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”

News: new audio-digital theatre platform SOUND STAGE launches

New audio-digital theatre platform SOUND STAGE to premiere new plays from Mark Ravenhill, Roy Williams, Timberlake Wertenbaker and John Byrne

Pitlochry Festival Theatre, The Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh in collaboration with Naked Productions are thrilled to announce Sound Stage – a new immersive audio digital theatre which from late March will premiere 8 new plays written by amongst others Mark RavenhillRoy Williams, Timberlake Wertenbaker, and John Byrne.

 Sound Stage is an exciting new audio-digital venture, designed by theatre makers and leading technologists, giving audiences a unique and engrossing online theatre experience of new plays from the best in British theatre which in the future Pitlochry Festival Theatre and the Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh hope to produce on stage.

Sound Stage will operate an online booking system for all productions. Just like booking a ticket for the theatre, audiences will be able to book ahead for a performance and time of their choice. Continue reading “News: new audio-digital theatre platform SOUND STAGE launches”

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: Winter Hill, Octagon Theatre

“Heroism is danger and risk, and frankly, until now, it’s been male”

Plays set in places I knew well as a child unexpectedly looks like it might be one of the theatrical memes of the year – Years of Sunlight explored the history of the neighbouring town where I learned to swim and now we have Timberlake Wertenbaker’s new drama Winter Hill, named for the West Pennine peak that was the location of many a childhood walk. 

Wertenbaker’s play is set on the Winter Hill of the near future, as opposed to the not-so-near past, where a chunk of the land has been sold to developers who are constructing a luxury skyscraper hotel there, set to completely alter the way that the hill dominates the landscape and the town of Bolton below it. As a local women’s reading group sneaks onto the building site to have their meetings, hidden agendas bubble to the surface to make matters a little more serious than whether they’ve got enough wine to get through the evening. Continue reading “Review: Winter Hill, Octagon Theatre”

Review: Refugees Welcome, Southwark Playhouse

“We’re privileged to welcome you here”

Something a bit different for a Sunday but definitely worthwhile, Refugees Welcome saw a curated collection of performances exploring the themes of displacement, exodus and the humanitarian disaster of the refugee crisis through the medium of theatre, comedy and poetry. Organised by David Mercatali in support of Calais Action and all their advocacy work as well as aid support for displaced people in camps and hotspots across Europe, it proved a powerful programme of thought-provoking work.

For me, it was most fascinating to how consider how theatre in particular responds to contemporary crises, the speed of response somewhat limited by form, the nature of response dictated by swift-changing news agendas. So the excerpt from Anders Lustgarten’s 2015 play Lampedusa, performed by Louise Mai Newberry and the playwright, felt horribly like last year’s news because we’re not being still confronted with the images of overcrowded boats crossing the Med. But the snippet of Tess Berry-Hart’s Cargo, soon to be seen at the Arcola, reminded us that this is not a problem that is going away, and that (certain) theatres are not shying away from. Continue reading “Review: Refugees Welcome, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: Jefferson’s Garden, Watford Palace Theatre

“We have to ask you to be gender-blind, colour-blind, age-blind, shape-blind, but in all other ways perceptive”

I actually saw a reading of Timberlake Wertenbaker’s new play Jefferson’s Garden in 2013 when it formed part of the extracurricular activities surrounding the run of Out of Joint’s Our Country’s Good at the St James and blogged quite extensively about it as it was a play that really struck me as one to look out for. Less than two years down the line, it has now received its first production at the hands of director Brigid Larmour and the Watford Palace Theatre where it runs until 21st February and doesn’t appear to have any life anticipated beyond that.

Which is a shame as I do think it is a fine piece of writing. Wertenbaker’s history play takes place during the American War of Independence but makes a sterling case for how the compromises in the creation of a society then have echoed throughout time to become the issues that still blight the USA today. She also plays with the way in which historical narratives are constructed (theatrical ones too) through the voice of a Chorus who stalk the action, identifying the difficulties of converting the dreams of idealism into the practicalities of the real world. Continue reading “Review: Jefferson’s Garden, Watford Palace Theatre”

Review: Midsummer Mischief A, The Other Place

In the spirit of the mischief for which it is named, my coverage of the two Midsummer Mischief programmes which mark the reopening of Stratford’s The Other Place will be told through the medium of Rupaul’s Drag Race gifs (borrowed with love from here). Now don’t fuck it up.

Four playwrights have been asked to respond to the provocation “well behaved women seldom make history” and in the first double bill, Timberlake Wertenbaker’s The Ant and the Cicada and Alice Birch’s Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again take on the challenge.

First things first, The Other Place has been reconstructed on the stage of the Courtyard theatre with some unforgiving, and unforgivable seating.

I mean it is hard-going to say the least and put me in mind of the body-destroying experience of sitting in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. It is not good.

But back to the theatre. Wertenbaker’s Greek-set drama strains a little hard to incorporate its multitudinous themes and explore them sufficiently. I’d put this up for elimination no doubt.

But Alice Birch’s piece sparkles with much more eleganza, extravaganza and revolutionary spirit in a fiercely argued set of scenes which look at where feminism is and where it might end up. It represents.

It has all the charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent that you could hope for and feels much more successful than the recent Blurred Lines in evoking the urgency of the debate.

So if these two were lip-syncing for their lives, it would most definitely be Alice Birch getting the ‘shantay you stay’ whilst Wertenbaker scrawls on the mirror with her lipstick.

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 12th July and then playing the Royal Court 15th-17thJuly