Review: The Brief Life and Mysterious Death of Boris III, King of Bulgaria: Part The First, VAULT Festival

Out Of The Forest Theatre nail it once again with The Brief Life and Mysterious Death of Boris III, King of Bulgaria: Part The First at the VAULT Festival

“I did what I could…
‘Did you?'”

I would hardwire Out Of The Forest Theatre to my brain if I could, something about the way in which they think about theatre and the stories that they tell (Call Me Fury; Bury the Hatchet) proving a real shot in the arm and deserving of much bigger renown. But for now, we should rejoice in the smaller spaces in which they’re playing as the intimacy only adds to this special air.

The latest chapter of the history books to receive a breath of their bracingly fresh air is a lesser sung (in this country at least) piece of European history that manifests itself as The Brief Life and Mysterious Death of Boris III, King of Bulgaria: Part The First. Written by Joseph Cullen and Sasha Wilson, their inventive mode of storytelling probes into the mythos of that very storytelling and how history chooses to remember people. Continue reading “Review: The Brief Life and Mysterious Death of Boris III, King of Bulgaria: Part The First, VAULT Festival”

2020 VAULT Festival – 20 shows to see

Insofar as it is humanly possible for any one person to know everything that is happening at the VAULT Festival this year, I present a handful of my recommendations for 2020.

In all honesty though, I think the best thing to do is just pick a night, go down there and see what tickles your fancy – the level of quality here really is something to admire and means it’ll be very hard to end up disappointed. Take a look at their website here.

LGBT+ stories

Body Talk – 29 Jan — 02 Feb
Full Disclosure Theatre take on male body image from the gay perspective, looking at the damage that can be imposed by obsessing over it.

how we love 18 — 23 Feb
Regi and Babs are getting married. She’s a lesbian and he’s gay but they need the cover to deal with the dangers posed by the prevailing attitudes towards homosexuality in Nigeria.

Notch 19 — 23 Feb
After the devilish fun of Ladykiller, the Thelmas return with this dark meditation on migration, homelessness and obsession from Danaja Wass.

V&V 03 — 08 Mar
Exploring communication then and now, V&V contrasts love stories past and present from Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West’s love letters, to Mia and Lottie’s online missives.

Too Pretty To Punch 03 — 08 Mar
A comedy spoken word show from Edalia Day about gender and featuring original songs and video work about trans life in 21st century Britain. Continue reading “2020 VAULT Festival – 20 shows to see”

The 2019 fosterIAN award winners

Best Actress in a Play
Sarah Niles/Natalie Simpson/Racheal Ofori, Three Sisters

Best Actress in a Musical
Audrey Brisson, Amélie the Musical

Best Actor in a Play
Lucian Msamati, ‘Master Harold’…and the boys

Best Actor in a Musical
Jamie Muscato, West Side Story (Curve Leicester)

Best Supporting Actress in a Play
Monica Dolan, All About Eve

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical
Cassidy Janson/Melanie La Barrie, & Juliet 

Best Supporting Actor in a Play
Nick Holder, Faith Hope and Charity

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical
David Bedella, & Juliet

And my top 10 plays of the year:
1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Southwark Playhouse
2. Call Me Fury, Hope Theatre
3. West Side Story, Curve Leicester
4. As You Like It, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch
5. Islander, Southwark Playhouse
6. Amélie the Musical, Watermill Theatre/UK Tour/The Other Palace
7. & Juliet, Shaftesbury Theatre
8. Sexy Lamp, VAULT
9. Karaoke Play, Bunker Theatre
10. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, National Theatre

My 10 favourite shows of 2019

I barely saw 250 shows this year, quiet by my standards! And as is the way of these things, here’s a rundown of some of the productions that moved me most…

1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Southwark Playhouse
I haven’t lost it in a theatre as much as this in a good long while. I cry at all sorts but this superlative musical had me trying, and failing, to choke back huge, hacking sobs. And I can still sing some of the songs – it has to come back, surely. “It’s all just a matter of time…”

2. Call Me Fury, Hope Theatre
“This is the history we should be teaching, these are the stories we should be sharing”, this striking and soulful piece gave voice to so many whom history have ignored, and was bloody entertaining with it. 

3. West Side Story, Curve Leicester
A musical I love, in a production that I simply adored. Getting to see two WSSs in one year was a privilege and for me, it was the emotional heart of Nikolai Foster’s production that won out.

4. As You Like It, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch
The second year of the Public Acts programme comes up trumps once again with this gorgeous musical version of the Shakespeare classic, community theatre at its finest.

5. Islander, Southwark Playhouse
The magic of musical theatre distilled into two voices and a loop pedal – a marvellously inventive and endlessly moving. 

6. Amélie the Musical, Watermill Theatre/UK Tour/The Other Palace
As sweet-sharp as a diabolo grenadine, something truly gorgeous emerges from this film adaptation that simply demands you come up with better words than quirky to describe it.

7. & Juliet, Shaftesbury Theatre
Tell me why… About as much fun as you can have in the West End right now, this is a particularly fine example of the jukebox model and I want it that way.

8. Sexy Lamp, VAULT
A standout piece in a standout festival, Katie Arnstein’s brutally honest monologue about navigating the patriarchy may be lightened with songs and sweets but is no less effective for it.

9. Karaoke Play, Bunker Theatre
Deeply confessional and subtly magical, Annie Jenkins’ inter-connected monologues combined to become so much more than the sum of their parts.

10. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, National Theatre
A magical family tale, perfect for kids of all ages. Not even reading the exit poll as I left could ruin the feeling! 

Shows 11-25 under the cut

Continue reading “My 10 favourite shows of 2019”

10 questions for 10 years – Sasha Wilson

How could you not love someone who would rather have an interval pint than an ice-cream?! Out of the Forest Theatre’s Sasha Wilson gets her 10 questions on

In the space of just a handful of shows, Out of the Forest Theatre have completely won my heart, their music-infused ensemble-based approach proving utterly compelling whether exploring Lizzie Borden’s legacy in Bury the Hatchet or ripping Arthur Miller (and many others) a new one in Call Me Fury. So I was delighted that their Artistic Director Sasha Wilson, cape-wearer extraordinaire, agreed to answer 10 questions for me.

Review: What The Dolls Saw / He’s Behind You! The Slasher Panto, London Horror Festival at the Pleasance Theatre

What The Dolls Saw gives an hour of impressively chilling comedy at the London Horror Festival at the Pleasance Theatre, whilst He’s Behind You! The Slasher Panto feels like an experiment that hasn’t quite paid off

“I think I only eat quiche at funerals”

 

There can’t be anyone who isn’t at least slightly creeped out by dolls, surely. And that’s kind of what Nic Lamont is relying upon for her new play What the Dolls Saw, playing the Pleasance as part of the London Horror Festival. Drawing on fairytales, stories around the campfire, shadow puppetry and the world’s interest in true crime, she’s fashioned an hour of effectively chilling comedy.

Three wildly different sisters are brought back together to their family home by the death of their father, a renowned dollmaker. Their mother, a former child star with a dead twin (this is a horror show after all…), is naturally behaving a bit oddly but of more significance to the siblings, is the opportunity to delve into the secrets and traumas they each have buried, turning this reunion into a reckoning with chilling ramifications galore.

Continue reading “Review: What The Dolls Saw / He’s Behind You! The Slasher Panto, London Horror Festival at the Pleasance Theatre”

Review: Call Me Fury, Hope Theatre

Out of the Forest Theatre’s Call Me Fury comes highly recommended from me at the Hope Theatre

“It begins with a girl…”

In the space of just three shows, Out of the Forest Theatre have indisputably become a no-questions-asked do-what-you-can must-see company for me and so by extension, for you too. Bury The Hatchet (2018’s 7th best show as I’m sure you’ll recall) and On Your Head Be It whetted the appetite last year and now it is the turn of Call Me Fury to weave its theatrical magic at the Hope Theatre.

Using the Salem Witch Trials as a jumping-off point, writer Sasha Wilson and director and collaborator Hannah Hauer-King attempt no less than a complete recasting of the history we think we know and the societal behaviours to which we’ve unflinchingly clung. The result is a bracing history lesson cum TED talk cum musical odyssey that gives an insistent voice to those whom historians have chosen not to record. Continue reading “Review: Call Me Fury, Hope Theatre”

Review: Call Me Fury, VAULT Festival

Out of the Forest’s Call Me Fury, looks like it might become another hit show for this award-winning company

“Forget everything you know”

Fresh from their Offie-award winning success and more significantly, being named in my top 10 shows of last year, Out of the Forest Theatre return swiftly with their new play Call Me Fury, presented here as a work-in-progress by writer Sasha Wilson. And once again, she urges us to reconsider what we think of as history, whilst constructing a new narrative that seeks to redress some of that patriarchal imbalance.

This time it is the Salem Witch Trials that are the primary target, though Wilson’s forensic eye layers in so much more besides. Notions of women not being believed in courtrooms, men abusing positions of power, lies gaining a terrible currency through all levels of society – there’s a terrible timelessness to so much of the way that women have been and still are treated, history needs to teach us better but it has to be the right history. Continue reading “Review: Call Me Fury, VAULT Festival”

The finalists of The Offies 2019

Some decisions that reflect my own nominations for the year, many others for plays I haven’t seen and as ever, some curious choices too.

DESIGN
COSTUME DESIGN
Gabriella Slade for Six at the Arts Theatre
Jonathan Lipman for Harold & Maude at the Charing Cross Theatre
Pam Tait for Rothschild & Sons at the Park Theatre

SET DESIGN
Bethany Wells for Distance at the Park Theatre
Francis O’Connor for Harold & Maude at the Charing Cross Theatre
Simon Daw for Humble Boy at the Orange Tree Theatre Continue reading “The finalists of The Offies 2019”