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Monday, 17 October 2022

REVIEW: The Canterville Ghost at the Southwark Playhouse

‘Tall stories’ was founded in 1997 by Toby Mitchell and Olivia Jacobs who have created and adapted productions for audiences of all ages ever since. The award-winning theatre company are recognised for their ability to combine original music with effective and immersive storytelling. The company have previously adapted Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales for their production of ‘Wilde Creatures’, so it seemed natural for them to adapt one of his ghost stories for the Halloween season.

The Canterville Ghost (1887), was the first of Oscar Wilde’s short comedic stories to have been published. The plot revolves around a family who moved to a castle which is haunted by the ghost of an English Nobleman who had resided in the castle 300 years before. This ghost had murdered his wife and then been tortured and starved to death in the chamber by his wife’s brothers. Jacobs and Mitchell’s adaptation intertwines with the ‘Old Music Hall’ genre. We meet four Victorian music hall performers who act out Wilde’s story alongside their own individual music hall acts; The Comedian (Matt Jopling), The Illusionist (Callum Patrick Hughes), The Psychic (Katie Tranter), and The Compere (Steve Watts).

Friday, 9 September 2022

REVIEW: Yellowman at The Orange Tree Theatre

‘Yellowman’, written by Dael Orlandersmith, was first performed in London in 2004. Eighteen years later, Diane Page has brought this intense piece of work back on its feet, and created a very emotive, tender, and thought-provoking production.

The play follows the relationship between Alma (Nadine Higgin), a black woman whom is considered poor and from the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ and Eugene (Aaron Anthony), a lighter-skinned man with a more privileged and wealthy upbringing. Both these characters experience racism and classicism within their community and society. It explores the prejudices experienced in the lives of those living in the poorest parts of South Carolina in the 1970s. This play also projects how these issues are rooted in the world at large.

Wednesday, 2 March 2022

REVIEW: The West End in One Night by One Night Records with The Theatre Cafe

After experiencing the devastating impact which the theatre industry faced throughout and post lockdown, it only seems necessary for art to be celebrated in such an immersive and positive context. 

‘One Night Records’ is an underground maze that caters to live music festivals, ranging from rock’n’ roll to jazz. In this case, ‘West end in one night’ presented an excellent mixture of material within the musical theatre genre. We witnessed beautiful performances from established industry professionals such as Laura Pick (Wicked, Anyone Can Whistle) and Vanessa Fisher (Bring it On, Follies), but it was refreshing to hear equally spell-bounding vocals from fresh and hungry drama school graduates. 

The venue hosts five different stages, which in this case employed a variety of different material and standards. Upon entrance, we were quickly transported into the ‘Jump City Room’ for the first set of the evening. Though in places the vocals were fairly underwhelming, Musical Director Honor Halford- Macleod talents and versatility as a pianist were immaculate. Even though she was faced away with her back to the performers (something which should be changed going forward), and the crowd were very chatty, her focus and accuracy in her playing was brilliant. My personal highlight of this set was Rose Galbraith’s rendition of ‘Taylor the Latte Boy’ which really lent itself to her beautiful clear tone and agile riffs and runs. 

Thursday, 17 February 2022

REVIEW: Tell Me Straight at The Chiswick Playhouse

The social issues of the present have got human beings questioning their own identities more than ever; sexuality, mental health and internalised prejudice being a very small portion of these topics.

‘Tell me straight’ is a powerful piece of new writing by Paul Bradshaw, which dynamically explores these ideas, and that prejudice and homophobia are inheritably internalised within us all. After being performed in various small theatres around London, director Imogen Francis has brought this coming of age piece back on its feet in an immersive yet uncomplicated way. 

The writer, Paul Bradshaw, also plays the central character of the play, known as ‘he’ (as we never find out his real name). This character embodies a millennial gay man who is trying to break his self-destructive cycle by adopting a 30-day detox from sex, fast food and alcohol to gain a new and healthier perspective of life. His newly found sobriety forces him to become more self-aware and examine his relationships with dating, sex, his friends, and his own self-respect. As an audience, we quickly become aware that this character has a certain soft spot for men who identify as straight; the ‘forbidden fruit. These male characters are multi-roled by actor George Greenland. It becomes apparent that these men are struggling with their identities; using him as a scapegoat to figure out their own sexuality Throughout the piece, we meet men who constantly disappoint the central character, leaving him to question his own identity, strengths, and why these other men are not ready to commit and confront their sexualities.

Wednesday, 9 February 2022

REVIEW: Blood Brothers at the New Wimbledon Theatre

Bill Kenwright’s famously celebrated and award-winning production of the international hit, Blood Brothers, has been entertaining audiences since 1981 but has been re-emerging since the 14th of January 2022 in its UK tour. Despite touring the UK constantly, few musicals have been received with such acclaim and it still remains to be a box-office success; selling out in large theatres across the country and receiving jubilant standing ovations every night.  

Blood Brothers tells the enchanting and moving story of a pair of twins who were separated at birth. Though they grew up apart and in different social worlds, they reunite later on in their lives but in devastating circumstances. Mrs Johnson, a young single mother, is abandoned by her husband, therefore, leaving her as a single mother to her seven children. Though she can find her feet and work a job to provide for her children, she is shocked to discover that she has fallen pregnant again, only this time with a pair of twins. Through her desperation to provide a better life for her children, she creates a secret pact with her boss’s wife, Mrs Lyons, with financial hope for the future.

Friday, 28 January 2022

REVIEW: Ava: The Secret Conversations at the Riverside Studios

The portrayal of Ava Gardner’s story in this performance is a pivotal example of how women are far more interesting than just being partners and wives to the men they are associated with; despite how society views them. Gaby Dellal’s and Elizabeth McGovern’s adaptation of this story stays true to the key points of Peter Evans’ 2013 novel: ‘Ava Gardner, The Secret Conversations’. Both the original novel and the newly written play expose the reality behind the glamour and success, conflicts within marriage, and the lack of consistency between male and female actors within the film industry. After all, Ava herself says ‘Men would win awards for the life that I live.’ 

This powerful one-act play delivers an in-depth exploration of a fading star of Hollywood’s golden age. From the safety of her London home in the 1980s, Ava Gardner hires journalist Peter Evans to write her biography in order to bring her a greater income. While Evan’s is set on his idea to create a classic ‘rags to riches’ novel, Ava is determined to tell her story in her own way; not to be skewed by the way the film industry has shaped her to be since she was 18 years of age. Ava then exploits the reality of her marriages with her three ex-husbands: Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw and Frank Sinatra.

Sunday, 5 September 2021

REVIEW: Pecs Drag Kings- ‘The Boys are back in Town’ at the Soho Theatre

‘The Boys are Back in Town’ is undeniably a celebration of queerness, feminism and inclusivity. Alongside the Soho party atmosphere and the use of recognisable gay anthems, it was refreshing to be indulged in an immersive performance after the negative impact we faced in theatre during (and after) lockdown.  

Pecs Drag Kings are a talented company of female and non-binary performers who explore sexuality, gender identities and politics. Since 2013 they have been creating highly entertaining drag shows through song, dance and comedy; creating sexy and risqué pieces of theatre.

The small yet brilliant company of casts and creatives involves Isabel Adomakoh Young, Rosie Potts, Jodie Mitchell, Lauren Steele, Helena Fallstrom, Katy Bulmer and Vic Aubrey; all under the careful production of Daisy Hale and Ellen Spence.

Though Drag Kings first got their titles as recently as 1972, the history of female-identifying performers dressing in masculine clothes reaches back as far as the 1700’s. Only now with Drag Queen artists becoming so popular, with a lot of exposure (Ru Pauls Drag Race, for example), Drag Kings are starting to gain a little more attention and representation.

Sunday, 15 August 2021

REVIEW: Swimming at the White Bear Theatre

The advance of social issues in the twentieth century have got human beings questioning their own identities more than ever; sexuality, gender and mental health being a very small portion of these topics.

Swimming is a powerful piece of new writing by Alex Bower, which dynamically explores these ideas, and that prejudice is wired within us all, whether we are aware of it or not. After a sell-out run back in 2019, Kayla Feldman has brought this intense piece of work back on its feet in an immersive yet uncomplicated way. 

Right at the beginning of the play, we are introduced to the cracks between Dan (George Jones) and his long-term girlfriend Marianne (Rose Dickson). After their sudden split, he goes to the swimming pool and meets Sam (Dominic Rawson), where he immediately begins to question his sexuality. Even though he is adamant that he is infatuated with Sam, the plot is centred around Dan’s struggle to accept his queerness, both within society and in himself. Through trying to keep his relationship and sexuality a secret, his mental health begins to spiral and he pushes everyone away, including his best friend Ant (Andy Sellers). Swimming is in fact a wider metaphor for the decision of picking ones’ lane in life.
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