations in the future. The first of these is on 29 April with Gyles Brandreth. Stephen

Mostly harmless caper: Corpse! @parktheatre

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In times of national crisis, there is nothing like a good old fashioned comic murder-mystery to take your mind off social distancing and voluntary isolation. Or perhaps a silly murder-mystery. And even if the story is a bit suspect, Corpse! is mostly harmless fun and staged with a lot of panache and energy by Tom York. It's currently playing at the smaller space of the Park Theatre . Set against the backdrop of another national crisis, Edward VIII's abdication, Gerald Moon's Corpse! (complete with an exclamation point) was first seen in the early eighties. It is about two identical twins who despise each other. The oldest (by a few minutes) Evelyn, is poor and living in a squalid Soho flat. His acting career hasn't progressed much after being accused of poisoning cast members. He gets by shoplifting from Fortnum and Mason and promising favours to his lonely landlady. His younger brother Rupert is incredibly rich after inheriting the family fortune. Evelyn has dec

Low-calorie stories: Fast @ParkTheatre

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The pseudoscience of detox diets and fasting is given some historical context in Fast. Kate Barton's tale of Linda Hazzard, a quack doctor who inadvertently killed many of her patients is given the once over in this brisk adaptation of her life and crimes against science. It's a fascinating tale, but the roundabout way in which the story unfolds seems to undermine the tension, absurdities and horror of the story. It's currently playing at the Park Theatre . The piece centres around two wealthy English sisters travelling in Washington who stumble across Linda Hazzard's book, Fasting For The Cure Of Disease. The book is a curious polemic about how any disease can be treated through a series of fasting to cleanse the body of unspecified toxins. Available to read on the internet , it's like reading one of those self-published books on Amazon that has a curiously high number of five-star reviews. Hazzard was clearly ahead of her time. If she were alive today, she wou

Flying away: My Dad's Gap Year @ParkTheatre

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Sometimes you just have to throw in the towel and fly out to Thailand. To hell with the consequences. At first. So is the premise In My Dad's Gap Year. But while some of the plot points might be as suspicious as the sexual antics on stage, there's a lot of heart and great performances in this piece. Written by Tom Wright, it's having its world premiere at Park Theatre . Dave (Adam Lannon) is having a mid-life crisis. And he drinks too much. His wife Cath (Michelle Collins) has left him and is uptight teenage gay son, William (Alex Britt) is trying to enter the world of work. So what better way to get over it all by heading off to Thailand? Beside's it's supposed to be William's gap year. So why can't dad join in? Along the way Dave falls for Mae (Victoria Gigante), who runs the bar at the beach. And there's a sexy lifesaver Matias (Max Percy) who is about to open William's eyes to a whole new world. What at first seems to be a wild funny h

Smokes and parasites: A Princess Undone @ParkTheatre

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It’s a hot and stormy August evening, and Princess Margaret is on a mission in A Princess Undone. The trouble is, with so much reverence for the subject - and not much of a mission - it’s hard to see the drama (or comedy) in this piece by Richard Stirling. It’s currently playing at Park Theatre . It’s August 1993. Most of the Royals are at Balmoral. Princess Margaret is at Kensington Palace with the Queen Mother’s steward William Tallon (also played by Stirling). After clearing out correspondence from the Queen Mother’s rooms in Clarence House they’re getting ready to burn it.  The trouble is Princess Michael of Kent is watching them. And they aren’t too sure if Diana has slipped out for a night of playing catch with the paparazzi. And some boy is claiming to have information on her liaisons with underworld figure John Bindon. The premise sounds like it could be a farce exploring the world of the royals and the sycophants that surround them. But too often the punches are pulled and we’

Mum’s the word: Loot @ParkTheatre

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In the fifty years since Joe Orton’s death, Loot has lost none of its bite. In fact, with the naughtier, dirtier bits restored, it presents a hypocritical and corrupt British society that feels like present day. It’s currently playing at Park Theatre . The targets here are religion, the police, corruption and our perception of death. It’s intended to shock. It’s intended to be funny. But taking in all the banter and word play you realise Orton’s attacking the veneer of polite respectability that pervades Britain. Here rhetoric clashes with reality. But at least it’s damn funny. It opens with Mr McLeavy (Ian Redford) grieving over the death of his wife and getting ready to go to her funeral. He’s lived a respectable life. He is with Nurse Fay (Sinéad Matthews) who looked after her in her final weeks. But as she talks and talks about piety and respectability all is not what it seems. McLeavy’s son, Hal (Sam Frenchum), has strayed from the righteous path. Attracted to petty crime, prostit

Kosher cougars: A Dark Night in Dalston @ParkTheatre

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No matter what your religious or cultural background, all you need is a warm hearted older woman to perk you up. And chewable painkillers. And tea in a paper cup. These are all important in A Dark Night in Dalston which is currently playing at Park Theatre . In the piece Council estate resident Gina brings in a young devout Jewish man lying outside her flat for a plaster and hot cup of tea. Some of the lads on the estate roughed him up after he was visiting the local slapper.  It wasn't so much as anti-Semitism as robust local banter. Anyway while she is tending to his cuts and bruises and offering him tea the sun sets. And so he can't go home as it's the sabbath.  He doesn't want to face his father and he doesn't want to face his fiancee. Gina is an ex-nurse and full-time carer. But what care does young Gideon need? What draws him to Dalston in the first place since he comes from Stanmore? Couldn't he find what he was after in Kilburn?