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Bear with me: Stitches @TheHopeTheatre

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What if your teddy bear could talk? My ten-year-old self would think that to be excellent. My more recent self would think it was a high-concept buddy movie with Mark Wahlberg. But in Stictches, Jonathan Blakeley's monologue, which he has written and performed, traces the life of his beloved Chloe, from when she was first given to him by her grandmother, wrapped with a red ribbon. It becomes a story not just about a cute bear (or maybe that should be rough, shaggy-looking bear given the performer’s appearance) observing life but an exploration of life and all of its stages. It's currently playing at the Hope Theatre .  The bear is not warm and fuzzy; he is a bit of a character and tough-talking, but also a bit anxious about being accepted and then discarded as nothing. But he is there to bear witness as she navigates the complicated facets of growing up and having a life. Ultimately, the bear has to deal with being consigned to a box with her other memories until circumstances

Pig In A Poke: Betty Blue Eyes @TheUnionTheatre

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Twelve years after its West End premiere, Betty Blue Eyes seems topical. Back then, the parallels were only about a Royal Wedding, with William and Kate's marriage filling the headlines. Now a musical about conniving members of the establishment , illegal meat trades and shortages of decent food could be set in the present day. Even the Horse meat scandal would follow a few years after its closure. Now in a smaller-scale version at the Union Theatre, it's still funny and silly. And the illegal pigsty is right up close and under your nose in the smaller space of the Union Theatre .  Based on the Alan Bennet movie A Private Function, the story is set just after the Second World War when rationing and shortages meant times were tough. Gilbert and Joyce Chilvers (Sam Kipling and Amelia Atherton) move to a small Yorkshire Town and struggle to make ends meet and gain acceptance. Gilbert has to make do as a chiropodist making house calls to lonely housewives (in 1947, they were all

On matters of love and debt: The Bear / The Lady With The Dog @TheUniontheatre @ART_THEATRE_LDN

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Summer means that attention for all things theatrical (and fringey) usually drifts north to Edinburgh. But over at the Union Theatre , a Chekhov double bill by new production company Art Theatre is there to remind us that London can still surprise us with exciting fringe theatre any time of the year.  There are two short comedies by Anton Chekhov and directed by Dmitrij Turchaninov, an alumnus of Studio Chekhov: Moscow Art Theatre School – which first performed  Chekhov’s plays. And with a simple staging and engaging performances, the works come to life.  First up is the Lady With The Dog, which is about a cynical married man who, while holidaying in Yalta, falls in love with another married woman who happens to go everywhere with a little dog. Based on a short story of Chekhov’s, it’s more storytelling than a play, but with its simple projections and props, you feel like you are on holiday at the turn of the last century.  After the interval is The Bear, a story about a retired office

Goodbye to London: Falling Stars @Gingerqmedia @TheUnionTheatre @stream_theatre

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A lost songbook in an antique shop on East Finchley High Road in London could be a metaphor for a lost London. Peter Polycarpou’s discovery of a songbook full of songs from the 1920s is the basis of a song cycle that pays homage to the composers and creators of some of the most memorable and influential songs of the time. But they also capture the escapist mood sought during a different time and place.  Watching  Falling Stars online  at the end of 2020 during a second lockdown feels like reminiscing over a lost London and what it was like before March when you could pop out for an evening at a small theatre and get lost in some terrific storytelling or music-making. It’s a part education of the early twentieth-century songbook, and part entertainment as Peter Polycarpou and Sally Ann Triplett interpret the songs and music of Chaplin, Irving Berlin, Buddy De-Silva, Arthur Freed and Meredith Wilson. The songs about better days, loss and reflection hark back to a different time and p

Jerry’s Children: Showtune @TheUniontheatre

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An evening of songs by composer Jerry Herman weaved into a song cycle about the excitement of being on stage, or anywhere for that matter is an unexpected joy. Particularly when it's sung by a young and energetic cast. It's currently playing at the Union Theatre . It's been over thirty years since an original Jerry Herman musical has been on stage. That none of the cast were born when these songs were written probably isn't lost on the audience.  But Herman's work remains almost a regular feature of the West End as Andrew Lloyd Webber's Evita or Joseph. Recent years have seen La Cage Aux Folles, Hello Dolly! Or Mack and Mabel.  For a period from the sixties through to the early eighties, Jerry Herman wrote musicals that helped define the idea of what a musical show should be. Emotional, funny and always tuneful.   Now there's a chance for a new generation of musical theatre graduates to take on his work. With the young cast of ten performer

A mother’s touch: H.R. Haitch @TheUnionTheatre

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If there is one thing to admire about H.R. Haitch, it is it’s impeccable timing. Opening at The Union Theatre on the week of the Royal Wedding could confuse people for thinking this musical comedy is a topical satire. Alas, it’s not. The piece premiered in 2015 as a workshopped performance. Three years on, with its convoluted plot, songs that stop the show dead and running gags that fall flat... It could do with a few more workshops. For reasons that are unclear it’s set in a parallel universe in 2011. Mouthy common barmaid Chelsea (Tori Allen-Martin) meets secret prince Bertie (Christian James). They fall in love and plan to open a catering business. Until duty calls, and for reasons that are also unclear, he has to reveal his identity. It’s hard to understand the romance. Chelsea comes across as a motherly figure to Bertie. But I guess it takes all sorts. She also says more about why she hates the royal family than anything else. But Tori Allen-Martin makes the most out of underwrit