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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

For the birds: Of No Particular Order @theatre503

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Joel Tan's play, Of No Particular Order , currently playing at Theatre 503, is an unusual piece of theatre. For 90 minutes and a series of scenes over 300 years, it attempts to piece together the order (or disorder) of an unmentioned society. Individual scenes do not add too much. But together, they explore the many facets of what losing freedom, or not having it in the first place, means for everyday people.  It isn't good news for the people. Pointless orders from stupid leaders showing power have deadly consequences.  Tan's approach may not be for all tastes. The audience must do the work to put it together and make sense of it. However, it is a rewarding effort to make sense of what can sometimes seem like a series of random events and interactions.  A cast of four - Daniel York Loh, Pandora Colin, Jules Chan and Pía Laborde-Noguez - resourcefully play the various characters that exist over the 300-year timeframe. Characters come together either to help or to screw each

Man not about town: Foxes @theatre503

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Upbringing, identity and family are at the heart of  Foxes , by Dexter Flanders, currently at Theatre 503. It’s a powerful and often funny piece, sensitively portrayed by the ensemble cast with a lively soundtrack. Daniel (Michael Fatogun) is a young black man trying to keep up with a life that is quickly racing away from him. He’s got study to do, he’s got his girlfriend, Meera (July Namir), pregnant, and he has a best friend, Leon (Anyebe Godwin), who wants to play more than just black ops with him. The foxes in Dexter Flander’s play aren’t the ones running about tearing apart rubbish bags on the street. They’re the men hiding in the shadows, fearing rejection and fearing ridicule. There’s too much at stake for them to be who they are, and so they hide behind alpha male stereotypes, family and religion to pretend to be something they are not.  I What makes this work so well is how it quickly immerses you into the world of the lives of this black B ritish family, creating a detailed p

Sinewy encounters: Meat @theatre503

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Meat is an engaging exploration of relationships power and consent by writer Gillian Greer. Characters are cut and dissected like the animal carcasses hanging in the background of this production. With emotionally engaging performances, it's a gripping take on modern relationships and reconciliation with the past. It's currently playing at Theatre 503 . It is set in a concept restaurant where meat is the only thing on the menu (vegetarians and vegans can go fuck off). There are simple table settings and fine wine. And some animal carcasses in the background. It's a hot spot to go to in Dublin (well butcher restaurants are fashionable in London anyway ). Max (India Mullen), a blogger and writer is there to meet the owner and ex-boyfriend Ronan (Sean Fox). She's there to tell him that she's put in her forthcoming book an account of the night she was sexually assaulted by him. But she's also there wanting answers. From the start, the expectations are misali

Partying on: J’Ouvert @Theatre503

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The shadow of Grenfell looms large in J’Ouvert, It fills Theatre 503 with the colour and flavour of the Notting Hill carnival. It’s an epic and personal experience of three women during one day at the event. With its intricate storylines and sharp observations about life in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, it’s an impressive debut from writer Yasmin Joseph. Even with what appears to have been a difficult journey to bring it to the stage. In the piece, three women play a range of characters. Two are best friends and locals who have been going to the carnival forever. Another girl has joined them for reasons that become clear later. As they spend the day trying to get a drink and a dance. And some overpriced food, the characters that make up the event come to the fore. What becomes clear is a slice of life of the need to party, the need to be angry and the need to get on with their lives, without harassment or violence looming large. There are the old timers who ha

Come fly with me: Cuzco @Theatre503

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An acquaintance came back from a holiday in Thailand recently. On his return he announced he was separating from his Spanish girlfriend. As I was watching Cuzco at Theatre 503 I was hoping the end of his affair wasn't anything like this. This is a provocative and fascinating piece about relationships and mind games in the the era of globalised tourism. We're introduced to this Spanish couple in a bland hotel room in Cuzco. We don't know their names. She (Dilek Rose) is wearing sunglasses as she says she has a migraine. He (Gareth Jones) is wanting to go out and explore the city. But what seems like simple altitude sickness gives way to some more susbstantial. Soon angry politics, a failing relationships and colonisation is the focus of the discussion. This two hander builds in intensity to an uneasy finale. A trip intended to escape the cracks in their relationship only serves to expand the divide between the two. Both Rose and Jones give an intimate intensity to

Pass it on: Reared @Theatre503

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L iving with your mother in law and a daughter who’s pregnant sets the scene for some tough Irish mothering in Reared. A play by John Fitzpatrick that sets inter-generational conflict as both a tribute and a tribulation. And no matter how hard you fight it, you’ll always end up like your mother. Or in this case, your mother-in-law. It’s currently running at Theatre 503 . Eileen (Shelley Atkinson) is worried about her mother in law, Nora’s increasing forgetfulness. Could it be a sign of dementia? She’s also worried about her daughter Caitlin (Danielle Philips). Caitlin’s pregnant and putting her her dreams of drama school (or at least a shot at university) on hold. They’re just about managing and living under one roof as it’s Nora’s home. For now.  Then there’s Eileen’s ineffectual husband Stuart (Daniel Crossley). And Caitlin’s best friend Colin (Rohan Nedd).  But the men are there for the comic relief. Through a series of monologues and scenes, Fitzpatrick creates a layered story abou

Distant and remote: The Dark Room @theatre503

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Angela Betzien’s hard-hitting play The Dark Room at Theatre 503 explores the underbelly of neglect and violence in outback Australia. Or the Northern Territory to be precise. But this isn’t the Northern Territory famous for its obscure newspaper headlines . This is a much darker, isolated place where the people meant to protect vulnerable people mistreat them instead. It’s billed as a disturbing psychological thriller but the resemblance to real events makes it feel more like a horror show. Betzien wrote the play after witnessing first-hand the shortage of accommodation for children in care in these communities. In the end you leave the theatre feeling shocked and numb from what you’ve seen. Set in a run-down motel room, a series of characters come together to tell the story of stretched resources, limited patience and a tyranny of distance. Time moves forward and back as this bleak plywood motel room as each character recalls another. It opens with youth worker Anni (Katy

Cheers Mum, Cheers Dad: Punts @theatre503

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Watching Punts, which is currently playing at Theatre 503, reminded me of that joke about the boy who asked his parents if he could have a watch for Christmas. And so they let him. Here a young man's sexual awakening is organised by his parents. It all seems very modern. Sarah Page's comedy about the sexual awakening of a young man has a twist. His parents pay for a prostitute to help him as he has learning difficulties. But the piece moves quickly from being a bit  awkward (or a bit gross), to being a very funny and sophisticated story. It's also made believable by the convincing performances.

Mad as duck: The Monkey @theatre503

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A debt, a bad nickname and an obsession Reservoir Dogs come into focus in John Stanley's funny and dark play The Monkey at Theatre 503 . Stanley notes that he has distilled the four characters in the piece from the larger than life characters he has encountered. They bring to life the many traits of London's sub-culture of addiction and criminality. It's part of the Homecoming's season of new writing by prisoners and ex-prisoners. The stories are about getting out and going home. But what is fascinating in this hilarious piece is how he has created a unique character in Terry. Terry (or Tel as his mates call him) has left Bermondsey and trying to leave his old past behind. But an old mate Thick-Al owes him money (or a monkey)  His mates think he has a bit of screw loose but also that he is a soft touch.