Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Preview: VAULT 2017

Established now as one of the major arts festivals in London, VAULT Festival returns from 25th January to 5th March 2017 at its original home beneath Waterloo Station and, for the first time, at satellite venues Network Theatre (just to the side of Waterloo) and Morley College (a little further away past Lambeth North). As ever, the programme features an exciting selection of shows exploring many themes via many more mediums. Full information and tickets are available now via VAULTFestival.com.


I'm still working out exactly what and how much I am going to see but I have got a few selections of the things that have definitely caught my eye. 

Monday, 16 January 2017

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things

South West London Law Centres, a charity that provides specialist legal advice in social welfare law for people who cannot afford to pay privately for a lawyer, are holding a comedy fundraiser event, Jokes For Justice, on February 23rd 2017 at The Bedford Pub, Balham. Nish Kumar, Jonny and The Baptists and Sophie Willan will be performing on the night to help raise funds to continue their work across South West London. After the devastating legal aid cuts of 2013, our income has been slashed by over 40% and ten other Law Centres have already closed down - funds are desperately needed to support access to justice for those most in need within our communities.

Opening next month is Cirque du Soleil's first-ever UK arena tour of its signature production, Varekai. Directed by Dominic Champagne, this production pays tribute to the nomadic soul, to the spirit and art of the circus tradition, and to those who quest with infinite passion along the path that leads to Varekai. The critically-acclaimed show, updated and featuring new acts yet to be seen in the UK will visit the Sheffield Arena, Dublin’s 3Arena, Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena and Leeds’ First Direct Arena in February 2017, followed by the Genting Arena in Birmingham, Nottingham’s Motorpoint Arena and The SSE Hydro, Glasgow in March 2017. Tickets are on sale online at www.cirquedusoleil.com and at livenation.co.uk/artist/cirque-du-soleil-tickets.. Advance tickets are available from £45 (+ booking fee).

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Review: The Wild Party, Hope

"Queenie was a blonde, and her age stood still"

Joseph Moncure March's narrative poem managed the remarkable feat of having two musical adaptations thereof running in the same year in New York, one of which - by Michael John LaChiusa - will be the first show in the newly rebranded The Other Palace next month. Getting in early though is Mingled Yarn Theatre Company with their own cabaret-influenced interpretation of The Wild Party, running now at The Hope Theatre.

It is musical, rather than a musical, as the show opens with a marvelously sultry take on Britney Spears' 'Toxic' delivered by the supremely confident Anna Clarke (a performer so good you suspect she must have some Strallen blood!). And as she's joined by Joey Akubeze, we're soon whisked away into the decadent world of vaudeville turns Queenie and Burrs and their fabulously louche but fatally lustful lifestyle, complete with aggressive fruit-eating.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Review: Abigail, Bunker

“What would you do to take control?”

Fractured timelines can be an interesting way to tell a story – fragmented shards of drama shuffled in a non-linear narrative, forcing audiences to piece together a throughline to the truth, such as it may exist. But in these cases, we are very much at the mercy of playwrights actually providing enough information to reconstruct enough of a plot. And sad to say, I’m not too sure that Fiona Doyle’s Abigail actually does that. 

That’s not to say that we need to be given all of the answers, to have everything spelled out for us completely, but Abigail remains inscrutably vague to the end. It would be a fascinating exercise to reorder the script here, reconstruct Doyle’s writing to see if that really is the case but in its current state, directed by Joshua McTaggart over the course of an initially intriguing hour, the play still proves frustratingly ephemeral.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Review: Brains, TheatreN16

"Jeff, there's no time for hysterics"

One of the most impressive things about the set-up at Balham's Theatre N16 is its commitment to nurturing new work and new companies in the face of an increasingly hostile funding climate. So the likes of Thick & Thin Theatre, a London-based company founded last year, are supported to develop and mount their work, such as their new play Brains, written and directed by Cameron Szerdy.

Brains is set in an office at the pharmaceutical company MediBite Inc. in a near-future world that has been ravaged by a virus that has turned much of the population into zombies. When the discovery of a potential cure well and truly sets the pigeons among the staff there, from ball-busting CEO Ursula to disengaged intern Tina, no-one is quite prepared for the cut-throat insanity that is revealed.

Review: HE(ART), TheatreN16

"This? In your chest? It can be stronger than it's ever been"

An interesting change of tack here from Andrew Maddock, who has been steadily carving out a niche for himself in doing creative things in and around the world of monologues (qv #1, #2, #3). Opening at Balham's TheatreN16, HE(ART) starts in a Maddockian (Maddockish? Maddockesque?) way with two separate duologues intercut with each other, and playing out at the same time. But over the running time of just more than an hour, it transforms into transgressively exciting.

Staged in the round (well, the square) in a boxing ring-like space in this production by Lonesome Schoolboy, In the one corner we have young couple Alice and Rhys doing battle over what kind of art they want to buy for their living room. And in the other, there's siblings Kev and Sam, gearing up for an altogether different kind of conflict, characterised by the fact that the former should be in prison. 

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Cast images released for Angels In America

With public booking for Angels in America opening at 8.30am on Friday 20 January 2017, striking images of its key cast have just been released. 2017 marks the 25th anniversary of the shows which will be directed at the National by Marianne Elliott and its all-star cast make it a very tempting proposition indeed. Millennium Approaches, the first of the two plays which form Angels in America, received its British premiere at the National Theatre’s Cottesloe Theatre in 1992, in Declan Donnellan’s original production, and was joined by Perestroika in a double-bill the following year.
Andrew Garfield is Prior Walter

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Review: Love, National

"I'm so sorry"

Oooft. No remedy for the January blues this, but one of the most brutally affecting pieces of theatre you could ever bear to see. Alezander Zeldin's Love follows what life can be found in the anonymous surroundings of a halfway house, a hostel run by the council for people in need of temporary accommodation. People are only meant to be there for a maximum of six weeks but with the system in meltdown, some have been there for over a year, living beyond what anyone could ever call reasonable.

It is tempting to see this as the failure of Big Society but really it is society in general that is being held to account here. The blind eye that we continually turn to those less fortunate than ourselves, the bureaucratic nightmares that we read Guardian thinkpieces about and then never consider again, the consequences of the collapse in the social responsibility of social security, the brutal reality of how desperately foodbanks are needed and the desperation that people feel in needing to use them.

TV Review: Unforgotten Seiries 2 Episode 1

"Maybe we should be concentrating on the suitcase"

In the glut of new crime series that have started this week - Death In Paradise, No Offence - Chris Lang's Unforgotten stands out for me as a clever twist on a crowded genre, plus it has the bonus of the ever-excellent Nicola Walker in a starring role. Unforgotten twist on the crime drama is to completely emphasise the latter over the former, so whilst each series hooks on a cold case brought back to life, the focus is on the lives that have continued in its wake.

The reveal of the format was a highlight of the beginning of the first series, the disparate stories of 4 seemingly unconnected people bound together by the discovery of their phone numbers in the victim's diary. And this second series wisely sticks largely to the same formula, introducing us to a Brighton gay couple in the process of adopting, a nurse on a cancer ward in London, a teacher applying for a headship in a school in special measures, a young man lying to his mother...all of whom are sure to be linked to the body found in a suitcase in the River Lea.

TV Review: No Offence Series 2 Episode 1

"A police presence is non-negotiable"

Paul Abbott's No Offence returns for a most welcome second season after a quality Series 1 in mid-2015 added to the purple patch for police procedurals that we seem to be in. Abbott's spin places us with the Manchester Metropolitan Police and in a world that is equally darkly comic and dramatic as the squad deal with the ramifications of the climax of that first series, as well as keeping an eye on the combustible gangland situation that looks set to involve our guys here.

And what guys - Joanna Scanlan's almost impossibly charismatic DI Viv Deering as comically sharp as she is whip-smart, Elaine Cassidy's pragmatic DC Dinah Kowalska and Alexandra Roach's serious-minded DS Joy Freer underneath her, with Sarah Solemani's ice-cold DCI Christine Lickberg joining them, providing scarcely wanted oversight and some juicy looking tension. The casual female focus (of the series at large) and refreshing body positivity (of this episode in particular) are just marvellous to behold.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Review: The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus, Finborough


The first show of this year was something fantastic 

Or was it? Can you tell I'm being sarcastic 
A satire on satyrs is quite an objective
Was all Greek to me though and far from effective 

Moving from Egypt to Greece and then London
The piece shifts from ancient times right through to modern
Written by a man named Tony Harrison
It sure is a play without comparison

Writing in metre pulls focus, not great though
Especially when you rhyme potato with Plato
Still not as distracting as Muppet-like penises
Dangling from menfolk like faux fur filled weaknesses

The programme's stuffed with words like didaskalia
And dithyramb too, 'bout which I've no idea
Nor do I know why there's random tap-dancing
Though with no shirts on it was fairly entrancing

The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus is the title
And if you speak Greek there's a bit of recital
For me though I felt disengaged and feeling 'huh'
Which is disappointing when at the ace Finborough

Running time: 75 minutes (without interval)
Photos: S R Taylor Photography
Booking until 28th January






12 Days of Christmas - Black Mirror 3:6


"He wants people to face the consequences of what they say and do"

On the twelfth day of Christmas, Black Mirror gave to me...the bees, THE BEES!
After a slight hiccup in previous episode Men Against Fire, feature-length episode Hated in the Nation restored Black Mirror to its rightful glory to round off this third series. Adopting something of a police procedural approach and aligning itself closer to today's society than the majority of previous instalments, this was a proper thriller and hugely enjoyable with it.

In a world where mini-drones have replaced the collapsing bee population, Kelly McDonald's DCI Karin Parke is investigating a series of deaths where the victims are celebrities who have recently provoked the ire of social media. Along with newly transferred colleague and tech wiz Blue (Faye Marsay), solving the crimes leads them down a merry path of murderous hashtags, governmental misdemeanours and social responsibility.