Review: Tomorrow, Above the Arts

“Nothing that bad is going to happen tonight”

They say you should never go back but sometimes it’s just too hard to resist. I really enjoyed Samuel Evans’ Tomorrow when it played at the White Bear Theatre last year (review here) and so was pleased to hear that it was receiving a new run in the studio of Above the Arts Theatre. The play has been revamped and rejigged, and mostly recast (oddly enough, I just saw Natey Jones – who starred last time round – this weekend in Don Quixote for the RSC!) for this production and so I was intrigued to see how it would fare on this second viewing.

And I think it holds up well. Evans’ dystopian set-up suggests some kind of sci-fi epic but what we actually get is something powerfully, domestically, intimate. The world is on the precipice of something momentous as in the midst of apocalyptic happenings, including the sudden death of David Cameron, a “perfect tomorrow” has been predicted, when all will change – though no-one knows exactly how. And to celebrate, Clive has decide to host a party in his Elephant & Castle tower block flat, he’s even bought in some of those breaded prawns that everyone loves. Continue reading “Review: Tomorrow, Above the Arts”

Review: Tomorrow, White Bear Theatre

“Sit down, have a sausage roll”

What if the sun didn’t come out tomorrow? In Samuel Evans’ dystopian miniature, that’s a distinct possibility as a series of global apocalyptic happenings – as rather neatly surmised in a news broadcast that is playing as we enter the theatre – have led to tomorrow being declared as the end of the world and the beginning of, well, something new. Or so the people gathered in Clive’s front room on the 15th floor of an Elephant and Castle tower block hope.

Whistlestop Theatre’s production of Tomorrow at the White Bear Theatre in Kennington hinges on two key aspects here and delivers strongly on both – a thought-provoking approach to the genre that forces a fresh appraisal, and the kind of hyper-localism that money just can’t buy. There’s something hugely appropriate about being able to see where a play is set (more or less) from the front door of the venue, especially when writing and direction combine as effectively and sensitively as they do here. Continue reading “Review: Tomorrow, White Bear Theatre”

Review: Tory Boyz – National Youth Theatre of Great Britain at the Ambassadors Theatre

“The Tory party is the gayest of them all”

The National Youth Theatre originally commissioned James Graham’s Tory Boyz back in 2008 and given its success, they asked him to update the play so it could form part of their West End repertory season. To describe the Conservative Party’s attitudes towards homosexuality is a near impossibility – whilst the Same Sex Marriage Bill was admirably forced through by Cameron’s administration, the debates around it revealed huge rifts, bemoaning the encroachment of the “aggressive homosexual community” and the spectacular ‘activate the lesbian queen’ debacle – yet it has always been a party with gay members. And it is this dichotomy that Graham explores, how the compatibility of homosexuality and Conservatism has evolved over the years and whether, in this day and age, it does or should matter.

Sam (Simon Lennon) is a Tory researcher working in the busy office of an education minister. He’s out to his colleagues but with one eye on a more frontline political position in the near future, he’s more than content to keep it on the QT, much to the chagrin of his fresh-faced Labour opposite number James (Tom Prior) who is trying to coax him into the relationship that they both crave. The discovery that he is working in the same office that Ted Heath started his own career in inspires Sam to research that man and the rumours that swirled around his sexuality – scenes that we see played out in flashback – and in an additional plot, Sam also visits a secondary school to try and engage a disinterested group in politics with a weekly mock-Parliament set up, something which in turn also threatens to lead him to a stronger self-understanding. Continue reading “Review: Tory Boyz – National Youth Theatre of Great Britain at the Ambassadors Theatre”

Review: Prince of Denmark – National Youth Theatre of Great Britain at the Ambassadors Theatre

“How can we know what we’re capable of”

Premiered in 2010, Prince of Denmark is Michael Lesslie’s prequel to Hamlet and coming out of the National Theatre Connections programme, it has a strong teen focus making it an ideal part of the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain’s season at the Ambassadors Theatre. Set some 10 years or so before the events of Shakespeare’s play, Lesslie focuses on the younger inhabitants of Elsinore and imagines how they might have interacted as teenagers, sowing the seeds for what we know is to come.

It is a slight piece, barely an hour long, and director Anthony Banks has wisely decided to augment it with atmospheric sequences – whether the testosterone fuelled swordplay, including some very nifty foot flicks, or the beautiful harmonies of musical interludes, there’s a sense of teenage ennui being batted away at every turn as life in the royal court trundles on. At the heart of it is Hamlet, the prince who thinks he wants to be treated like a normal man, but with the arrival of brother and sister Laertes and Ophelia comes an increased emotional volatility. Continue reading “Review: Prince of Denmark – National Youth Theatre of Great Britain at the Ambassadors Theatre”

Review: Romeo and Juliet – National Youth Theatre of Great Britain at the Ambassadors Theatre

“Two households, both alike in dignity, In Camden Town, where we lay our scene”

Who better to tell stories of youthful (over-)exuberance than a group of exuberant youths. The National Youth Theatre of Great Britain’s 2013 Autumn season ‘Coming of Age’ continues with a West End residency of three plays, performed in rep at the Ambassadors Theatre. 

First up is Lolita Chakrabarti’s adaptation of Romeo and Juliet which relocates the play to the vibrant but cut-throat world of Camden market in the mid-1980s. In the shadow of long dole queues and the rise of a violent sub-culture, this tale of teenage “star-cross’d lovers” is recast in a new light and indeed a new sound, accompanied by a ska and New Wave-heavy soundtrack, performed live to form a cinematically aural backdrop where needed. It creates a vividly energetic atmosphere and one which charges the production with a fresh vibrancy.   Continue reading “Review: Romeo and Juliet – National Youth Theatre of Great Britain at the Ambassadors Theatre”