Nominations for the 2020 Black British Theatre Awards

BEST DIRECTOR AWARD FOR A PLAY OR MUSICAL
Clint Dyer, Death of England, National Theatre
Nadia Latif, Fairview, Young Vic Theatre
Ola Ince, Appropriate, Donmar Warehouse
Roy Alexander Weise, Master Harold &… and the boys, National Theatre

BEST PRODUCER AWARD
Adrian Grant, Thriller Live, Lyric Theatre
Nicole Raquel Dennis and Ryan Carter, Turn Up, Cadogan Hall
Tobi Kyeremateng, My White Best Friend (and Other Letters Left Unsaid), Royal Court
Theatre Continue reading “Nominations for the 2020 Black British Theatre Awards”

Review: Counting Stars, Theatre Royal Stratford East

“How much are you worth?”

Hand on heart, how many British nightclub attendants have you ever seen? You know, the ones you usually try and avoid eye contact with in the toilets, with their trays of perfume and lollipops and a too-small pile of tips. Difficult as it may be to test, I’d argue that its precisely the kind of job that most would turn their nose up at, hence immigrant labour being sourced and exploited. And that is what is at the heart of Atiha Sen Gupta’s scorching play Counting Stars, currently at Theatre Royal Stratford East.

Tucked into a backstage area, Diego Pitarch’s design places us right in the seat of the action, in the toilets of the Club Paradise in Woolwich, where Sophie and Abiodun are working a shift, hoping to later celebrate their one-year anniversary. Both Nigerian immigrants, they work a different cleaning job by day and return to Paradise each night, even if shockingly, they are paid absolutely nothing – their only money comes from those tips. See what I mean about being exploited. Continue reading “Review: Counting Stars, Theatre Royal Stratford East”

Review: Karagula, Styx

“He had no way of knowing it would get so out of control”

Full disclosure – I saw a preview of Karagula, one which lasted until 11pm and so you may rightly assume that it left me disgruntled. But I’m my own worst enemy sometimes, I’m not the biggest fan of Philip Ridley when he’s erring on the fractured narrative side and I had been warned. But Radiant Vermin was so good, Mercury Fur shines brightly in the memory, and Ridley’s own poetry had left me very well inclined towards him when news of this new production broke.

Mounted by D.E.M. Productions and PIGDOG in a location initially kept secret but now revealed as Styx, a converted ambulance station in Tottenham Hale, Karagula is a wildly ambitious thing, claiming to be one of the largest productions ever mounted Off-West-End. And in some ways, you can see it, the attention to detail in some of the costumes, the sheer sweep of the universes that it covers, the audacity of the satire attempted on dissolute Western behaviour patterns. Continue reading “Review: Karagula, Styx”

Review: Teh Internet is Serious Business, Royal Court

“Confused people may need some help”

I’m pretty sure that somebody has already reached this blog before by googling “sexy Peter Pan takes a load in the face” – such is the way that these search algorithms work (don’t talk to me about how my search results were skewed by seeing a play called Reclining N*de With Black St*ckings) – so there’s at least one person who will be inordinately excited by the anarchic spirit that rules the first half of Tim Price’s Teh Internet is Serious Business, directed with some astonishing brio by Hamish Pirie.

Continue reading “Review: Teh Internet is Serious Business, Royal Court”

Short Film Review #50

Passenger from HMT Productions on Vimeo.
Aaaarrgghhh – proof positive as if it were ever needed that you shouldn’t ever talk to strangers on the tube. Ed Rigg’s Passenger follows a couple at the end of a long day as they catch the Victoria Line up to Walthamstow Central and make the fatal mistake of making eye contact with the guy sitting opposite after a mildly amusing episode. Sara Vickers and Mark Quartley do a great job at capturing the helpless awkwardness of the situation but Samuel Edward-Cook really excels as the ex-serviceman who won’t leave them alone, invading their headspace as well as their personal space as the encounter becomes more and more chilling. Great work.

Review: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Park Theatre

“There is a new face on the frontier”

Westerns have never been my thing so The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance was all brand new information for me. Jethro Compton’s production uses Dorothy M Johnson’s original short story as its primary source material rather than the more famous film and purely by virtue of putting a Western on a stage, possesses something unique as it is a genre that has barely been touched, at least in my memory, by any London theatre. And it is also a surprisingly effective treatment that makes it one of the more atmospheric shows of the year.

Compton errs towards something of a cinematic style – Jonny Sims’ music swoops around the theatre, Robert Vaughan’s voice as a narrator guides us through the story, and Sarah Booth’s single set design contains all the action, told as it is largely in flashback. The plot doesn’t hold too much surprise so I’ll say little about it here but the play is best when it focuses on the love triangle between Oliver Lansley’s lawyer Ransome Foster, Niamh Walsh’s illiterate bar owner Hallie and Paul Albertson’s Barricune who rescued Ransome from a tight spot. Continue reading “Review: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Park Theatre”

Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Stafford Castle

“Through the forest have I gone”

The impressive ruins of Stafford Castle make a grand setting for the Stafford Festival Shakespeare, now in its 23rd year, and for this year’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, successfully transported to a Victorian England of colonial conquest, starched manners and a healthy dose of Gilbert and Sullivan. An open air stage, with covered seating on three sides, expands up the grassy slope to the castle itself and is used highly effectively, whether for a royal procession to make a strong impact or a torch-bearing fairy horde to swarm over the hillside, a constant reminder that so much of this story is about the strange happenings that will ensue if you end up in a mysterious forest on Midsummer eve. 

Peter Rowe’s choice to set this in the Victorian era is an effective choice and one which works well across all the earthbound levels of the play. It makes a convincing case for the quarrelling quartet of lovers – Craig Fletcher (so very good in last year’s Boy Meets Boy) and Eamonn O’Dwyer all prim posturing and carefully rolled-up sleeves as Lysander and Demetrius, Jennifer Greenwood a spirited Hermia and a confident Georgina White coming close to stealing the show as an expressively comical Helena. And the Rude Mechanicals, led by Eric Potts’ bumptious Bottom, become a group of G&S-playing minstrels, the silliness of light opera suiting them perfectly as they build up to an extended musical version of Pyramus and Thisbe, which has to be one of the funnier treatments it has ever received.  Continue reading “Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Stafford Castle”