Review: Bang Bang Bang, Royal Court

“There’s always going to be an Amala, or the little boy or the fourteen-year-old or the thirty-five-year-old or the elderly lady or the dying man…”

Though Stella Feehily’s Bang Bang Bang is set in the same part of the world as Lynn Nottage’s Ruined – the Democratic Republic of Congo – the focus of this play is less on the state of affairs in the civil war-torn country but rather delving behind the scenes of the charities, journalists and NGOs out there in Africa, looking at how it affects the lives of the humanitarian workers who go out there. Feehily did huge amounts of meticulous research for this play, interviewing a wide range of stakeholders from the international aid business.

As often happens in such cases, there is the slight sense that Feehily has tried to cram in as much of what she has uncovered into the play as issue follows issue and the shocking scene that opens the show is explained through flashbacks and its aftermath subsequently probed. Experienced Sadhbh and newbie Mathilde set out on a harrowing mission to investigate tales of war crimes and end up in differing situations: Sadhbh, already testing the boundaries of her relationship by returning here as her boyfriend back in London shell-shocked from his own experiences as an aid worker wants her to give it up, accepts an invitation to tea with the warlord himself and finds an opposing account of events, and Mathilde finds herself a distraction in the form of photographer Vin, but both women are never far from danger and their choices have massive implications in their perilous circumstances. Continue reading “Review: Bang Bang Bang, Royal Court”

Review: Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Young Vic

“I woke up that morning and the only thing I could do was look around for my shoes”

First things first: there’s a credit in the programme for teeth by Fangs FX but I was sorely disappointed not to notice where these came in and this set my mood for the whole show. Joe Turner’s Come and Gone is a play by August Wilson which forms part of a cycle of plays looking at the African-American experience in the twentieth century. It appears here in London at the Young Vic until the 3rd July.

Set in 1911, Seth and Bertha run a boarding house in Pittsburgh filled an array of characters who drift in and out, some for days, some for weeks, all dealing with the new post-emancipation world they find themselves in. The gentle atmosphere is rocked with the arrival of Herald Loomis and his daughter Zonia. Herald has spent seven years in slavery to a white planter named Joe Turner and is seeking his wife Martha, who disappeared four years ago from their home in Tennessee. He is a menacing half-mad presence and the other boarders deal with him in various ways as people coming to terms with their own experiences too. Continue reading “Review: Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Young Vic”

Review: Annie Get Your Gun, Young Vic

“Jumping Jehosaphat, well if it ain’t the damndest thing I ever did see.”

Running right through to January, the Young Vic has set a lot into Annie Get Your Gun, their longest running production to date. Starring Jane Horrocks as the sharp-shooting Annie Oakley, this musical contains some incredibly well-known songs, and so would seem like a fairly safe bet.

First off, the look of the whole show really is quite arresting, and not in a good way. It instantly evokes ‘school show’ as it really does look cheap and shabby, and the lack of depth in the stage is highlighted every time there’s more than 4 people on stage as they are having to carefully negotiate their way around each other and the props without tumbling off. And on top of that, the design is really quite unsuited to the venue. Such a wide, shallow stage means that people sat towards either edge of the auditorium have severe difficulties in seeing the action when it moves to the other side. And the use of a cutaway above the stage means the front few rows miss the final scene (and the one shirtless moment!). Given that it is unreserved seating, it does seem quite unreasonable to expect people to fork out £30 and then have their view restricted. Continue reading “Review: Annie Get Your Gun, Young Vic”