Review: On Cloud Nine

Semi-autobiographical in nature and stream-of-consciousness in form, monologue On Cloud Nine wrestles with some big issues

“Apparently in London everything is possible”

Written during 2020’s first lockdown and having its prospective run at The White Bear Theatre kyboshed by the second, the team behind On Cloud Nine opted for the streaming model that so many have gone for to get their theatre out there. But they’ve also gone the extra mile to collaborate with theatrical.solutions to deliver the show live, to be watched in real time at a specific time, capturing more of the special energy of going to the theatre above just pressing play at any time on a stream.

Written and performed by Mai Weisz, On Cloud Nine is billed as a semi-autobiographical play but nevertheless feels deeply personal, almost too much so as it delves deep into the stream-of-consciousness that accompanies a particular sleepless night. Mirroring the freewheeling nature of the subconscious, the Jewish-Israeli Weisz wrestles ideas of sexual, cultural, political and ethnic identities as they clash and recalibrate within her self, received wisdom duelling hard with lived experience. Continue reading “Review: On Cloud Nine”

Review: The Off Key, White Bear Theatre

A striking new musical that revels in the bittersweet nature of its examination of love, The Off Key hits the right notes at the White Bear Theatre

“I’ve been thinking a lot about narratives lately. And the stories we tell ourselves, y’know? Who’s right and who’s wrong? Anyway. This song is called Are You Leaving Me Or Are You Just Being A C**t?”

Some relationships just f*ck you up. Such is the one between Sam and Olivia that lies at the heart of new musical The Off Key. Friends on the singer-songwriter gig circuit, he’s long been in love with her but can only tell her (inadvertently) through the medium of song, specifically his newest song ‘I Like You, Break Up with Your Boyfriend for Me’. Thus starts an intense affair that is destined to only ever end one way…

Writer and performer Scott Mackie utilises the gig format well to inform his musical, packing worlds of passion and pain not only into the bluntly confessional songs but also into their brief introductions, the gig patter here is some of the most brutally funny I’ve heard in a good while. And as they shag and split, cheat and come back together, the emotional toll of this tumultuous relationship shapes their creative response. Continue reading “Review: The Off Key, White Bear Theatre”

Review: After(s), White Bear Theatre

The perils of midweek drinking writ large – After(s) examines what it means to be in your mid-twenties today at the White Bear Theatre in Kennington

“You’re an inspiration – you made a strap-on out of a banana”

It’s a little known truth that when two men kiss for the first time, Dolly Parton will start playing. Or so Scott Mackie and Santino Smith would have you believe in a witty moment early on in their new play After(s). It’s also a bit of a misdirect as where you think you might be getting a play that explores sexuality, it soon shifts that onto the back-burner as it delves into other issues.

The play is mainly an exploration of how no good can come from mid-week drinking, when recklessness crashes into responsibilities. Andy has just finished a long day in the office when he bumps into his best-friend-from-high-school-back-in Paisley-Yog and as a catch-up pint turns into shots into clubbing into afterpartying, the carefully ordered pieces of his London life come tumbling down around him in the most farcical of manners. Continue reading “Review: After(s), White Bear Theatre”

Review: Mission Creep, White Bear Theatre

Bee Scott’s very funny Mission Creep proves an impressive exploration of some of the more neglected facets of queer identities at the White Bear Theatre

“What the fuck do you think this is, The Handmaid’s Tale in space?”

It can sometimes feel like every day is marking something or other – it’s Black History Month, today is both #PronounsDay and #WorldFoodDay, next week is Asexual Awareness Week and while it is all too easy to roll one’s eyes at yet another date, there’s something invaluable about the opportunities they offer to open our eyes to the rich plurality of the world around us. So words like queerplatonic and asexuality are bandied around in Bee Scott’s new queer sci-fi play Mission Creep, it proves an educative as well as entertaining experience.

And it really is entertaining. For all the weighty themes here – a nuclear apocalypse rages around the characters – Paul Anthoney’s production is a finely calibrated comedy, fully embracing the ridiculousness that is sure to accompany the end of the world. Asexual Tess and bisexual Liam have clocked how to escape impending doom, by gaming their fertility to sign up to an intergalactic relocation project. They just need to convince the authorities that they’re a regular cishet couple ready and willing to procreate. Easy, right…? Continue reading “Review: Mission Creep, White Bear Theatre”

Review: Di and Viv and Rose, White Bear Theatre

Flying Rabbit Productions’s Di and Viv and Rose at the White Bear Theatre is a smart production of a play that has endured well

“I’ll be alright – won’t I?”

Amelia Bullmore’s Di and Viv and Rose is a play I’ve loved since its 2011 debut in the downstairs space at the Hampstead Theatre, from whence it graduated to the main house and from there into the West End. At each spot, it has been blessed with some superb actors – Nicola Walker, Claudie Blakley and Tamzin Outhwaite, Gina McKee and Anna Maxwell Martin, Samantha Spiro and Jenna Russell – so I was intrigued to see how it would fare in this off-West End production by Flying Rabbit.

And I have to say it stood up really rather well, a mark of the strength of its writing. The play follows the developing friendship between three women thrown together as undergraduates who move to a houseshare in which a real kinship is formed, connections which are tested by the trials and tribulations not only of student life, but through into the ‘real’ world as well. Did the Spice Girls really get it right? Does friendship never end…?  Continue reading “Review: Di and Viv and Rose, White Bear Theatre”

The finalists of The Offies 2019

Some decisions that reflect my own nominations for the year, many others for plays I haven’t seen and as ever, some curious choices too.

DESIGN
COSTUME DESIGN
Gabriella Slade for Six at the Arts Theatre
Jonathan Lipman for Harold & Maude at the Charing Cross Theatre
Pam Tait for Rothschild & Sons at the Park Theatre

SET DESIGN
Bethany Wells for Distance at the Park Theatre
Francis O’Connor for Harold & Maude at the Charing Cross Theatre
Simon Daw for Humble Boy at the Orange Tree Theatre Continue reading “The finalists of The Offies 2019”

The finalists of The Offies 2018

The finalists of the The Offies 2018 have been announced and as ever, there’s much of interest there, in the choices made and the breadth of Off West End theatre celebrated. Play-wise, I’m delighted at the love for The Revlon Girl and An Octoroon here, nice to see the Bunker’s Eyes Closed Ears Covered rewarded too, plus Will Pinchin’s work in Frankenstein.

With the musicals, I’m not down with the love for Promises Promises, an ill-judged revival that added nothing to the conversation (and even less in these #MeToo times) and I’m disappointed that none of the boys of Yank! were recognised. The rest of the Southwark Playhouse’s spectacular year does get the appropriate plaudits though, with Superhero, The Life and Working all getting multiple nominations.

And lastly, at times it can seem like all you have to do is sing in your bathroom and you get an Offie nomination ? so it is interesting to see how the numbers break down, albeit somewhat vaguely. These 80 or so finalists have apparently been whittled down from over 350 nominations from over 190 shows – there’s clearly just a lot of Offies love to share. Should you wish to join in said sharing at the IRL award ceremony on Sunday 4th March at The Albany, Deptford, you can buy tickets here.

Continue reading “The finalists of The Offies 2018”

Review: Mouldy Grapes, White Bear

“I’ve been dipping my spoon in both the chocolate and the vanilla ice-cream”

The thing with open relationships is that everyone needs to be on the same page. The eccentric Roo has a fear of going outside as well as wearing trousers so the agreement has been made that his boyfriend Liam can sleep with other men. But when the person he brings home one particular night turns out to be a woman, the gobby Jess, that openness flicks over into much more complex terrain.

Such is the world of Mouldy Grapes, the assured debut production from new company Break The ‘Verse, a group of recent East 15 graduates. Directed by Dom Riley and written by Monty Jones and Ellie Sparrow and “enhanced through devising”, what surprises most about the play is the way in which it manages to combine its smart study of the fluidity of sexual identities with a classic comedy model, and pull both off successfully. Continue reading “Review: Mouldy Grapes, White Bear”

Review: The Test, White Bear

“How do you define consciousness?”

The world of artificial intelligence may feel like the realm of sci-fi but in reality is closer than we think, the next frontier in the progression of scientific knowledge. And Ian Dixon Potter’s new play The Test shows the human race right at the point of breaching it, as ambitious scientist Dora and eager hacker Josh combine forces to harness the global computing power of the web in order to create ‘Mother’, the first truly conscious AI. What could possibly go wrong…?!

It is a formidable concept to explore in an hour of fringe theatre and to set up this world of advanced science and technology, Dixon Potter is caught between two stools, particularly in the opening scenes. Either characters rattle off complex ideas which threaten to fly over our heads, or they dumb down too much – the dictionary definition of the Turing Test is a case in point, or lines like ‘I need you to hijack the internet’ which recall nothing so much as this brilliant bit of comedy. Continue reading “Review: The Test, White Bear”

Review: Bunny, White Bear Theatre

“I prefer surprise to suspense. 
But that’s basically because I feel suspense all the time”

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has catapulted Jack Thorne’s already fast-rising star into the higher echelons of British writing talent, so it is always interesting to look back to earlier work to see if the seeds of success can be spotted. Perhaps with this in mind, newly formed company Fabricate Company have opted to revive his 2010 Fringe First-winning one-woman play Bunny at the tidily renovated White Bear (pub grub definitely recommended, as is the exceptionally friendly bar service).

Recounted by the breathlessly energetic and recklessly teenage Katie, Bunny takes a snapshot of her life in the racially divided estates of Luton over the course of a hot summer’s afternoon. A messy encounter between her older boyfriend Abe and an Asian kid on a bike spirals into something more profoundly disturbing when Abe’s friends get involved and she goes along for the ride, knowing full well there’s more than just a dropped ice-cream at stake here. Continue reading “Review: Bunny, White Bear Theatre”