by Philip Pullman, adapted by Philip Wilson
at Shoreditch Town Hall, Thursday 20th March 2014
The basement at Shoreditch Town Hall is a magical place. Wandering through the meandering corridors which connect the three main performance spaces, we catch glimpses of apples in cabinets and floating cutlery in cupboards, dresses hung from stairwells near a spinning wheel waiting to prick an innocent finger. In the playing areas themselves, chairs balance precariously upon one another beneath a ceiling of bulbs or desk-lamps whilst hooded figures usher us to our places. You could get lost in this place, part-installation, part-film set. Unfortunately, the same sense of abandonment cannot quite be said for the fairy tales themselves which, though engaging, struggle to find the dark heart of Grimm’s stories. Continue reading
at Arcola Tent, Thursday 13th March 2014
*Originally reviewed for Exeunt*
Here’s a little game. Is the following (a) a poem or (b) a text message?
“Taj Mahal great. Poverty bad.”
If you answered (b), give yourself a pat on the back. The message was, apparently, sent to Tim Key by his mum when she visisted India, though it’s symptomatic of a show where, though poems are ‘announced’ and ‘read’, a poetic vein runs throughout. Key tells us stories, asks us questions and recounts information in a way which lilts and soothes, managing to be tightly structured and completely free at the same time, ensuring you’re never quite sure where the ‘poetry’ begins and the ‘comedy’ ends. Continue reading
at St James Theatre, Monday 10th March 2013
*Originally written for Exeunt*
Thomas Robert Malthus’ eighteenth-century essay on the troubles of population growth is hardly the most likely of stimuli for an all-singing, all-dancing musical. But then neither is an epic novel on the French Revolution or verbatim interviews with neighbours of a serial killer, and that didn’t stop the makers of Les Miserables and London Road. More so than those two shows, however, Mark Hollman and Greg Kotis’ Urinetown, playing at the St. James Theatre thirteen years after its opening off-Broadway, is aware of its own politics, commenting on and questioning its status as a piece of musical theatre. It’s a satire, and like the best satires it manages to be funny, hugely so, whilst also critiquing its context with often searing insight.
Coming so long after its original production, the UK première finds itself in the bizarre position of having an audience who may already be aware of the show’s content thanks to YouTube and online media libraries. Continue reading
at Shoreditch Town Hall, Wednesday 12th March 2014
The concept for Ridiculusmus’ The Eradication of Schizophrenia In Western Lapland is one of the most intelligent yet simple ideas to hit our stages this year. The basic premise is that, in an attempt to understand and represent the condition and treatment of schizophrenia, two separate-but-linked plays are put on stage simultaneously, their sets back-to-back so that the audience, split in two on either side of the room, can only see one scene played out proper as they hear mumblings and snippets from the other. It’s an ambitious, brilliant arrangement, but somehow it never quite pays off; you get the sense that there’s a whole new form here ready to be explored, but that the company haven’t yet succeeded in making it work.
at the Royal and Derngate, Tuesday 4th March 2014
As we step into the low, claustrophobic bunker which houses The Body Of An American and separates us from the rest of the world, we’re greeted with a message projected onto either end of the long space. It’s the kind of message you get at the beginning of a documentary or a verbatim play, reading: “Every word, photograph or video included in this production was spoken, heard, written, taken or filmed by Dan O’Brien or Paul Watson between 1993 and 2014″. At first, this might seem like a relatively simple and obvious thing to say; after all, this play is based on genuine conversations and discusses real-life events, so it makes sense to mention this in order to signify the play’s veracity. Continue reading
*Originally written for Exeunt*
At your average club, you’re lucky enough to get a choice of which room to dance in, let alone which art form you want to watch. At any one time at nabovok Arts Club, however, there are plenty of decisions to make about which activity you’d like to undergo, from short plays to spoken word to twenty-first century ska. It’s like theatrical bricolage, coming together to create a mad, dizzy night which lights up the Waterloo Vaults in a way only an arty club night in central London can.
The various rooms at the Vaults have been taken over by a variety of acts. Here’s Luke Barnes’ touching and terrifyingly honest new play about twenty-something love. Continue reading