2021 Offie & ONCOMM Award Winners

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
months.

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 of The ONCOMMs 2021

The OnComm is the new award for online shows from across the UK (and beyond) and was introduced in
May 2020. 

1. Recording pre-lockdown (direct)
(i.e. with little or no editing)
Going Viral / Daniel Bye
Hysteria / Spymonkey
Jane Clegg / Finborough Theatre
The House Of Bernarda Alba / Graeae

2. Recording pre-lockdown (edited)
(i.e. with significant editing)
Bubble / Theatre Uncut
Cyprus Avenue / Royal Court & Abbey Theatre
SeaWall / Simon Stephens
The Encounter / Complicité Continue reading “The finalists of The ONCOMMs 2021”

Review: 15 Heroines

Reinterpreting the women of Greek mythology for today, the theatrical enterprise of 15 Heroines is a major achievement and a highlight of the year, digital or otherwise

“The gods should protect me”

15 Heroines comes to us in collaboration between the Jermyn Street Theatre and Digital Theatre as fifteen female and non-binary playwrights tackle Ovid’s Heroides, giving voice to the women of classical mythology anew. Split into three groups of five 15-minute monologues – The Labyrinth, The War, The Desert – this is a major theatrical enterprise that offers startlingly fresh perspective on these tales of old and serves as a reminder, as if it were needed, that men are trash.

Or more specifically, the men that we often describe as heros have serious issues when it comes to the women in their lives. There may be some excuse for the women left behind by The Trojan War –  Sophia Eleni’s Love Island-esque but still sweet Laodamia is the wife of the first soldier killed as explored by Charlotte Jones – but more often than not it is just men being (fuck)boys. Lettie Precious delves beautifully into Oenone’s feelings about being abandoned by Paris for Helen, Ann Ogbomo’s righteous fury scalds the screen. Continue reading “Review: 15 Heroines”

News: Jermyn Street Theatre’s 15 Heroines announces a truly heroic cast

Jermyn Street Theatre are thinking big once again, as their previously announced 15 Heroines project, in collaboration with Digital Theatre, reveals a titanic cast of actors to join the 15 female and non-binary playwrights commissioned to retell the stories of the women of classical myth. And not just that, Adjoa Andoh will be co-directing alongside Tom Littler and Cat Robey. Hook. Me. Up!

Full casting comprises Gemma Whelan, Jemima RooperAnn Ogbomo, Rebekah Murrell and Sophia Eleni in The War
Indra Ové, Rosalind Eleazar, Nicholle Cherrie, Eleanor Tomlinson and Martina Laird in The Desert and 
Olivia Williams, Nadine Marshall, Doña Croll, Nathalie Armin and Patsy Ferran in The Labyrinth. Continue reading “News: Jermyn Street Theatre’s 15 Heroines announces a truly heroic cast”

News: Jermyn Street Theatre and Digital Theatre join forces for 15 Heroines

Jermyn Street Theatre has joined forces with leading internet theatre platform Digital Theatre for a major new online project to be produced this autumn. 

15 Heroines sees fifteen female and non-binary playwrights re-telling the stories of the women of classical myth. Inspired by Ovid’s The Heroines (Heroides), a collection of fifteen fictional letters written in the first century BCE, the project is produced and directed by Jermyn Street Theatre’s Artistic Director Tom Littler. The writers comprise April De AngelisStella DuffySamantha EllisLorna FrenchJuliet Gilkes RomeroNatalie HaynesCharlotte JonesHannah KhalilBryony LaveryIsley LynnLettie PreciousSabrina MahfouzChinonyerem OdimbaTimberlake Wertenbaker and Abi Zakarian. Continue reading “News: Jermyn Street Theatre and Digital Theatre join forces for 15 Heroines”

Review: Noughts & Crosses, Derby Theatre

Some bold creative choices make Noughts & Crosses a visual treat at Derby Theatre

“We are all responsible for the safety of this country”

At a moment when co-operation between theatres has never been more vital, and yet when national tours feel fraught with danger as cancellations loom large, it is pleasing to see Pilot Theatre and Derby Theatre putting their money where their mouth is with this production of Noughts & Crosses, co-produced with Belgrade Theatre Coventry, Mercury Theatre Colchester and York Theatre Royal.

With that in mind, it’s undoubtedly a canny choice of material, Malorie Blackman’s hugely popular young adult novel adapted here by Sabrina Mahfouz. Set in a alternative near future in which race relations are tipped right upside down, where systemic power lies in the hands of the black population and it is white people who suffer unconscionable oppression and abuse, Blackman then inserts a Romeo and Juliet love story but one which speaks much more to our times. Continue reading “Review: Noughts & Crosses, Derby Theatre”

20 shows to look forward to in 2019

So many of the recommendations for shows to see next year focus on the West End. And for sure, I’m excited to catch big ticket numbers like All About Eve, Come From Away, and Waitress but I wanted to cast my eye a little further afield, so here’s my top tips for shows on the London fringe (plus one from the Barbican) and across the UK.

1 Medea, Internationaal Theater Amsterdam at the Barbican
Simon Stone’s sleekly contemporary recasting of Euripides is straight up amazing. Anchored by a storming performance from Marieke Heebink, it is as beautiful and brutal as they come. It’s also one of the few plays that has legit made me go ‘oh no’ out loud once a particular penny dropped. My review from 2014 is here but do yourself a favour and don’t read it until you’ve seen it.

Macbeth, Watermill Theatre
2018 saw some disappointing Macbeths and I was thus ready to swear off the play for 2019. But the Watermill Ensemble’s decision to tackle the play will certainly break that resolve, Paul Hart’s innovative direction of this spectacular actor-musician team will surely break the hoodoo…

3 Noughts and Crosses, Derby Theatre, and touring
Pilot Theatre follow on from their strong Brighton Rock with this Malory Blackman adaptation by Sabrina Mahfouz, a Young Adult story but one which promises to speak to us all. Continue reading “20 shows to look forward to in 2019”

Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival – A Question of Identity

“I’m laughing on the outside but screaming on the inside”

The first session of the Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival, tucked away in a rehearsal room under the stage, was entitled A Question of Identity, featuring three contrasting works of equal but different power. I saw Rose Lewenstein’s Fucking Feminists as part of the Acts of Defiance festival at Theatre503 a couple of months ago, but its rapid wordplay and competing voices which parse and pull apart notions of contemporary feminism easily allow for repeated viewing as you consider whether a chair can be feminist or if white feminists are only interested in getting themselves above the glass ceiling.

As directed by Lisa Cagnacci, the foursome of Ania Sowinski, Jody Jameson, Karlina Grace-Paseda, and Anna Elijasz are clearly revelling in the familiarity with their material and pushing both its thoughtfulness and cheekiness. By comparison, Stephanie Ridings’ The Road To Huntsville is much more restrained, a one-woman show tracking a writer’s research journey into the world of women who correspond and enter in romantic relationships with convicts. Though perhaps less overtly theatrical, its message is no less chilling (I’m still reeling from the Danielle Steel titbit) and Ridings expertly manoeuvres our sympathies through her discoveries. Continue reading “Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival – A Question of Identity”

News – Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival begins

Monday 14th November sees the launch of the Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival at Hampstead Theatre and The Actors Centre. Produced by Sphinx Theatre Company and Joanna Hedges, Women Centre Stage exists to promote, advocate for and inspire women in the arts and has developed and commissioned a wide range of new work which uniquely brings together a diverse array of women characters far from the margins into centre stage.

This is the second year of Women Centre Stage and the festival features a range of workshops and creative comings-together which will culminate in the Performance Day on Sunday 20th November which will feature seven programmes throughout the day. This will include opportunities to see emerging work from new and established writers, plays commissioned from last year’s festival, and see four playwrights respond the headlines of the day in writing a new play each in 24 hours. 

Continue reading “News – Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival begins”

Review: Chef, Soho Theatre

“I cook here, create here,
make here be a much of life as I can
because outside of this
I’m not safe
I don’t know the way”

Sabrina Mahfouz’s Chef may have taken its sweet time to open in London after its award-winning run as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2014 but it has been well worth the wait, not least in being able to see Jade Anouka first return to the Donmar to be an integral part of their female Shakespeare ensemble (her Hotspur was a hot spot in an already-incandescently good production). And now it opens at the Soho Theatre as part of their Soho Solo season.

Just for Laughs Theatricals’ production, skilfully directed by Kirsty Patrick Ward, is a one-woman show that took its inspiration from workshops with ex-offenders and an interview with the Michelin-starred Ollie Dabbous. Chef’s protagonist has had a rollercoaster ride of a life thus far – from salmon farms in the Shetland Islands to getting sucked into inner city gang life, from running her own top-class restaurant to heading the kitchen brigade in the prison where she has been jailed. Continue reading “Review: Chef, Soho Theatre”