Review: What’s In A Name?, Birmingham REP

“I’m a forty-year-old bachelor, who wears orange, likes Michael Bublé, and lived in San Francisco for a year”

Its rather lazy, and stereotypical, approach to laughing at the gays aside, there’s a quite a lot to enjoy here in the Birmingham REP’s production of the award-winning French play What’s In A Name?. Written by Matthieu Delaporte and Alexandre de la Patellière, Le Prénom has been widely translated and produced, as well as receiving a film adaptation, but this version translated by Jeremy Sams for Just for Laughs Theatricals, marks the play’s British premiere.

Set in the Peckham apartment of Peter and Elizabeth (of course I went to Birmingham to see a play set 10 minutes from my flat!), the sharp comedy revolves around that staple of many a dramatist – the awkward dinner party. The hosts have invited her brother and his best friend Vincent and his heavily pregnant wife Anna, plus their ‘confirmed bachelor’ friend Carl, and over a Moroccan buffet and bottles of Chateau Margaux 1985, all manner of uncomfortable truths are revealed. Continue reading “Review: What’s In A Name?, Birmingham REP”

2016 Offie Award Finalists

Offies Awards - Off West End Theatre Awards

Best Female 
Clare Higgins for Clarion at the Arcola Theatre 
Gemma Whelan for Radiant Vermin at Soho Theatre
Nadia Nadarajah for Grounded at Park Theatre
Olivia Poulet for Product at the Arcola Theatre

Best Supporting Female 
Emilie Patry for The Christians at the Gate Theatre
Kate Kennedy for Three Short Plays at the Old Red Lion
Lucy Ellinson for The Christians at the Gate Theatre
Rochenda Sandall for Little Malcolm And His Struggle Against The Eunuchs at Southwark Playhouse

Best Male 
David Fielder for And Then Come The Nightjars at Theatre503
Ian Gelder for Gods and Monsters at Southwark Playhouse
Matthew Tennyson for A Breakfast Of Eels at The Print Room
Rob Compton for Bat Boy at Southwark Playhouse Continue reading “2016 Offie Award Finalists”

Review: Product, Arcola

“In one day Europe will be destroyed: the Hague, the Reichstag, Tate Modern”

It’s always good to see an actor having a ‘moment’ and after blazing through the twisted sexual discoveries of How I Learned To Drive earlier this year, Olivia Poulet adds another solid gold success to her theatrical CV with Mark Ravenhill’s Product. An intense monologue originally performed by the playwright, a fierce indictment of a Hollywood culture that could have been ripped from the leaked Sony emails of last year, had it not been written 10 years ago. Plus ça change…

Poulet takes on the role of Leah, a film producer on the hunt for her next lucrative project and thinks she might have found it in Mohammed and Me, a jihadi chick-flick which she is pitching to an unseen film star. It’s intentionally atrocious, a woman who falls in love with a handsome stranger who happens to be pals with Osama Bin Laden – who makes a cameo himself – yet Ravenhill, and Poulet, ground this sharp-edged satire in a thoroughly believable version of movieland. Continue reading “Review: Product, Arcola”

Review: How I Learned To Drive, Southwark Playhouse

“I lay on my back in the dark and thought about you, Uncle Peck…”

I’ve always liked Olivia Poulet as an actor but after seeing her starring turn as Li’l Bit in Paula Vogel’s How I Learned To Drive, I’m really rating her now as one not to ignore. It helps that Vogel’s play is supremely well-written, skilfully questioning preconceptions about sexually abusive relationships and their ghastly dynamic through a playful format which manages to layer in humour and pathos to prevent it from being a truly dark night of the soul.

It doesn’t mean that this is by any means an easy watch. We see Poulet’s 40-year-old Li’l Bit narrate the experiences of her childhood both as a young girl and as a teenager in a backwoods Maryland town with a great sense of a natural-born raconteur. It’s hard not to be seduced by the stories that roll from her tongue but we soon come to taste the sour beneath the whiskey-heavy breath as the complexity of her relationship with her Uncle Peck slowly comes to light. Continue reading “Review: How I Learned To Drive, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: Tonight at 8.30 – Dancing, Richmond Theatre

“But if at last we’re able to smile
We’ll prove it was all worth while”
 
And what would you know, they saved for the best for last. It wasn’t just the end of 10 hours in a theatre that made me happy, I really did prefer this final part of Tonight at 8.30.
 

Dancing
Family Portrait, Hands Across The Sea and Shadow Play

Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Booking until 14th June, then touring to Oxford Playhouse, The Lowry, Cambridge Arts, Theatre Royal Brighton and Hall for Cornwall in Truro
Photo: Mark Douet

Review: Tonight at 8.30 – Dinner, Richmond Theatre

“This can’t last. This misery can’t last….Nothing lasts really. Neither happiness or despair”

Seeing the three parts of Tonight at 8.30 on the same day left me shattered so I am ducking out of full reviews for them and just ranking them in order of preference.

Dinner
Ways and Means, Fumed Oak, and Still Life

Silver medal for Dinner – Still Life (better known as the inspiration for Brief Encounter) is among the highlights of the whole thing but Fumed Oak is one of the weakest with its gender politics too much of its time.

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Booking until 14th June, then touring to Oxford Playhouse, The Lowry, Cambridge Arts, Theatre Royal Brighton and Hall for Cornwall in Truro
Photo: Mark Douet

Review: Tonight at 8.30 – Cocktails, Richmond Theatre

 “We’re not tight and we’re not too bright “

Boxset viewing in now de rigueur in the Netflix age so it is only natural that theatre should follow suit. The 3 James plays at the National can be (and will be) viewed on the same day and so too can the three parts of Noël Coward’s Tonight at 8.30, touring the UK after a run at the Nuffield. Blanche McIntyre’s production for ETT can also be seen in three separate chunks but the impact of the triple bill really helps the 9 plays feed off of each other and highlight the strength of the ensemble (and also pull you through the dips in quality that inevitably come with so much writing from one author).

Cocktails
We Were Dancing, The Astonished Heart and Red Peppers

Probably gets the bronze medal as my least favourite of the three parts.

Running time: 2 hours
Booking until 14th June, then touring to Oxford Playhouse, The Lowry, Cambridge Arts, Theatre Royal Brighton and Hall for Cornwall in Truro
Photo: Mark Douet

Short Film Review #39

WOW 2014 – A Day In Detention

 

Not a short film as such, but utterly essential. The Women of the World Festival took place at the Southbank Centre in early March and A Day In Detention was part of that event. A piece of verbatim theatre pulled together by Nell Leyshon and directed by Jessica Swale, it looks at varying experiences of refugee women in the UK asylum system with an unblinking eye and a near-shocking straightforwardness. The harsh reality of what they are forced to go through, after escaping untold horrors in their own country, is appallingly bleak but there’s a beautiful dignity to the way in which their stories are told, both in the way they have been captured and also in the stunning performances of Juliet Stevenson, Bryony Hannah and an unbearably moving Cush Jumbo.

Continue reading “Short Film Review #39”

Short Film Review #16

Stalking Ben Chadz

 

The characters of Stalking Ben Chadz – June and Izzy – have appeared in another short film Mourning Rules which I previously reviewed here http://oughttobeclowns.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/short-film-review-5.html and enjoyed so I was pleased to see another film from Montserrat Lombard and Olivia Poulet along with their co-writer Daniel Castella. It’s another brief glimpse into the somewhat batty lives of these sisters, here literally stalking a guy named Ben, who Izzy has decided is the love of her life. It’s witty – the phone call is great fun – and silly and huge amounts of fun, both Lombard and Poulet have a gift for observational comedy and so it’s well worth 2 minutes 30 of your day.

Continue reading “Short Film Review #16”

Review: Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi, Finborough

“Nobody could have worshipped his cock more than I did”

There’s something of a contradiction with Pam Gems’ 1975 play Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi. Labelled an early feminist classic and nominated as one of the top 100 plays of the twentieth century, it has since languished many a shelf and rarely been seen. Naturally it falls to the West London powerhouse of the Finborough to give it a long overdue revival but though Helen Eastman’s production gently highlights how many of its issues remain so pertinent today and is indeed excellently cast, it cannot disguise its dramatic slightness.

Part of it is intentional. Gems’ style was deliberately filmic, cutting between short scenes and skimming across the potential depth to her characters at the expense of focusing on the major events. So in this slice of life from a tiny shared apartment somewhere in London, we experience the trials of newly separated Dusa whose husband has run away from the divorce papers and smuggled their children away to Argentina, the self-assured Stas who is funding her dream of studying marine biology in Hawaii by working on the game, Vi’s emotional fragility is symptomised by her anorexic tendencies and the highly politically aware Fish can’t quite get over the fellow campaigner who is breaking her heart. Continue reading “Review: Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi, Finborough”