Review: Custody, Ovalhouse

“There was a bit of a… 
There was a bit of a scuffle”

One of the most appallingly striking statistics around police brutality in the UK is that there has not been a single prosecution for homicide for a death in custody for over 30 years and a disproportionate number – 147 to be precise – of those deaths have been BAME victims. But where the Black Lives Matter movement has gained real traction in the US, stories like these still slip by too easily unnoticed on these shores, And combined with his own experiences of the problematic stop and search system here, it is this which inspired Urbain Hayo (aka Urban Wolf) to create Custody

It’s an undoubtedly powerful raison d’être and one which has been curiously, deliberately, filtered here through writer Tom Wainwright’s perspective as a white, middle-class man who, one assumes, hasn’t suffered the indignities of stop and search. It’s an approach that broadens the scope of the story from the directly personal to a more universal world-view but in doing so, also mutes just a little of the fury and tragedy that is felt by the family of Brian – a successful young businessman, black – whose flash car attracts the attention of the police with devastating results.  Continue reading “Review: Custody, Ovalhouse”

Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival – A Question of Identity

“I’m laughing on the outside but screaming on the inside”

The first session of the Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival, tucked away in a rehearsal room under the stage, was entitled A Question of Identity, featuring three contrasting works of equal but different power. I saw Rose Lewenstein’s Fucking Feminists as part of the Acts of Defiance festival at Theatre503 a couple of months ago, but its rapid wordplay and competing voices which parse and pull apart notions of contemporary feminism easily allow for repeated viewing as you consider whether a chair can be feminist or if white feminists are only interested in getting themselves above the glass ceiling.

As directed by Lisa Cagnacci, the foursome of Ania Sowinski, Jody Jameson, Karlina Grace-Paseda, and Anna Elijasz are clearly revelling in the familiarity with their material and pushing both its thoughtfulness and cheekiness. By comparison, Stephanie Ridings’ The Road To Huntsville is much more restrained, a one-woman show tracking a writer’s research journey into the world of women who correspond and enter in romantic relationships with convicts. Though perhaps less overtly theatrical, its message is no less chilling (I’m still reeling from the Danielle Steel titbit) and Ridings expertly manoeuvres our sympathies through her discoveries. Continue reading “Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival – A Question of Identity”

Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival – PRIDE and Prejudice

 
“Being deaf isn’t being broken”

The middle session of Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival saw our first trip into the Hampstead’s main house for PRIDE and Prejudice. Opening with What I Was Told I Could Be And What I’ve Become, a collection of new worldviews from Graeae’s female writers. Directed by Jenny Sealey, six scenes played out with increasingly intermingled with each other, different experiences of life as disabled women coalescing into a theatrical roar.

Full list of playlets
Boys on Bikes by Karen Featherstone starring Phillipa Cole, 
Klutz by Amy Bethan Evans starring Kellan Frankland, 
Kids by Jackie Hagan starring Ali Briggs, 
Days of Our Lives by Rosaleen McDonagh starring Taharah Azam 
Statuesque by Rebekkah Bowsher starring Nickie Wildin 
Single by Matilda Ibini starring Vilma Jackson

Continue reading “Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival – PRIDE and Prejudice”

Review: Acts of Defiance – The Festival, Theatre503

“I’m in a cop car
I got here by accident
I think”

Produced by Mama Quilla and Theatre503, Acts of Defiance is a multidisciplinary festival which is “an explosive examination of female dissidence and a shameless celebration of global female defiance”. Film, spoken word, community-based work sit alongside a programme of six short plays, curated by Kay Adshead, which fold in a world of influences – feminism, diversity, sexuality, race, motherhood – to their tales of defiance, all accompanied to brilliant effect by Rosie Bergonzi’s percussion, evoking both the freeing beauty of dancing in a gay club to the fear of being caught in urban nightmare with the beat of her drum.

Once the cast found their feet, opening playlet The Nightclub by Chloe Todd Fordham proved to be one of the most quietly affecting. Directed with graceful economy by Rachel Valentine Smith, the tales of three disparate American women – an 85 year old recent widow, a middle-aged mother estranged from her daughter, a young Muslim (Marlene Sidaway, Kiran Sonia Sawar, Karlina Grace-Paseda respectively) – all searching for something different yet fatefully entwined together. Continue reading “Review: Acts of Defiance – The Festival, Theatre503”

Review: The Taming of the Shrew, Above the Arts

“Why, there be good women in the world”

At the heart of Custom/Practice’s Verve festival – exploring shifting relations between minority groups and the theatre – is this gender-flipped production of The Taming of the Shrew. Indubitably one of the more challenging of Shakespeare’s plays, contemporary companies thus have to work a little harder to make it ‘work’ for them – Propeller played up the Christopher Sly framing device to confront notions of masculinity and power to great effect but here, director Rae Mcken excises it to plunge us straight into a world where women are ruling the roost.

For pretty much every character save Grumio is being played by someone of the opposite sex as someone of the opposite sex but further blurring the boundaries, costumes suggest the original gender. So Martina Laird’s Petruchio arrives looking for a husband by striding onto the stage somewhere between matador and pirate in resplendent gold satin and Tim Bowie’s Bianca bristles under his mother’s edicts whilst wearing make-up, heels and a corset over his tapered joggers. It’s an inventive and challenging take that forces constant questioning about gender roles and society’s role in enforcing them. Continue reading “Review: The Taming of the Shrew, Above the Arts”