Review: Conspiracy, New Diorama Theatre

Barrel Organ’s emotionally open Conspiracy puts the conspiracy theorists under the spotlight at the New Diorama Theatre

“Take it away from the carpeted area”

The world of conspiracy theories is an easy one to mock but though Barrel Organ’s Conspiracy runs the gamut from Area 51 to Princess Diana’s death via Elvis, JFK and the moon landing, there’s something much more sophisticated, and sympathetic, at work here. Rather, the focus is on the people who buy into those theories, those develop and defend them so avidly, and the cost that pursuing ‘truth’ has on both themselves and their relationships.

The jumping off point of Jack Perkins’ text is the iconic 1932 photograph ‘Lunch Atop A Skyscraper’ – you know, the one from Act 2 of Heartbeat of Home – and to begin with, the amiable trio of Rose Wardlaw, Azan Ahmed and Shannon Hayes take us on a beguiling journey through their meticulous research into all the problems they’ve found. Dates that don’t match up, names that can’t be found, clouds doing the wrong thing, lunchboxes that don’t convince…gotta be a fake right? Continue reading “Review: Conspiracy, New Diorama Theatre”

10 questions for 10 years – Stewart Pringle

Is Stewart Pringle a closet Wicked fan? Find out this and more as he goes in 10 for 10

Writer, dramaturg, former reviewer and Artistic Director, candlestick-maker – Stewart Pringle has worn many hats (and one of those might be a fib). His reviews for The Stage were always ones to treasure but his Papatango-winning play Trestle was a proper minor-key delight 

  • Where were you 10 years ago?

    Finishing my MPhil dissertation, so lost in a quagmire of batty mid-20th century occultists. I’d forsaken the theatre to try to become an academic, which lasted for all of about 18 months before it pulled me back in. I tried to escape again in 2012 and that time I lasted for about 4 weeks. I won’t be trying it a third time. Continue reading “10 questions for 10 years – Stewart Pringle”

Review: Thirty Christmases, New Diorama

“Don’t be a prick at Christmas”

As many of us lurch from swapping random Secret Santa gifts at office parties to necking eggnog at pantos (just me?!) in preparation for the culinary bliss that is my dad’s Christmas dinner, it is easy to forget that the festive season is necessarily a happy one for everyone. And it is this feeling that Supporting Wall’s Thirty Christmases (in association with Arts at the Old Fire Station and the New Diorama) is concerned with exploring, through this bittersweetly wry and affecting comedy.

Written by Jonny Donahoe and directed by Alice Hamilton, it’s the story of siblings Jonny and Rachel who haven’t spent Christmas together in nearly ten years due to a big falling out. Through the efforts of their mutual friend Paddy, they’ve come together to delve into their shared past to try and work out their issues, for it turns out they’ve never actually had a conventional Christmas at all, due to a chaotic upbringing by their single-parent socialist firebrand of a father. Continue reading “Review: Thirty Christmases, New Diorama”

Review: Contractions, ND2

“We have a duty of care to all our employees”

I may not be a Deaf Critic but I am a critic who is partially deaf, a state of affairs positions me rather uniquely when it comes to appreciating Deafinitely Theatre’s latest production – a bilingual version of Mike Bartlett’s 2008 two-hander Contractions. Bilingual as a matter of course, as all of Deafinitely’s productions are in using British Sign Language and English but bilingual too as a provocation, in that director Paula Garfield uses neither language continuously.

So as we sit through a series of business meetings between a brutally officious manager (who signs) and corporate wannabe Emma (who both speaks and signs), there’s an ingenious sense of dislocation, of delayed and incomplete comprehension, which is as incisive a theatrical representation of what it is like to be deaf in a hearing world as I could ever imagine. And it is a fascinating way to portray the brutal acuity that typifies much of Bartlett’s small-scale plays and their sharp dialogue. Continue reading “Review: Contractions, ND2”

Review: Flew the Coop, New Diorama

 

 
“This is a true story. Events are told exactly as they happened, apart from the ones that are completely made up”

Part of the New Diorama’s Emerging Theatre Company Programme 2015, Lost Watch have spent the last four years building quite the reputation for themselves. Their latest show Flew the Coop takes inspiration from a photograph of real-life British prisoner of war Horace Greasley and Silesian translator Rosa Rauchbach, for whom he claims he escaped over 200 times in order to conduct a love affair.

It is told, with great energy and enthusiasm, through the prism of the Rauchbach Greasley Association Society Club (RGASC), a motley crew of Silesians (a historic region now split between Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic) who lovingly re-enact the story of their heroes with great ingenuity, using an array of brooms, brushes, sticks and buckets and not much more besides. Continue reading “Review: Flew the Coop, New Diorama”

Re-review: Plastic Figurines, New Diorama

“Mum told me that there was something in his brain that was different”

Not got a huge amount more to say about the heart-breakingly beautiful Plastic Figurines that I didn’t say in my review from 2015 when I ranked it in my top ten plays of the years. Ella Carmen Greenhill’s play, produced by Box of Tricks, returned for another run at the New Diorama, retaining Jamie Samuel as autistic Mikey but switching in Vanessa Schofield as his older sister Rose who is forced to leave university to become his carer after a family tragedy. I loved it all over again and I’d recommend you go along but it’s closed now!

Running time: 75 minutes (without interval)
Photo: Richard Davenport
Booking until 22nd October

Review: Richard III, New Diorama

“I am determined to prove a villain”

It’s nice to see The Faction switching things up a little. Their rep seasons at the New Diorama have considerably brightened up the last few Januaries with Shakespeare, Schiller and more but this year sees them drop the three play model for a single show in Richard III and expand their ensemble to 19 bodies, impressively increasing its diversity in age, colour and gender. The Faction’s playing style is stripped-back and largely prop-free, allowing a focus on physical expression to reinterpret the text.

It’s an approach that is suited to the black box of the New Diorama with its blood-red floor mat, Mark Leipacher’s production making varied and visceral use of bodies to form everything from the tower walls that imprison the young princes to the horse Richard rides into battle. And it’s clear that nothing is accidental here, every choice intelligently considered as seen in the bodies that make up the throne to which Gloucester finally accedes, being those of the four men he has most recently had killed. Continue reading “Review: Richard III, New Diorama”

Review: Plastic Figurines, New Diorama

“I love him
I love him so much but
Sometimes I…”

One day, Jamie Samuel will appear in a play that doesn’t make me cry, but today is not that day. Along with co-star Remmie Milner in Ella Carmen Greenhill’s play Plastic Figurines, he exerted as persistent and powerful a hold on my tear ducts as he did in the glorious Jumpers for Goalposts as this quietly devastating piece of new writing unfolds its fractured narrative with all the bruised authenticity and honesty of the most intimate diary.

That feeling is appropriate too as though the play is fictional, it is inspired by elements of Greenhill’s own life as you can feel that in every jab and joke of the complicated sibling relationship here, and in the sensitive, nuanced depiction of autism on which the plot hinges. After their mother is diagnosed with terminal leukaemia, Rose has to leave university life in Edinburgh to return to the family home to look after teenage brother Mikey. Continue reading “Review: Plastic Figurines, New Diorama”

Review: Shooting With Light, New Diorama

“You don’t have to worry about taking the perfect picture”

There’s much to enjoy about Idle Motion’s Shooting with Light, currently selling out night after night at the New Diorama ahead of a UK tour, not least in their exploration of the life and work of photojournalist Gerda Taro. A devised work, it blends its text with striking use of movement, multimedia projections and innovative design, to create an impassioned, time-jumping romance slash mystery that has some truly beguiling moments.

Fleeing the rising anti-Semitism of the 1930s, German Gerta Pohorylle and Hungarian Andre Friedmann met in a Parisian café and quickly bonding over a mutual love for each other and photography, reinvented themselves as the First Couple of photojournalism – Gerda Taro and Robert Capa. Initially just acting his agent, Taro’s own love for the lens saw her develop her own path, becoming the first female photojournalist to cover a war from the front line. And to die whilst doing so. Continue reading “Review: Shooting With Light, New Diorama”

Review: Joan of Arc, New Diorama

“You can’t slaughter what you cannot kill”

In amongst everything else that the Faction do, they’re also steadily working their way through Friedrich Schiller’s plays with the aim of staging the complete canon of his work. I’ve seen them take on Mary StuartFiesco and The Robbers in recent years but their 2015 rep season features Joan of Arc, a free adaptation of The Maid of Orleans which was one of his most frequently performed plays during his lifetime. Its fiercely militaristic tone speaks to its popularity back then but the Faction, playing very much to their strengths in this thrilling and thoughtful version, make a sterling case for its pertinence today.

The play tells its own variation on Joan’s life – one could hardly argue it is historically inaccurate – which repositions La Pucelle as a defiantly active warrior in the Dauphin’s forces as the French Crown struggles against the combined forces of the Duke of Burgundy and Henry VI of England. That she was a peasant girl who received religious visions only added to her allure when her talismanic presence proved decisive in turning the military tide but the natural suspicion of anything different, combined with Joan’s internal dilemmas about the validity of her spirituality, allows the seeds to be sown for her downfall (even if it plays out in an unexpected manner). Continue reading “Review: Joan of Arc, New Diorama”