2020 VAULT Festival – 20 shows to see

Insofar as it is humanly possible for any one person to know everything that is happening at the VAULT Festival this year, I present a handful of my recommendations for 2020.

In all honesty though, I think the best thing to do is just pick a night, go down there and see what tickles your fancy – the level of quality here really is something to admire and means it’ll be very hard to end up disappointed. Take a look at their website here.

LGBT+ stories

Body Talk – 29 Jan — 02 Feb
Full Disclosure Theatre take on male body image from the gay perspective, looking at the damage that can be imposed by obsessing over it.

how we love 18 — 23 Feb
Regi and Babs are getting married. She’s a lesbian and he’s gay but they need the cover to deal with the dangers posed by the prevailing attitudes towards homosexuality in Nigeria.

Notch 19 — 23 Feb
After the devilish fun of Ladykiller, the Thelmas return with this dark meditation on migration, homelessness and obsession from Danaja Wass.

V&V 03 — 08 Mar
Exploring communication then and now, V&V contrasts love stories past and present from Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West’s love letters, to Mia and Lottie’s online missives.

Too Pretty To Punch 03 — 08 Mar
A comedy spoken word show from Edalia Day about gender and featuring original songs and video work about trans life in 21st century Britain. Continue reading “2020 VAULT Festival – 20 shows to see”

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: What The Dolls Saw / He’s Behind You! The Slasher Panto, London Horror Festival at the Pleasance Theatre

What The Dolls Saw gives an hour of impressively chilling comedy at the London Horror Festival at the Pleasance Theatre, whilst He’s Behind You! The Slasher Panto feels like an experiment that hasn’t quite paid off

“I think I only eat quiche at funerals”
 
There can’t be anyone who isn’t at least slightly creeped out by dolls, surely. And that’s kind of what Nic Lamont is relying upon for her new play What the Dolls Saw, playing the Pleasance as part of the London Horror Festival. Drawing on fairytales, stories around the campfire, shadow puppetry and the world’s interest in true crime, she’s fashioned an hour of effectively chilling comedy.
 
Three wildly different sisters are brought back together to their family home by the death of their father, a renowned dollmaker. Their mother, a former child star with a dead twin (this is a horror show after all…), is naturally behaving a bit oddly but of more significance to the siblings, is the opportunity to delve into the secrets and traumas they each have buried, turning this reunion into a reckoning with chilling ramifications galore.

Continue reading “Review: What The Dolls Saw / He’s Behind You! The Slasher Panto, London Horror Festival at the Pleasance Theatre”

Review: Holly Morgan: Is A Witch, Get Her!, VAULT Festival

Witch please! Holly Morgan: Is A Witch, Get Her! is some comedy that makes you think at the VAULT Festival

“Write a funny story about witches they said…”

Pass it round, Holly Morgan: Is A Witch, Get Her! An innocuous schoolyard taunt serves as the starting point for a veritable odyssey of discovery for Morgan as she seeks to reclaim the word from its long and troubled history. And as we find out, it is a history that is as often appalling as it is surprising, though accompanied by her new husband Tom Moores (in a fetching black catsuit, natch) and some hefty vocal power, it’s an entirely engaging journey. 

In some ways, the show serves as an interesting companion piece to Call Me Fury seen earlier at this year’s VAULT Festival, also seeking to reappraise societal interpretations of witchcraft with a musical twist. Morgan’s comic grounding clearly directs the show in a different direction but there’s still something so compelling about looking at the many ways the patriarchy has abused the term in order to maintain the status quo.  Continue reading “Review: Holly Morgan: Is A Witch, Get Her!, VAULT Festival”

Review: Eternal Love, Cambridge Arts Theatre

“If you marry me you’ll never be a candidate for the Vatican”

Originally seen at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2006 and 2007 as In Extremis, Howard Brenton’s newly retitled Eternal Love marks the 21st birthday year of English Touring Theatre and the first instalment in a three-year-long project to tour quality drama across the country. On a personal note, it also saw my first ever visit to Cambridge (too brief for my liking, I look forward to a return) and the Cambridge Arts Theatre (very friendly, I like the fact I found the bar before I found the box office!).

The retitling offers a further clue to its subject matter in a subtitle The Story of Abelard and Heloise but in some ways, this feels a little bit of a misnomer. For though the enduring love story between the medieval theologian Peter Abelard and his fearsomely intelligent student Heloise is a central part of the play, Brenton also focuses on the key philosophical debate of the time, as intense rival Bernard of Clairvaux declares his determination to defeat this heretical foe and maintain the doctrine of absolute faith. Continue reading “Review: Eternal Love, Cambridge Arts Theatre”