Review: The Ruffian on the Stair, Hope Theatre

Potential incest and homosexual urges rub shoulders with religious strife and emotional co-dependency  fun and games with Joe Orton’s The Ruffian on the Stair at the Hope Theatre

“I’m to be at King’s Cross station at eleven. I’m meeting a man in the toilet”

Having just seen Pinter’s first play The Room as part of Pinter Five, it’s impossible not to think that Joe Orton had seen it just as recently when he started writing The Ruffian on the Stair, a 1964 radio play later retooled for the stage. But even as similarities spring forth in the opening half, the overriding sense becomes one of a playwright finding his own voice.

Joyce and Mike live a precarious existence in their rundown bedsit – her recently off the game, him on the dole, the true circumstances of their relationship never fully spelled out. Their lives are thrown into disarray when a knock at the door heralds the arrival of Wilson, a smartly dressed young man initially enquiring after a room but once he’s over the threshold, revealing far more sinister intent. Continue reading “Review: The Ruffian on the Stair, Hope Theatre”

Review: Gilded Butterflies, Hope Theatre

Capturing something of the tragedy of solitary confinement, Gilded Butterflies is an evocative hour at the Hope Theatre

“I don’t always mean what I say”

The walls of the Hope Theatre stripped back to nothing, the dimensions of 2 6ft x 9ft prison cells marked out on the floor, grimly uncomfortable camp beds the only furniture in each. There’s no way that theatre can hope to replicate the conditions of solitary confinement but there’s a harshness to the design of Gilded Butterflies that certainly starts that conversation. 

Created by the company Tormented Casserole and inspired by the experiences of real people on Death Row, Gilded Butterflies follows the incarcerated Maggie as she pins her hopes on an appeal that she believes will set her free. Through conversations with herself, with a prisoner who moves in next door, with her lawyer and finally with her estranged sister, we discover just something of what imprisonment can do to a soul. Continue reading “Review: Gilded Butterflies, Hope Theatre”

Review: Jericho’s Rose, Hope Theatre

A striking look at immigration and dementia, Jericho’s Rose brings the loop pedal and no little invention to the Hope Theatre

“If you’ve forgotten
And I can’t remember
How will we ever know?”

There’s no place like home; wherever I lay my hat that’s my home; home is where the heart is; you can never go home again – from Judy Garland to Maya Angelou, everyone has something to say about home. And we can add Lilac Yosiphon to that list, as her striking show Jericho’s Rose takes up residency at the Hope Theatre.

Formally adventurous and deeply felt, Yosiphon explores this notion of home from two key perspectives. Her own as an artist trying to put down roots in London but finding something of a hostile environment as she applies for a visa, and her grandfather’s as he comes to terms with the ravages of Alzheimer’s. In such an uncertain world, can anywhere be considered home? Continue reading “Review: Jericho’s Rose, Hope Theatre”

Review: The Lesson, Hope Theatre

You ignore what Ionesco has to teach us in The Lesson at your peril – the Hope Theatre is onto another winner here with a strong in-house production

“Don’t you understand that I’m simply trying to help you”

Eugène Ionesco’s La Leçon is the French equivalent of The Mousetrap – it’s been running at the Théâtre de la Huchette in Paris since February 1957. British theatres have been a little less enthusiastic about the French-Romanian playwright over the years but following the NT’s Exit the King, Matthew Parker’s Hope Theatre is also redressing that with this English-language production of The Lesson

And though Ionesco is known as an absurdist, there’s something directly compelling and disturbing here. Sheetal Kapoor’s bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Pupil turns up for instruction with Roger Alborough’s Professor but her precocious confidence soon takes a battering as lessons in arithmetic and philology dissolve into abstracted nonsense and he gets increasingly angry at her inability to keep up.  Continue reading “Review: The Lesson, Hope Theatre”

Review: Medicine, Hope Theatre

Rightfully tough to take in its exploration of mental illness, Meghan Tyler’s Medicine impresses at the Hope Theatre

“You taught me the wrong things”

It’s a real gift to be able to write the kind of dialogue that manages to both leave you breathless with laughter and yet feel entirely rooted in believability. And as Ma bickers delightfully with her daughter Moira-Bridget over whether she’ll catch her death without a sweater, or the quality of the wine she’s nicked, or what they should drink that wine out of (I think this is the first play I’ve seen to mention Mooncups…), it is clear that Meghan Tyler has such skill.

But Medicine is far from just fun and games and banter, the full complexity of mother-daughter relationships is explored here, right down to everything that they share. Which includes a tendency to severe depression. We first meet the pair on Warrenpoint Pier in Northern Ireland, where Ma discovers Moira on the edge – quite literally – but though every part of her wants to do something, sometimes it is just impossible to help. Continue reading “Review: Medicine, Hope Theatre”

Review: Bury the Hatchet, Hope Theatre

A fearsomely talented company light up the stage of the Hope Theatre in Lizzie Borden meta-musical Bury the Hatchet 

“Your mama’s gone away and your daddy’s gone astray”

The story of Lizzie Borden is one that has proved endlessly fascinating for many people and has inspired many a work of art, with rock musicals, TV series and Hollywood films appearing this decade alone. Out of the Forest Theatre’s contribution to the genre comes in the form of Bury the Hatchet, self-described as a “true crime podcast meets bluegrass musical” and all sorts of fun with it.

Tried but acquitted of the murder of her father and stepmother in rural Massachusetts in 1892, Lizzie’s destiny of apparently immortal infamy was set. And over the hour or so here, it is as much this that writer Sasha Wilson focuses on than the details of the case itself. So we re-examine the evidence that remains and speculate about possible motives, but we also probe into society’s fascination with uplifting notorious (alleged) criminals and with the genre of crime itself.   Continue reading “Review: Bury the Hatchet, Hope Theatre”

Review: Cockamamy, Hope

Detailing living with dementia, Louise Coulthard’s Cockamamy at the Hope Theatre proves delicately heartbreaking

“You do remember, don’t you?”

Alice is your cool kinda gran – she likes a swig or two of rum, and she can quote Beyoncé. But she’s also keeping her valuables in the pan drawer, and hiding tins of spam around the house. And she’s struggling to hold onto the details of who she lives with, confusing her granddaughter Rosie for her own daughter, Rosie’s mum.  

Such is the world of Cockamamy, a Lustrum Award-winning play by Louise Coulthard, that uses her own experiences to depict the experience of how dementia can affect a household. And as Rosie’s relationship with her gran shifts, it is contrasted with the new connection she’s building with new squeeze Irish doctor Cav, exposing the challenges for both carer and the cared for. Continue reading “Review: Cockamamy, Hope”

Review: Adam & Eve, Hope

Tackling one of the hottest topics of the moment, Adam & Eve opens at the Hope Theatre

“So you believed it all?”

Who do you instinctively believe – the accuser or the accused? In a cultural narrative being reshaped by the force of the #MeToo movement, but also being buffeted by the increasing pervasiveness of alternative facts, finding an incontrovertible truth can seem harder than ever. So what happens when it is you that gets caught up in a world of damning allegations…

Such is the lot of estate agent Eve and schoolteacher Adam. Drawn to find their garden of Eden by moving out of the city, the rural idyll of their marriage is rocked when he is asked not to come into work while claims against him are investigated. Claims that seem scarcely believable, but claims that won’t go away, claims that worry away at the very foundation of what we believe. Continue reading “Review: Adam & Eve, Hope”

Review: Worth A Flutter, Hope

A broad, blokey comedy at the Hope Theatre, Worth A Flutter makes some people laugh, if not me

“There’s two sides to every story”

A curious one, this. The first half of Michael Head’s Worth A Flutter is full of the kind of broad, sitcom-like humour of which I’m no real fan. But after the interval, a more thoughtful strand to his writing emerges and with surreal touches threaded throughout both, a fascinating, if slightly flawed, production is the result.

Set in and around a Bermondsey greasy spoon, the play follows the romantic trials and tribulations of Matt and Sam, as they both pursue caff owner Helen. Matt’s got a high-maintenance fiancée who is an uncontrollable flirt and Sam is deeply, unhappily married but both see a way out, over bacon sandwiches and drily witty conversation. Trouble is, they don’t know about each other. Continue reading “Review: Worth A Flutter, Hope”

Review: Foul Pages, Hope

Foul Pages, Hope Theatre, London Fringe, Shakespeare,

Having a gay old time of it with Shakespeare and his company in Foul Pages at the Hope Theatre, London.

“We’re going to get it up the arse by the new King of England…’
Thank God we rehearsed.

It is easy to slip into reverence with artistic representations of William Shakespeare, such is his storied reputation but pleasingly, there’s little of that on display here in Robin Hooper’s Foul Pages. Imagining the man behind the myth, Hooper presents the Bard as a hard-working theatre professional, beset by controversies, split loyalties and tough decisions – the Vicky Featherstone of his day if you will.

His Rita, Sue… moment comes as a result of needing to secure the patronage of new king James I, not just for his own career prospects but to save the imprisoned Sir Walter Raleigh, a close personal friend of his collaborator the Countess of Pembroke. But to please the king is to disappoint some of his actors and in the Wiltshire estate where they’re all sequestered whilst London is riddled with plague, the consequences of puncturing actors’ egos become all too real. Continue reading “Review: Foul Pages, Hope”