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Friday, 29 October 2021

REVIEW: Tender Napalm at the King’s Head Theatre

A visit to the King’s Head Theatre in Islington always feels like a lesson in theatrical history. Since its inception in 1970 the venue has become the big daddy of fringe theatre. Panning around the bar is a visual amble to savour. The walls are covered with pictures of past productions featuring the great and good; it is very much an actor’s theatre and familiar faces can be spotted mingling in the wings. This performance has added expectation in the staging of Tender Napalm by Philip Ridley. A significant talent who could never just be called a playwright, Ridley has excelled in poetry, photography and children’s literature. He also wrote the screenplay for the hugely successful film ‘The Krays’ starring Gary and Martin Kemp.

Ridley’s plays have often been tagged as ‘adult’ and ‘in-yer-face’, Tender Napalm is no exception as a man (Jaz Hutchins) and woman (Adeline Waby) communicate with passion and intensity. Health warnings adorn the publicity blurb and signs displayed at the door make the position abundantly clear. There are 'scenes of a sexual nature' which sets the bar at a predictable level. The black interior was suitably lit by red and ultra violet lights as dry ice spread throughout the room. Our protagonists took the stage in white vests and combat pants. Man and woman begin an exposition of their lives with a narrative that is both explicit and challenging. They are a couple in love but contrasting emotions clash as reality crosses with fantasy. Tales of tsunamis, serpents and UFOs give expression to feelings of anger, frustration and grief. There is reference to a desert island and armies of monkeys serving mangoes and passion fruits; it makes for a hazy but compelling narrative.

Sunday, 1 August 2021

REVIEW: Wilde Without the Boy at the King’s Head Theatre

Queer season at the King’s Head Theatre kicked off in sentimental style with Gareth Armstrong’s Wilde Without the Boy. 

A dramatized adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s “De Profundis”, the letter he wrote to his lover before his release from Reading Gaol, Wilde Without the Boy has everything you’d want from a spurned lover’s letter… and so much more. 

Yes, Gerard Logan’s Wilde is a tortured artist, yes, his hamartia is simply loving too much, but he’s also angry, spiteful and full of regret. Logan traverses this complex character with ease and introspection, flying from nostalgia to rage as the script meanders Wilde’s innermost turmoil. Although he was alone, the stage was full. Not only was the boy, his lover, vivid before the audience, but his vengeful father, jailor and judge all walked the boards with him. 

The subtle manipulation of set and props (two chairs, a table, a lantern and a manuscript) took us from high society London to Paris, and right back to the realisation that we are in solitude; alone in Reading Gaol. The sound and lighting design was similarly transportive, moving so subtly with the narrative that you didn’t know it was there until it was gone, once again plunged back into the reality of Wilde’s isolation. 

Friday, 30 August 2019

REVIEW: World’s End at the King’s Head Theatre

November 1998. Nearly twenty-one years ago. Often what I like to think of as the ‘good old days’ playing the Nintendo, and this beautiful show ‘World’s End’ serves as a trip down memory lane set in Chelsea’s ‘World’s End’ estate. James Corley really hits the ground running with his debut play which focuses on gaming nostalgia, sexuality, single parent single child relationships and also brushing up on the Kosovo war too.

The play sees forty-nine-year-old Viv (Patricia Potter) and her nineteen-year-old son Ben (Tom Milligan) move in to a one bedroomed flat on the World’s End estate in Chelsea, and are helped out by neighbours Ylli (Nikolaos Brahimllari) and his son Besnik (Mirlind Bega). Ben and Besnik’s friendship grows stronger with each game of ‘The Legend of Zelda – the Ocarina of Time’, whilst the two families deal with single parenthood and what exactly is freedom.
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