Review: What The Dolls Saw / He’s Behind You! The Slasher Panto, London Horror Festival at the Pleasance Theatre

What The Dolls Saw gives an hour of impressively chilling comedy at the London Horror Festival at the Pleasance Theatre, whilst He’s Behind You! The Slasher Panto feels like an experiment that hasn’t quite paid off

“I think I only eat quiche at funerals”
There can’t be anyone who isn’t at least slightly creeped out by dolls, surely. And that’s kind of what Nic Lamont is relying upon for her new play What the Dolls Saw, playing the Pleasance as part of the London Horror Festival. Drawing on fairytales, stories around the campfire, shadow puppetry and the world’s interest in true crime, she’s fashioned an hour of effectively chilling comedy.
Three wildly different sisters are brought back together to their family home by the death of their father, a renowned dollmaker. Their mother, a former child star with a dead twin (this is a horror show after all…), is naturally behaving a bit oddly but of more significance to the siblings, is the opportunity to delve into the secrets and traumas they each have buried, turning this reunion into a reckoning with chilling ramifications galore.

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Review: Tickle the Musical, King’s Head Theatre

Set in the world of competitive enduance tickling, Tickle the Musical proves a rather good-natured, sweet thing at the King’s Head Theatre

“There’s something interestingly subtextual going on there”

I probably shouldn’t admit this but I am extremely ticklish, to the point where even looking at someone getting tickled sends a little shiver down my spine. So naturally I booked in to see a musical about competitive enduance tickling (it’s a thing – I’d say google it, at your own peril…) but at a safe distance from any of the feather dusters lurking on the stage.

Chris Burgess’ Tickle the Musical proves to be a rather good-natured, sweet thing that wisely takes itself not at all seriously and is all the more effective for it. A feather-light plot sees smalltown boys Chris and Callum offered fame and fortune (well, five hundred quid) by the calculating Davina Diamond to tickle each other on film, for her website – what on earth could go wrong?!

After a slightly slow beginning, Robert McWhir’s production launches into life once it leans properly into its inherent campness. As Davina declares that two fit lads in short shorts tickling each other isn’t gay in ‘It’s Not Gay’, tongues are placed firmly in cheeks and the homoeroticism is allowed to soar off the chart. By the time we’re at the tickling world championship, you really will be asking what would Julie Andrews do…
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Review: Mission Creep, White Bear Theatre

Bee Scott’s very funny Mission Creep proves an impressive exploration of some of the more neglected facets of queer identities at the White Bear Theatre

“What the fuck do you think this is, The Handmaid’s Tale in space?”

It can sometimes feel like every day is marking something or other – it’s Black History Month, today is both #PronounsDay and #WorldFoodDay, next week is Asexual Awareness Week and while it is all too easy to roll one’s eyes at yet another date, there’s something invaluable about the opportunities they offer to open our eyes to the rich plurality of the world around us. So words like queerplatonic and asexuality are bandied around in Bee Scott’s new queer sci-fi play Mission Creep, it proves an educative as well as entertaining experience.

And it really is entertaining. For all the weighty themes here – a nuclear apocalypse rages around the characters – Paul Anthoney’s production is a finely calibrated comedy, fully embracing the ridiculousness that is sure to accompany the end of the world. Asexual Tess and bisexual Liam have clocked how to escape impending doom, by gaming their fertility to sign up to an intergalactic relocation project. They just need to convince the authorities that they’re a regular cishet couple ready and willing to procreate. Easy, right…? Continue reading “Review: Mission Creep, White Bear Theatre”

Review: Irish Coffee, Calder Bookshop & Theatre

Irish Coffee marks the 100th anniversary of Eva Perón’s birth with a fascinating look at her legacy at the Calder Bookshop & Theatre

“This is where they’re keeping the body of Comrade Evita”

Evita tells us that there’s ‘never been a lady loved as much as Eva Perón’ and her totemic status in Argentine life was secured in no small part to her untimely death at just 33. But surely not even she could have predicted, or dared dream of, the place she maintained in the public imagination, a mythology perpetuated by new military leadership that tried to outlaw the Perón name and who disappeared her embalmed corpse.  

Eva Halac’s play Irish Coffee, presented here in a translation from the Spanish by Luis Gayol and Daniel Kelly, places itself in the height of that febrile time, as two journalists decide to try and make their name by tracking down Eva’s body. And tapping into that complex history, she uses the real-life figures of Rodolfo Walsh and Tomás Eloy Martínez as her protagonists, emphasising a volatile mixture of fact and fiction and probing at the very notion of truth. Continue reading “Review: Irish Coffee, Calder Bookshop & Theatre”

Review: The House of Yes, Hope Theatre

There’s a whole lot of morbid fascination in The House of Yes, Matthew Parker’s directorial swansong at the Hope Theatre

“Were you poor? Did you eat chicken pot pie?”

For his final show as a director, outgoing AD of the Hope Theatre Matthew Parker (interview here) has turned once again to the ever-so-slightly macabre, in reviving Wendy MacLeod’s 1990 The House of Yes. And in a rather pleasing note, a host of familiar faces can be spotted in the cast – Bart Lambert (Thrill Me), Fergus Leathem (Brimstone and Treacle), Colette Eaton (Her Aching Heart) are joined by Gill King and Kaya Bucholc to take a step way onto the dark side.

The Pascals live in Washington DC but though it is 20 years since JFK’s assassination, the shadow of the Kennedys looms large over this clan. And over a hurricane-swept Thanksgiving, twin siblings Marty and Jackie-O are set to be reunited, though as he’s bringing a new fiancée Lesly and she’s got a pills-addled mother and horny younger brother in tow, it is clear this ain’t going to be your average family gathering. Continue reading “Review: The House of Yes, Hope Theatre”

Review: Mites / Dutchman, Tristan Bates Theatre

Mites and Dutchman make for a provocative pair of plays currently running at the Tristan Bates Theatre

“What are you prepared for?”

The publicity for James Mannion’s new play Mites ricochets between psychological thriller and bleakly absurdist comedy and it is a tension that epitomises much of the whole experience. In a world of mysterious workmen, anthropomorphic cats and talking dust mites, the playwright also seeks to situate a serious discussion about mental health and domestic abuse, a combination which ultimately satisfies on neither front.

Claire Marie Hall’s Ruth is at the centre here, an unreliable narrator of sorts as we try to ascertain whether we’re in the realm of fantasy or cold hard reality. A pest controller arrives and declares he is her missing husband returned to her. Her cat isn’t so sure and tells her so. The layers of confusion work insofar as challenging assumptions about mental health and the frequent shakiness of the grip we want to show the world we have.  Continue reading “Review: Mites / Dutchman, Tristan Bates Theatre”

Review: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Union Theatre

Some cracking choreography and two barnstorming lead performances make Gentlemen Prefer Blondes a musical treat at the Union Theatre

“Do they discuss romance
Or is the subject high finance?”

A kiss on the hand may indeed be quite continental (see, Brexit really does get everywhere…!) but a classic musical that is just straight-up uncomplicated good fun is everyone’s best friend. Sasha Regan’s revival of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes fully embraces all its candyfloss campness but anchors it with the crucial decisions to forefront the easy musicality of Jule Styne’s fantastic score (ably assisted by MD Henry Brennan) and in casting its two female leads just right, to remind us that it isn’t actually as throwaway as all that in the end.

True, the book, by Anita Loos and Joseph Fields from her original novel, is mainly frothy fun as it follows Arkansas showgirl Lorelei Lee to Paris and back with any number of wealthy suitors in her wake. But by keeping her friend and ‘chaperone’ Dorothy high in the mix, a certain brand of female solidarity shines through. And with Abigayle Honeywill and Eleanor Lakin, the show proves riotous good fun. Tackling the role made famous on film by a certain Ms Monroe, Honeywill nails the offbeat humour and charming warmth of a budding superstar. And Lakin offers up some stunningly confident vocals as her charismatic confidante – one to watch out for, mark my words. Continue reading “Review: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Union Theatre”

September theatre round-up

A quick round-up of the rest of September’s shows

Mary Said What She Said, aka how far I will go for Isabelle Huppert
The Provoked Wife, aka how far I will go for Alexandra Gilbreath
Falsettos, aka finding the right way, for me, to respond
The Comedy Grotto, aka a sneaky peak at Joseph Morpurgo
The Life I Lead, aka it was a preview so I shouldn’t say anything
Blues in the Night, aka all hail Broadway-bound Sharon D Clarke (and Debbie Kurup, and Clive Rowe too)
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, aka well why not go again Continue reading “September theatre round-up”

Review: A Partnership, Theatre503

Rory Thomas-Howes’ two-hander A Partnership takes an incisive look at modern gay relationships at the Theatre503

“I don’t know why I thought tonight would be any different”

Playing out over an hour of real time, Rory Thomas-Howes’ two-hander A Partnership takes an incisive look at modern gay relationships and asks big questions about what they could and should like, now that so many battles over equality have been won. Now that the gays can have a ‘normal’ life, what might that look like?

For Zach, it means breakfast islands, posh toastie makers and a Nutribullet. For Ally, it means being able to hold his boyfriend’s hand in the pub on a work do, maybe even give him a kiss. And as the pair of them return to their new flat to wait out the hour before Ally’s 30th birthday starts, the faultlines in their five-year relationship begin to buckle. Continue reading “Review: A Partnership, Theatre503”

Review: ‘Master Harold’…and the boys, National Theatre

‘Master Harold’…and the boys proves nothing less than a modern classic at the National Theatre, not least in Lucian Msamati’s spectacular performance

“Things will change, you wait and see. One day somebody is going to get up and give history a kick up the backside and get it going again”

At a moment where a Tory Home Secretary chillingly grins while declaring an end to ‘freedom of movement’, the idea of reckoning with one’s legacy carries an extra pungency. That any of us might be able to do with even just a hint of Athol Fugard’s self-reflective elegance as in his 1982 play ‘Master Harold’…and the boys, is something to think about whether your last name is Patel, Pietersen or Parker.

Master Harold... is set in 1950, in apartheid-era South Africa, and is situated somewhere in the realm of semi-autobiography. Running in real-time on a rainy afternoon in Port Elizabeth, gangly teenager Hally is hiding out from his parents and hanging with their familiy’s two servants Sam and Willie.  They’ve got their mind on the upcoming ballroom dancing championship but as their young master goes through the emotional wringer, the limits of their friendship become all too brutally apparent. Continue reading “Review: ‘Master Harold’…and the boys, National Theatre”