News: Lockdown Theatre Festival brings four cancelled shows to radio

Plays by writers including Mike Bartlett and EV Crowe that were forced to close early because of the pandemic will be revived on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4 as part of a festival created by actor Bertie Carvel.

Lockdown Theatre Festival will feature actors including Katherine Parkinson, Rachael Stirling and Nicholas Burns, who will record their lines in isolation, to reimagine their performances for specially created radio versions of the plays.

The plays, which will be broadcast on June 13 and 14, are: The Mikvah Project by Josh Azouz, which had been running at the Orange Tree Theatre, the Lyric Hammermith Theatre’s Love Love Love by Bartlett, Winsome Pinnock’s Rockets and Blue Lights, from the Royal Exchange in Manchester, and Crowe’s Shoe Lady, which was being staged by the Royal Court in London. Continue reading “News: Lockdown Theatre Festival brings four cancelled shows to radio”

Review: The Sugar Syndrome, Orange Tree Theatre

A fine revival of Lucy Prebble’s first play The Sugar Syndrome features a strong debut performance from Jessica Rhodes at the Orange Tree Theatre

“I’m not sure anyone sets out to be cruel. 
‘But they get there’

The references to the dial-up age of the internet may raise a chuckle but there’s something distinctly chilling about Lucy Prebble’s 2003 play The Sugar Syndrome in its evocation of the darker corners online. In scenes that take places in chatrooms, Elliot Griggs’ lighting illuminates a digital cage around the stage of the Orange Tree and the rumble of Daniel Balfour’s sound design leaves us in little doubt as to the potential danger therein.

Where Prebble delights though, is in wrong-footing her audience. Convicted paedophile Tim may think he’s talking to an 11 year old boy but in actual fact, it’s 17 year old teenage girl Dani on the other end of the modem. And when they meet IRL, a strange kind of friendship develops between the pair as her recovery from being institutionalised for an eating disorder elides with his struggles post-incarceration. A rehabilitation meet-cute, how sweet! Continue reading “Review: The Sugar Syndrome, Orange Tree 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”

20 shows to look forward to in 2020

I look ahead to some of the 2020 shows exciting me most with an emphasis away from the West End, looking mostly instead at the London fringe and across the UK 

Sure, there’s all sorts of big ticket shows coming to London in 2020 (with big ticket prices too to go with their big names), like Sunday in the Park with George with Jake Gyllenhaal, Sister Act with Whoopi Goldberg, A Doll’s House with Jessica Chastain. But there’s so much more to discover if you venture away from Shaftesbury Avenue…

1 The Glass Menagerie, Odéon–Théâtre de l’Europe at the Barbican
Not that I want to be predictable at all but Isabelle Huppert! Acting in French! Right in front of you! I understand that van Hove-fatigue might be setting in for people but only a FOOL would pass up the chance to see one of our greatest living actors. A FOOL! 

2 The Glass Menagerie, Royal Exchange
And if you wanted to do a direct compare and contrast, Atri Banerjee’s revival for the Royal Exchange will be worth checking out too for an alternative perspective. 

3 The Wicker Husband, Watermill
Even before Benjamin Button tore my heart apart, I was excited for the arrival of this new musical by Rhys Jennings and Darren Clark but now, the bar has been raised even higher. And the gorgeous intimacy of the Watermill feels like a perfect fit.


4 Children of Nora, Internationaal Theater Amsterdam
Me: “I don’t need any more Ibsen in my life”
Also me: Robert Icke revisiting the world of A Doll’s House through the eyes of the next generation? Yes please.

5 Romantics Anonymous, Bristol Old Vic
I don’t think I thought this delicious Koomin and Dimond musical would ever actually return, so this short run in the UK ahead of a US tour feels like a real blessing. Now where did I put my badge?
Continue reading “20 shows to look forward to in 2020”

Review: An Octoroon, National Theatre

One of the best plays, and productions, of last year, An Octoroon makes a hop, skip and a leap from Orange Tree to the National Theatre

“Black playwright? I can’t even wipe my ass without someone trying to accuse me of deconstructing the race problem in America”

An Octoroon transfers to the National Theatre from a hugely successful run at the Orange Tree last year and sells out entirely way in advance. And yet it is Wilde and Pinter who are getting seasons in the West End…time to shake up the orthodoxy I think, even while accepting its a big step from the Dorfman to Shaftesbury Avenue.

Rather than wrestle with Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ complex writing and Ned Bennett’s layered production once again, I’m just going to point you to the fact that I named Ken Nwosu’s performance as my favourite of the year, and I ranked the show as the sixth best of the year (out of 346). My original review can be found here, I’m looking forward to seeing a hopefully more diverse range of responses this time round.  

Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes (with interval)
Photo: Helen Murray
An Octoroon is booking at the National Theatre until 18th July – currently sold out but returns and Friday Rush available

Review: Out Of Love, Orange Tree

“I’m the only person whose ever loved you”

Reflecting the impressive balance of their Roundabout season (an ensemble that’s 2/3s female and two out of three playwrights being women as well – see artistic directors, it can be done!), Elinor Cook’s Out Of Love places female friendship at the heart of its storytelling. 30 years of love and loss, dreams and betrayals, wrapped into a fractured narrative which denies nothing of how complex a thing friendship can be. 

Lorna and Grace have been great pals since as long as they can remember. But given the structure of the play, as soon as they’re declaring that they are going to be friends forever and that nothing can tear them apart, we’re 10, 15, 20 years down seeing exactly that. The one steals a creative idea and scores an amazing job, the other steals a boyfriend and ends up with a baby, people die and they’re brought back together but much has changed. Much keeps changing. Continue reading “Review: Out Of Love, Orange Tree”

Review: Black Mountain, Orange Tree

“I think we can only heal if we’re both hurt”

There’s acres of atmosphere in Brad Birch’s Black Mountain – the eerie luminosity of Peter Small’s lighting piercing the dark and bursts of Dominic Kennedy’s sound design curling around unexpected twists and turns. But for all of the creative invention at work here, James Grieve’s production can’t quite cover the feeling of something frustratingly incomplete about the writing, resulting in a hollowness at the heart of this would-be suspenseful thriller.

Part of the Roundabout Plays (with How To Be A Kid and Out of Love), Black Mountain starts off promisingly. We meet Rebecca and Paul as they take up residence in a rural cottage where they’re attempting to work through some problems in their relationship (“I didn’t come on a fucking holiday with you”). Sleeping in separate bedrooms, it is clear there’s something seriously awry here as evidenced by the tension in their every interaction (“you’re saying it with a tone”), even as they’re ostensibly trying to fix things. Continue reading “Review: Black Mountain, Orange Tree”

Review: How To Be A Kid, Orange Tree

“Some people expecting you to be very grown up and some people treating you like a kid”

It’s a mark of Paul Miller’s reinvigoration of the Orange Tree that it doesn’t feel too much of a surprise to hear Katy Perry and Little Mix playing in the theatre as you enter. In this particular case it is for a play for seven- to eleven- year olds but still, it feels wonderful that this artistic director has introduced this note of unpredictability to this Richmond institution.

Sarah McDonald-Hughes’ How To Be A Kid arrives here as part of Paines Plough’s trio of Roundabout Plays (along with Black Mountain and Out of Love), a co-production with Theatr Clywd and the Orange Tree which uses an ensemble of three actors to deliver three shining examples of new British writing. And as the opening salvo in the three-show press day, it proved an entertainingly strong start. Continue reading “Review: How To Be A Kid, Orange Tree”

Review: An Octoroon, Orange Tree

“I invented matinées bitches, look it up!”

You wouldn’t have put money on Richmond’s Orange Tree Theatre becoming the destination for some of London’s more radical theatre leanings but with Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ An Octoroon, it has done it once again. Less of a surprise is that it is director Ned Bennett at the helm again, reuniting with Pomona collaborators Georgia Lowe (design) and Elliot Griggs (lighting) to provide a headfuck of a production out of a headfuck of a play.

I could talk about the plot, about how Jacobs-Jenkins has adapted Dion Boucicault’s 1859 racially dubious play The Octoroon, but that wouldn’t do this any justice really. For this is a piece of theatre less concerned with narrative drive, with characters that move from point A to point B, but more of a thought experiment, challenging audiences to consider our attitudes toward race, both in how it is portrayed on contemporary stages and how we deal with the legacy of a wealth of drama approaching the issue in a completely different day and age.

Continue reading “Review: An Octoroon, Orange Tree”