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: The Poltergeist

Philip Ridley’s The Poltergeist is a vivid monologue, performed well by Joseph Potter

“I’ve woken up with a headache”

From the tiny flat above a dry-cleaners in Ilford which he shares with his boyfriend Chet, Sasha seethes. Once fêted by the art world as a teenage prodigy, he crashed and burned spectacularly and has never really recovered. An invitation to his niece’s birthday party seems like a good opportunity to get out but between his pill-popping, catastrophising and near-boiling resentment towards his family, it is clear we’re in for a bumpy ride. 

The Poltergeist sees Philip Ridley maintain his long-standing relationship with the Southwark Playhouse with a customarily intense monologue which proves a gift of a role for Joseph Potter. Sasha is a young man very much in his head, so as Potter rattles wonderfully through all the various roles, there’s the sense that we’re seeing exaggerated versions of these characters as Sasha bristles against the indignity of having to make small talk when he could be exercising his vengeful streak. Continue reading “Review: The Poltergeist”

YouTube: The Grass Is Always Grindr / A Gay Victorian Affair

I was introduced to (and deeply impressed) by Dragonflies Theatre a while back when I saw The HIV Monologues and so I’ve been keeping an eye out on what they’ve been doing ever since. One of their newest project is this three part webseries – The Grass Is Always Grindr – the first instalment of which you can now see below.

Commissioned by 56 Dean Street with support from Wandsworth Oasis, the series see writer Patrick Cash and director Luke Davies delving deep into Grindr and questioning what the hook-up app is doing to the community and the ways in which we communicate to each other.  Continue reading “YouTube: The Grass Is Always Grindr / A Gay Victorian Affair”

Review: The Chemsex Monologues, King’s Head

“He was wandering around topless, clearly drug-fucked, asking random guys to have sex. I took his hand and he grabbed me urgently, blue eyes intent and blazing.”

Patrick Cash’s The HIV Monologues slayed me last year so the opportunity to see another of his plays with Dragonflies Theatre was not one I wanted to pass up. The Chemsex Monologues did great business at the King’s Head last year and with that venue’s current tendency towards extremely LGBT-friendly material, it has made an unsurprising return here. Directed by Luke Davies, Cash’s storytelling winds together the tales of four people engaged – to varying degrees – in London’s chemsex scene. 

For the uninitiated – it’s a gay subculture where guys get high and have sex with each other, but as post-club chillout parties have been transformed by harder and harder drugs, it has become a world not without its challenges. And without judgement, without condemnation, The Chemsex Monologues gives a real insight into the ways in which people get drawn in. A sexual health worker feeling lonely, a guy who can’t believe his luck at pulling the fittest guy in the club and unwilling to let the night end, a faithful fag hag, a pretty boy with insecurities – anyone, everyone?  Continue reading “Review: The Chemsex Monologues, King’s Head”

Review: The HIV Monologues, Ace Hotel

“I’m not the sort of person to get AIDS”

Following on the success of The Chemsex Monologues, Dragonflies Theatre now turn to the world of HIV in gay men with The HIV Monologues: From AIDS to PrEP: Love, Sex & HIV. Intertwining the stories of four people, Patrick Cash’s writing draws the line from the 1980s to the modern day, from those diagnosed with the disease to those who love and care for them, from the condition as a death sentence to the comparative liberation that PrEP now brings. 

So we meet the blithely unaware Alex who tries to escape through the bathroom when a hot date reveals his status, Irish nurse Irene who tackles the stigma of working with AIDS patients in the 1980s with a near-unimaginable compassion, Nick who is a recently diagnosed HIV positive man struggling to come to terms with what that means and Barney, whose life is reinvigorated by the arrival of ARV medication in the 1990s. Continue reading “Review: The HIV Monologues, Ace Hotel”

Review: The Past Is A Tattooed Sailor, Old Red Lion

“I don’t ‘do’, I exist”

Catching up on openings I missed whilst away, The Past Is A Tattooed Sailor had the type of title I couldn’t ignore so I booked myself in at the Old Red Lion. Sadly though, Simon Blow’s new play failed to lived up to the promise of its moniker. Its based on Blow’s relationship with his great uncle Stephen Tennant – one of the Bright Young People – and other aspects of his own life, but rarely elevates those experiences into engaging, dramatic theatre – there’s the distinct sense that a more seasoned writer might have been able to deliver on the potential here.

For there is potential. The delving into the eccentric end of the world of the English upper classes is intriguingly set up as the young, pretty and poor Joshua decides to visit his great uncle Napier to secure his position in his will. He takes with him his labourer boyfriend Damien, immediately endearing him to the older gent who also was a fan of a bit of rough, and in the dusty realms of this country house, ghosts of the past come to life to (presumably) illuminate the truth of the future. Continue reading “Review: The Past Is A Tattooed Sailor, Old Red Lion”

Review: Othello, Rose Bankside

“And what’s he then that says I play the villain?”

Early February and I’m already on my second Othello of the year. Not only that, it’s the second one to both modernise it and condense the play down to well under two hours. But where Frantic Assembly moved the action in the violence of northern gang-life, Time Zone Theatre relocate it to the cut and thrust of corporate office politics and director Pamela Schermann goes even further in slimming the cast down to five bodies (plus Bianca’s voice Skyping in).

It’s a bold reimagining – especially in a venue as soaked in archaeological significance as the Rose, Bankside – but one that pays off. Stripped off pretty much every sub-plot, the story becomes one of cut-throat careerism, the promotion that Iago is passed over for thus a much more recognisable one and represented simply but effectively by the relative plushness of an executive office chair (astute design from Gillian Stevenson) in which people will kill to sit. Continue reading “Review: Othello, Rose Bankside”