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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

I see a river: The Fishermen @Trafstudios

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  A Booker-Prize nominated novel by Chigozie Obioma about families, vengeance and fate, is adapted into a two-hander play and currently playing at the downstairs space at Trafalgar Studios . It’s an intense, haunting and brisk adaptation by Gbolahan Obisesan of two men reunited after a tragedy. A prophecy of foreboding trouble haunts four brothers living in a small Nigerian town. Two brothers, Ben (David Alade) and Obembe (Valentine Olukoga), secretly fish at a forbidden river along with their two older brothers. They risk both their lives and angering their father by fishing there. Until one day, they come across a madman who changes their lives permanently. It opens with the two brothers meeting on either side of a riverbank. Some time has passed, and their reunion at first brings joy. And then takes a darker turn as family relationships, guilt and superstitions are remembered. As the two storytellers, Alade and Olukoga bring humour and warmth to their roles as they port

Horse Play: Equus @Trafstudios #EquusWestEnd

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Peter Shaffer's play Equus is given a slick and stylised turn in this English Touring Company production that's currently playing on the West End at Trafalgar Studios . With everything stripped back to the bare essentials, all that's left is a white curtain, muscles and guilt. And the occasion flash or scream. If you missed it earlier this year at Theatre Royal Stratford East, see it now as it's a fresh look at this psychological thriller. The premise of the piece is that seventeen-year-old Alan (played by Ethan Kai with moody intensity), has blinded six horses in a stable he worked in on weekends. Rather than go to jail, he's sent to a psychiatric hospital for treatment.  And where Dysart (Zubin Varla) has to uncover the motive for this madness. Even if it was inspired by a real-life crime, it's rather clever of Schaffer to focus on cruelty to horses in England. Nothing surely can be more shocking in a country that worships the very ground the equine b

Space for reflection: Dark Sublime @Trafstudios

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Cult eighties television is the launch pad for looking back on a life sort-of lived in Dark Sublime. A long but rewarding look at how trivial and inconsequential things can end up being so much more. In this case, a crap science fiction show alters the space-time continuum with enduring rewards, and a chance to reflect on a life well lived so far. It’s currently at Trafalgar Studios . Marianne (Marina Sirtis) is a serious actress who reached fame with a London Television science fiction show, Dark Sublime. Full of cheap effects and overacting, it was a minor hit when it aired in the eighties and since developed a cult following. Her television work gave her fame and paid for the mortgage. Nowadays, she makes ends meet with random jobs that pay for her penchant for cheap wine at Tesco. But a young man with a childhood obsession for Dark Sublime (Kwaku Mills), tracks her down for his fan website. Their meeting leads to a moment of reflection of where she is in her life, a

Girl jobs: A Hundred Words For Snow @trafstudios

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There may be A Hundred Words for Snow but no words for grief and loss. Written by Tatty Hennessy, it's a funny and emotional monologue told with panache, humour and enthusiasm by Gemma Barnett. It’s currently playing at Trafalgar Studios . When Rory’s (Gemma Barnett) dad unexpectedly dies, she discovers his diary with plans for a trip to the Arctic. So she makes a plan to get her father's ashes to the North Pole. After all, spending an eternity in an urn is not going to be much fun. So borrowing her mother's credit card she takes a flight to Norway. But things aren't what she expects. Along the way she meets a boy and finds a friend. But she also discovers how big the world can be when you're fifteen years old. The show creates a vivid portrait of a teenage girl growing up fast. But she also captures the changing landscape of the world and a woman's place in it. There are facts about famous male explorers and geography. And how global warming is chan

Camp as Christmas: Hot Gay Time Machine @Trafstudios

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Watching Hot Gay Time Machine by yourself at first is a bit like being the designated driver at a party. You’re just not drunk enough to appreciate it. But this high energy, high camp, gay gore extravaganza grows on you. The piece was a hit at Edinburgh Fringe and now has a brief run on the West End in the downstairs space of Trafalgar Studios . Written and performed by Zak Ghazi-Torbati and Toby Marlow, the time machine part of the story are the pivotal gay moments of Zak and Toby’s young lives. Mostly this involves gay sex and brief encounters in changing rooms. But from the moment Zak and Toby burst into the theatre foyer introducing themselves, the scene is set for a party of shimmying and sashaying. The stories are set to music performed by Marlow on keyboard. His lyrics tend to be less innuendo and more in your face. But even if artistically suspect, the filthier he gets the audience only seems to appreciate it more. Marlow with Lucy Moss had the hit show Six, which was about th

The final word: Dust @TrafStudios

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Death is the final word in Dust, a one-woman show written and performed by Milly Thomas that hits you with humour and grief in equal measure. Inspired by Thomas’s own struggles with depression its raw and provocative. It’s currently at the Trafalgar Studios following its sell out runs in Edinburgh in 2017 and the Soho Theatre earlier this year. Life for Alice was unbearable and so she decides to kill herself. And now she has to describe the aftermath of her actions and family and friends cope and move on.  We’re introduced to Alice in what looks like a morgue. There’s a stainless steel table and harsh lighting. Thomas is in a skin coloured body suit and describes how strangers are undressing her. They’re getting her ready. At first it seems like it’s getting her ready for the start of a wonderful new chapter. She’s been dead for a few days and she describes as family and friends gather to grieve. She’s the focus of their lives. Fragments of her short life emerge. The boyfriend who is

Once more without feeling: Again @Trafstudios

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The nuclear family seems to be a little unstable in Again. Presented by Mongrel Thumb , Stephanie Jacob’s intriguing new play explores the underbelly and soft belly of family relationships. Just as you think everyone’s coming together they explode into rage. Or crack a bad joke. And then they do it all over again. But with less rage, more rage or acceptance. It’s currently running at Trafalgar Studios. Presented as a family reunion after a period of estrangement, nothing is what it seems to be. Scenes start and then restart as multiple perspectives play out. Is it the mother’s wish, the son’s wish, the father or the daughter? In the end you can’t be sure any of it happened. But slowly it pieces together a story of fractured family determined to get things right. Or get their own way.  Tom (Chris Larkin) has deserted his wife Louise (Natasha Little) for a younger woman. Their son (Charles Reston) spends most of his life in the library and studies poetry. Their daughter (Rosie Day) is a

Laugh yer bastards: The Grinning Man @TrafStudios

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The Grinning Man bursts on stage at the Trafalgar Studios . And even if you’re not sure if it’s meant to be a comedy or an emotional love story, it’s determined to show you a good time. Although the good time is a little on the dark side. As one character comments in this show, “prepare to shit kittens.” If you like that sort of thing then it’s a welcome break from the relentless cheery musical fare around Christmas. The show, based on a story by Victor Hugo throws in puppetry and style. You enter the theatre as if you’re going to see a fairground freak show. Designer Jon Bausor has framed the stage with a giant disfigured mouth. It’s grim, but its the perfect setting for a story about a boy who’s mutilated, saves a baby, makes a living as a freak and then wins over a kingdom. Louis Maskell as the heroic Grinpayne the disfigured boy conveys emotion and excitement of the character. He’s on stage most of the time and is either controlling his younger puppet self or jumping about as the g

Rubbing the wrong way: The Red Lion @Trafstudios

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Patrick Marber commented that his play The Red Lion dramatises something about England. One part is about community and belonging, and the other part is about business. But it also could be about not being terribly good at the sport, either in playing it or managing it unless you're importing it. It's currently playing downstairs at Trafalgar Studios . It's a locker room comedy-drama set in a semi-professional football club in the north. Kidd (Stephen Tompkinson) as manager has spotted Jordan's (Dean Bone) potential and puts him on as a reserve. But his real plan is to transfer him to another team. With a transfer, he and the club stands to gain financially.

Murder on the dance floor: Disco Pigs @TrafStudios

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Twenty years on, Enda Walsh's Disco Pigs still manages to shock and fascinate with its evocative and provocative world of deprivation. It's currently playing at Trafalgar Studios . But with its endless slang and two unpleasant characters, it's often an an impenetrable world. Even with two masterful performances and slick production values, this is still a journey through hell. The piece is about Pig and Runt. Born on the same day and at the same time in the same hospital, they've been inseparable all their lives. They have their own language, own rules, and exist in a world of petty crime, violence, drinking and dancing... But as they approach adulthood, Pig's feelings for Runt grow. Runt struggles to break away from Pig's advances and the world in which they have built over their lives.