Review: Flights, Omnibus Theatre

A bold and sometimes brutal look at life in small-town Ireland, Flights is running at the Omnibus Theatre in Clapham now

“All the things that I could do… 
All the ways it could turn out.”

It’s either feast or famine when it comes to John O’Donovan’s play titles, from the iconic If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You to Flights, now opened at Clapham’s Omnibus Theatre after a tour of Ireland. And it is perhaps indicative of his playfulness and skill with words as evidenced in this lyrical piece set in the depths of rural Ireland.

Barry (Colin Campbell), Cusack (Conor Madden) and Pa (Rhys Dunlop) have gathered to mark the anniversary of their pal Liam’s death, something they’ve done with all their friends every year for the last 17 years. But the numbers have been dwindling and this year, on the year when he’s been dead as long as he was alive, it’s just the three of them and though there’s more booze and drugs to go round, there’s also more introspection. Continue reading “Review: Flights, Omnibus Theatre”

The finalists of The Offies 2020

The finalists for the 2020 Offies (for performances in 2019) have been announced and congratulations to all 89 mentioned below. A tip of the hat too to the 400+ nominees who you can find here.

DESIGN

Design: Costume
Adrian Gee, Amour, Charing Cross Theatre
Emily Bestow, 42nd Street, Upstairs at the Gatehouse
Hannah Wolfe , Great Expectations, National Youth
Theatre, Southwark Playhouse

Design: Set
Diego Pitarch, Night of the Living Dead – Live!,
Pleasance
Justin Williams, Whistle Down the Wind, Union
Theatre
Lee Newby, The View UpStairs, Soho Theatre
Rachael Ryan, Thrill Me, Hope Theatre

Design: Sound
Benjamin Grant, The War of the Worlds, New Diorama
Lex Kosanke, Hunger, Arcola
Matt Eaton, All’s Well That Ends Well, Guildford Bard,
Jermyn Street Theatre
Xana, Blood Knot, Orange Tree

Design: Lighting
Christopher Nairne, Preludes, Southwark Playhouse
Clancy Flynn, An Act of God, Vaults
Jessica Hung Han Yun, Equus, English Touring Theatre,
Theatre Royal Stratford East
Nic Farman, Night of the Living Dead – Live!, Pleasance

Design: Video
Andrzej Goulding, The Unreturning, Theatre Royal
Stratford East
Ben Bull, Baby Reindeer, Bush Theatre
Douglas Baker, Moby Dick, Jack Studio Theatre Continue reading “The finalists of The Offies 2020”

My 10 favourite shows of 2019

I barely saw 250 shows this year, quiet by my standards! And as is the way of these things, here’s a rundown of some of the productions that moved me most…

1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Southwark Playhouse
I haven’t lost it in a theatre as much as this in a good long while. I cry at all sorts but this superlative musical had me trying, and failing, to choke back huge, hacking sobs. And I can still sing some of the songs – it has to come back, surely. “It’s all just a matter of time…”

2. Call Me Fury, Hope Theatre
“This is the history we should be teaching, these are the stories we should be sharing”, this striking and soulful piece gave voice to so many whom history have ignored, and was bloody entertaining with it. 

3. West Side Story, Curve Leicester
A musical I love, in a production that I simply adored. Getting to see two WSSs in one year was a privilege and for me, it was the emotional heart of Nikolai Foster’s production that won out.

4. As You Like It, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch
The second year of the Public Acts programme comes up trumps once again with this gorgeous musical version of the Shakespeare classic, community theatre at its finest.

5. Islander, Southwark Playhouse
The magic of musical theatre distilled into two voices and a loop pedal – a marvellously inventive and endlessly moving. 

6. Amélie the Musical, Watermill Theatre/UK Tour/The Other Palace
As sweet-sharp as a diabolo grenadine, something truly gorgeous emerges from this film adaptation that simply demands you come up with better words than quirky to describe it.

7. & Juliet, Shaftesbury Theatre
Tell me why… About as much fun as you can have in the West End right now, this is a particularly fine example of the jukebox model and I want it that way.

8. Sexy Lamp, VAULT
A standout piece in a standout festival, Katie Arnstein’s brutally honest monologue about navigating the patriarchy may be lightened with songs and sweets but is no less effective for it.

9. Karaoke Play, Bunker Theatre
Deeply confessional and subtly magical, Annie Jenkins’ inter-connected monologues combined to become so much more than the sum of their parts.

10. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, National Theatre
A magical family tale, perfect for kids of all ages. Not even reading the exit poll as I left could ruin the feeling! 

Shows 11-25 under the cut

Continue reading “My 10 favourite shows of 2019”

Review: Country Music, Omnibus Theatre

A sensational performance from Cary Crankson anchors a powerful production of Simon Stephens’ Country Music at Clapham’s Omnibus Theatre

“I want you to forgive me for the things I’ve done”

A glance at the cast for the original run of Simon Stephens’ 2004 Country Music at the Royal Court sees Sally Hawkins and Laura Elphinstone, a killer for the FOMO in me. But hopefully in 10 years time or so, people will be looking at the cast for this revival at Clapham’s Omnibus Theatre and saying I saw Cary Crankson way back when…

He’s an actor I’ve rated for a while now – he won my Best Actor in 2014 for The Saints, he was a standout in The Faction’s ensemble too, so if there’s any justice we’ll be talking about him much more very soon. For he is sensational here as the troubled Jamie, the young man at the heart of this elusive but exquisitely painful play.    Continue reading “Review: Country Music, Omnibus Theatre”

Review: Lipstick: A Fairy Tale of Iran, Omnibus Theatre

Queer feminist theatre/cabaret hybrid Lipstick: A Fairy Tale of Iran leaves me dissatisfied at the Omnibus Theatre

Oh I really wanted to love this but I have to say I was rather disappointed. When a show self-describes as equal parts theatre and drag cabaret, you have to hope that it will achieve both aspects and aim to exceed expectations too but ultimately, it was a case of sashaying away for Lipstick: A Fairy Tale of Iran.

There’s no lack of ambition here, not at all. Sarah Chew (writer and director) slips between Tehran, Derry and London as she explores cultural stereotyping, censorship, artistic freedom, sexual freedom, Iranian politics, Soho politics and even then I feel like I’ve missed tons out. Packed into a show which wants to blend cabaret and theatre, it just feels like too much. Continue reading “Review: Lipstick: A Fairy Tale of Iran, Omnibus Theatre”

Review: To Have To Shoot Irishmen, Clapham Omnibus

A play with songs that works in the most achingly beautiful way – To Have To Shoot Irishmen is quietly stunning at the Clapham Omnibus

“Some things are worth fighting for”

Too often, the term ‘play with songs’ is abused by marketing types to avoid using the word musical in all its apparent divisiveness. So what a blessed relief to find that Lizzie Nunnery’s To Have To Shoot Irishmen is pretty much a perfect representation of the form. A suite of original songs composed by her and Vidar Norheim are sprinkled throughout the play almost as bookends to scenes, enriching the text with their eloquent lyrics and folk-tinged mood.

They don’t progress the narrative for that is not their purpose. Nunnery’s story is as shattered as the set on which it takes place (considered design work from Rachael Rooney), a Dublin neighbourhood ripped apart by the Easter Rising. There, a young mother named Hanna searches anxiously for her husband, the writer and activist Francis Sheehy Skeffington, with a growing sense of dread; and at some point in the recent past, we follow Frank’s experience being held by the British army. Continue reading “Review: To Have To Shoot Irishmen, Clapham Omnibus”

Review: The Trap, Omnibus

“The predictability of human desperation is incredible”

Set over a long night of the soul for the employees of a payday loans company, Kieran Lynn’s play The Trap is described as “a biting new comedy”. And for once, it does actually provide a fair few laughs, of the decidedly darkly comic sort, as it simultaneously shines an uncompromising light on the seedier end of capitalist society – the market for short-term loans and the predatory way in which the most-in-need are tempted in.

We open with Tom and Clem breaking into an office to steal money from a safe there, and it soon turns out that they are disgruntled employees trying to pull a fast one. But Lynn’s trick is to show how the perils of debt stretch far and wide and so they are eventually joined by branch manager Alan (gambling addict) and regional manager Meryl (mortgaged to the hilt) who are also searching for an quick route to assuage their financial woes. Continue reading “Review: The Trap, Omnibus”

Review: Spring Offensive, Clapham Omnibus

“The sheep are closing in”

Victoria Willing’s Spring Offensive is a spikily fresh take on the First World War and its enduring legacy, a bold move for the Clapham Omnibus and one which does pay some dividends. The theatre has been transformed into April’s Bed and Breakfast, ‘the best on the Somme’ it would have you believe, and Grace Smart’s clever design of cosy but threadbare furnishings instantly lets you know this is a somewhat idle boast.

Expat April has spent more than 20 years in Northern France, having identified her niche and capitalising on the never-ending stream of tourists who visit the battlefields of the Somme to pay their respects. Familiarity has bred contempt though and as the customers have disappeared, her frustrations have turned onto two long-term guests of her establishment, Tom and Pam, and things finally bubble over the course of a long spring evening, a Spring Awakening if you will… Continue reading “Review: Spring Offensive, Clapham Omnibus”

Review: Hearing Things, Omnibus Clapham

“How’s life in the asylum?”

It can be easy to make grand, sweeping statements about the artistic vision of your theatre company but much more difficult to actually follow through. So it is impressive to see Playing ON, who “make theatre with communities whose voices are seldom heard”, do exactly that with their new play Hearing Things. Developed from five years of careful and painstaking collaboration with the staff, patients (and their relatives) from mental health institutions including the Maudsley and Homerton, playwright Philip Osment draws back the curtain just a little on the world of psychiatry.

Reflecting the broad scope of its source material, and perhaps hinting a little at the experience of mental health issues, the multiple stories Hearing Things tells are fractured, their pieces shuffled out of order as the company of three actors dip in and out of a range of characters. It’s a brave approach but one which is directed with great fluidity by Jim Pope, making great use of a reconfigured auditorium with Miriam Nabarro and Jemima Robinson’s in-the-round staging creating a really playful space, for even though mental health is a weighty subject, there’s flashes of real humour here too. 

Continue reading “Review: Hearing Things, Omnibus Clapham”

2017 Offie Award Finalists

Offies Awards - Off West End Theatre Awards

Best Female 
Louise Jameson in The Diva Drag at The Hope 
Lydia Larson in Skin A Cat at The Bunker
Sarah Ridgeway in Fury at Soho Theatre 
Jenna Russell in Grey Gardens at Southwark Playhouse

Best Supporting Female 
Lynette Clarke in Karagula at The Styx
Joanna Hickman in Ragtime at Charing Cross Theatre
Sasha Waddell in After October at The Finborough

Best Male 
Fiston Barek in The Rolling Stone at The Orange Tree 
Phil Dunster in Pink Mist at The Bush 
Paul Keating in Kenny Morgan at The Arcola
John Ramm in Sheppey at The Orange Tree Continue reading “2017 Offie Award Finalists”