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The male gaze: Turning the screw

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It's been a while since trips to the theatre. I've been busy. But it's nice to see that it's the creative process that is at the heart of Kevin Kelly's Turning the Screw. And what gives rise to it. It's a dramatisation of the creative process leading up to composer Benjamin Britten's premiere of his opera, The Turning of the Screw. With deadlines approaching, Britten seems stuck over melodies and unsure about completing the piece for its summer premiere. But the selection of twelve-year-old choirboy David Hemmings in the leading role of Miles within the opera is the spark that motivates him to complete the piece. And his presence may stir other feelings, too. It's currently playing at the Kings Head Theatre .  Britten's fascination with young boys has been the subject of a detailed book, Britten's Children. The book suggests that Britten saw himself as a young boy of 13. It's almost as if he saw himself as Peter Pan, albeit if Peter Pan was a

Dad Jokes: Dead Dad Dog @finborough

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So what happens if your dad returns from the dead to haunt you for fun in mid-eighties Edinburgh? The first London production of Dead Dad Dog in 35 years shows that new ideas of the past just become the old things of the present. It’s an amusing concept made enjoyable by the likeable leads in the piece. Written by John McKay, who would go on to find fame in television and film, it’s currently playing at the Finborough Theatre .  Due to cast illness, the second half of this show, Sunny Boy, has not gone ahead. It’s a shame, as the second half was a sequel to the piece set in Glasgow in 2023. And so, while we miss the update, we can enjoy the eighties in all its glory and marvel at the fashion, thinking, and the fascinating possibility that if you died in the early seventies, you would never know who Margaret Thatcher was.  The premise is that young man Eck (Angus Miller) is getting ready for an interview for the BBC in Edinburgh when his father, Willie (Liam Brennan), appears. The only

Love is all you need: The Island @cervantesthtr

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A drama set on the seventh floor of a non-descript hospital waiting room may not be everyone's idea of a great night at the theatre. But love and all other forms of the human condition are dissected in Juan Carlos Rubio's The Island. Translated by Tim Gutteridge, it feels like everything is up for grabs. What is love? Is it a bond between two women with a fifteen-year age gap? Is it the love between a mother and her son with a severe unknown disability? A wonderful life full of health and happiness is not always an option on the menu, and the choices may become a bit less palatable. Throughout a series of sometimes banal conversations, what comes out is a story of two women with lives that are separate and together. And while the piece becomes darker on one level as it progresses, it never ceases to fascinate and draw further insights into the couples. It's currently playing at the Cervantes Theatre .  A couple waits in a hospital waiting room for the outcome of an accident

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

Seconds: Makeshifts and Realities @finborough

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The Finborough Theatre presents three short plays about women at the turn of the last century that feels both modern and foreign. The manners and traditions may have changed since the early 1900s. Still, something about the expectations for women and the challenges of being independent resonates today, not at least given the popularity of a particular summer movie .  Gertrude Robins wrote the first two pieces. She was an actor who turned to writing plays focussing on issues of the day; she died from tuberculosis in 1917, and performances of her works stopped. Her contribution to theatre may have been forgotten, at least until now.  The first piece, Makeshifts, introduces us to the Parker sisters, Caroline and Dolly. Caroline is the older sister with her shy demeanour and sense of duty to her family, which includes caring for their older mother and keeping the house in order. While Dolly is a teacher, she notes that "men fight shy of girls like me. They think we're too clever&

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

Dark Neighbourhoods: Union @Arcolatheatre

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A journey through the dystopia known as modern-day London - or at least the stops of gentrification along the Grand Union canal - is at the heart of Union—a provocative look at change, urban renewal and sanitisation. Written by Max Wilkinson, it's currently playing at the Arcola Theatre .  The premise is that successful property developer Saskia (Dominique Tipper) is about to sign the deal of her career. She is at the peak of her career and the height of her physical appearance. She asks the audience to check out her stomach as you could "eat an egg off that". But tonight, something isn't quite right. She has decided to go for a run along the Union Canal. She is ignoring calls from her boss and her partner. Having flashbacks and meeting characters along the canal forces her to confront some hard truths.  It's a fast-paced show with a breathless performance by Tipper in the lead role. She conveys the madness, the enthusiasm and the contradictions of living and work

Breaking bread: Eating Myself @BrxHouseTheatre

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Food as a starter for conversation, making a new family, and finding a place is at the heart of Eating Myself, Pepa Duarte’s story of exploring what it is to be a woman from Peru, living in London, living with unrealistic body images. It’s having a short run at the Brixton House as part of the Housemates season, where artists take over the house throughout July. In this short piece, which has previously been online, Pepa explains how she cooks on a stovetop a Peruvian dish with beans and potatoes and a lot of added extras that, when growing up, she was never supposed to eat. It reminds her of her grandmother and brings her back to her roots. As the show progresses, the dish's aromas waft through the audience bringing to life the words in a sensory experience. And one that might make you a little hungry.  But it also is a story about diets and calorie counting. Pepa directly asks the audience if they think she is fat. It’s a direct question to the audience that sets the scene about

Outrageous Sustenance: The Return of Benjamin Lay @Finborough

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The Finborough Theatre has its windows open to the world outside in The Return of Benjamin Lay. The evening sunlight fills the theatre space, and a giant tree outside the building gives you peace and tranquillity. It's as if you almost forget you are in a theatre just off the A3320 - a road known for pollution, noise and traffic congestion. Yet, recreating a Quaker meeting room for the piece also provokes the audience to reflect on how the life and times of a slavery abolitionist from the 1700s has something to say about our current times of modern slavery, prejudice and ignorance. It's currently having its world premiere at the Finborough Theatre.  Benjamin Lay was a revolutionary slavery abolitionist who lived in the 1700s. Having witnessed first-hand the atrocities of slavery in Barbados, he campaigned against it vigorously, including kidnapping a child of enslavers so they could see how it felt. For a man ahead of his time, the Quaker community disowned him. This monologue