Review: ManCoin, VAULT Festival

Felix Legge’s ManCoin proves a  chilling reminder of how shallow wokeness can be, playing at the VAULT Festival now

“I’m one of the good guys, remember that”

#notallmen right? Felix Legge’s play ManCoin puts the case that, well, it really could be, it really probably is. Guy White wears his wokeness like a badge, his every statement parsed to align with liberal sensibilities, his new cryptocurrency designed to reward those who carry out good deeds. Right on man!  

But peek beneath the proffered bleeding heart and a shell of fragile masculinity becomes apparent, revealed in all its ugliness when Guy has a fight with his girlfriend Polly and a drunken snafu positions him at the forefront of the men’s rights movement. From there, his persecution complex runs wild, showing just how deep – or otherwise – self-proclaimed wokeness is. Continue reading “Review: ManCoin, VAULT Festival”

Review: Di and Viv and Rose, White Bear Theatre

Flying Rabbit Productions’s Di and Viv and Rose at the White Bear Theatre is a smart production of a play that has endured well

“I’ll be alright – won’t I?”

Amelia Bullmore’s Di and Viv and Rose is a play I’ve loved since its 2011 debut in the downstairs space at the Hampstead Theatre, from whence it graduated to the main house and from there into the West End. At each spot, it has been blessed with some superb actors – Nicola Walker, Claudie Blakley and Tamzin Outhwaite, Gina McKee and Anna Maxwell Martin, Samantha Spiro and Jenna Russell – so I was intrigued to see how it would fare in this off-West End production by Flying Rabbit.

And I have to say it stood up really rather well, a mark of the strength of its writing. The play follows the developing friendship between three women thrown together as undergraduates who move to a houseshare in which a real kinship is formed, connections which are tested by the trials and tribulations not only of student life, but through into the ‘real’ world as well. Did the Spice Girls really get it right? Does friendship never end…?  Continue reading “Review: Di and Viv and Rose, White Bear Theatre”

Review: Yours Sincerely, VAULT Festival

Letter-writing never seemed so much fun as in the hugely likable Yours Sincerely at the VAULT Festival

“They say the art of letting-writing is dead”

Any show that references Céline Dion’s epic key change in ‘All By Myself’ is onto a winner, nevermind featuring a lip-sync there of. So I was always going to be well-inclined towards Will Jackson’s Yours Sincerely. But there’s something more here too, a generosity of spirit that makes it a show I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.  

When Will finds that he has accidentally nicked 300 2nd class stamps from the Post Office, his instinctive response is to revive the lost art of letter-writing. So he pens missives to old flatmates, ex-boyfriends, childhood crushes, family members, customer service departments…no one is safe. And he reads us those letters, and their responses, a picture of a young man at a crucial point in his life emerges. Continue reading “Review: Yours Sincerely, VAULT Festival”

Review: Violet, VAULT Festival

Some beautiful lighting work elevates Bebe Sanders’ Violet at the VAULT Festival

“A change is as good as a rest”

Bebe Sanders’ Violet should not be confused with Jeanine Tesori’s Violet, though they do share a touch of the same DNA in tracking an epochal journey for a young woman. Here, Bertie is 27 and when she loses her job, boyfriend and flat in quick succession, she abandons London to find refuge in a cousin’s house by the seaside.

Feeling a failure and lacking direction, it is only a chance encounter with an old woman on a beach that offers a chink of light through the darkness of her depression. But from there grows an unlikely friendship as Violet employs Bertie as an assistant and their relationship develops to include chip shop pickled eggs, swing dance lessons and no small amount of wine. Continue reading “Review: Violet, VAULT Festival”

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: The Noble Nine, VAULT Festival

The delightfully daft The Noble Nine at the VAULT Festival asks what happens when people like The Famous Five grow up

“It’s a caper!”

Any play that starts with a face-off to ‘Mmmbop’ has to be worth your attention right? And Matt Parvin’s The Noble Nine proves to be pretty much just that with its frantic, scrappy charm filling the echoing chamber of the Cavern at the VAULT Festival. Matt Parvin’s offbeat comedy is a grown-up spoof of Enid Blyton’s tales of team-based, derring-do and even has its own catchphrase “leave it to the Nine!” (which does also feel like an incomplete Brooklyn 99 tagline…). 

This Noble Nine are the grandchildren (plus a furry friend) of author Estelle West who took inspiration from their childhood games to pen a series of best-selling novels. Now they’ve grown-up and grown apart – “when was the last time that we were together” – but the news that Granny is on her deathbed and the promise of their inheritance brings them reluctantly back together. And what seemed like fun games to play take on a more sinister tone as some unchildlike truths begin to rear their head – what a caper indeed. Continue reading “Review: The Noble Nine, VAULT Festival”

Review: Salaam, VAULT Festival

There’s something really quite delicately compelling about the story Sara Aniqah Malik’s Salaam is telling at the VAULT Festival

“I don’t know how to help, or what to say, or what to do”

It’s Ramadan and Mariam (an excellent Yasmin Wilde) is having to convince her teenage daughter Rema (an equally good Raagni Sharma) of how seriously to take this most holy of months. Their peace is broken when a pigs head is lobbed through their front window but it’s soon apparent that it is more than the glass that has been shattered, Rema’s fragile confidence is in pieces too

Sara Aniqah Malik’s Salaam exploring the pervasiveness of Islamophobia, the ways in which its violence encroaches on life whether personally, through personal attacjs, or subliminally, through the unquestionable intimations of phrases like ‘acts of terror’. And she shows us the generational difference too, Mariam able to throw off abuse more easily, in order to shelter her daughter as much as anything. Continue reading “Review: Salaam, VAULT Festival”

Review: VELVET , VAULT Festival

VELVET proves a powerful piece investigating #MeToo from a gay perspective at the VAULT Festival

“People say I look like Tom Daley without the body”

Tom’s had a big break in getting the lead in a fringe play right out of drama school, he’s just moved in with his banker boyfriend of three years, and he couldn’t be happier. Ish. He’s even attracted the attentions of a big casting director but when Tom rejects his less-than-professional advances, he finds himself trapped in a nightmarish downwards spiral. 

VELVET is written and performed by Tom Ratcliffe and taps directly into the #MeToo movement, approaching it from a slightly different angle. Tom may be cute and fit but acting is a cut-throat profession that mostly pays peanuts and as such, leaves far too many people open to exploitation. And sure enough, as he promotes his play on Grindr, Tom is drawn into a dangerous game. Continue reading “Review: VELVET , VAULT Festival”

Review: TARO, Brockley Jack

Arrows & Traps’ TARO is a beautiful tribute to a historical figure we have sorely neglected, playing now at the Brockley Jack Theatre

“In the lens it looks different”

If TARO is to be Arrows & Traps’ final production, then it’s a hell of a high note to go out on. Bringing together so much of what has made them an enjoyable and enlightening company to follow, it’s a swansong to be proud of as the #FemaleFirsts season turns its attentions to Gerda Taro, a pioneering photojournalist whose distinction as the first female war photographer killed in action proves to be far from the most interesting thing about her.

Born Gerda Pohorylle in Stuttgart 1910, the rise of Nazism splintered her Jewish family as she, her brother and her parents were forcibly ejected to different countries. Finding herself in Paris, a chance encounter with fellow refugee Endre Freidmann sparked an interest in photography which they then parlayed into careers in war photography that revolutionised the genre. Their work covering the Spanish Civil War was the fateful making of them. Continue reading “Review: TARO, Brockley Jack”