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: Lear, Union Theatre

“She’s there, and she is yours”

What if King Lear were a woman? One of the most fascinating aspects of Phil WIllmott’s version of Lear for the Union Theatre is the collection of responses, collated here in the programme, he received when posting this question on Facebook. It lays bare much about our theatrical culture and it speaks volumes that it has taken a fringe venue to make the move of making Lear a queen. Here Ursula Mohan steps into this most iconic of Shakespearean roles, in what proves to be a fascinating piece of theatre. 

An ambivalence of tone in the opening section suggests any number of interpretations might be at play in this modern day adaptation – manila folders suggest the division of a business empire rather than a kingdom, the fool’s green scrubs and readiness with a bottle of pills hints at institutionalisation, only the ever-present handbag feels like a determined (if cheeky) nod to regality. And this ambiguity gains real strength in the madness on the heath with its people sleeping rough under cardboard, shopping trollies full of junk being pushed around – the production feels powerful in this non-specific but definitely contemporary milieu. Continue reading “Review: Lear, Union Theatre”