Category Archives: Reviews

****The Lesson by Eugene Ionesco – The Hope Theatre, London

7 + 1 is sometimes 9. Especially in the absurdist world of The Lesson by Eugene Ionesco (in a completely accessible translation by Donald Watson), playing at The Hope Theatre until 13 October. The satirisation of education, politics, language and psychology could not be more apposite. First shown in Paris in 1951 this seventy minute illustration of futility still bites. Hard.The evening begins with us walking into a brilliant evocation of a mind in turmoil counterpointed by a cold, white centrepiece echoing a science lab or operating room. A beautifully envisioned and executed set by Designer Rachael Ryan. The Maid (Joan Potter) is steadfastly cleaning the table. An enthusiastic pupil (Sheetal Kapoor) visits The Professor (Roger Alborough) for a lesson. As in The Bald Soprano, Ionesco effectively uses the tools of repetition and circularity to parody the bourgeoisie’s need to repress and destroy the best in human nature. Instinctively we understand this which is why so many of us rebel at school. 
We know what is going to happen. Ionesco forces us into the uncomfortable role of complicit voyeur as we laugh (I did, often) at the ridiculous contradictions of reductive reasoning and he often jolts us into a realisation of our inescapable part in this appallingly nonsensical world. Ionesco is hard to pull off. His plays call for an understanding of the grotesque. Ruthlessly require technical excellence, truthful performances and perfect timing. As soon as Roger Alborough, playing The Professor, entered, I knew we were in very safe hands. A completely stunning performance. Alborough just ate up those meaningless monologues that are such a bitch to learn.

His handling of Ionesco’s many idiotic phrases and comic asides, absolutely pitch perfect. Energy pumping out of every pore. What an absolute treat to see acting of that calibre up so close. If he does not win an award for this fantastic portrayal I will eat my socks and the ear of a coat button.
I would have preferred The Pupil to have been played in the upper teens but given the powerhouse she was working with Sheetal Kapoor more than pulled her weight and Joan Potter wrung a laugh out of every line she had.  Again Potter, like Alborough, knew how to hold a beat. Played the rhythm of every line to a tee. Excellent.
Matthew Parker is a complete star. He has often been bold in his programming at The Hope and his in-house productions have been enormously successful. In making the choice to produce an Ionesco play he has taken a huge leap of faith. Cannily he has surrounded himself with great Creatives (I must also mention the clever and creepy Sound Design by Simon Arrowsmith).
Fringe Theatre is where all the apathy busting and challenging theatre is happening and I wish Parker and his very talented team every success. In an era where we are numbed by tepid clichés and slogans this was a breath of icy, harsh air. Highly recommended.

Oscar Ciros is a playwright, director and clown.

Playing at The Hope Theatre until 13 October

Photos by LH Photography

The Lesson at The Hope Theatre

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****Sister Mary’s Playtime – Edinburgh Preview LONDON by Lil Warren

Reviewers should never mention topics outwith the artists’ control. The journey, the seats, the stairs or the toilets nor the TEMPERATURE but……they do.

I mention the heat here because Tim McArthur, who shared his new show Sister Mary’s Playtime, in preview, at the Arts Theatre Upstairs, Leicester Square performed in a complete nun’s habit. Feet bedecked in taps.  For over an hour. At FULL THROTTLE and in FULL VOICE! We, however, could barely pick up our gin and tonics.

The audience members were perspiring as if in a Tennessee Williams revival in Arizona. So moist, they were even beyond wiping away the glistening sweat beading lip and brow and well, everywhere.

We were eventually cajoled out of our seats for the opening “prayer” and were galvanised enough to join in the Hand-BAG! Freezer-BAG! Ball-BAG! shout-along.

This fantastic sing-a-long, do actions-a-long, shriek-a-long is supported by the deliciously wonderful Brother Mathew on the ivories and even the little timing glitches that we expect in preview, dare I say it, were greeted warmly by a now noisy and appreciative audience.

I particularly enjoyed the “interview” segment at the end of the show, McArthur is a skilled and highly entertaining interviewer, allowing guests to make us laugh too.  And the surprise guest was astoundingly good. (No spoiler alert here).

Sister Mary is outrageously rude, camp, cheeky with enough political bite to make someone (me) snort their beer and nearly choke. Expect audience participation, to be pulled up (not off) on stage and some sort of cake as a reward for joyously joining in with Musical Theatre faves that are just knocked out of the park by this fabulous performer. A perfect Edinburgh show!

TIM MCARTHUR

Playing in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 3-26 August 2018 @ 5pm

Frankenstein Pub, 26 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1EN

Lil Warren is a writer and director, an  old Edinburgh Festival lag, and co-host on Free Seed on Soho Radio CULTURE CHANNEL.

 

****ORANGES & ELEPHANTS

There is so much in this unique blend of Victorian violent vaudeville where Celtic and Jewish rhythms blend in an incredible kaleidoscope of history, or rather Herstory in this noisy, beautiful balletic riot of poverty and petticoats.

Inspired by the real Forty Elephants gang in Southwark in the nineteenth century East End writer, Lil Warren gets down and dirty bringing tribal terror to the Music Hall. Whilst Warren’s excavation, celebration and reinvention of this East End language would make a Londoner proud, it speaks with a unique humanity to the hurt and hope of the ghetto beyond: “What you are born is ne’er your fault, You are a soul in your body you caught.”
She captures the underworld of the underworld, the underclass of the working class, where we find the slaves of slaves – woman. Yet this matriarchal world is a full of power and cruelty, predators and romantics, love and lust. Where gallows humour is a permanent fixture and the unsung voices of female poverty, historical and contemporary are finally, and beautifully, sung.

Framed in the gorgeous gin-soaked walls of Hoxton Hall, we the audience are perfectly, perched between past and present, as guests of now and then. Our glad eyed go-betweens of yesterday and today, our Madame of Ceremonies and her perky pianist are the perfect psychopomps journeying us with light into the darkness and back again.
You can feel the ghosts everywhere yet the past ignites the present, most powerfully in a glorious ending that unites us all as one at the end of time. Funny, rousing, horrifying and powerful, this all-female affair is utterly superb. Tremendous performances from the actors, singers and musicians with plenty of comic turns thrown in. The world(s) created by the designer are wonderful, a stroke of genius making the curtain a Booth’s Map of Poverty. In the true spirit of Music Hall and Vaudeville, this is an eclectic mix of styles and culture, as fluid as gender identity itself. Poignant and provocative. Catch it before your time is up!

Pauline Goldsmith

Assoc Artist Vanishing Point, Creator of Bright Colours Only

ORANGES & ELEPHANTS at Hoxton Hall until 10 February

Cast & Creatives info and tickets available on their website

HOXTON HALL

 

****THARK by Ben Travers DRAYTON ARMS

THARK by Ben Travers.

Directed by Matthew Parker.

In these grey, dreary days that seem to lack that bygone pre-Christmas sparkle go and get yourself a large, fizzy dollop of fun at the Drayton Arms this festive season. Thark by Ben Travers is a frothy cacophony of a farce and its players play it for all its camp worth. The mis-selling of the country seat Thark, the never ending cases of mistaken identity, and lots of rapid entering and exiting of doors.

Parker seems to have a Tardis spell amongst his magical theatre making tricks. He convinces us the relatively small space of the Drayton Arms Theatre is the expansive (and expensive) habitat of the very rich of the late 1920s. (He is Artistic Director of the North London multi- award winning Hope Theatre). This theatre magic is aided by a spare yet sumptuous design by Granville Saxton and the tip top detailed costume design by Bryony J. Thompson.

Farce is hard to pull off as it has to be immaculately timed, played large but not grotesquely and we the audience have to follow a complex plot. Thark has all these elements. I really appreciated the well disciplined physical performances, punctuated by deliciously timed punchlines, results achieved by a skilled director attuned to the movement and rhythm inherent in this Aldwych oldie.

There are some lovely performances. I particularly enjoyed the excellent portrayal of shop girl Cherry Buck (played with a chic vivacity by Isabella Hayward ) who finally manages to get herself engaged to Lionel Frush (a completely believable idiot played by Alexander Hopwood). I always enjoy skilful clowning and Robin Blell who plays the nephew Ronald Gamble has comic timing in spades.

There are several pleasing surprises in the second half and I left the theatre with a huge smile on my face. I went early in the run and all I would ask is that the pace went up a couple of gears. These are actors new to the profession and they all did their director proud.

Oscar Ciros

Runs until January 6 2018

Drayton Arms

153 Old Brompton Road, London, Greater London, SW5 0LJ

http://www.draytonarmstheatre.co.uk/tickets

 

****BRAZIL at The Hope Theatre

Brazil is a thoroughly entertaining one man show, that holds the audiences focus from start to finish.

This marvellous play by Ronan O’Donnell is set in Scotland some time in the near future where America is at war with Europe. Doddy (Angus Chisholm) strives for hope of a better place, amongst the depressing day to day life that he finds himself living in.

Chisholm’s performance (directed by Alex Crampton) is fantastic! He keeps the attention of everyone in the theatre, laughing at the characters working class wit, and keeping them in absolute silence for the more intense moments. Doddy does impressions throughout the piece of his Mum, Dad and friend, Cockroach. Chisholm does an incredible job of distinguishing these characters from Doddy, but also inhabiting them in a way that you still believe it’s coming from his character, rather than the actor himself. You often forget you’re watching a one man show.

The lighting remained simple throughout the piece, with a few little surprises. The set made of just of beer crates was used to great effect as sofa, TV and even a bush and Doddy’s layered, scruffy and muddy costume helped in transporting the audience to a council estate.

The prominent use of Scottish slang, meant that you sometimes missed things that Doddy said. However, it was a performance full of clarity so that you always understood what was implied, and could continue to follow the story.

This piece would do well anywhere due to it’s energy and humour, but I’d especially love to be in an audience anywhere is Scotland, because I’d imagine the laughter would be loud and constant for the whole hour!

Daniel Furlonger

BRAZIL will be part of the Solo Show Festival in New York

Image by Michael Cheetham @MicahelCheets

For more info @ProduseTheatre

THE CHANGELING Abney Park Sept 2017

Theatre company ‘09 Lives’ production of ‘The Changeling’ is as mysterious and gripping as it is dark and brooding. A Jacobean tragedy written by Thomas Middleton and William Rowley in 1622, all the actors seemed to relish the roles they played, embracing the seventeenth century language, and beautiful poetry of the play. Telling a tale of love and revenge, Beatrice, performed by Sarah J Warren, desiring an escape from an unwanted marriage with Ryan Brannon’s Alonzo de Piracquo, finds herself tangled in a poisonous relationship with sinister Deflores, embroiled in a plot of murder and deceit. The acting is confident and convincing from all the characters, from cheeky and cheerful Ashleigh Taylor’s Diaphanta, to cockney king Vermandero, performed by Billy Colvill, to Angus Chisolm’s unwitting and trusting Alsermero. Warren’s Beatrice is both manipulated by the men around her, and manipulative, scheming, intelligent and clever, and the transformation of the character is brilliantly depicted. Giorgio Galassi’s performance as villain Deflores is superb. He is perfectly sinister and repulsive, yet strangely pleasing to watch, in his attempts to gain Beatrice as his own.
The production is a promenade play, with the audience following the action of the characters through the eerie yet beautiful pathways of Abney Park. Through performing outdoors (brave considering the September weather!) in Abney cemetery we find ourselves in an enchanting setting and we are transported by the fantastic acting, poetry, and plot, into the world of the play.

Dorothy Wright-Spinks

Runs until 24 September (Weds-Suns)

Tickets available https://thechangelingabney.eventbrite.co.uk

BARRED by Dean Stalham – ON TOUR

I saw this exciting yet deeply moving play (tour details below)  at a pop up arts space in Forest Gate, East London. The perfect place for it. Bare room with some experimental art on the wall and rows of chairs facing the set, which had the same dimensions as a cell – only 12×8. Barred shows us a mostly secret and hidden world behind bang-up.
Any that make decisions about the fate of prisoners should experience just a day in a room as small as this. It is suffocating. This, for me, was a powerful, powerful choice by Dean Stalham (who also directed) to use of the lack of physical space prisoners endure and the constant need to lift water-filled weights contributed to the intensity of the insightful and authentic exploration of a pair of cell mates’ relationship and how they survive their stretch.
Barred is a play that explores the true complexities of life inside. Two men in a box forced to struggle with their demons and the system that holds them captive. Set in Strangeways in 1994 cell mates, Salford born Danny (Nigel Travis) and Liverpool born Ali (Thomas Jan Johnston) go head to head, fighting for survival. Danny believing that he can find salvation and redemption through art and education, Ali believing the only way to do a prison sentence is by doing it the hard way.
I cannot begin to describe the brilliance of this piece. Dean Stalham, himself a former prisoner, writes with brutal elegance but also there are nonsensical flourishes “crazy nights – fantastical days – end up doing time – in Strangeways…”
In Barred he has, with the skill and total commitment from his actors produced a work that leaves you stunned and yet enlightened. Nigel Travis shows a heart breaking sensitivity as Danny, especially concerning the loss of his relationship with his daughter. Thomas Jan Johnston’s hilarious turn as Ali can switch from all northern bonhomie and warmth to a cold, dead eyed snake loathing his cell mate, the system and himself. Whatever his mood, Ali rages against the world.
Having had some experience with the system myself I cannot recommend Barred highly enough. For its searing honesty, understanding of the human condition and the redemptive possibilities of artistic endeavours. Oh and by the way, it is VERY funny. Theatre doing its job for a change and doing it extremely well.
I would like to leave with a quote from Dean Stalham as I cannot say it better.
“But once art’s in your life the world’s a better place. With art you can communicate, and if you communicate you share and the whole world opens up to you. I know that it does work because I’m living proof of it.”

Review by Oscar Ciros

Barred is produced by the charity Stretch STRETCH CHARITY who promote change through cultural education and are always looking for creative ways to reach those marginalised by society.

Next showing at The Baltic Social 25-29 Parliament Street, L8 5RN Liverpool. thebalticsocial@gmail.com

The play has received Arts Council funding to tour England and deliver FREE events.

 

 

Geffrye Museum Review

The outside of the Museum had a well cared for garden, good for picnics. It was nicely kept as was the beautiful herb garden. As you walk into the herb garden many of the plants were clearly labelled and carried a short description.

As you walk into the building you are immediately greeted by friendly and helpful staff at the Reception.

The Exhibition is housed in a long corridor with different rooms of houses from different eras and different parts of the world. The information displayed was clear, simple and would be easy for children to understand.

Throughout these rooms there were displays for people of all ages to interact with. There is a guessing game for children where children can guess the country of origin which is revealed by removing the flap.

The café was visited and as soon as you walk in there are brownies and other cakes on display. The staff seemed friendly and welcoming although it did seem they were understaffed which made the service slow, but still a nice environment.

The facilities for the men were clean and tidy whereas the women’s facility were not so good.
The stock in the shop catered for all ages.

Leon W.G – 13 Years

****A Jealous Lassie’s Karma – Brighton Fringe

Marlborough Theatre, Princes Street, Brighton June 2017

McLuckie’s outstanding talent shines brightly at the Brighton Fringe. This big Scot is a difficult man to pigeon hole. A sharp, biting wit with a surgical ear and eye to the vagaries of speech patterns from characters that stay in the Glasgow high flats to the Hollywood Hills. (Personal favourite was the malevolent assassin of Marilyn Monroe and Maria Callas).
At times absurd and very camp yet a split the room ditty about incest may not be every one’s cup of tea. As I said he is hard to pin down and describe. He is a poet, singer, political observer and an extraordinary performer. Wrapping his long, tall person round clearly observed and defined characters with so much energy you yearn for him to have a larger space so that us in the audience can sit further away to really appreciate the detailed depth of his writing and performance. I laughed so hard at his story about being gay in Paisley and going with a straight guy in the Littlewoods toilet that I gave myself whiplash.
Do fasten your seatbelts for the story about how Judy Garland was able to reach those notes with the added bonus of a delicious Bette Davis impersonation.
Both entertaining and searing work makes for a bumpy night but you are in the hands of an exceptional artist, so enjoy the ride.
Reviewed by Oscar Ciros