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Saturday, 11 January 2020

REVIEW: Coming Clean at the Trafalgar Studios

Coming Clean is a production you know is going to be good. Having won the Samuel Beckett award back when it was first performed in 1982 as a ground-breaking play and Kevin Elyot’s first of many successes, it had a successful revival back in 2017 at the King’s Head Theatre, followed by a successful month 3 week run in January 2019. Therefore, with this 2020 production being the same in the same venue as last time (except for Jonah Rzeskiewicz is playing Robert), you know it’s tried, tested and works well.

The Trafalgar Studios theatre is quite a cushy studio, especially when packed full of people to see Coming Clean. This is quite an intimate and refreshing story about a gay couple (Tony and Greg) who live together in Kentish Town, 1982, whose relationship is far from monogamous. However, when Tony employs a handsome cleaner, Robert, to clean their flat, Tony and Greg’s differing values on love and relationships are challenged.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

REVIEW: Equus at Trafalgar Studios

Peter Shaffer is one of those amazing playwrights whose work is timeless, and I was so pleased to finally see Equus (written in 1973 and directed here by Ned Bennett) after hearing about it for so many years. 

This is the story of a 17-year-old boy, Alan, who lands in a mental institution after he’s pierced the eyes of numerous horses at the stable he’s been working at. A long series of sessions with psychiatrist Martin Dysart starts, and we slowly realise that his awful act is the result of a god-like obsession and sexual attraction to horses and his paranoia about being constantly watched by them.

Speaking of horses, these are played on the Trafalgar Studio 1 stage by actors who perfectly embody the noble animals thanks to movement choreographed by Shelley Maxwell. The two main horses are Keith Gilmore and Ira Mandela Siobhan. One special touch is when Siobhan snorts out smoke through his nostrils. 

Saturday, 29 June 2019

REVIEW: Dark Sublime at the Trafalgar Studios

Michael Dennis, the writer of Dark Sublime, makes a very good first effort at a full-length play at the intimate Trafalgar Studios 2. It is a mix exploring the style of Eighties TV Sci-Fi, the modern-day cult of Cos Play conventions and long-term gay friendships. Some elements work better than others not helped by the constraints of the set design and budget.

The design by Tim McQuillen-Wright works well for the interior of actress Marianne’s flat and neatly transforms into the spaceship of the Dark Sublime TV show but is far less effective as an outdoor field or the convention centre hotel for Ruby Con 1 as too much of the flat props are still visible. It makes the scenes in these locations harder to engage with as they are largely duologues with relatively static blocking. A bigger budget and venue would have allowed a more imaginative setting for these key scenes where the gay relationships and friendships are tenderly explored.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

REVIEW: Coming Clean at Trafalgar Studios

Run down to the Trafalgar studios before it’s too late and see this revival of Kevin Elyot’s comedy “Coming Clean”, led by four fantastic actors and gifting you with laughs, shock, love and friendship.

Written in 1982, Elyot’s play tells the story of Tony, his American boyfriend of five years Greg, his good friend Will and their cleaner (who is also an actor) Robert. Set entirely in Tony’s sitting room, we enter a smoke-filled and cosy 80s London apartment with its filthy walls and messy couch. Tony and Greg are in a loving but open relationship, and Tony likes to have casual sex and go to bars with his friend Will to pick up men. Things seem fine for the couple until Robert enters the picture and their intimacy and relationship pact start to suffer.

Over the course of two hours, we are highly amused at the banter and warm friendship between Tony and Will, and also slightly betrayed when the young Robert becomes Greg’s lover. It’s as if a bubble has been burst, and between Will suffering from a homophobic attack and Tony wondering about monogamy, things are shifting. 

Friday, 7 September 2018

REVIEW: Dust at the Trafalgar Studios

It is a rare treat to see a piece of theatre in which the artiste plays a role that she is so passionate about and so committed to that the audience can't fail to be moved and challenged by the performance. Milly Thomas has written and performs such a dramatic piece of theatre in Dust at Trafalgar Studios 2 which transfers from last year's Edinburgh Fringe. It feels that it is written and performed from the heart and with a desire to change people attitudes to depression and mental health. Milly reinforces this at the end by drawing attention to the role of the Samaritans in helping people affected by it. 

Alice has been dead three days when we meet her, looking down at her own body on the mortuary slab and over the course of seventy five minutes we explore the impact her death has had on her family and friends. Milly Thomas plays all roles and without the aid of costumes or props brings to life the other people in Alice's life before and after her death.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

REVIEW: Killer Joe at the Trafalgar Studios

Great drama should challenge the cast, take production risks and leave the audience breathlessly on the edge of their seats and this West End premiere of Killer Joe certainly does all three of these. Author Tracey Lett’s subject matter is an unpleasant, poor dysfunctional trailer trash family in southern USA and its adult content is certainly a risk for a West End audience. The play presents producers and cast with a number of challenging physical sequences but they pull it all of with great skill to create an exciting dramatic climax that does have the audience at times pin drop silent and then on edge of their seats before rising as one for a standing ovation.

The extremely detailed design of the trailer home by Grace Smart, exquisite lighting design by Richard Howell and atmospheric musical underscore by Edward Lewis create a perfect setting. It’s claustrophobic and chaotic with the neighbours close by and the family living on top of each other and the use of primary colours to illuminate windows and doors adds to the tension and sense of a threatening environment. The family unit is inherently unstable when they invite Killer Joe into this caravan to assist with their problems.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

REVIEW: Good Girl at the Trafalgar Studios

The Good Girl (GG) is written and performed by Naomi Sheldon and is the sort of one woman show often seen at Edinburgh Fringe and transfers to the Trafalgar Studios from the Vaults Festival under Waterloo Station. It works because Naomi as GG delivers her monologue from a small gold podium with wonderful animated expressions, sparkling piercing eyes and sharp comic timing. She engages her audience , just like Victoria Wood did in her monologues, with every look , grimace and posture and easily builds a rapport with the largely female audience.Dressed in a gold headband, dungarees and red shoes, she performs without costume changes or props.

She tells the story of her adolescence and sexual maturity from a ten year old prepubescent girl at school, to knowing twenty one year old university graduate to today a thirty two year old woman. The story begins with the mixed relay swimming semifinal when her coach encourages her to be a good girl but she rebels and sits on the pool bottom! She easily switches between other characters including her three close friends Zoe, Sarah and Laura in Sheffield and tells of their personal development and growing apart because GG is too intense.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

REVIEW: The Grinning Man at the Trafalgar Studios

Rarely since its transformation into Trafalgar Studios in 2004 has a production felt so at home in this tight intimate venue. The auditorium has been dressed into Trafalgar Fair freak show stage which sets the tone for the production and once the band strikes up the stage explodes with a fusion of creativity and invention that immediately engages, excites and entices us into the strange world of the Grinning Man. The opening song "Laughter is the best medicine" is a delightfully comic scene setter underlying a central theme of the tale.

The creation of a musical from Victor Hugo's epic nineteenth century novels has of course been done before but Carl Grose has adapted "The man who laughs " into a dark mortality tale about the haves and the havenots and about the search for truth. The creative team of director Tom Morris, set designer Jon Bausor, lighting designer Rob Casey, choreographer Jane Gibson and sound designer Simon Baker have created a macabre strange world inhabited by flawed characters who gradually reveal the truth. It is spell binding at times (occasionally too laboured at others) as the story unfolds not just on the stage but in the auditorium itself. 

Thursday, 9 November 2017

REVIEW: The Red Lion at Trafalgar Studios

Stephen Tompkinson is the devious club manager Kidd in Patrick Marber's changing-room tragicomedy The Red Lion. His fiery first appearance on stage resounds like an air horn, whilst he rants about the pitch falling in to disrepair and the volunteer staff lacking enthusiasm. For a solid ten minutes, the Trafalgar Studio 2 is raptured by his northern coarse vernacular and the audience is visibly in stitches.

Facing a close-up on his fit of rage – and trying to talk reason into him – is his subordinate Yates (John Bowler), once a dauntless fullback and now in charge of the kits. Placidly ironing the shirts, he delivers pearls of wisdom, expressing an empathy that seems to be a foreign concept to his boss. Seeing the game as a noble occurrence that brings the community together, Yates is mocked by the money-thirsty Kidd, whose vision of the football club corresponds to a business transaction, possibly aimed at filling his own pockets.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

REVIEW: Le Grand Mort at Trafalgar Studios

Like the fragrant pasta alla puttanesca that Michael (Julian Clary) cooks from scratch on stage, Le Grand Mort is a mixture of flavoursome ingredients, whose unbalanced combination could easily result in a stodgy meal. With its graphic elements and piquant frontal nudes, this rich recipe of sex, religion and death might not appeal to the most delicate palates but it does indeed cater for seasoned punters who crave for some zest.

With a relevant change in lighting, the intimate Trafalgar Studio Two alternates between the bar where Michael and Tim (James Nelson-Joyce) first meet and the former's kitchen, where he prepares a delicious dinner for two. Whilst cooking – as if talking to himself – he mentions a series of famous characters whose passing has been enveloped in such a plethora of anecdotes to generate a sort of pornography of death. Marilyn Monroe, Lady Diana and Rasputin are amongst the names mentioned, whilst Christ on the cross is described as a huge phallic symbol. As in this case, the mix is often disturbing and the words inevitably take centre stage in a piece where the action feels manufactured and patchy.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Alexia Khadime | Interview

Alexia Khadime is currently playing Eponine in Les Miserable at the Queens Theatre. Alexia's West End debut was in The Lion King where she appeared in the Ensemble and covered the role of Nala which she later returned to the show to play full time after her time playing Candy in the UK Tour of Whistle Down the Wind. She played the role of Nala for four years until she left the show in 2008. From June to November in 2008 she took over the role of Elphaba in Wicked while Kerry Ellis went over to Broadway to play the role, she later returned to the role in May 2009 and was succeeded by Rachel Tucker in 2010. After Wicked she was in Welcome to the Thebes at the Royal National Theatre and played Deb in Ordinary Days at Trafalgar Studios. Her TV credits include Grange Hill, The Bill, The Queens Nose and Comin' Atcha. She can be heard on Act One - Songs From The Musicals Of Alexander S. Bermange, her own single 'Ring' and the Amazing Grace and Pride film soundtracks. She was very kind to fit us in with her very busy schedule and to talk about her wonderful career...
Your career ranges from a wide variety of things, you must be very proud of all the things you've done in the past! Are there any special memories you have collected from these that stick out from the rest?
They are all just so different. What I like is they individually have helped me to grow as a performer so they all stick out for me. Something's have been bigger than other but hey all just really count a lot.
From doing TV and theatre you are obviously very familiar with the similarities and differences, what are your favourite and least favourite things about both?I like with theatre you get one chance and you can't say CUT. Least favourite thing is not getting to see family very much as we have 1 day off a week. TV is exciting because it's always changing like new lines etc, so you're always growing. Least favourite thing is the days can be very very very long and sometimes there lots of waiting around. I remember having call time at 6am and not finishing till really late!


Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Betwixt! the Musical: Theatre Review

Betwixt! Was first premiered at London Fringe back in 2008 with a concert following later that year, since then the show has been under some transformations and has most recently been adapted for the unique space, Trafalgar Studios 2. The show consist of a writer with writers block, his gay roommate, a head of a German Woman and plenty other fantasy characters! The show follows the story of Bailey (The Writer) and his journey to find a story for his long awaited new Novel and how he gets transported to an Enchanted Kingdom where he has to find the way to conquer The Enchantress and stop her completing her evil plan. Yes, I probably thought the same as you when reading the synopsis for the show, "What the f@#k is this?!" But actually, it's pure brilliance!
I was hoping the show was going to be amazing, but I had a strong feeling it was going to fail with the space it's in and the strange storyline. I was proven wrong! Ian McFarlane has done a great job writing this musical, its genius. Trafalgar Studios 2 was the perfect venue for this show, the intimacy of the space was part of the experience. The only fault I could find about the staging was having the band at the back, often they looked bored and looking like they were wishing they were someplace else however there wouldn't be anywhere else for them to go!
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