Review: Girls and Boys, Royal Court

“If it gets difficult – and it will get difficult – I want you to remember two things: remember that this did not happen to you, and that it is not happening now”

Credit where credit is due – Es Devlin’s design for Girls and Boys, aided by Luke Halls’ video work, is simply stunning – the simplest of ideas realised with perfect execution. A modern flat smothered in dreamy turquoise, punctuated at each scene change with a flash of the ‘real’ flat superimposed on top. The effect is literally blink-and-miss-it but somehow sears onto the retina, as if caught in a hallucination or reverie.

But such deceptive simplicity is far from effortless as no less than four associate set designers are credited – Jack Headford, Jed Skrzypczak, Angie Vasileiou and Machiko Weston – and two associate video designers – Charli Davis and Zakk Hein. No matter how the work was divvied up, all should get to take a bow as it is deeply thrilling work (I want someone to write a longform piece on the subtly changing orange objects). It also helps that Dennis Kelly’s monologue, delivered by Carey Mulligan, is exceptional. Continue reading “Review: Girls and Boys, Royal Court”

Review: I Have A Mouth And I Will Scream, VAULT Festival

“We don’t need a book, what we need is action”

The publicity for Abi Zakarian’s I Have A Mouth And I Will Scream puts it better than I ever could – it’s “a play-performance-art-protest-thing.” With one of the funniest lines I’ve heard in a theatre this year, involving Sean Bean. Directed by Rafaella Marcus, the show has all the raw energy of devised work but also carries with it the weight of something much more deeply considered.

I Have A Mouth… is an attempt to “address every single feminist issue in the space of sixty minutes” and does so, with its company of six, in a mightily anarchic manner. These are women who are just as likely to spit in a mirror, throw a tampon at you and bite the head off a wedding bouquet than sit quietly in the corner and put up with the patriarchy any longer and fuck knows, they’ve got every right to be angry. Continue reading “Review: I Have A Mouth And I Will Scream, VAULT Festival”

Review: Tiger, VAULT Festival

“It’s a good idea, some people might find it funny”

Grief does funny things to people. Different things too. Some retreat into themselves, trapped in a fug of isolation they can’t see a way out of. Others go out of their way to show the world that everything is fine, going so far as to dress up in a tiger suit, even if they’re dying on the inside. Joe Eyre’s Tiger, directed by Will Maynard, brings the two together with some cheesecake, some yoga, a whole lotta David Bowie and a brand of neatly intelligent comedy.

Comedian Alice is the one experiencing the first kind of grief. Utterly poleaxed by the death of a loved one, she’s completely withdrawn from the outside world and even from her doctor boyfriend Oli, whose patience is being stretched to breaking point after six long months. The hunt for a flatmate brings a man dressed as a tiger to their front door replete with a suite of knock knock jokes and a chink of light in the darkness of Alice’s depression.  Continue reading “Review: Tiger, VAULT Festival”

Review: Elsa, VAULT Festival

We coulda had it all…or so they told us. But though Elsa is a graduate, she’s also an aspiring actress in a city full of aspiring actresses and so she’s jobbing in a coffee shop, listening in on the exhausting pace of a world where art is being devalued in the face of picture-perfect Instagram feeds.

Isobel Rogers’ Elsa is a one-woman song and story affair, a paean to the joys of eavesdropping but also beautifully reflective on the state of the world, and Elsa’s own place in it. Snippets of personal dramas breeze in and out of the coffee shop doors and Rogers captures them perfectly with a scathingly funny sense of humour.

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Review: Gundog, Royal Court

“Just make them shag each other and sell all the littluns to rich people who want pets of something”

There’s something unremittingly bleak about Simon Longman’s Gundog that makes it a real challenge. It’s an impressively bold depiction of the complete decline of a way of life, the kind of rural farming that the Common Agricultural Policy hasn’t managed to reach and protect. None of the loneliness or impoverished desperation is spared in what can feel a tad like punishment by the end. 

After the death of their parents, and with their grandfather’s illness and their brother’s listlessness, sisters Anna and Becky find themselves landed with the thankless task of looking after the remotest of farms in an area that can’t even sustain a local pub. The arrival of a foreigner with a nifty line in knitwear is a rare harkening of the potential of change but we’re never allowed to forget that times really are tough.   Continue reading “Review: Gundog, Royal Court”

Review: Again, Trafalgar Studios 2

“It’s like asking a halibut to understand a panther”

Most families have a story or three, the kind of tales that go down in folklore, destined to be repeated at family events no matter embarrassing for the parent/sibling/etc involved. I doubt many will have as good an anecdote as the Barcelona suitcase story which crops up midway through Again, making its world premiere at the Trafalgar Studios 2 in this Mongrel Thumb production.

The ways in which families tell and retell stories, communicating or struggling to communicate to each other, lies at the heart of what writer Stephanie Jacob is trying to achieve here. Married to a playful theatrical structure that emphasises how tricky saying the right thing can be (or unsaying the wrong thing…) but also which allows for infinite possibility, Again makes for an intermittently striking evening. Continue reading “Review: Again, Trafalgar Studios 2”

Review: Be Prepared, VAULT Festival

“I can’t get on the bus cos I’m waiting for this old man to call”

What is the right way to grieve? Is there even such a thing? Ian Bonar’s Be Prepared throws up such questions as we meet Tom, and by extension Mr Chambers, who are having a tough time of it.  Tom is mourning the death of his father, Mr Chambers the loss of his wife but thing is, they don’t know each other. The only reason they’re in contact is because the elderly Mr Chambers keeps mis-dialling Tom thinking he is a funeral director.

And as writer/performer Bonar takes to the stage in a brilliantly conceived opening, we get to see how this accidental meeting develops into something of a life-raft for the pair of them, a way of starting to process the discombobulation that accompanies the death of a loved one. The shots of weird dark humour that pop up in the most unexpected of places, the strange comfort that comes from unburdening to someone who doesn’t know you, the distressing weight that feels like it will never lift.

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Review: The Internet Was Made For Adults, VAULT Festival

“I’ve seen all my friend’s wieners”

It feels only too right that an emerging theme at this year’s VAULT Festival is a brutally honest depiction of what it means to be a woman in this modern world. And whether it’s #MeToo or #TimesUp or both, the voices of the young, inspired theatremakers corralled under Waterloo are perfect for capturing that zeitgeist and giving it gloriously full expression.

Hitting the Wall Productions’ contribution to the debate is The Internet Was Made For Adults, exploring how the greater potential for ‘connection’ facilitated by the internet has had a disproportionate and disconcerting impact on how we all – but particularly young women – see love and sex. Meshing cabaret with theatre, this all-female team make a vibrant impact.

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Review: The Moor, Old Red Lion

“It’s rained all week and the peat has risen”

The Old Red Lion may not look like the most flexible of spaces, especially since the seating is not, but it seems to inspire designers to come up with most inventive work. And Holly Pigott is no exception as she evokes the dark and brooding mystery of an unforgiving moorland, enhanced by the striking lighting design from Jamie Platt.

And it provides an ideal setting for the psychological thriller that is Catherine Lucie’s The Moor. Bronagh has lived there for most of her life but is far from immune from the strangeness that the landscape inspires. Trapped in a fug of post-natal depression, grief from the death of her mother and the torment of an abusive relationship, she’s beginning question what is real.

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