Review: Spring Awakening, Hope Mill

Fresh faces do much to highlight the energy of Spring Awakening at Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre

“You ain’t seen nothing yet – gonna teach you right”

In many ways, the teenage energy of Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater’s Spring Awakening is a great match for the youthful verve of Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre. The creative upstarts of this fringe powerhouse are maintaining its burgeoning reputation extremely well and with this raucous take on Frank Wedekind’s 1891 play, look set to continue.

Luke Sheppard’s production hangs on its superb casting, drawing talent fresh from drama school (Darragh Cowley and Teleri Hughes) as well as a couple of more experienced hands (Ragtime’s Seyi Omooba) And the company fill the stage with a rough-edged vitality that marks out lots of potential for musicals to come. Continue reading “Review: Spring Awakening, Hope Mill”

Review: Plastic, Old Red Lion

A brutal and bleak look at teenage dreams and experiences – Kenneth Emson’s Plastic is playing at the Old Red Lion before a short run at the Mercury in Colchester

“Think Columbine, think Sandy Hook, think Virginia Tech…”

Deeply poetic, densely constructed and deftly performed, Kenneth Emson’s Plastic finds itself in the unfortunate position of being considered timely. In its depiction of the way violence insinuates itself into society through schoolhood trauma, and disproportionately affects teenagers, it has a horrible currency reflected in the rising crime rates that Amber Rudd apparently knows so little about.

Set in Emson’s native Essex, at a secondary school where old friendships have been recalibrated along new tribal lines, Plastic examines not just the faultlines that emerge from being bullied, but the hopelessness that accompanies the thought that being the popular kid might just be as good as life will ever get. Brutal and bleak, it is uncompromising about how desperate life can get for those feel left behind. Continue reading “Review: Plastic, Old Red Lion”

Winners of the 2018 Olivier Awards

No real big surprises here though it was a shame that Hamilton’s success (7 awards in total) crowded out Everybody’s Talking About Jamie from nabbing anything. Particularly pleased to see Terera and Atim’s efforts recognised, it’s almost like I saw it coming…

Best New Play 
The Ferryman: Gielgud Theatre and Jerwood Theatre Downstairs at the Royal Court Theatre – WINNER
Ink: Almeida (& Duke of York’s) Theatre
Network: National Theatre – Lyttelton
Oslo: Harold Pinter Theatre

Best New Musical
An American In Paris – Dominion Theatre
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Apollo Theatre
Girl From The North Country – The Old Vic
Hamilton – Victoria Palace Theatre – WINNER
Young Frankenstein – Garrick Theatre Continue reading “Winners of the 2018 Olivier Awards”

Review: The Great Wave, National Theatre

Fascinating but shocking history, and beautiful theatre. Don’t miss The Great Wave at the National Theatre

“It doesn’t mean…It doesn’t mean, that”

Francis Turnly’s new play The Great Wave explores a fascinating but shocking slice of history, severely underexplored in this country. And Indhu Rubasingham’s production thereof is one which puts East Asian experience, and actors, front and centre, a pleasing but too-rare sight to see in any of our theatres, never mind the National.

Its history covers the tense relationship between North Korea and Japan, notably in the late twentieth century when the former carried out a series of abductions of citizens of the latter, but all concerned hushed up the story. Turnly focuses down to the micro through the experience of one family but also amps up the macro, as past Japanese imperialism and the grotesqueries of the North Korean regime are also placed under the microscope. Continue reading “Review: The Great Wave, National Theatre”

Review: Relentless Unstoppable Human Machine, Roundhouse

Opening this year’s CircusFest, Pirates of the Carabina’s Relentless Unstoppable Human Machine offers gentle delights at the Roundhouse

As we mark the 250th anniversary of the invention of modern circus, it is interesting to see how its presence is becoming ever more noticeable in the West End. Whether through the forward-thinking La Soirée or the more traditionally-inclined Cirque Beserk (going into the Harold Pinter later this month), the appetite for entertainment beyond theatre is clearly there.

Up in Chalk Farm though, this is not news. The Roundhouse has long championed contemporary circus through its biennial CircusFest and this year’s festival kicks off with Pirates of the Carabina’s Relentless Unstoppable Human Machine. And perhaps conscious of the need to make their mark in an ever-crowding marketplace, it is a show that relocates its derring-do with a unique energy.  Continue reading “Review: Relentless Unstoppable Human Machine, Roundhouse”

Review: The Garden, Tristan Bates

Playing at Tristan Bates with alumni from The Play That Goes Wrong, The Garden is like Beckett but with humour and heart

“We are the real onions”

Written by and starring alumni from The Play That Goes Wrong (which I have still yet to get around to going to see), new play The Garden is undergoing a short run at the Tristan Bates in association with Carers Trust. Fundraising efforts have allowed for tonight’s performance to be offered as a welcome respite for carers, to provide a bit of a treat for them.

And it is a fascinating play that they’re getting to see. Set up as a Beckettian take on the Garden of Eden, it is far more deftly comic than that would seemingly allow for. When you’ve got Colin and Veronica instead of Adam and Eve, how could it not be?! Crucially though, The Garden is also rather touching in its gentle drama, leaving me more moved than I’ve ever been in an actual Beckett play. Continue reading “Review: The Garden, Tristan Bates”

Review: Love Me Now, Tristan Bates

Sex and love in the modern age gets a little confusing, for everyone, in Love Me Now at the Tristan Bates Theatre

“It can be anything you want it to be”

One of my favourite characters in early-season Dawson’s Creek was Abby. Allowed to walk on the wild side far more than any of the leads, she was a bright pop of colour in Capeside but because she liked a drink, she had to die. First-time-writer Michelle Barnette may not have intended this allusion but in this tale of casual sex gone awry, it was what sprung to mind.

But as Love Me Now attempts to explore “the toxicity of casual dating”, maybe it is an appropriate reference. Her characters A (Alistair Toovey’s ripped cocksure man-child) and B (Helena Wilson’s Insta-loving professional woman) are engaged in the kind of no-strings affair of Tinder’s dreams, only things have gotten complicated. She wants more commitment, he just wants more head. Continue reading “Review: Love Me Now, Tristan Bates”

Review: The Woman in Black, Fortune

The Woman in Black continues to pack ’em into the Fortune Theatre but can it really justify its continued casting practices?

“I don’t believe in ghosts”

I got to thinking there’s something a little ironic about the title The Woman in Black whilst watching it this weekend. I’ve not been able to find a comprehensive list of those who have acted in it but I can’t find reference to a single person of colour or woman who has played in either of the main roles.

For a play so firmly about the nature and power of storytelling, it feels a little disappointing that the production has rested on the laurels of being a classic. The choice not to expand what is meant by such a term as ‘classic’ and who can tell such ‘classic’ stories feels like a real missed opportunity. Continue reading “Review: The Woman in Black, Fortune”

Review: Brief Encounter, Empire Cinema Haymarket

Perfect for the ‘incurably romantic’, Emma Rice’s Brief Encounter is a glorious piece of theatre at the Empire Cinema Haymarket

This is my whole world and it’s enough, or rather it was until a few weeks ago”

How we change over a decade. When Kneehigh’s Brief Encounter was first announced to take over the cinema on Haymarket, I went to maybe one play a month and was the proud owner of a Cineworld card, so was disgruntled that my West End film options were being curtailed. I did not see the show.

Fast forward 10 years, I can’t remember the last film I saw in a picturehouse, the cinema has been taken over by Empire, and director/adaptor Emma Rice has had quite the ride herself over the last few years. So who can blame her for returning to happier times, happier memories, in reviving this much-loved production. Continue reading “Review: Brief Encounter, Empire Cinema Haymarket”

Review: Codebreakers – Mission:Breakout, South Kentish Town Tube Station

In the atmospheric surroundings of the old South Kentish Town Tube Station, can you crack the codes and escape the room of Codebreakers – Mission: Breakout

It has been a little while since our escape-the-room group has actually tried to escape a room, rather than just meeting to drink gin-based cocktails, but a special offer in Time Out led us over to Kentish Town to the home of Mission: Breakout. 

Housed in the brilliantly quirky ghost tube station of South Kentish Town, the Mission: Breakout team have two games up for grabs – the brand spanking new The Lost Passenger which opens on Easter Monday and Codebreakers which was where we found ourselves. Continue reading “Review: Codebreakers – Mission:Breakout, South Kentish Town Tube Station”