Review: The Place I Call Home Festival

Anything with Sharon D Clarke zumbaing to ‘Sissy That Walk’ has to be worth your time right?! The Place I Call Home Festival explores new writing through new technology in a fascinating way but book now!

“Another day and we’re sat here doing nothing again”

Paines Plough have always been a company to do theatre a bit differently so it is no surprise to see them responding innovatively to the restrictions imposed by coronavirus. The Place I Call Home is a two-week digital festival of new work, taking the opportunity to explore multiple mediums and international collaborations as three new bilingual plays take place across Zoom, email, WhatsApp and good old snail mail.

Pinging daily into WhatsApp, A Brief History of Struggle by Dipo Baruwa-Etti and Calle Fuhr presents 5 minute snapshots of conversations that might be overheard on park benches. Scenes switch between London and Dortmund and span 1928 to 2020 so the whole thing is necessarily quite fragmented. And as engaging some of the segments are, from burgeoning feminist rights to reactions to immense tragedy, there’s little sense of a cumulative dramatic effect to match the novel delivery. Continue reading “Review: The Place I Call Home Festival”

News: Internationaal Theater Amsterdam join in the streaming game with ITALive

With ITALive, Internationaal Theater Amsterdam get in on the livestreaming game with their productions of Medea, Wie heeft mijn vader vermoord (Who killed my father) and De stille kracht (The hidden force)

In the grand scheme of things, missing out on my regular trips to Amsterdam this year isn’t that big of a deal though it still makes me sad to think of the friends I haven’t seen, the theatre I’ve missed, all the bitterballen I’ve not eaten…

But Internationaal Theater Amsterdam are going some way to rectify that by launching ITALive (and for the long term too, not just for the pandemic) as a way of extending the reach of their work. Selected shows from their repertoire are being livestreamed from the magnificent Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam starting with Simon Stone’s exquisitely heart-wrenching take on Medea starring the incomparable Marieke Heebink. Continue reading “News: Internationaal Theater Amsterdam join in the streaming game with ITALive”

Not-a-review: La Ménagerie de Verre, Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe

Coronavirus may stopped me from seeing Isabelle Huppert and Ivo van Hove’s La Ménagerie de Verre at the Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe in Paris but some bloopers will always make me smile

“La scène est la mémoire”

In the grand scheme of things, missing out on an Ivo van Hove/Isabelle Huppert collaboration isn’t the end of the world but I can’t help but feel a little disappointed. La Ménagerie de Verre was due to come to the Barbican this summer but naturally I wanted to see this Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe production in its Parisian home. As a co-production with La Comédie de Clermont-Ferrand scène nationale, Onassis Stegi in Athens, Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg, Thalia Theater in Hamburg, deSingel in Antwerp and the Barbican, one hopes that this won’t be the end for this production, we’ll have to see.

Any chance to see Huppert live should be snaffled up immediately, no matter how strange or how far, but there’s also something interesting in seeing Tennessee Williams done in a foreign language as released from the distracting tyranny of trying to nail a Southern accent, the potential for something richer seems to flow.

 

Continue reading “Not-a-review: La Ménagerie de Verre, Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe”

My 10 favourite shows of 2019

I barely saw 250 shows this year, quiet by my standards! And as is the way of these things, here’s a rundown of some of the productions that moved me most…

1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Southwark Playhouse
I haven’t lost it in a theatre as much as this in a good long while. I cry at all sorts but this superlative musical had me trying, and failing, to choke back huge, hacking sobs. And I can still sing some of the songs – it has to come back, surely. “It’s all just a matter of time…”

2. Call Me Fury, Hope Theatre
“This is the history we should be teaching, these are the stories we should be sharing”, this striking and soulful piece gave voice to so many whom history have ignored, and was bloody entertaining with it. 

3. West Side Story, Curve Leicester
A musical I love, in a production that I simply adored. Getting to see two WSSs in one year was a privilege and for me, it was the emotional heart of Nikolai Foster’s production that won out.

4. As You Like It, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch
The second year of the Public Acts programme comes up trumps once again with this gorgeous musical version of the Shakespeare classic, community theatre at its finest.

5. Islander, Southwark Playhouse
The magic of musical theatre distilled into two voices and a loop pedal – a marvellously inventive and endlessly moving. 

6. Amélie the Musical, Watermill Theatre/UK Tour/The Other Palace
As sweet-sharp as a diabolo grenadine, something truly gorgeous emerges from this film adaptation that simply demands you come up with better words than quirky to describe it.

7. & Juliet, Shaftesbury Theatre
Tell me why… About as much fun as you can have in the West End right now, this is a particularly fine example of the jukebox model and I want it that way.

8. Sexy Lamp, VAULT
A standout piece in a standout festival, Katie Arnstein’s brutally honest monologue about navigating the patriarchy may be lightened with songs and sweets but is no less effective for it.

9. Karaoke Play, Bunker Theatre
Deeply confessional and subtly magical, Annie Jenkins’ inter-connected monologues combined to become so much more than the sum of their parts.

10. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, National Theatre
A magical family tale, perfect for kids of all ages. Not even reading the exit poll as I left could ruin the feeling! 

Shows 11-25 under the cut

Continue reading “My 10 favourite shows of 2019”

Dance Review: Outwitting the Devil / Heartbeat of Home

A rare foray into the world of dance saw me catch the highly atmospheric Outwitting the Devil from the Akram Khan Company and Heartbeat of Home at the Piccadilly Theatre

I’m not necessarily known for my dance reviews but that’s mostly because I do find it a little difficult to write about, trapped in a vicious circle of not considering myself to have enough relevant experience to write about it in a meaningful way, and thus never booking in to see it, thus never gaining that experience… Over the last weeks though, circumstance has conspired to get me to see the Akram Khan Company in Amsterdam and Heartbeat of Home much closer to home and so, I’m practically a dance critic now. Severrrrrn…

On the precipice of retirement, Khan has decided to focus his considerable talent (Binoche! Kylie!) on choreography, “dancing [his] ideas through the bodies of others” as he so eloquently puts it and the first fruit of this stage of his career is Outwitting the Devil. Inspired by a fragment from the 4,000 year old Epic of Gilgamesh, it is a powerfully evocative if thematically vague piece for six dancers and while I found it largely very impressive, I was grateful to have programme notes to give it some narrative structure. Continue reading “Dance Review: Outwitting the Devil / Heartbeat of Home”

Review: De Kersentuin, Stadschouwberg Amsterdam

Of course a British director doing Tsjechov in the Netherlands makes The Cherry Orchard as watchable as it has ever been – Internationaal Theater Amsterdam’s De Kersentuin proves a real success

“Als ie echt verkocht moet worden verkoop mij er dan bij”

It’s not often that Jimi Hendrix and Creedence Clearwater Revival make their way into Chekhov but it is precisely this kind of refreshing approach that makes this production feel so alive in a way that is rarely achieved (in the UK at least). So it is somewhat perverse that it is a British director responsible, as Simon McBurney directs Internationaal Theater Amsterdam in De Kersentuin, in an adaptation by Robert Icke.

Shifted to the Netherlands in the 1970s, a real sense of liberation permeates the production, and crucial details shine anew to substantively alter the emotional palette. I’ve never felt the presence of Amanda’s drowned son so strongly, which really makes you consider her feelings towards her former home. And as Miriam Buether’s design discards conventional representation, the focus falls as much on the relations of people as it does on property. Continue reading “Review: De Kersentuin, Stadschouwberg Amsterdam”