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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

Lovely spam: Cockamamy @TheHopeTheatre

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Alice is starting to get a bit absent minded. She left the can of spam in the sofa. And she forgot that her daughter is dead. But when do these little things start to become the onset of dementia rather than just being part of old age? Afterall, who hasn’t forgot they already had a few cans of spam in the cupboard when they go shopping? It’s all part of Cockamamy, which is currently running at The Hope Theatre . Part of the charm of this piece is that even as things become bleak, there is humour found in the everyday situations. And dementia can be funny while nobody is getting hurt. Alice (Mary Rutherford) says what she thinks. She has a pizza a 5am when she’s hungry. She tells her granddaughter she landed on her feet dating a doctor,  while pouring him a big glass of wine.  Her granddaughter Rosie (Louise Coulthard, who also wrote the piece) feels obliged to look after her. She gets a cleaner in to help and she gets an alarm hooked up. But as she wants to get on with her life she fin

The other path: The Unbuilt City @kingsheadthtr

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Life love and legacy is at the heart of The Unbuilt City, Keith Bunin’s play having its European premiere at the King’s Head Theatre . And a lot of talk about sex with men over a bottle of bourbon. But all told it’s a delicate and contemplative two-hander marked by sensitive and warm performances. Set on a cold afternoon in February. Jonah (Jonathan Chambers) arrives at a townhouse in Brooklyn Heights. His mission is to persuade Claudia (Sandra Dickinson) to sell her secret art collection to a university archive. Particularly her documents relating to an architect and his unrealised plans for New York City.  But even if she can’t afford to heat her house and debts are mounting, she won’t part with her collection to anyone. She wants to know why Jonah is acting as a free agent. What are his passions, his regrets and his loves. Over the course of the piece each reveal a little about themselves and what things could have been.  Bunin’s piece The Busy World Is Hushed was set against the b

From owt to nowt: The Daughter-in-Law @arcolatheatre

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Family ties are strong and stifling in The Daughter-in-Law. It’s a snapshot of working class life against the backdrop of the 1912 miner’s strike. It’s expertly presented in the downstairs space of the Arcola Theatre . It feels as if you’re in the mining cottage as an accidental witness. The performances, drama and intimate space will have you transfixed throughout.  DH Lawrence’s drama, written in 1913, is set in a Nottinghamshire mining town. It’s a world where money is crucial for survival. There are those who have it, those striking for better conditions and those who are bargaining for more of it.  The “daughter-in-law” in question is Minnie (Ellie Nunn). She is a  somewhat independent woman who by chance inherited £100. She’s married to Luther (Harry Hepple) after asking him. After less than a few months marriage, Luther seems to resent his wife’s economic independence to the point that he’s ambivalent to her existence. But it’s his relationship with another woman that sets in tr

Me too thirty years ago: Masterpieces @Finborough

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Long before the #metoo movement called out sexual harassment (and worse), there was Masterpieces by Sarah Daniels. But instead of wearing pink hats or marching, one of the characters pushes a man under the tube.  It’s having its first professional London production in 35 years at the Finborough Theatre . It’s an opportunity to see if the arguments of thirty years ago hold insight into the ones of today. In many ways they do. In others they don’t. The play presents three women living as second class citizens in a first world country. There’s earnest social worker Rowena (Olivia Darnley), her mother (Sophie Doherty) and her friend Yvonne (Tessie Orange Turner).  Set in the era when sex cinemas were part of the West End fabric, on one level it feels quaint with its approach to pornographic magazines. Studies on the effects of pornography have been inconclusive. But here they’re seen as the source of violence and men’s power over women. The men in the piece are either lecherous or ignorant

Chopping and ageing: Le Grand Mort @Trafstudios

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  If you ever wondered what eating a light dinner might be like at Julian Clary’s place, Le Grand Mort at Trafalgar Studios gives you an idea. It's a meticulous affair. Everything is stainless steel in Justin Nardella’s sterile kitchen set. As you would imagine a gay man might do to a Notting Hill flat. Food is already prepped and portioned into little bowls or packets. And any spillage is sprayed and wiped up. Based on Clary’s public persona you could assume it is him, even if his character's called Michael. And  while the show and the food may not be to everyone’s taste, it's amusing and disturbing enough to keep you fascinated.

Lost and found: Stone Face @Finborough

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Stone Face by Eve Leigh, tackles the subject of abuse and recovery in a sensitive and humorous way. It is currently playing at the Finborough Theatre . With its gentle storytelling, it draws you into the story and allows the performers to shine. Inspired by true events, the story revolves around Catherine. Found after her mother killed herself, nobody is sure if she ever left the one bedroom flat they shared. She can neither walk nor speak. It starts with her receiving medical care thanks to a tabloid newspaper campaign that manages to finance it. Catherine's half sister Ali, her doctor and a tabloid journalist are the only people in her life. Over the course of roughly ninety minutes we are drawn into a world of lost children, mental health and isolation.

Tender horrors: Firebird @TrafStudios

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Drama ripped from the headlines and an intense, emotional performance from Callie Cooke in the lead make Firebird at Trafalgar Studios a must see show. Leaving the theatre you might feel as if you have seen first hand a traumatic event. And perhaps you have. This piece conveys some of the brutal realities victims of child sexual exploitation experience. It leaves you drained, shocked and angry that this is probably still going on. But that is no doubt its intention.

Topical Manhandling: Red Velvet @BranaghTheatre

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Red Velvet tells the story of Ira Aldridge , a black actor who plays Othello at the Theatre Royal Covent Garden in 1833. It's fascinating to watch Adrian Lester , playing a man playing Othello. And it's evocative seeing the drama unfold in a theatre close to the period that it adds to the drama. The piece is set at the Theatre Royal Covent Garden in 1833. Edmund Kean, the greatest actor of his generation, collapses on stage while playing Othello. As a result of too much hard living. His son who is playing Iago expects to step up into the role. But impresario Pierre Laporte gives the role to Aldridge, who had been touring in London.

Father knows best: Wingman @sohotheatre

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Father-son comedies have never quite felt so weird as they do in Wingman , Richard Marsh's new take on strained and odd family relationships having an early slot at the Soho Theatre this month. Marsh, a writer of Fringe First winning Dirty Great Love Story and Radio 4 show Love & Sweets, has crafted a story that is part dialogue and part poetry that has a surreal comic effect in describing his dysfunctional relationship with his dad (played by Jerome Wright). Mum has died but after twenty years apart they reunite at her graveside. And it is an opportunity for dad to reunite with the son he left twenty years ago. And dad suggests after seeing that his son is struggling with women that perhaps they could socialise together and he could be his wingman . But that means the son has to get over his issues of abandonment and general hatred of the man...