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Saturday, 24 July 2021

REVIEW: Badgers Can’t Be Friends at the Kings Head Theatre

Can teachers and students be friends? It is not uncommon for students, especially in their early years at school, to show an attachment or admiration for a teacher they find special. This can be a very unique relationship that can do so much good for self-esteem and be held onto for a lifetime. 

Badgers Can’t Be Friends, written by Joe Skelton and directed by Hamish Clayton, is a one-hour fast-paced comedy diving into this nuanced question. It unravels it to reveal complexities and barriers existing in the education system on a greater level and their impact on the well being of students. At the same time, it is a demonstration of man's hubris and what it means to make a difference in this world.

The story begins with primary school teacher Mr Dennis or Ben (Jack Gray) and his girlfriend, ambitious business person Katy (Kamilah Shorey), having mandated quality time together on a Friday night. Despite doing their best to bottle the bad day each of them had individually endured and to make the most of their evening, Ben finally explodes to reveal an anger he has been harbouring towards his headteacher whom he has been reprimanded by. One of Ben's purples, Juliusz, a lonely and reclusive young boy believed to be on the spectrum although not officially tested yet, declared openly that Mr Dennis is his best friend. Seeing this as an inappropriate teacher-student relationship, the headteacher ordered Ben that this friendship MUST come to an end (the Ninja battle the pair were caught having didn't help either). Ben is furious about this and sees it as a narrow-minded decision. Anna (Magdalena Jasiniak), the single mother of Juliusz, shares in this anger. Anna had been so pleased with the positive impact of this friendship on her son's behaviour and progress at school that she has rightfully become worried about Juliusz regressing without it. From here, the play launches into a hilarious, grotesque and somewhat disillusioned social media revolution to change the education system… but at what cost?

Friday, 23 April 2021

REVIEW: Jew…ish at the Kings Head Theatre (Online) for the Plays on Film season

Returning to The Kings Head Theatre for their digital season, Plays on Film, is Unleash the Llama’s sell-out hit Jew…ish. After the success of their London and Edinburgh Fringe Festival runs, it is a treat to be able to stream this offbeat rom-com from our homes. With over 50% of the revenue from ticket sales is guaranteed to go to the artists from this season to support theatre companies during the difficult financial time's many faces due to the pandemic, makes this a well worthwhile online event to support and a guaranteed good time!

Written by Saul Boyer & Poppy Damon, Jew…ish follows the relationship of millennials TJ (Edie Newman), an interpretive dance performance artist and budding Jewish themed comedian Max (Saul Boyer), who comes complete with an overbearing Jewish family. From their unconventional beginning meeting at University in the polyamory society, their relationship years later continues to celebrate the challenges and chaos love can bring as the two navigate their feelings for each other in the shadow of gen Y existentialism, family, friends and a good dose of Jewish guilt. Without taking itself too seriously, this two-hander is highly enjoyable manages to tug at a few heartstrings as well.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

REVIEW: Brawn at the King's Head Theatre

Male body dysmorphia is an important issue that needs to be addressed in this day and age, with social media playing a huge factor in a rise of male body dysmorphia cases, and the ever increasing pressure to look good. Christopher Wollaton’s play is therefore very fitting and appropriate, although I don’t think it has quite the impact the theme deserves.

Brawn follows Ryan, who used to be the lanky school kid, who is desperate and obsessive about getting the perfect body. He has gone from the smart kid to spending all his time in the gym. He is 80% there, with 20% to go.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

REVIEW: HMS Pinafore at the Kings Head Theatre

The Gilbert and Sullivan comic operas were composed between 1871 and 1896 and for much of the 20th Century were a staple of the annual theatre calendar. They created some enduring characters who were scathing parodies of Victorian public figures. Whilst this clever wit has been largely lost now except for in the deepest programme notes , there have been in the last few decades some creative reimagining of the titles to breath fresh life for a 21st Century audience.

Charles Court Opera are to be applauded for continuing to keep the genre alive with a tenth production at the Kings Head theatre, this time HMS Pinafore. The set designed by Rachel Szmukler promises a fresh exciting reengineering of the title by setting it on a Yellow Submarine in the sixties (judging by Josephine's mini skirts and cape) but it becomes a constraining factor in the production. The turret ladder is not accessible due to the low King's Head roof and the cast either appear through an oval portal in the rear wall from the rest of the ship or through the audience from I assume a more accessible porthole to the outside world. The narrow strip of stage between the three bunk beds and the periscope constrains the movement to a single line facing the audience. The effect is that the action is rather static and unexciting.

Monday, 17 September 2018

REVIEW: High Ridin’ at the Kings Head Theatre in Islington

High Ridin’ is the latest play by James Hogan on at the King’s Head Theatre in Islington. Teenager Robbie travels to the North to find a job and a new life. Ex-bouncer Stan, just out of prison, gives him a lift. But not to the North. Instead, he takes charge and speeds off the motorway to a deserted house on the moors. But Ronnie doesn’t get exactly what he was looking for when he finds Stan has “More morals than Mary Poppins”.

The play itself is confused. I came away unsure as to what writer James Hogan wanted the audience to get out of it. The characters were relatable, with the scenes written naturalistically and having some very witty lines - most notably ‘“I got two GCSEs.” “What in? Wankin ‘n’ chillin?”’. However, when watching the play, it didn’t feel like there was much at stake nor much of a character arc, making the audience feel like we’ve not gone on enough of a journey. On top of this, the mini montage at the end sits uncomfortably with the naturalistic style of the rest of the play.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

REVIEW: Ballistic at the Kings Head Theatre

Ballistic tracks the journey of a 22 year old Man; Detached from friendship groups, shamed by those around him, bullied by his peers, distant from his family relations. Mark Conway takes us on a heart racing, emotional and at times hilarious journey through his life from the age of 11 to the present moment.

Without giving too much away, the piece has been inspired by real life events and feels even more topical right now with the recent tragedy in a United States college.

Conway really made me sympathise with his character, which made the final scenes so hard to watch. I had an overwhelming internal battle between condemnation for his actions and the yearning to look after him and save him from himself.
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