Princess Essex and HEADCASE prove two contrasting and enjoyable entries of the Essex on Stage festival at the Bush Theatre
“I’m much more likely to engage in a fantasy than reality”
Originally planned for the VAULT Festival, Essex on Stage – platforming Essex and Outer East London writers – has found a new home at the Bush Theatre’s studio. First up in a double bill for me was Anne Odeke’s Princess Essex, fresh from its own tour of Essex community venues. It’s an adventurous one-woman show that riffs on the story of the first black woman to enter a beauty pageant in the UK and tries to fit a whole lot more besides.
The tale of Senegalese Princess Dinubolu, especially as rewritten here as an alias for enterprising Southend woman Joanna, is engaging and highly entertaining in Odeke’s hands. And you almost wish she’d focused on that alone, as the framing device of a contemporary schoolgirl giving a presentation on the princess weighs the show down a little with its mechanism of fact delivery. That said, there’s some truly arresting information in here – you just want it to be integrated in a different way to allow more focus on Joanna. Continue reading “Review: Princess Essex / HEADCASE, Bush Theatre”
Robbed of a run at VAULT, Sweet Beef’s highly creative I Hate It Here was an inventive delight at Omnibus Theatre
“Thank you for your interest in the role”
Sweet Beef’s I Hate It Here dipped into the Omnibus Theatre for the weekend as part of their Vault Festival Transfer Season and it’s a real shame it was such a fleeting visit as it was a nifty bit of thought-provoking work. As a devised, interactive piece, it dazzles and disarms even whilst dissecting just some of the horrific indignities that zero hour contract work imposes on so many.
As the spectre of audience participation looms large over the opening moments, a brilliant bit of Dolly Parton settles the nerves. But far from the regularities of 9 to 5, we’re quickly introduced to the precarious realities of shift work for a nurse, a carer and a fast food worker. And over the course of a wildly diverse hour, we touch on just some of the ways that insecurity dominates their lives. Continue reading “Review: I Hate It Here, Omnibus Theatre”
In this ‘special circumstances’ year, the Offies 2021 Awards Ceremony celebrated the creativity and resilience of artists in fringe, alternative and independent theatre in a time of crisis who have found new ways to produce fresh and inventive work for thousands of stay-at-home audiences.
The Offies are OffWestEnd’s main awards, for shows with at least 10 performances, and awards were given to the best of the shows presented before lockdown and the few who managed to go ahead in the summer
The OnComm is the new award for online shows from across the UK (and beyond) and was introduced in May 2020. Additionally, the winner of the OffFest award for theatre shows in festivals was also announced, alongside extra OneOff awards for innovative work and initiatives in 2020, especially in the light of the Covid lockdown. Continue reading “2021 Offie & ONCOMM Award Winners”
The finalists for the 2021 Offies (for productions in 2020) have been announced and congratulations to the 47 finalists across 16 of the 28 Offies categories. The winners will be announced at the Offies Awards Ceremony, being held online on 21 February 2021.
The following categories are not going forward for 2021 awards as there were insufficient nominations due to theatre closures arising from Covid-19 lockdowns:
- Design: Costume
- Design: Video
- Company Ensemble
- Musicals: New Musical
- Plays: Most Promising New Playwright
- Plays: Production
- Theatre for Young People: Production (0-7)
- Theatre for Young People: Production (13+)
- Theatre for Young People: Production (8+)
Continue reading “The finalists of The Offies 2021”
Tapping into the Hong Kong resistance movement, Freedom Hi 自由閪 is a piece of inventive chaos at the VAULT Festival
“Let our rage not be crushed
Let our fears not be ignored
Let our silence be defiant
Let our words soar”
As a compilation of new writing and performance art by UK based Hong Kong and British East Asian artists, Freedom Hi 自由閪 is necessarily a messy and complex thing. Which makes trying to review it in the conventional sense something of a fruitless enterprise (some might say that about reviewing anything at all…!!).
Anchored by a brilliant use of technology – joining the show by Telegram is an additional route in for the audience – and compiled by Kim Pearce for Papergang Theatre, the result is a dizzying montage of dance and drama, poetry and prose, interactivity both in person and onscreen. It aims, and shoots, high and the resulting scattershot fall is thus varied. Continue reading “Review: Freedom Hi 自由閪, VAULT Festival”
Out Of The Forest Theatre nail it once again with The Brief Life and Mysterious Death of Boris III, King of Bulgaria: Part The First at the VAULT Festival
“I did what I could…
I would hardwire Out Of The Forest Theatre to my brain if I could, something about the way in which they think about theatre and the stories that they tell (Call Me Fury; Bury the Hatchet) proving a real shot in the arm and deserving of much bigger renown. But for now, we should rejoice in the smaller spaces in which they’re playing as the intimacy only adds to this special air.
The latest chapter of the history books to receive a breath of their bracingly fresh air is a lesser sung (in this country at least) piece of European history that manifests itself as The Brief Life and Mysterious Death of Boris III, King of Bulgaria: Part The First. Written by Joseph Cullen and Sasha Wilson, their inventive mode of storytelling probes into the mythos of that very storytelling and how history chooses to remember people. Continue reading “Review: The Brief Life and Mysterious Death of Boris III, King of Bulgaria: Part The First, VAULT Festival”
Sugar Coat is an uncomproming but thrilling mix of theatre and gig at the VAULT Festival
Whether by an accident of fate or intentional programming, the Forge has been something of a revelation for me at the VAULT Festival, housing some of the more weird and wonderful shows I’ve seen there this year. Sugar Coat maintains that trend with an uncomproming but thrilling mix of theatre and gig.
Written by Joel Samuels (A Wake in Progress, which DESTROYED me last year) and Lilly Pollard, the show spares no prisoners in a forthright depiction of eight formative years of a young woman’s life as she experiences much – too much – of what life has to offer as sexual thrills sit next to shattering trauma. Continue reading “Review: Sugar Coat, VAULT Festival”
(Wo)men Rule Broadway [West End Edition] sees women take on the male musical theatre songbook at the VAULT Festival
“If you strip away the myth from the man…”
There’s no arguing that the musical theatre songbook is skewed in favour of men and with theatre’s enduring love of a revival, that means the opportunities for women to express the fullness of their selves onstage have always been limited (hell, even as I write this a man has been announced to play Mother Superier in the Edinburgh run of Sister Act…).
This is the world US performers Genevieve Flati and Kelly Rogers are trying to reshape just a little with their show (Wo)men Rule Broadway [West End Edition], making its international debut here at the VAULT Festival. More than just a gender-reversed concert, Flati and Rogers compere the evening with a running commentary of how and why these songs have been chosen, exploring and explaining the boundaries being broken here. Continue reading “Review: (Wo)men Rule Broadway [West End Edition], VAULT Festival”
From Virginia and Vita, to Mia and Lottie, Misha Pinnington’s swooningly romantic V&V explores how technology has impacted communication in relationships at the VAULT Festival
“I’ve been doing something so odd, so queer”
The business of conducting a love affair has alwas been particularly charged, as senses are heightened in the erotic rush and emotions brought closer to the surface. But in the world of romance and relationships, communication is key. Misha Pinnington’s V&V explores how even with a century of technological advancement, telling someone how you feel can be an absolute minefield.
From the carefully composed letters between Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf to the scrolling message screen of the dating app on which Mia and Lottie meet, Pinnington compares and contrasts these love stories, asking what if anything has really changed for matters of the heart – lesbian, straight or otherwise. And in her smartly directed production for Sprezzatura, it proves a deeply affecting and romantic experience. Continue reading “Review: V&V, VAULT Festival”
Improv group SORRY team up with Andrew Hunter Murray for a fricking hilarious night at the VAULT Festival
“There isn’t any wrong or right, just blow or strum”
The angels smiled on me when improv supremos SORRY announced another gig to follow their previous sold-out shows at the VAULTs this year. And not only that, their special guest for this one was none other than Andrew Hunter Murray, he of Austentatious and recent Sunday Times-best selling list fame.
I possibly didn’t laugh as hard anywhere else than at their show here last year and this time round was no disappointment either. Their format works extremely well – 15 minutes chat with their guest at the top of the show and then the rest of the time spent riffing on the subjects raised, in some brilliantly off-the-cuff and off-the-wall improv from Liz Kingsman, Alison Thea-Skot, Naomi Petersen, Sophia Broido and Lola-Rose Maxwell. Continue reading “Review: SORRY, VAULT Festival”