Review: Royal Court’s Living Newspaper #2

Sneaking in in the nick of time, I catch the delights of the second edition of the Royal Court’s Living Newspaper

“A slither of hope…hmmm”

I do love what the Royal Court are doing with their Living Newspaper series, rapid-response pieces being created with a limited shelf-life creating a sense of urgency that isn’t always present with digital content, but spreading the week of availability over Christmas does feel a little tricky even if festive plans for so many of our plans were forced astray.

Nevertheless, I was able to get stuck into the second edition before the digital shredder cut in and I’m glad I did as it continues to be an entirely fascinating and engaging disruption of theatrical form. Adopting the various elements of a newspaper (horoscopes, dating columns, cartoons as well as news and opinion pieces) and delivering them from various nooks and crannies around the Royal Court building (the originally planned in-person experience would have been conducted in promenade), the result is fierce and fresh. Continue reading “Review: Royal Court’s Living Newspaper #2”

News: Cast announced for Royal Court’s Living Newspaper #2

Moronkẹ Akinola, Hammed Animashaun, Ayesha Antoine, Alex Austin, Lisa Hammond, Mariam Haque, Zachary Hing, Siu-see Hung, Wendy Kweh, Tasha Lim, Ntonga Mwanza, Rochelle Rose and Liza Sadovy have been cast in Edition 2 of the Royal Court Theatre’s Living Newspaper: A Counter Narrative.

Living Newspaper is a weekly live newspaper running over six weeks. It is urgent, responsive and fast – with writers filing their pieces by Tuesday and actors performing from Thursday, script-in-hand, hot off the press. Continue reading “News: Cast announced for Royal Court’s Living Newspaper #2”

TV Review: Chewing Gum (Series 2)

Series 2 of Chewing Gum sees Michaela Coel nail the ‘two series and out’ trajectory of some of the best British sitcoms

“I’m not 17, I’m a grown-up woman. I just…regularly make childlike mistakes”

I belatedly came to Chewing Gum just now and watched both the first series and this second one in a single sitting each, their addictive nature and too-easily bingeable lengths giving me two fine nights in front of the TV.

Writer and creator Michaela Coel rarely let her imagination get in the way of the first six episodes but here, the expansion of Tracey’s world beyond her Tower Hamlets estate is quite simply fucking hilarious. Plus, the marvellous Sinéad Matthews appears in this series too. Continue reading “TV Review: Chewing Gum (Series 2)”

Review: [BLANK], Donmar Warehouse

Much to admire technically in [BLANK] at the Donmar Warehouse but it doesn’t quite land the emotional hit it aims for

“Have you ever felt like you were standing exactly to the left of your life?”

On the face of it, [BLANK] has all the makings of an outright success. With Alice Birch writing and Maria Aberg, this Donmar Warehouse and Clean Break co-production is a powerful indictment of how the vicissitudes of our criminal justice system hit women, and their families, the hardest by far.

And in terms of a text, it is undoubtedly an audacious undertaking, consisting of 100 scenes from which directors can craft their own narratives. Here though is where the production doesn’t quite click, Aberg trying her best to form some, any, kind of flow but the form just doesn’t allow for it. Continue reading “Review: [BLANK], Donmar Warehouse”

Book review: The Half – Simon Annand

The Half – Photographs of Actors Preparing for the Stage by Simon Annand

Just a quickie for this book as The Half – Photographs of Actors Preparing for the Stage by Simon Annand was released in 2008. But with an imminent new exhibition of these photos and a bargainous copy of the book popping up on Ebay, I thought I’d take the plunge.

And I’m glad I did as it is a proper work of art in its own right. Annand has been photographing actors for over 25 years and as such, has a veritable treasure trove of shots to share with us, resulting from the trusting relationships he has built up with so many, from the new kids on the block to veritable dames. Continue reading “Book review: The Half – Simon Annand”

News: RADA President Kenneth Branagh to direct Tom Hiddleston in Hamlet

Kenneth Branagh’s Olivier Award-winning theatre company will join forces with RADA for a co-production of Hamlet, to support the transformation of RADA’s Chenies Street site in London, further developing the Academy as a world-leader in dramatic arts training.

 The production will feature RADA alumnus Tom Hiddleston in the title role and will play a strictly limited three week run at RADA’s 160-seat Jerwood Vanbrugh Theatre from 1-23 September 2017.

All funds raised will support the RADA Attenborough Campaign, which aims to raise £20million, enabling the regeneration of the Academy’s Chenies Street premises. Continue reading “News: RADA President Kenneth Branagh to direct Tom Hiddleston in Hamlet”

Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 4

“Donna Noble has left the library. Donna Noble has been saved”

And here we are, my favourite series of Doctor Who. So much huge wonderfulness and even its less good moments are still more than halfway decent. Key to the series’ success is Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble – gobby and one-dimensional in her introductory episode the Christmas special The Runaway Bride, her character journey throughout this season is magisterially constructed, a true awakening of self (with thankfully no romantic inclinations towards our Time Lord) and one given unbearable poignancy due to its frustratingly tragic end.

It’s also one of the best constructed series in terms of its over-arching season arc, its warnings and clues layered meaningfully into several stories and building into a momentous and properly climactic finale, which lands just about the right level of grandiosity. There’s also the first companion-lite episode (the superbly creepy Midnight) to go with the Doctor-lite one (the achingly beautiful dystopian Turn Left); a typically brilliant Moffat double-header in  Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead with gorgeous work from Alex Kingston as the soon-to-be-hugely-significant River Song; and if the return of Rose undoes some of the emotional impact of the Series 2 finale, Billie Piper’s work is spikily powerful. These are episodes I can, and have, watched over and over again.

Continue reading “Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 4”

Review: Dirty Great Love Story, Arts Theatre

“Things I can be sure of – I’m in a bed
‘Things I can be sure of – my bloody head…'”

With so much gloomy news dominating the headlines and cinemas filled largely with Oscar bait, two-hander Dirty Great Love Story arrives at the Arts Theatre to offer a well-timed and satisfying slice of lighter entertainment. Written by Richard Marsh and Katie Bonna from the experiences of their own lovelife, and previously seen at the Soho Theatre, in Edinburgh and off-Broadway, it’s an energetically modern take on the rom-com and if it doesn’t necessarily have anything earth-shattering to say, it’s probably all the more enjoyable for it.

Richard and Katie’s meet-cute is in a sketchy Bristol nightclub. He’s on a stag night and been single for a while, she’s on a hen do and nursing a broken heart and with friends egging them on, they’re soon sharing shots at the bar, sweat on the dancefloor and shags in a hastily procured hotel room. In the fug of the next morning’s hangover, she beats a hasty retreat but not before she wonders if there isn’t perhaps the spark of something there, and thus the rest of the play covers the next two years in the lives of these 30-something Londoners as they will-they-won’t-they their way to a climax of which even Bridget Jones would be proud.  Continue reading “Review: Dirty Great Love Story, Arts Theatre”

20 shows to look forward to in 2017

2017 is only just over a week away now and the reviewing diary is already filling up! All sorts of headline-grabbing West End shows have already been announced (The Glass Menagerie, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf, Don Juan In Soho, The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia) and the National look to continue a sensational year with another (Twelfth Night, Consent, the heaven-sent Angels in America), so this list is looking a little further afield to the London fringe and some of the UK theatres I hope to get to throughout the year.


The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Bolton Octagon

After hearing Elizabeth Newman speak passionately on a panel discussion about women’s theatre, I kinda have a big (intellectual) crush on her, so I’m very keen to see her tackle a new adaptation by Deborah McAndrew of the classic Anne Bronte novel in a theatre that is very close to my heart.
Continue reading “20 shows to look forward to in 2017”

Review: The Suicide, National Theatre

 “Everything was free”

A late jaunt to the National to The Suicide, Suhayla El-Bushra’s fiercely contemporary updating of Nikolai Erdman’s 1928 play, before it closed. Though I have to say I wasn’t entirely convinced by it, Nadia Fall’s production is visually hugely ambitious, retooled for the world of YouTubers and hipsters, but ultimately feeling as shallow as the societal trends that it is trying to satirise.

Javone Prince’s Sam Desai is long-term unemployed and newly bereft of benefits, so disillusioned with the world is he that he decides to top himself but when a film clip of him making that decision goes viral, he’s swept along for the ride as all of society try to co-opt him for their own ends. To publicise a café, to get a music deal, to highlight the lack of adequate mental health care. Continue reading “Review: The Suicide, National Theatre”