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Saturday, 16 June 2018

REVIEW: It’s Only Life at the Union Theatre

We all deal with heartache/heartbreak in our own ways. Some stuff their faces with choc or ice cream, others turn to yoga or other ‘spiritual’ activities, often people will reinvent themselves to some degree with a new haircut or a new wardrobe, and some people seek refuge in the note that Stephen Sondheim once wrote them which they carefully place on their bedside table. (That’s not me by the way..) John Bucchino wrote songs - and thank goodness that he did. 30 years worth of ‘life’ and 30 years spent skilfully and articulately encapsulating his experiences of love, for no specific purpose and certainly not with a musical in mind. In 2004 however, “It’s Only Life” came to life and its currently being revived at the Union Theatre.

The beauty of this piece is that it allows each production to interpret the show as they wish, and maybe that’s testament to the strength of the songs themselves and how they seem to speak to everyone. So universal are the words and the music that accompany that anything layered on top, serves to contextualise the particular story that is being told this time round.

REVIEW: Section 2 at The Bunker

A few months ago actress Patti Murin made the headlines by having to bow out of a performance of FROZEN on Broadway due to a sudden anxiety attack. After a slew of support she took to Twitter last week to admit that she suffered from issues with her mental health such as anxiety and depression in order to help #EndTheStigma surrounding the subject of mental illness. Murin’s bravery, like many others recently has started a very important conversation, and theatre company ‘Paper Creatures’ latest play ‘Section 2’ unearths the harsh truths of living with mental illness as a young adult. 

Cam is 24. Cam has been sectioned. He is on a Section 2 which means he is held in a psychiatric hospital for 28days in order to review if he is a danger to himself or others. He is cared for by his Key Manager Rachael, whilst he receives regular visits from his girlfriend Kay. However, when his best friend Pete turns up after 5 years of estrangement at the request of a confused and forgetful Cam, they all have to question how far this illness has spread and who it’s really harming. 

Georgie Staight’s direction is natural and fluid. She uses the space perfectly, creating a small claustrophobic environment which allows us to read every nuance and emotion each character is experiencing. Conversely she also allows the piece to breathe, making fantastic use of the pauses to lengthen the thought and to raise tension. The scene traditions aided by movement director Amy Warren, create a beautifully piercing extension of Cam’s mental insecurity: one minute his friends are helping him, the next they’re pushing past him and dropping things before he has time to catch them.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

DREAM CASTING: Mean Girls the Musical

Charlotte Wakefield as Cady Heron 

Fresh from her run as Polly Baker in the UK tour of Crazy for You, we'd love to see Wakefield belt out those songs as Cady Heron! 

Jodie Steele as Regina George

She has the sass and she has the voice! After seeing her blow the roof off in Heathers the Musical at The Other Palace, we think Jodie would be the perfect Regina for the London production!

Sunday, 10 June 2018

REVIEW: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at the Drayton Arms Pub Theatre

There’s something special about Fringe Theatre. It’s exciting and daring one moment and full of dissapointment the next but as an audience it keeps you on your toes. It’s a chance to see smaller shows that wouldn’t last for a long run anywhere else and appeals to a niche market and above the Dratyon Arms pub is no exception. 

Home for the next few weeks of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, this intimate space is perfect for it. 

Taking everyone back to the years of being in primary school with the set of a wooden floor, plastic chairs and a bench you used to be made to walk along in gymnastics. In that small space above a pub in west London it’s very immersive and nostalgic.

REVIEW: I am of Ireland at the Red lion Pub, Islington

Ireland throughout history has had a turbulent time and even now 20 years after the Good Friday agreement the discussion of Eire, Northern Ireland and their relationship with mainland UK remains a significant political debate. Seamus Finnegan’s new play takes WB Yates poem “I am of Ireland” as it’s starting point to explore the history of the last 100 years and the influences of religion and nationalism have had on the people of Ireland. It is clearly autobiographical in parts with characters based on school friends, his own education and left wing politics in Manchester and living as an exiled Irishman in England.

He explores the impact on the mainly men during the Troubles through six slowly played out situations into which he weaves the historical and religious changes. It is an intense, complicated puzzle to piece together which seeks to give us an understanding of the people today. During multiple scenes spread over two hours fifteen minutes (perhaps thirty minutes too long) we learn about: The 1916 Easter rising; 1964 Republic flag removed from a shop window: 1972 Bloody Sunday; 1981 Hunger strike deaths; The significance of the Milltown cemetery in the Falls road; the Casement Park killings and the influence of Roman Catholic and Protestant priests on the lives of the families we meet. As one character says “there is a lot of hate in Ireland” and another says “faith and understanding don’t sit together”. The story follows five men driven by interest in politics, religion, literature and girls and played by seven actors in over twenty parts across six story lines.
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