Review: The Motherhood Project

The likes of Hannah Khalil, Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, Sarah Niles and Juno Dawson deliver some excellent work in The Motherhood Project

“There’s so much talk of being perfect mums”

Ripping off the rose-tinted glasses and gagging any hint of yummy mummies with a used nappy, The Motherhood Project takes an uncompromising look at motherhood, shining a light on the things that the books don’t, or won’t, tell you. Suhayla El Bushra talks about the way it affects friendship, Jodi Gray and Katherine Kotz herself investigate the maternal instinct or lack thereof, Kalhan Barath speaks of her choice not to have children… Kotz, who is also the curator of the project, has gathered a mixture of monologues and musings, 15 short films in all, all seeking to redefine the modern myths around motherhood.  

There’s eight new monologues here, plus one repurposed one, making this a significant piece of new theatre writing. Jenni Maitland details the traumatising physical effects of childbirth in Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s Inside Me, how it can fundamentally alters women’s relationship with their bodies, an issue already skewed by societal pressures of the feminine ‘ideal’. Hannah Khalil also delves deep into the hidden truths of becoming a parent through the medium of the (useless) advice she was given, the lyrical bent of Suited perfectly matched by Caroline Byrne’s expressionist direction and a quietly blistering performance from Emmanuella Cole Continue reading “Review: The Motherhood Project”

News: Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, Athena Stevens, Anya Reiss, Juno Dawson and Lemn Sissay among the line-up for The Motherhood Project

Leading UK artists including Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, Athena Stevens and Anya Reiss will join Juno Dawson, Lemn Sissay and Naomi Sheldon among others for The Motherhood Project. Fifteen short films will explore the guilt, joy, absurdity and taboo surrounding motherhood in this online festival of dramatic monologues and personal reflections. The films will be available on the Battersea Arts Centre website from Monday 19th April; all ticket sales will include a 50% donation to Refuge.

Curator Katherine Kotz invited writers, artists and technicians to join forces and donate their time to create exciting new pieces to support vulnerable adults and children affected by the pandemic. Interrogating the relationship between parent and child, autonomy and responsibility, dramatic pieces were contributed by Irenosen Okojie, Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, Hannah Khalil, Anya Reiss, Suhayla El Bushra in addition to Naomi Sheldon, E.V Crowe, Jodi Gray, and Katherine Kotz. Continue reading “News: Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, Athena Stevens, Anya Reiss, Juno Dawson and Lemn Sissay among the line-up for The Motherhood Project”

News: Soho Theatre’s Verity Bargate Award 2020 Longlist Revealed

Following a record number of 1,493 submissions to its Verity Bargate Award 2020, Soho Theatre today reveals the 20 plays that have been longlisted for the award. The shortlist will be announced at the end of September and the winner of the award announced in October.

Since 1982, the Verity Bargate Award, Soho Theatre’s foremost playwriting award, has uncovered the best new and emerging writers. It has launched the careers of some of Britain’s most established playwrights and screenwriters including Matt Charman (Bridge of Spies), Vicky Jones (HBO’s Run), Toby Whithouse (Doctor Who) and many, many more. This year’s award will be judged by a panel of industry experts including former Soho writers Phoebe Waller-BridgeArinzé Kene and Laura Wade, screenwriter Russell T Davies, actress and playwright Lolita Chakrabarti. The award is sponsored by Character 7 and chaired by film and television producer, Character 7’s Stephen Garrett. The Award honours Verity Bargate, Soho’s co-founder who passionately championed new writing during her time at the small but hugely influential fringe theatre, Soho Poly. Continue reading “News: Soho Theatre’s Verity Bargate Award 2020 Longlist Revealed”

Review: Don’t Waste Your Bullets On The Dead, VAULT Festival

“We need stability, not creative parenting”

If there’s one thing theatre loves, it is plays about theatre itself. You can find the likes of Red Velvet and Nell Gwynn in the West End right now but in the more vibrant land of the VAULT Festival, Freddie Machin is presenting his own contemporary take on the issue in Don’t Waste Your Bullets On The Dead. Feisty and fresh, it feels like ideal festival fare, bulging at the seams with exuberant imagination.

Theatre director Ellen Billington has been struggling to find work and her personal life is suffering too with lovemaking with her partner strictly regimented to ovulation cycles. When a chance encounter with an old colleague and a playwriting competition results in a swift commission and temporary escape to a backwater Massachusetts town, she thinks all she needs to do is let inspiration do its work but life, and art, are rarely that simple. Continue reading “Review: Don’t Waste Your Bullets On The Dead, VAULT Festival”

Review: The Merry Wives of Windsor, Royal Shakespeare Theatre

“Hang the trifle, woman”

I think I only made it Stratford once last year, partly a consequence of so much of the RSC’s work playing in London as part of one festival or another, but once the casting was announced for The Merry Wives of Windsor, I knew I would be making the trip to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre once again. This production of Shakespeare’s comedy of middle-class trials and tribulations is in modern dress but the reference point is closer to the British sitcoms of the 1970s and 80s and as with many of those television shows, it has its high points and its low points.

Alexandra Gilbreath and Sylvestra Le Touzel were thankfully the production’s highlight as Mistresses Ford and Page respectively. I’ve long been a devotee of Gilbreath and she remains an utter joy to watch on the stage. Superficially she’s something of an Essex wife here but we soon see the playful intelligence that lies behind the animal print and there’s much to enjoy as she deploys her flirtatious verve and feminine wiles – her final costume nearly converted me I tell you. And the contrast against Le Touzel is well worked: though a doughtier figure born of country life, they make believable firm friends and there’s a lovely constancy to the emotiveness with which she speaks, she touches the heart just as effectively as she tickles the ribs. Continue reading “Review: The Merry Wives of Windsor, Royal Shakespeare Theatre”

Review: Sex with a Stranger, Trafalgar Studios 2

“What are you up to tonight?”

It is always nice when a play can change your mind about a theatre. The Trafalgar Studios 2 has never been one of my favourite venues, its awkward shape and uncomfortable seating have often proved a challenge for directors and so my experiences there have definitely been a mixed bag. But Sex with a Stranger, written by Stefan Golaszewski who also pens Him and Her (not that I watch it), has slotted in extremely well with a cracking cast to tell its story of everyday disillusionment with love, sex and life. Adam and Grace hook up in a club and wind their way back to hers for a one night stand via the kebab shop and we get to see their attempts at halting conversation and forming a fumbling connection which are awkwardly, hilariously portrayed. We then skip back in time a day or so to find that Adam has left a girlfriend Ruth at home, but their relationship is no bed of roses and the stranger of the title could sadly apply to either woman.

There’s no denying that this isn’t the most substantial of works, but interestingly enough where I would happily criticise say Ayckbourn for being insubstantial to my mind, the slightness here was much more tolerable because of the connection that I felt with the writing. So much of it feels relatable and recognisable and thus it rang entirely true with me, especially in its depiction of a failing relationship. It probably wasn’t an avocado that caused it, but I’ve had that passive-aggressive moment in the supermarket; that horrible pull between partner and friends who don’t necessarily get on; that nagging sense that neither of you are on the same page. Golaszewski captures all of this so well in its raw awkwardness and uncomfortableness, which is served excellently for once in the close intimacy of the Trafalgar Studios 2 in Phillip Breen’s production. Continue reading “Review: Sex with a Stranger, Trafalgar Studios 2”

Review: Reclining Nude With Black Stockings, Arcola Theatre

“It is possible as an artist to be involved with more than one person”

Reclining Nude with Black Stockings marks Snoo Wilson’s first new play in the UK since 1999 and opens at the tiny Studio 2 at East London’s Arcola Theatre. It looks at the life and career of Expressionist painter Egon Schiele, a controversial figure known for his nude and erotic images who stood trial for seducing his 13 year old model. We see his relationship with Gustav Klimt, his key mentor who gives him one of his ex-lovers as a muse, Walli, as he fights to make his art whilst the spectre of the First World War looms on the horizon.

From what is an interesting set-up, the play ultimately frustrates and disappoints. The plot makes no attempts to really delve into the motivations or the artistic drive behind Schiele, the way he worked and the choices he made, instead just rushing through the story of his career in a series of flat scenes. There’s a missed opportunity to strongly evoke the time and place, Vienna on the cusp of the First World War, I didn’t feel enough was done to establish this, but then the introduction of a failed artist by the name of Adolf Hitler by painting a moustache on an artist’s model felt like a huge step in the wrong direction. Continue reading “Review: Reclining Nude With Black Stockings, Arcola Theatre”