News: The Mono Box launch The Monologue Library

I mean, just look at this absolute treasure trove of theatrical talent! 

 

I’m off to listen to Patsy Ferran read Tom Wells, and Gabby Wong read Alexi Kaye Campbell, and Sarah Niles read Winsome Pinnock and…and…

This incredible resource is free but like so many creative endeavours right now, would benefit hugely from your donations here

 

Not-a-Review: The Haystack, Hampstead Theatre

I like spy dramas, and Sarah Woodward and Sirine Saba, but The Haystack, at the Hampstead Theatre, is not the one

“Yes, we’re geeks, yes, we sit at computers all day, yes, we barely leave Cheltenham, but we are still, when it comes down to it, spies”

 

Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes (with interval)
Photo: Ellie Kurtz
The Haystack is booking at the Hampstead Theatre until 12th March

TV Review: Doctor Who Series 12

Series 12 of Doctor Who goes hard on what we think we know about the Time Lord and finishes in a blaze of glory

“You can be a pacifist tomorrow. Today you just need to survive”

I don’t think I have ever minded anything that happened in Doctor Who so much that I have declared it cancelled, even at the point where all the magnificent character development by Catherine Tate’s Donna was undone in a plot point of real cruelty. So it is hard to take so-called fans of the show seriously when torrents of complaints are unleashed about the sanctity of a world of science fiction that has long enjoyed challenging and expanding what we know about characters we love. (See my Episode 1 review here.)

So it should come as little surprise that I really rather enjoyed series 12 of Doctor Who. Across the season as a whole, I felt that Jodie Whittaker has settled more into the role, especially as the writers feel more confident in finding her voice. And the balancing act of having three companions in the TARDIS has been more assured now that the business of introducing them is over, allowing the group to splinter off for large chunks of episodes has allowed much more of their characters to shine through, particularly for Mandip Gill’s Yaz (who I am mightily glad survived that final episode – I thought she was doomed after her chat with Graham). Continue reading “TV Review: Doctor Who Series 12”

Not-a-review: Botticelli in the Fire, Hampstead Theatre

Blanche and Britney ought to be a winning combination bur Botticelli in the Fire at the Hampstead Theatre is a damp squib

“They’re going to kill you. They’re going to worship you, don’t get me wrong. But they are going to kill you”

I’ve long been a fan of Blanche McIntyre and so appreciate any opportunity to see her direct away from the RSC. Jordan Tanahill’s knowingly chaotic Botticelli in the Fire is full of all kinds of riotous energy and queer representation but for me, it just wasn’t the one.

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Photo: Manuel Harlan
Botticelli in the Fire is booking at the Hampstead Theatre until 23rd November

Review: Goats, Royal Court

“Has anyone ever told the truth?”

Can I recommend Goats, even with live goats appearing onstage with the cast? Not by the hairs on my chinny chin chin. There’s definitely something interesting at the nub of Liwaa Yazji’s play, based on so many real events from her native Syria, but it has yet to achieve dramatically effective form. Whether lost in translation into English (by Katharine Halls) or onto the stage (by Hamish Pirie), it is hard-going indeed.

The problem is a pace that is stultifyingly slow. And in a society completely riven by conflict, increasingly divested of its young blood by rising death tolls, it shouldn’t be so. As Yazji interrogates the madness of an ongoing civil war, where the families of dead soldiers are rewarded for their sacrifice with the gift of a goat, where neither side can really be considered ‘good’, where the role of propaganda muddies the water even further, the potential is clear. Continue reading “Review: Goats, Royal Court”

TV Review: Unforgotten Series 2

“You might put me in prison but let me tell you this: you can’t judge me unless you’ve had it done to you.”

Blimey, I knew Unforgotten was good (here’s my Episode 1 review, and my Series 1 review) but I wasn’t expecting it to be this soul-shatteringly excellent. More fool me I suppose, Nicola Walker is a god among mortals and her presence alone is reliably proving a harbinger of excellence, but allied to Chris Lang’s scorching writing, it’s hard to imagine that we’ll see much better television than this before the year is out. 

That it managed this by using elements that have been seen recently (historical child sex abuse as per Line of Duty; the Strangers on a Train twist featured in Silent Witness just last month) and imbuing them with a compelling freshness is impressive enough, but the way in which it revealed this at the mid-point of the series and yet still had hooks and surprises aplenty to keep me gripped right until the bitterly haunting end.  Continue reading “TV Review: Unforgotten Series 2”

Review: The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures, Hampstead Theatre

“The best thing I ever did was the worst thing I ever did. And it all came to nothing. It makes no sense to anyone, what we did, it’s written in a language no one reads anymore, it’s… incredible”

Tony Kushner’s The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures has been given the moniker #iHo for short, though quite why that impulse has kicked in now is not clear, for the play is a hard-going three and a half hours full of wordily complex pontifications. The mechanics of social media aside, to suggest that it can be encapsulated in a three letter hashtag feels crudely reductive.

The play centres on the Marcantonio family, a brood of Italian-Americans summoned back to their Brooklyn brownstone by patriarch Gus who has decided to commit suicide. He says it is because of encroaching Alzheimer’s but it is his ideals that this former Communist has lost rather than his marbles, and it is this crisis that sparks off lengthy debate after lengthy debate about faith and politics, socialism and America with his three adult children and their motley collection of partners. Continue reading “Review: The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures, Hampstead Theatre”

Review: Refugees Welcome, Southwark Playhouse

“We’re privileged to welcome you here”

Something a bit different for a Sunday but definitely worthwhile, Refugees Welcome saw a curated collection of performances exploring the themes of displacement, exodus and the humanitarian disaster of the refugee crisis through the medium of theatre, comedy and poetry. Organised by David Mercatali in support of Calais Action and all their advocacy work as well as aid support for displaced people in camps and hotspots across Europe, it proved a powerful programme of thought-provoking work.

For me, it was most fascinating to how consider how theatre in particular responds to contemporary crises, the speed of response somewhat limited by form, the nature of response dictated by swift-changing news agendas. So the excerpt from Anders Lustgarten’s 2015 play Lampedusa, performed by Louise Mai Newberry and the playwright, felt horribly like last year’s news because we’re not being still confronted with the images of overcrowded boats crossing the Med. But the snippet of Tess Berry-Hart’s Cargo, soon to be seen at the Arcola, reminded us that this is not a problem that is going away, and that (certain) theatres are not shying away from. Continue reading “Review: Refugees Welcome, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: The Invisible, Bush Theatre

“When I was growing up the poor were seen as unfortunates. Now they’re seen as manipulative. Grasping. Scroungers. It’s very sad”

Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s new drama The Invisible finds itself caught between two stools really – nominally a play about the effects of the decimating cuts to the Legal Aid system, it tries so hard not to be full of such dry legalese, instead focusing on the lives of the people who would use it – who desperately need it – that it almost goes too far in becoming something else entirely. Sponsored by The Law Society as it is with a supporting leaflet giving facts and figures, it’s thus a surprise that this is how it plays out.

At the heart of it all in Gail, an overworked solicitor working in a London law centre that is being threatened with closure due to Coalition cuts and from her spins the spider-web of stories. Like the Irishman who can’t pay his bills, or the Pakistani housewife being abused by her husband and mother-in-law. Gail tries to find some respite in online dating but even there she’s tracked down by a man looking for free legal advice – Lenkiewicz leaves us in no doubt as to just how many people have relied on this service and now find themselves in dire straits. Continue reading “Review: The Invisible, Bush Theatre”

Review: Fireworks (Al’Ab Nariya), Royal Court

“Whoever gets back to the front door first without getting shot, wins”
Fireworks 
Running time: 90 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 14th March

In a nameless and besieged Palestinian town Lubna and Khalil, 11 and 12 respectively, live with the consequences of growing up in the middle of a war. Khalil loves the Ninja Turtles, oscillates between violence and sensitivity, teeters on the brink of adolescence and perplexes his parents — played with conviction by Nabil Elouahabi and Shereen Martin.
For her part Lubna feasts on the fireworks that illuminate the night sky. Except, of course, they’re not fireworks but bombs. She must also deal with her first period and realising she doesn’t have any proper friends, while her parents (Sirine Saba and Saleh Bakri) struggle to make sense of the death of their son. The children are in effect housebound. Everyone around them fears for their safety, and their psychological wounds fester. By concentrating on their experience, Dalia Taha’s play offers a refreshingly oblique perspective on the conflict in Gaza.
Director Richard Twyman elicits poised and tender performances from the younger cast members (on press night Yusuf Hofri as Khalil and Shakira Riddell-Morales as Lubna). The result is a painful, unsettling vision of precarious lives.