Review: My White Best Friend, Bunker Theatre

My White Best Friend (and even more letters left unsaid) sees the Bunker Theatre start the process of going out in a blaze of glory

“It’s all we can do to listen”

There’s a couple of months before the Bunker Theatre closes its doors but it does seem a rather wonderful f*** you to bring back their inordinately successful mini-festival and sell out every night before the run even started. Developers may gain from taking over this space but as evidenced here in this kind of forward-thinking, thought-provoking production, London’s theatre ecology stands to lose a lot.  

Co-curated by Rachel De-Lahay and Milli Bhatia (who also directs), My White Best Friend (and even more letters left unsaid) is a raucous piece of gig theatre, centred on a provocation to a range of cracking writers to write letters “that say the unsaid to the people that matter most”. Those letters are then read to a standing audience, sight unseen by different actors every night. And there’s a DJ-led afterparty too, even on a Monday night! Continue reading “Review: My White Best Friend, Bunker Theatre”

10 questions for 10 years – David Ralf

The Bunker Theatre may have announced its impending closure but its executive director Dave Ralf certainly has a lot to say! 

  • Where were you 10 years ago?

    Ten years ago, 2009, I was in my second year at university, writing an essay on John Donne’s poetry and desperately trying to impress my professors because I’d seriously slacked off the previous few weeks while rehearsing the first play that I’d written. I learned that year that directing your own work is a bad idea as a new playwright – frankly it’s probably not the best idea at any stage. The following year, I learned that directing theatre was not my calling at all – I couldn’t make myself care about the pictures on the stage, and only listened to the voices. Many years later, I’d find a good fit for that instinct: directing the radio dramas for Hotel Europe, which I made with Isley Lynn, David Loumgair and Philipp Ehmann and five extremely talented writers. But back in 2009, I was learning the jobs I wasn’t best suited for, concentrating on what I could offer and give to the theatre world I was then immersed in – and writing and producing had the edge over acting or directing.

    Continue reading “10 questions for 10 years – David Ralf”

Review: Karaoke Play, Bunker Theatre

Annie Jenkins’ impeccably acted Karaoke Play proves quietly devastating at the Bunker Theatre

“I’ve got a fucking funny story
It’s me”

What’s your go-to karaoke track? Mine is ‘What Have I Done To Deserve This’, both the Dusty Springfield and the Pet Shop Boys parts natch, though it takes some doing to get the mike in my hand. But much as they’re easily derided, karaoke nights can offer moments of real insight into something of what our aspirational society has become, hardwired as they are into communities through their local pubs. And it is this rich seam of potential that Annie Jenkins mines with her new play Karaoke Play, directed superbly by Lucy Grace McCann. 

A canny piece of programming at the Bunker Theatre sees this Sunday/Monday show take full advantage of Zoe Hurwitz’s exceptional, hyper-realistic set design for main show We Anchor in Hope. It helps that Karaoke Play is set in a hostelry too but more than that, the informality of the pub chair seating peels back another level of artifice to allow a directness that is sometimes startling. And as Jenkins’ play weaves together 4 interconnected monologues that edge towards the deeply confessional, this sense of being in your local conjures up something subtly magical.
Continue reading “Review: Karaoke Play, Bunker Theatre”

10 questions for 10 years – Chloé Nelkin

Queen of all things pink and PR, we peek behind the scenes to get to know a little bit about Chloé Nelkin 

For my money, Chloé Nelkin Consulting is one of the best PR companies around. The team’s work on the VAULT Festival this year was exemplary in making so many critics see so many shows run as smoothly as it did. And leading them with her brilliant and friendly smile is the  woman herself. Continue reading “10 questions for 10 years – Chloé Nelkin”

Review: Boots, Bunker Theatre

Boots at the Bunker Theatre is affectingly done but tries to pack in too much to its short running time

“The walk to the tills afterwards was like I was the Christmas tree and he’d just turned the fairy lights on”

Sacha Voit and Jessica Butcher’s Boots was seen as the VAULT Festival last year, so it’s rather neat that a new incarnation of the play opens at the Bunker Theatre while this year’s festival is running, a sign of the progress possible for all those theatre companies plugging away under the arches of Waterloo.

Directed by Nadia Papachronopoulou, Boots is an affecting and effective two-hander which probes interestingly at intergenerational friendships. Tanya Loretta Dee’s Willow and Amanda Boxer’s Liz meet at a Boots pharmacy counter as Liz applauds Willow’s tirade against a misogynistic customer. And from there, something grows. Continue reading “Review: Boots, Bunker Theatre”

20 shows to look forward to in 2019

So many of the recommendations for shows to see next year focus on the West End. And for sure, I’m excited to catch big ticket numbers like All About Eve, Come From Away, and Waitress but I wanted to cast my eye a little further afield, so here’s my top tips for shows on the London fringe (plus one from the Barbican) and across the UK.

1 Medea, Internationaal Theater Amsterdam at the Barbican
Simon Stone’s sleekly contemporary recasting of Euripides is straight up amazing. Anchored by a storming performance from Marieke Heebink, it is as beautiful and brutal as they come. It’s also one of the few plays that has legit made me go ‘oh no’ out loud once a particular penny dropped. My review from 2014 is here but do yourself a favour and don’t read it until you’ve seen it.

Macbeth, Watermill Theatre
2018 saw some disappointing Macbeths and I was thus ready to swear off the play for 2019. But the Watermill Ensemble’s decision to tackle the play will certainly break that resolve, Paul Hart’s innovative direction of this spectacular actor-musician team will surely break the hoodoo…

3 Noughts and Crosses, Derby Theatre, and touring
Pilot Theatre follow on from their strong Brighton Rock with this Malory Blackman adaptation by Sabrina Mahfouz, a Young Adult story but one which promises to speak to us all. Continue reading “20 shows to look forward to in 2019”

WoLab presents…The Actor-Writer Showcase

Less a review and more of a feature on this innovative programme – WoLab presents…The Actor-Writer Showcase

“I don’t want to be the last chair”

You want to believe that the world of theatre-making is open to everyone, that institutions are craving to hear new authentic voices, but the reality is is that it really isn’t that simple at all. Just look at theatres like the Hampstead and the Almeida who have taken the radical step of announcing Uncle Vanya and Three Sisters in their new seasons. Admittedly auteur-led but still, where’s the support and encouragement for those that want to tell their own stories?

It’s in the grassroots that’s where, in schemes like WoLab’s Actor-Writer showcase which invited aspiring artists to participate in this summer-long course to further develop and nurture their skills not just as actors and writers but as rounded theatre professionals with an eye on marketing and producing as much as making. It’s a stirringly positive enterprise from WoLab AD Alistair Wilkinson and one which proved most entertaining when the ‘graduating class’ were invited to perform specially written monologues and duologues. Continue reading “WoLab presents…The Actor-Writer Showcase”

Review: ERIS, Bunker Theatre

ERIS at the Bunker Theatre offers up a riot of sound, a queering of form, a boldness in style well worth seeing

You know what would really fuck them off? If you went out there and found the least suitable, most inappropriate, most outrageous hunk of a man that this fine city has to offer, and the pair of you rock up to that church service in May, arm in arm.

Now this is what you want your fringe theatre to do, really shake things up. The combination of writer John King and director Robbie Taylor Hunt really comes good in ERIS at the Bunker Theatre in a riot of sound, a queering of form, a boldness in style that really makes you sit up and pay attention.

Sean’s sister is getting married back home in Ireland but the invitation came with a caveat – you can’t bring your boyfriend, he’s too camp. Never mind that Tim and he have actually broken up, his return to the town of his childhood thus becomes loaded with a challenge to his very identity. Is the home you make for yourself more valid than the one you’re born in or can they co-exist? Continue reading “Review: ERIS, Bunker Theatre”

Review: Guy – a new musical, Bunker

Reflecting a more diverse gay community, Guy – a new musical offers up a sweet and queer rom-com at the Bunker Theatre

“I search, I find…
What am I looking for?”

‘Masc4masc’, ‘no fats, no femmes, no Asians’, ‘str8-acting’ – for all that apps like Grindr have revolutionised the gay dating world, it’s also allowed for a proliferation of retrogressive notions of masculinity that fly in the face of the freedom that embracing your queer identity ought to bring. And it is such a world that leoe&hyde’s latest piece Guy – a new musical seeks to tackle with a refreshing take on the genre.

Guy is determined to find love, but in all his insecurities about his weight and his looks and his lack of confidence, isn’t having much luck. Hours spent scrolling through profile after profile of ripped shirtless torsos aren’t helping- so what’s a boy to do? Guy shows us how the impact of a decision to make even just a small change can completely change your prospects, a slight shift in outlook can really make you see the world a different way. And crucially, show you that the way you see yourself is vastly different from how others perceive you.   Continue reading “Review: Guy – a new musical, Bunker”

Review: Kiss Chase, Bunker

A part-interactive, part-verbatim speed dating event with a difference – Kiss Chase down in the Bunker Theatre is a night full of potential

“Please fill out your connection forms”

Have you ever been on a speed-dating night? I haven’t (I’m not quite sure how a gay one would work, how do you make sure you’ve seen everyone in the room…answers on a postcard!). So the idea of Kiss Chase – the second show from theatre company Second Circle, written and directed by Hannah Samuels – was an intriguing one, as it promises “a part-interactive, part-verbatim speed dating event” in the confines of the Bunker Theatre, with the bar staying open throughout!

We’re welcomed in warmly by co-host Ruth, serenaded with the rules of the evening by t’other Jim, and then let loose on a series of mini-dates as those with red stickers on their badges move around the room one seat at a time. And the activities to do on these dates are fun enough, wisely steering clear of any place where lines might end up getting crossed and a relief for me given the number of women in the room and my rustiness in that particular game… Continue reading “Review: Kiss Chase, Bunker”