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Wednesday, 23 November 2022

REVIEW: Love Goddess, the Rita Hayworth Musical at the Cockpit Theatre


‘LOVE GODDESS The Rita Hayworth Musical’ at The Cockpit is a show with admirable intentions and ultimately, a loving tribute to Rita Hayworth, one of the formidable stars of the Hollywood golden age. The passion and heartfelt for her story are undeniably present in the cast of five multi-disciplined performers, but, unfortunately, it fails to push any boundaries to make this anything more than a light retelling of the starlet's life.

It began its life as a one-woman show called ‘Me, Myself and Rita’, created and performed by Almog Pail in 2017, it has since transformed into a two-act musical. Still starring Pail as the title role, she is now joined by Simon Kane (Orsen Welles and Harry Cohn), Imogen Kingsley-Smith (Young Rita), Jane Quinn (journalist Jules Graham and Hayworth’s mother Volga Cansino) and Joey Simon (Fred Astaire and Hayworth’s Father Eduardo Cansino). The show follows the life of Hayworth, born Margarita Carmen Cansino, from her days as a child dancer in Brooklyn to her breakout roles in Hollywood, her iconic portrayal of Gilda and finally her tragic defeat from Alzheimer’s disease. Intertwined within her career highlights are failed marriages, abuse and ultimately the story of a woman who never really wanted to be famous. Pail wrote the original play after her own family’s experience with Alzheimer’s which is a touching parallel and personal connection present in the work.
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Thursday, 11 August 2022

REVIEW: Closing Party (Arrivederci e Grazie) at Dance Base at the Edinburgh Fringe


Closing Party (Arrivederci e Grazie) marks the last instalment of Alessandro Bernardeschi and Mauro Paccagnella’s Memory Trilogy AKA Fifty-somethings. It follows Happy Hour (Luminux for Theatrical Moment and Total Theatre awards) and El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido. The performance I saw at the wonderful hub for dance at Edinburgh Fringe, Dance Base, featured Bernardeschi and Carlotta Sagna as the main duo, with an appearance from Ares D’Angelo. 

Without fanfare or grand celebration, this is a work about two middle-aged people, who are ready to farewell a part of their life which has now ended. They do this with nostalgia, acceptance and a little bit of hope for whatever might come next.
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Tuesday, 9 August 2022

REVIEW: Hamlet at Ashton Hall, Saint Stephens at the Edinburgh Fringe



One of the most talked about shows leading up to the 75th Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year has undoubtedly been Peter Schaufuss’s concept ballet of Hamlet, starring the formidable Sir Ian McKellen. Directed and choreographed by Schaufuss, this 75-minute production is mostly dance-driven showcasing his company Edinburgh Festival Ballet except for selected monologues, McKellen as the titular character, recites. All in all, it is a very traditional retelling of one of Shakespeares' great tragedies with added novelties.

Two of the biggest questions surrounding the production have been how McKellen, who first took on Hamlet in 1971, will represent the young prince at 83 years of age and how he will interact with the dancers on stage. 
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Sunday, 7 August 2022

REVIEW: Good Grief at the Underbelly Colgate in the Iron Belly, Edinburgh Fringe



Ugly Bucket Theatre are a Liverpool-based physical theatre and clown company not afraid to delve into uncomfortable subject matters and make us laugh about it. As recipients of the New Diorama, Underbelly and Methuen Drama’s Untapped Award 2022, there is clearly energy behind this young company making their latest show, Good Grief, a contender for a place on your Edinburgh Fringe Festival dance card.

On brand for Ugly Bucket Theatre, Good Grief examines the grieving process that takes place before and after a good friend dies, through physical comedy, verbatim text and… techno dancing. It follows the life of a man who we meet pre-birth in the womb of his mother through to his afterlife after suffering from cancer of the intestine. Right from the beginning, he is subject to the hard truths of life. People and animals come and go and after a montage of macabre tragedies, he is paralysed by doom and eventually must also face his own mortality when sickness strikes. Both he and his loved ones are now subject to grieve a life disappearing. Sounds grim right? Well, not today. Obviously, the best way to address all of this is through clown!
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Thursday, 21 July 2022

REVIEW: Jean Paul Gaultier's Fashion Freak Show at the Roundhouse


When I first stumbled across a Jean Paul Gaultier documentary as a young theatre kid in Australia, I was entranced by his creations. I sat glued to the TV watching how they told a story, embraced the eccentric and evoked a culture that I was excited by. Just as his work imprinted on me, Gaultier has given permission to countless people all around the world to dream, provoke and express themselves through fashion. Each of his pieces is a performance, full of movement that can change the space it exists in. It, therefore, seems only right for him to arrive at his latest masterpiece, Fashion Freak Show, a full-blown stage spectacle featuring his iconic couture as a vehicle for dance, circus, clown, burlesque and video. This is a visceral experience not to be missed and as this grown-up theatre kid, sits in the London Roundhouse theatre many, many years later since her first encounter with JPG, surrounded by an eclectic mix of fabulous people, it can only be described as a surreal and iconic moment to bask in.

The show is the story of JPG’s life, the culture he has experienced and generally an insight into how he sees the world, which unsurprisingly, is largely through fashion. However, what is so enchanting about this concept is that we also get an insight into the raw inspiration that has inspired him for so many years. From The Folies Bergére who he was introduced to by his grandmother as a young boy to Josephine Baker, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, gender-challenging rockstars such as David Bowie, Boy George and Grace Jones, the British Punk scene, sexual liberation and more.
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REVIEW: Sh!t-faced Shakespeare presents: Romeo and Juliet at The Leicester Square Theatre


Shitfaced Shakespeare is a Shakespeare company with a twist and a stumble that has been luring audiences since 2010 with a simple yet effective concept. Each night, one selected cast member from whatever show they are putting on, is made to drink for 4 hours before stepping on the stage and the curtain rises. The rule is that they must be well and truly ‘shit-faced’ by this point. The remaining ‘sober' cast members are then required to accommodate their inebriated peer by justifying and improvising around them and also to continue to drive the action of the ‘actual’ play. It could be a comedy or tragedy being performed, but the drinking game, as it were, remains the same. 

For my first experience of a Shitfaced Shakespeare performance, I went to see their un-holy latest take on Romeo & Juliet and my lucky drunk was none other than Juliet herself. As a comedy show having originally found its feet in the fringe scene, this is a pared-down version of the classic but keeps in all the much-loved key scenes of the play like the balcony scene, death of Mercutio and final death scene. Along with the five actors, the show also incorporates a compare into the mix to help the drunken proceedings along. This is done mainly by making sure the inebriated actor stays that way by handing them more drinks (with help from the audience). Overall the show, also, takes artistic liberties to promote more bawdy and comedy-driven antics. 
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Saturday, 16 July 2022

REVIEW: Peaky Blinders: The Rise, the immersive theatrical show


It’s 1921 and we are in Camden where ‘The Jew’ Alfie Solomons runs things. However, there is a storm brewing with new friends and enemies making themselves known. In a bold move, Alfie has agreed to make a deal with Birmingham’s entrepreneurial gangsters The Peaky Blinders (for a hefty profit of course) so the fun can really begin! Lead by Tommy Shelby, the Peaky Blinders are now on the rise in London Town and unless the Italians succeed in getting in their way, they plan to take it all. This is worth having a party for!

Peaky Blinders: The Rise is a collaboration between Immersive Everywhere, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight and Caryn Mandabach Productions. It is directed by Tom Maller (Doctor Who: Time Fracture/ co-creator of the ‘The Great Gatsby’ immersive UK show) with a script by Katie Lyons. This is a unique, immersive theatrical experience paying homage to the immensely popular TV series by physically taking its audience on an unforgettable ride into the deep dark wheelings and dealings of an underworld so seductive you just might change your career path at the end of the night. It features an array of some of the most recognisable characters from the show including, of course, Tommy Shelby (Craig Hamilton), his siblings Ada (Lucinda Turner), Arthur (Kieran Mortell) and John (Isaac Beechey), the matriarch of the family Polly Gray (Emma Stansfield), loyal secretary Lizzy Stark (Megan Shandley), Camden kingpin Alfie Solomons (Sam Blythe), the Italian Charles Sabini (Angus Brown) and many more.
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Sunday, 1 May 2022

REVIEW: If. Destroyed. Still. True. at The Hope Theatre


No matter where you come from or where you choose to live, the concept of home or where one identifies with throughout their lifetime is in constant flux. Moments of growth are met with moments of stagnation, people we love move at different speeds and even when some sort of peace is made, there is no way of knowing how something unexpected might unravel everything you know. In the intimate space of The Hope Theatre, Jawbones, an upcoming young company celebrating new writing, attempts to start a conversation about these feelings of disconnection in their latest production If. Destroyed. Still. True.

The play is set on the coast of Essex in a small town where everyone knows each other's business. It is here we meet John (Jack Condon) a born and bred local young man, who, like a kid on Christmas Day is revelling in the return of his best friend James (Theo Ancient) who has moved away for Uni. It becomes evident early on, however, that with little direction in his life John can't quite move on from the fun and chaos of their adolescence while James has clearly settled into his newfound academic life with a steady girlfriend Charlotte (Whitney Kehinde) by his side. A divide opens up between the two friends and each struggles with feelings of resentment, loss, a longing for the past and/or future and ultimately, the uncertainty of life becomes overwhelming for both when tragedy marks their final chapter. At the heart of the story is a friendship between two young men who have grown disparate from one another yet at the same time are forever connected by the tangled roots of their youth.
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Saturday, 26 March 2022

REVIEW: Somnole at Sadler's Wells Theatre, part of Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels


Over a period of nearly three weeks between March 9-23, Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels is the first edition of an exciting festival celebrating choreography in modern and contemporary dance in partnership with The Royal Opera House, Tate Modern and Sadler’s Wells. With a plethora of influential works on show this year (seventeen to be exact) and I was fortunate to catch French choreographer Boris Charmatz in his solo performance, Somnole, at Sadler’s Wells Lilian Baylis Studio last Friday evening.

Somnolence is the feeling of being on the brink of sleep and in this hour-long dance piece, Charmatz explores this idea through movement and sound. The entirety of the piece involves a mediative quality anchored by continuous whistling from Charmatz and on occasion is broken up by moments of audience interaction and humour. Whistling in particular is the key feature in this work. Sometimes it is ambiguous and it’s difficult to understand where the sound is coming from or sometimes it resembles a well-known tune like Morricone’s The Good The Bad and The Ugly. In both scenarios, however, it interrogates the physicality required to produce such a sound and demands from its performer an impressive stamina. As the sound intertwines with the movement which is often repetitive, spiralling and circular, each element influences each other and takes the viewer on a journey between what feels like concise and unconscious moments but never lingering on either one for long.

This work is performed in a black box theatre space, stripping any possibility of placing it in a concrete environment. For the most part, I remained in the theatre space without entering any visual dreamlike state, despite the invitation through familiar tunes and gestures. I question, therefore, is a feeling of Somnolence one of purgatory, neither here nor there? 

One of the most successful moments of the work came when the fourth wall was well and truly dropped and Charmatz began a slow dance with an audience member before conducting us in a whistle orchestra. Unfortunately, it was a long way in before this interaction was made and it felt like it was over before it began.

The lighting design by Yeves Godin was a simple silvery state supporting the minimalist aesthetic of the work nicely and the costume by Marion Reginer, a skirt made of different patterned strips of material, helps to give the movement a lightens in contrast to the heavier muscular physique of the dancer. 

My main criticism of the piece relates to the quality of the movement. Although engrossing with a clear flow and cohesive structure, it lacked any dynamic and stayed on one note for the most part in a middle ground of wight, tempo and texture. Repetition is interesting but without some evolution or nuance, the piece becomes stagnant in many moments.

Somnole is a dreamlike experience that sits on the edge of reality. As an audience member you are subject to the ebb and flow of its affective mediative quality as Charmatz draws you in then leaves you to float alone.

Review by Stephanie Osztreicher

Rating: ★★★
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REVIEW: Tom Fool at Orange Tree Theatre


On a rainy Tuesday evening I ventured out to Orange Tree Theatre to see Tom Fool by celebrated German playwright Franz Xaver Kroetz in a translation by Estella Schmid and Anthony Vivis. Although, one of the most performed playwrights in his homeland, less frequently do we see his work staged in the UK and it is a welcome addition to the Orange Tree Theatre’s Recovery Season’s programming. 

Kroetz works with a style of realism, that at its core, commentates on social oppression caused by a capitalist system prevailing in the 1970s, with a focus on the emotional toll it takes on families and individuals. He also has a nuanced ability to capture lightness and humour within moments of despair and defeat when dealing with something bigger than any one person. 

In Tom Fool, despite the grim anxiety experienced by his characters due to their working-class status, each search for and dream of freedom and happiness in their lives. It marks itself as one of Kroetz most iconic plays and although written for an audience over forty years ago, Tom Fool resonates all too strongly with the economic stronghold capitalism still has on families of today.
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Monday, 21 March 2022

REVIEW: This is How You Will Disappear by Gisele Vienne at Sadler's Wells



What happens when you create a giant forest on a stage and put into it a gymnast, her serial killer coach, a rockstar and throw in a real-life wolf for good measure? Despite spending 80 mins in said environment, I am none the wiser. First created in 2010 for the Festival d'Avignon, This is how you will disappear is an ambitious stage production that straddles the identity of art installation, dance and theatre by Gisèle Vienne and is part of Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels at Sadlers Wells Theatre. Although this work is undoubtedly engrossing and boasts imagery that will last in my mind for a long time to come, the overall structure of the work rests unclear, diluting whatever the intention it is meant to have. 

The narrative of the work follows a young gymnast in the forest who is training with her serial killer coach. It is then intertwined with the story of a rockstar who has recently killed his girlfriend and is dealing with the psychological stress of his actions. The ending, with the wight of a great message that is never revealed, introduces a man with a bow and arrows and a live dog/wolf. This together with an epic forest installation shrouded in mist and an assaulting soundtrack that fills the auditorium instantly conjures up horror movie vibes from beginning to end. There is no denying that the design of this work, is spectacular. It not only explores the effects of epic visuals and sound on an audience but also stimulates ones touch and smell senses as the mist onstage (a fog sculpture by Fujiko Nakaya), bellows out into the audience in a cool damp cloud and fills the space with the smell of foliage. There are several sequences that involve no performers at all and these design elements are allowed to take the spotlight. 
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Tuesday, 8 February 2022

REVIEW: Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch Kontakthof at Sadler's Wells



Undoubtedly an icon in the world of dance theatre since the 1970s, Tanztheter Wuppertal Pina Bausch has played a large role in changing the landscape of modern dance with a ripple effect that can be felt through contemporary dance and theatre today. The late, Pina Bausch, a maverick of the arts, through her choreography has the ability to transcend movement into an expression of the human condition which is raw and pure. The latest remounting of the pivotal piece Kontakthof by the company at Sadler’s Wells this February is an important reminder of how, truly great theatre, can transcend time and context. 

Kontakthof was originally premiered in 1978 at Operahouse Wuppertal and has remained, for many, to be one of the most important pieces in Bausch’s canon of work dealing with themes of desire for contact the need to be seen, appreciation and equality. Provoked by the pandemic, social issues such as sexism, racism and cultural appropriation, have also been largely explored by the company for this latest version. Moving forward, you can’t help to think there are themes of gender too yet to be tapped into.
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Monday, 18 October 2021

REVIEW: Set and Reset/Reset and Last Shelter by the Candoco Dance Company at Sadler's Wells


Candoco Dance Company boast a proud 30 year legacy within the UK dance world. Alongside world-class choreographers, disabled and non-disabled performers and company members prepared to push the boundaries of convention, this collective has travelled the globe and if recent years are any indication, they are only going from strength to strength. On Friday 15th, in a buzzing Sadlers Wells, I was very pleased to attend Concdoco’s double bill of Set and Reset/Reset and Last Shelter. 

Accompanying your ticket is a cohesive digital program that includes links to downloads and films to give you insight into Set and Reset/Reset and Last Shelter and accessible content to support the experience of all audience members. In this review, I draw from intentions set out in this material.

The first dance to be presented for the evening is Set and Reset/Reset, a re-imagining of New York choreographer Trisha Brown’s 1983 work Set and Reset. The choreography of Set and Reset/Reset is made up of a combination of the original and Candoco dancers’ choreography under the direction of Abigail Yager and the co-direction of Jamie Scott. 
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Friday, 1 October 2021

Visualisations of War in Performance: A deep dive into the creation of NMT Automatics Theatre Company new play Tempus Fugit: Troy & Us


The act of going to the theatre is a sacred one offering escapism, entertainment and catharsis. Every now and again, however, a play has the ability to unlock hidden stories existing within our communities. These are the types of stories that challenge our perceptions of what it means to be human under extreme circumstances, what it means to love, fight, grieve and deal with trauma. Over the last few years, I have had the privilege of witnessing part of the development of one of these special plays, Tempus Fugit: Troy & Us, by NMT Automatics Theatre Company. As a company NMT Automatics are known for their visual and physical style of storytelling that explores classical texts with the intention of making them relevant for current audiences. In this instance, they have combined their unique style in response to the provocation visualising war and as a result, they have created a poignant and timely work that will speak to people both directly affected by war and those who have no tangible connection with it. More specifically, Tempus Fugit: Troy & Us, is a visceral representation of the mental and physical sacrifice and violence endured by individuals and their families once they have given their lives over to duty. 

The main storyline of this play follows a modern-day military couple living and loving under the shadow of war paralleled and intertwined with the ancient Greek story of Andromache and Hector from Homer’s Iliad. After witnessing the latest R&D performance of the work in August at The Union Theatre, I have been compelled to find out more about what has been behind this creation. I recently sat down with co-creators and performers of the work Genevive Dunne and Jonathan D’Young (AKA Noah Young) and director Andres Velasquez to get further insight.

To begin with, I asked the company if they found this story or if it found them and like most things that are meant to be it very much seems like it found them. Initially developed in partnership with the British Museum for their Troy exhibition in 2020, after a series of somewhat serendipitous meetings the project has also become a collaboration with the Centre for the Public Understanding of Greek & Roman Drama and König & Nicolas Wiater’s Visualising War project, all based at St Andrews University. Specific literature has also been a big influence on the work and includes Jonathan Shay’s Achilles in Vietnam and Odysseus in America, as well as Vietnam Wives by Aphrodite Matsakis and Jon Hesk’s publication on Sophocles’ Ajax. In conjunction with the extensive academic research undertaken by the company, they have also interviewed several current and ex-serving military members of the public and their family’s while Dramaturg Máirín O'Hagan has been an invaluable member of the company helping to contextualise the material.
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Friday, 20 August 2021

REVIEW: Tell Me Straight at the King's Head Theatre



Tell me Straight is an original new play championing queer and working-class voices making their mark on the independent theatre scene produced by Gartland Productions and as part of the Kings Head Theatre queer season. Written by Paul Bradshaw and directed by Imogen Hudson-Clayton, together with the rest of the team they have produced a charming piece of theatre that will speak to a generation of LGBTQ people in London navigating hookup culture, getting older and sexuality.

Writer, Bradshaw, also stars in this work, he plays a millennial gay man determined to find some new perspective in his life. He decides the only way to do this is by putting himself on a self mandated 30-day detox from sex, booze and fast food. This attempt at a sober existence forces him to examine his work life, past relationships and to confront the prospect of new ones. It becomes quickly evident, in regards to his love life, that he has a type, ‘straight’ men working out their own identity. Alongside Bradshaw is George Greenland who takes on a multi charter role to represent these past and present flames. As the story unfolds, tales of optimism and romance are met by constant disappointment and this man willing to put himself on the line in the name of love, is forced to question why he finds himself as a sort of testing ground for these other men who are not yet ready to fully confront their own sexuality.
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Thursday, 12 August 2021

REVIEW: The Windsors: Endgame at the Prince of Wales Theatre


Heading out to The West End on a Tuesday evening feels like an activity from a time gone by with everything that has happened (or not happened) over the last year and a half, however, despite the world being in a seemingly perpetual state of uncertainty, proven time and again is that there is no better medicine for an existential crisis than a night of pure comic chaos and parody. Following the tradition of what British comedy does best by reminding London how to laugh at itself is the stage adaptation of the popular Channel 4 TV series The Windsors, in, The Windsors: Endgame. This farcical soap opera about the lives of the British royal family will be sure to cure any lockdown hangovers still present.

Playing at The Prince of Wales Theatre from August 10 to October 9, this show promises to be a night of silly fun and allows life to be a little less serious for a moment. Whether or not you are a devout royalist and especially for any fan’s of the television series, Endgame is jam-packed with all the scandal and drama that keeps the royal family in power, and will make you laugh at jokes you really think you shouldn't!

Written by Bert Tayler and the late George Jeffrie (writers of the series) and directed by Michael Fentiman, this team have put many feet right for this risky stage adaptation. The premiss of the show revolves around the abdication of The Queen (dear old Lizzie) which puts Prince Charles (Harry Enfield) into the driving seat of the monarchy which is much to the delight of his power-hungry wife Camilla The Dutchess of Cornwall (Tracy-Ann Oberman). The impressionable ‘mature’ king, with dreams of a better world, one that embraces his love of the environment and leaping red squirrels, is convinced by his beloved that the only way to achieve his dream is by ruling as an absolute monarch. When he agrees to do this, the United Kingdom reverts into a medieval-like time and mayhem ensues. In response, the ‘fab four’ Wills (Ciaran Owens), Kate (Kara Tointon), Harry (Tom Durant-Prichard) and Meghan (Crystal Condie) are forced to set aside contemporary scandals and differences to rise above the carnage being created. All the while the washed-up Fergi (Sophie-Louise Dann), disgraced Prince Andrew (Tim Wallers), Eugenie (Eliza Butterworth), Beatrice (Jenny Rainsford) and Prince Edward (Matthew Cottle) naively navigate their place in the family. Although impossible in real life and a totally ridiculous plot, the show directly makes a dig at what power actually means and more to the point questions why these buffoons have it! However, when there are people out there producing the kind of comic material and entertainment you can’t makeup, I challenge you to imagine of a world without them!

Comedy legend Harry Enfield as Charles is by far one of the drawcards for this production. With a reimagining of his portrayal of the man who may never become king, for a live audience, he does not disappoint. There are plenty of ‘in’ jokes carried on from the television series thrown into his performance but at the same time, they do not exclude new audiences. Oberman as Charles’s counterpart Camilla embodies the Duchess as if she were a villain in a pantomime. At times this pushes the cringe factor a little over the edge, however, Oberman also offers one of the standout moments in the show with a powerhouse musical solo number that will have the late Princess Diana turning in her grave and is something you never knew you needed in your life.

The Fab Four bounce off each other with ease as they dysfunctionally attempt to save their subjects and moments of pure physical gold in their performances owes credit to movement director Tash Holloway. 

The supporting characters to the real-life royal family and in this version too, drive the energy and many of the shows laughs. Runt of the royal’s Prince Edward played by Cottle is a perfect clown in his multi-role performance while Dann as the cast out Fergie finds a balance between pathos and simply being pathetic. With Prince Andrew being the most disapproved of royal in current times by far, Wallers has a juicy role to play with and most certainly enjoys it. Butterworth and Rainsford as Princess Eugenie and Beatrice, the well-intended duo famous for doing nothing are a delight whenever they enter the stage.

I have to give a nod to vocal coach Patricia Lougue for the pure joy each exaggerated vocal interpretation the cast bring to their characters, costumes by Hilary Lewis that touch on each royals aesthetic perfectly and the overall design that supports the high energy action without taking over.

Although the subject matter covered in this satire borders on cruel at times, and at the end of the day the lives of real people are being put onstage to be ridiculed to a degree, it is the job of the theatre to challenge and pick apart that which we identify so strongly with as a nation. In reality, questions brought up about the debate regarding the relevance of the monarchy are greater than any one character in the show and deep down we know this is all in fun.

Review by Stephanie Osztreicher

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: G34 | Price of Ticket: £16 -£110
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Friday, 2 July 2021

REVIEW: Wild Card: Christopher Matthews formed view — my body's an exhibition at the Sadlers Wells



Nothing is completely stationary, in fact, the entire universe is in a constant state of flux with the collision of particles billions of lightyears away affecting every other atom in existence. Here on earth, the power of movement extends itself further as an anthropological encyclopaedia for the past while simultaneously pushing notions about identity forward. Movement can be distilled or all consuming and the job of a dancer is to work with it as their medium. Ambitious in scale and sentiment, Wild Card: Christopher Matthews formed view — my body's an exhibition, by American-born, London-based choreographer and performance artist Christopher Matthews, is a multi sensory, visceral and immersive movement- based experience celebrating this and more! 

The title of the work pays homage to cultural pop icon Janet Jackson’s lyrics “my body’s an exhibition baby” from her 2008 single Feedback and right from the beginning this experience is made to feel unapologetically camp, accessible and provocative. Themes of gender, the the body as object, spectatorship and dance’s historical position and relationship to pop culture, tangles into moments of pure joy and self contemplation through video, site specific installations, visual works and live performance.

It’s curated in a way to invite audiences on a self-guided journey that weaves through all sorts of spaces around the iconic Saddlers Wells theatre. Areas generally reserved for production staff and performers such as change rooms, backstage, rehearsal studios, the labyrinth of corridors and more becomes a privilege to walk through. It is a raw and honest experience positioning the magic associated with a performance in a surreal yet tangible context. There is a feeling of familiarity and delirium in this design. Disco lights and music in the change rooms evoke a dance, dream like fantasy shared by a performer preparing a performance and the audience about to receive it. From the grandeur of the auditorium to all the mundane spaces that play a part in the ritual of a performers life have their soul exposed. 
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Saturday, 22 May 2021

REVIEW: AAAAA (FiveA) at the Lion & Unicorn Theatre


Kicking off post-lockdown theatrics at Lion & Unicorn Theatre is Proforca Theatre Company and their mysterious new show “AAAAA” (FiveA).

The company have taken on the noble task of bringing audiences back into Fringe theatre. In true fringe style fashion, they have found a novel way of reminding us to leave all expectations at the door. No specific details about this production are offered to the audience before the performances. Their intention, “...to re-capture the mystery, tension and anticipation of the return of live fringe theatre…”. In this case, they also boast that no two shows will be the same. This review, therefore, must paint a less vivid picture of what you might expect from this production for the benefit of your experience. Once you have seen the show, keeping their secrets makes you implicit in the storytelling.

Shaking us out of the sheltered lives we have been enduring over the last year, this concept shrouded in mystery offered by Proforca supports the human need for storytelling without the world of marketing dictating and preparing us for what we are about to receive. The most satisfying stories we tell each other in our day to day lives are often the least expected, the ones that shake up our day with laughter, shock or excitement. AAAAA is a sensitive and generous offering to audiences from a well-oiled team that does just that written by David Brady, Jack Albert Cook, Gabrielle Nellis-Pain and Kim Scopes, directed by Jess Barton and David Brady and with a committed performance from Daniel Rainford. 
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Wednesday, 12 May 2021

REVIEW: From Me To Us at the N.I.A.M.O.S Radical Arts & Cultural Centre in Manchester, presented by Battersea Arts Centre (Online)


The choice to become a parent, for many, is a logical step at some point in a person's life. Whether you are in a committed relationship or single the desire to start a family comes from a primal place. Culturally, we have been conditioned to believe a future with children in it is largely reserved for those in a heterosexual relationship. Either naturally or by other means there is and has been for a long time obtainable options to make this calling a reality for those in this perceived norm. However, If you find yourself in a position where you are single or in a same-sex partnership, biologically your options become far more limited and until very recently the law has stood in the way as an added barrier. 

Performed and written by Wayne Steven Jackson, From Me to Us is the autobiographical tale of a single, homosexual male on the road to becoming a parent despite growing up in a world that told him he had less right to be one than others. In the wake of a shift in the UK law to make single father surrogacy a possibility, It is a one-man show written as an intimate letter to a future child conjured up from what had always been “an impossible story…” and is now a realistic dream.

Performed and filmed at the N.I.A.M.O.S Radical Arts and Cultural Centre in Manchester and presented and streamed online through Battersea Arts Centre, From Me to Us opens to an orderly and simple set consisting of not much more than a single table and chair, black typewriter and clothes rail with six hanging shirts. It is a modest and vulnerable setting made even more so by the pacing and earnest Jackson. It is a space waiting for a child not yet borne but already deeply loved, where time passes and plans can be made. 
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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.
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