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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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Friday, 2 April 2021

REVIEW: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a rehearsed reading for the SHAKE Festival


Arriving on the scene in 2019, SHAKE is a Festival born in Suffolk headed by creative director Jenny Hall and promotes workshops, films, talks, music, dance, performance and more on all things Shakespeare. Despite ambitious live programming not possible during the pandemic, the festival has transformed into a digital platform for the meantime which curates online performances. Previous online events include a reading of The Tempest and Sonnets & Carols for Christmas. SHAKE Festival now take on one of Shakespeare's most beloved comedies A Mid Summer Nights Dream, for a live one night only rehearsed reading. Full of magic, love and misunderstandings, the work often lends itself to elaborate imagery, physical comedy and appeals to audiences of all ages. In this rehearsed reading, despite some limitations caused by available technology, the highly talented cast offers an evening of skilful storytelling full of warmth and play.

Set in ancient Greece, the main plot of A Midsummer Nights Dream revolves around four young lovers; Hermia (Máiréad Tyers), Lysander (Barnaby Taylor), Helena (Daniel Bowerbank) and Demetrius (Louis Rudnicki). 

The play begins with Theseus (Dan Stevens), duke of Athens, preparing for his extravagant marriage to Hippolyta (Rebecca Hall), queen of the Amazons, until Egeus, a nobleman, swiftly comes to him with a problem. Egeus wants Hermia, his daughter, to marry Demetrius, who loves her but Hermia is in love with Lysander and refuses. Egeus requests from Theseus that she comply or face the full penalties of the law. Forced to consider her options she is given till the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta to decide what to do. Seeing no other option Hermia and Lysander decide to run away together into the woods. The only person to know their plan is Hermia’s best friend, Helena. However, to make matters more complicated, Helena is in love with Dimitrius and, although loyal to her friend, finds herself compelled to tell Demetrius of Hermia’s betrayal. He subsequently follows Hermia and Helena follows him.
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Tuesday, 30 March 2021

REVIEW: Chronic Insanity's Flavour Text (Online)


Read the comments! Something I steer well clear of these days, however, Flavour Text, Chronic Insanity’s latest instalment of their ambitious year-long digitally-focused project 12 plays in 12 months, mandates that you take the plunge and do just that. Your reward will be falling into a vortex of carefully curated dark corners of the web on a unique, virtual journey to uncover the truth about why your favourite Italian restaurant is closed!

The Nottingham company aim to tell stories about digital worlds that are becoming increasingly important in our lives. Launched on March 29th, Flavour Text is described as an internet-wide narrative treasure hunt written by Megan Gates, Charlotte Holder, Ruth Mestle, Harry Smith and Sophie Whitebrook with design and direction from Joe Strickland. As stated above, it begins with finding out that your favourite Italian restaurant has closed and somehow ends up making you complicit in a web of lies, government cover-ups and the story behind a series of missing persons via the convention of falling into an internet rabbit hole.
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Sunday, 28 March 2021

REVIEW: Scaramouche Jones or The Seven White Masks, Online at Stream.Theatre


On the evening of December 31, 1999, we are invited into a dressing room of the ageing clown Scaramouche Jones. Born on this very day in 1899 at midnight, on the brink of his 100th birthday, he recounts his life story full of tall tales that stretch across the globe. From the time he was born to his gypsy prostitute mother in Trinidad, to his time on the high seas and enslavement, dalliance with Italian royalty and sobering experience in the concentration camps of Europe, his story is one stained by the turbulent 20th century. Being a peculiarly white-faced boy, he is also condemned to the life of a misfit from the start in a time where stability rarely exists. It takes 50 years to make the clown and 50 years to play the clown.

Available to stream on Stream.Theatre until April 1, this latest digital production of the one-man show written by Justin Butcher and directed by Ian Talbot is an immersive and spellbinding storytelling experience. Following in the footsteps of the late great Pete Postlethwaite who made the role famous, Shane Richie (EastEnders; The Entertainer; One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here), stars as the titular character and takes complete ownership of it with all the innocence, pathos and tragedy required. Butcher’s lyrical prose dances effortlessly through Richie while the simplicity and restraint of Talbot’s direction and the production design by Andrew Exeter create an intimate portal into a century uncertain in every way.
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Tuesday, 16 March 2021

REVIEW: Ada Campe: Unexpectedly Cheerful at the Phoenix Arts Club (Online)


It has been a year since the first lockdown shook up our lives and produced the most surreal 365 days, I for one, have ever experienced. This (temporary) reality we have been forced into has mandated we adapt to unimaginable novel conditions and that human contact transform into a virtual concept. For some, the choice has been to ride out the storm quietly in solitude but, if you expect a global pandemic to keep a cabaret down, think again! 

The Phenix Arts Club, known for entertaining entertainers, is the definition of a London theatre institution steeped in history and renowned for welcoming in the who's who of the West End and up and coming performers alike. The journey through its side street doors and down its dark stairs to discover an array of weird and wonderful entertainment has been sorely missed by many during this strange time so to combat this separation anxiety, ONLINE from the Phoenix Arts Club has been launched on Friday nights. Streaming in HD from February 26th, this series brings some of Londons most beloved verity acts into your home completely live.
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Monday, 22 February 2021

REVIEW: Hamlet - The Radio Play by The Melbourne Shakespeare Company in collaboration with The Victorian Theatre Companies


The world has seen and will see countless adaptations of Shakespear's catalogue of timeless plays. From traditional Elizabethan style productions to futuristic, technological or physical theatre interpretations, I am in constant awe of the new ideas artists can extract from the texts. However, the solely auditory experience of Melbourne Shakespeare Company in collaboration with The Victorian Theatre Companies radio production of Hamlet offers something more fundamental than a new interpretation of the play. Like a warm hug, be it one engrossed by blood and tragedy, it is a return to the purity of Shakespeare’s poetry. 

Set in medieval Denmark where the king has died, Hamlet Prince of Denmark is emphatic that his father has been murdered and shall, therefore, be revenged. A tale of paranoia, revenge and man's existence, Hamlet is considered by many to be Shakespeare's most powerful work. Being jam-packed with dark and atmospheric imagery also makes it perfect for a radio play. 

Under the direction of Kurtis Lowden and featuring a robust fabric of Melbourne performers, the entire ensemble understand the clarity, nuance and pacing required for the medium they have chosen to work with and offer a commanding performance. 
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Wednesday, 10 February 2021

REVIEW: Good Day Bad Day By Karen Featherstone online at Graeae



Graeae Theatre Companies Crips Without Constraints: Part Two has been showcasing some of the UK’s finest up and coming disabled writers and directors every Tuesday since January 16. Yesterday, February 10, Good Day Bad Day, was released and marks the end of the series. After the success of the first season of Crips Without Constraints, streamed online in Spring 2020, Part Two has consolidated the concept into a simple yet challenging format of five online short plays all innovative, thought provoking and entertaining in their own right. I can say that I have thoroughly enjoyed the privilege to review the majority of them.

Good day Bad Day written by Karen Featherstone and directed by Alexandra Whiteley is a short n sweet, sophisticated concept that offers an insight into the objectification of a disabled body and the continuous inner battle one has to go through to overcome it. 

Using the device of a split screen, a disabled woman played by Cherylee Houston (Coronation Street) is duplicated and shown conversing with herself. The first version of the woman has an optimistic point of view about ‘everyday’ interactions she has had with people uncomfortable or ignorant about her disability and the other has a pessimistic one. There is no right response presented here, just two extreme reactions debating balance amongst inequality.
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Wednesday, 3 February 2021

REVIEW: The Gift online at Graeae



Trigger warning: Themes of sexual assault 

Graeae, the UK’s leading disabled-led theatre company launched Crips Without Constraints, an online weekly series of new works championing deaf and disabled artists, in Spring 2020. Following its success, Crips Without Constraints: Part Two, a series of five new online plays, graces our screens this winter. Each play is not only written and directed by some of the finest up and coming UK talents, but they also star a selection of UK’s first-class performers including; Dame Harriet Walter, Sharon D. Clarke, Mandy Colleran, Naomi Wirthner, Cherylee Houston and Julie Graham. 

The first two plays presented by Crips Without Constraints: Part Two, How do you make a cup of Tea? and Flowers For The Chateau, have been a pleasure to watch. The latest instalment of the series, The Gift, written by Leanna Benjamin, directed by Cheryl Martin and starring Sharon D.Clarke and Saida Ahmed, is no different. The Gift presents a touching and heartbreaking moment between a mother and daughter as they come to terms with the challenges and reality of a situation no family should ever have to deal with. 
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Friday, 22 January 2021

REVIEW: Ram of God for the Living Record Festival Online



Designed in response to the debilitating effects of Covid-19 on the live arts industry, Living Record Productions have created Living Record Festival, a month-long Digital Arts Festival showcasing over 45 original pieces from independent artists and theatre companies across the world. The content of the festival has been purpose-built for a digital platform and includes theatre, dance, circus, comedy, documentary, spoken word, binaural sound and music.

Ram of God is an alternative film and the creation of Theodora van der Beek with Soho Theatre and notably, nominated for Best Comedy and Best Actress at the Alternative Film Fest. Self categorised as comedy/feminist folk horror it follows the story of a "milk-based" cult set in the middle of the countryside. The cults prophet/leader, part man part sheep, goes by the name Ram and claims to be the saviour of all those who follow him when the apocalypse comes in 2028. His most favoured followers, all female, are to commit their lives to him. They are to do this by; drinking only milk as a lubricant to escape sin, by not cutting or washing their hair, not wearing makeup and literally give over their body and soul to Ram.
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Wednesday, 20 January 2021

REVIEW: How do you make a cup of tea? Online at Graeae



In Spring 2020, leading UK disabled-led theatre company, Graeae launched Crips Without Constraints, an online weekly series of new works championing deaf and disabled artists. Following its success, on January 19, Graeae launched Crips Without Constraints: Part Two, a series of five new online plays. Each work will star a selection of UK’s finest performers including; Dame Harriet Walter, Sharon D. Clarke, Mandy Colleran, Naomi Wirthner, Cherylee Houston and Julie Graham.

How Do You Make a Cup Of Tea? written by Kellan Frankland and performed by Dame Harriet Walter and Mandy Colleran is the first of the bunch to launch. Clocking in at just under twenty minutes long, it is a powerful, frank and necessary expose of issues regarding the representation of disabled people by non-disabled actors in film and theatre. It takes the form of a dark comedy masterfully jostling between absurdity and realism. Frankland ultimately serves up a sobering reality experienced by many.
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Thursday, 24 December 2020

REVIEW: Sunset Boulevard in Concert - at Home by the Leicester Curve (Online)


There are no ushers to take me to my seat and no murmur of the audience as the house lights go down and the overture begins, yet, as I close my living room curtains, dim the lights and the title credits roll, I feel the same buzz I get sitting in a theatre while simultaneously being taken back to rainy weekends spent watching old movies with my family. Provoked by the novel restrictions placed on theatre at this time, Sunset Boulevard in Concert - at Home presented by Leicester’s Curve theatre have transformed a beloved musical into a hybrid cinema/stage experience like no other. You can’t keep this diva down!

Originally a film Noir masterpiece by Billy Wilder then adapted into the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Black & Hampton followed by a further adaptation of the musical onto film, Sunset Boulevard lends itself to both screen and stage with authority. Set in 1950’s Hollywood it tells the story of struggling screenwriter Joe Gillis (Danny Mac) who finds himself entangled in the manipulative and delusional world of ‘has been’ silent film star Norma Desmond (Ria Jones). Unable to come to terms with reality Norma dreams of returning to the screen. It is dark, melodramatic and all the old Hollywood romance one could want.
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Sunday, 13 December 2020

REVIEW: Sasha Regan's All-Male Pirates of Penzance at The Palace Theatre


While much of the West End continues to suspend in the air, or transform into a virtual medium, ever so cautiously we are beginning to see more and more action return to the empty stages. Resilience from the performing arts industry in the face of this global pandemic is finally paying off. A perfect foray back into the theatre, to remind us of the pure joy, laughter and escapism it can bring is Sasha Regan's all-male ensemble of The Pirates of Penzance. 

Arguably Gilbert & Sullivan's most famous operetta, The Pirates of Penzance is full of wit, romance and iconic music largely standing the test of time. Regan’s delightfully physical and novel version of the beloved show manages to uncover a simplicity and new comic layer in it. Premiering at the Union Theatre in 2009, the show has endured success in London and Australia rightly giving the multi-award-winning director and producer a reputation as once of the UK’s innovative theatre-makers.

Set in Victorian England, the overall triumph of this version is the never faltering and highly comic ensemble. Bouncing between pirates, ladies and awkward policemen, it was from the moment they entered as the young women all dressed in white singing Climbing over rocky mountain in a soaring harmony, I didn't want them to leave the stage. Sporting visible chest hair, five o’clock shadows and masculine physiques in corsets, gender became irrelevant. The simplicity of the set design by Robyn Wilson-Owen allowed the ensemble to transform the space physically and choreography and movement by Lizzi Gee and Lee Greenway sophisticatedly showed them off as a collective of clowns. A special mention goes to ensemble member Matthew Facchino (Ensemble) and Lee Greenway (Connie) for their excellent and consistent comic timing and energy from start to finish.
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REVIEW: Frostbite, Who Pinched My Muff at the Garden Theatre


A moment of taking things a little less seriously, after a year that has been downright difficult in so many ways we can all agree is needed. Never has the tradition of going to a Christmas pantomime held such gravitas for our sanity and that's for the adults. Frostbite, Who Pinched My Muff is an adults-only pantomime full of all the kitsch, silliness and energy you are craving but with dirty jokes thrown on top.

Proudly claiming the spot for the UK’s first production to open after lockdown during summer, the Garden Theatre is a beacon of light amongst the dimly lit theatre scene. They have slickly created a formula to put on socially distanced live shows in their outdoor heated and covered space that is not only comfortable and entertaining for an audience but that even stands up to the traditionally interactive nature of pantomime. From the moment I entered The Eagle, I was confident I was in good hands.

Frostbite, Who Pinched My Muff is set in a Germanic alpine village of Vaüxhallen where all is happy and well until the Demon Frostbite (Nathan Taylor) embarks on a mission to freeze the hearts of all mankind! In a battle between good and evil, we are introduced to an array of larger than life characters who steal our hearts, and innocence, as they endeavour to save their village. Dame Herda Gerda (Dereck Walker), her son Garbo (Shelley Rivers), Fairy Snowflake (Kingsley Morton), snowman Lumiukko (James Lowrie), the youthful and edgy Gretta (Bessy Ewa) and her wealthy father Bergermeister Kai (Tom Keeling) become our eccentric warriors.
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