News: writers and cast for Living Newspaper #4

Bukky Bakray, Stacey Gregg, Tanika Gupta, Ellie Kendrick, Sabrina Mahfouz, Nathaniel Martello-White, Eoin McAndrew, Caitlin McEwan, Rachel Nwokoro, Annie Siddons, Stef Smith, Caro Black Tam, Ed Thomas, and Michael Wynne will write Edition 4 of the Royal Court’s Living Newspaper.

A sideways look at the people who govern us. A space for protest. Because we can’t party without protest and we can’t heal without it either.

Edition 4 will feature Rishi Sunak as your romantic Indian soap hero, sign language interpreters prepping for a Covid briefing at the Northern Irish Assembly, a teenager watching the End SARS protests play out on Instagram, a love letter to Nicola Sturgeon, an internet boy who becomes a museum piece, an unravelling of Peruvian independence day celebrations and a box office supervisor who tells it like it is. Continue reading “News: writers and cast for Living Newspaper #4”

News, such theatre news!

It’s so exciting to have an inbox full of theatre announcements – here’s a recap of some of the ones that are most piquing my interest at the moment

The Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield and The Dukes, Lancaster announce the full cast of their digital co-production of The Importance of Being Earnest by Yasmeen Khan.

The full cast is Gurjeet Singh (Ackley Bridge, Wuthering Heights), Tom Dixon (Twelfth Night, Romeo & Juliet), Mina Anwar (Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, The Thin Blue Line), Nikki Patel (Trojan HorseCoronation Street), Zoe Iqbal (Finding Fatimah, Ackley Bridge) and Melanie Marshall (Jane Eyre); with appearances from finalist of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK Divina De Campo, star of stage and screen Paul Chahidi, award-winning actor, comedian and writer Hugh Dennis, actress Harriet Thorpe (Absolutely Fabulous) and  comedian Sindhu Vee. Continue reading “News, such theatre news!”

September theatre round-up

A quick round-up of the rest of September’s shows

Mary Said What She Said, aka how far I will go for Isabelle Huppert
The Provoked Wife, aka how far I will go for Alexandra Gilbreath
A Doll’s House, aka if we must have more Ibsen, at least it is like this
Falsettos, aka finding the right way, for me, to respond
The Comedy Grotto, aka a sneaky peak at Joseph Morpurgo
The Life I Lead, aka something really rather sweet
Blues in the Night, aka all hail Broadway-bound Sharon D Clarke (and Debbie Kurup, and Clive Rowe too)
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, aka well why not go again Continue reading “September theatre round-up”

News – Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival begins

Monday 14th November sees the launch of the Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival at Hampstead Theatre and The Actors Centre. Produced by Sphinx Theatre Company and Joanna Hedges, Women Centre Stage exists to promote, advocate for and inspire women in the arts and has developed and commissioned a wide range of new work which uniquely brings together a diverse array of women characters far from the margins into centre stage.

This is the second year of Women Centre Stage and the festival features a range of workshops and creative comings-together which will culminate in the Performance Day on Sunday 20th November which will feature seven programmes throughout the day. This will include opportunities to see emerging work from new and established writers, plays commissioned from last year’s festival, and see four playwrights respond the headlines of the day in writing a new play each in 24 hours. 

Continue reading “News – Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival begins”

Review: Acts of Defiance – The Festival, Theatre503

“I’m in a cop car
I got here by accident
I think”

Produced by Mama Quilla and Theatre503, Acts of Defiance is a multidisciplinary festival which is “an explosive examination of female dissidence and a shameless celebration of global female defiance”. Film, spoken word, community-based work sit alongside a programme of six short plays, curated by Kay Adshead, which fold in a world of influences – feminism, diversity, sexuality, race, motherhood – to their tales of defiance, all accompanied to brilliant effect by Rosie Bergonzi’s percussion, evoking both the freeing beauty of dancing in a gay club to the fear of being caught in urban nightmare with the beat of her drum.

Once the cast found their feet, opening playlet The Nightclub by Chloe Todd Fordham proved to be one of the most quietly affecting. Directed with graceful economy by Rachel Valentine Smith, the tales of three disparate American women – an 85 year old recent widow, a middle-aged mother estranged from her daughter, a young Muslim (Marlene Sidaway, Kiran Sonia Sawar, Karlina Grace-Paseda respectively) – all searching for something different yet fatefully entwined together. Continue reading “Review: Acts of Defiance – The Festival, Theatre503”

Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s Globe

“Gentles, perchance you wonder at this show. But wonder on, till ’truth make all things plain”

Above the stage for Emma Rice’s inaugural production as artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe is an illuminated sign that reads “rock the ground”. A quote from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which is the opening show of this season, it also feels like something of a statement of intent, a determination to do things her own which on this evidence, feels guaranteed to ruffle the feathers of a traditionalist or three. 

So lights are being used like never before, sound systems only previously heard at gigs dusted off, and a resolutely idiosyncratic approach to the text employed. At times, it feels like a raucous rough-housing which makes for a different Bankside experience at the very least, and one which I have to say got round to seducing me. I’m sure Rice will have her detractors, as she moves from Kneehigh to the Globe,  but the scope of her ambition here is rather awesome in its boldness. Continue reading “Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s Globe”

Review: Anita and Me, Theatre Royal Stratford East

“Now here’s a little story
To tell it is a must”

One gets the feeling that had Anita and Me decided whether it wanted to be a full-blown musical or a straight play adorned by a little music, it might have been a much more successful version of Meera Syal’s novel. But as it is, Tanika Gupta’s adaptation and Roxana Silbert’s direction is marooned in a hinterland between the two, packed too full with material trying to fulfil both remits and so it can be quite the frustrating watch.

The source material is definitely there, Syal’s semi-autobiographical portrait of growing up in the West Midlands in the 1970s is full of insight and warmly old-fashioned charm. Cosseted in the vibrant home of her Punjabi parents, Meena’s teenage rebellion takes the form of throwing her lot in with neighbour Anita to help her better integrate into the society she longs to be a part of, something complicated only slightly by the ingrained racism of said society. Continue reading “Review: Anita and Me, Theatre Royal Stratford East”

Review: Great Expectations, ETT at Watford Palace

“I want to be a gentleman”

English Touring Theatre’s production of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations relocates the story of Pip’s advancement to nineteenth century India in this thrilling adaptation by Tanika Gupta. A poor village boy, Pip is given the chance to better himself after a frightening encounter with a convict and an engagement to regularly visit the reclusive Miss Havisham sets him on a new path that allows him to dream of being more than a village cobbler’s assistant. And when an anonymous benefactor allows him to move to Calcutta, the heart of the British Raj, he is free to pursue his dream of becoming a proper gentleman, part of the educated elite, in order to win the heart of the coldly alluring Estella.

Gupta’s reimagining works extremely well because Pip’s journey, with his aspirations to rise above his class and status, is given even greater impact by the fact that he is casting aside his cultural identity too, his Indianness, in the search to become the perfect educated gentleman, just like one of the ruling English. This makes the transformation he seeks to effect upon himself all the more dramatic, as depicted in a wonderful scene where he dons the waistcoat and cravat of his new station, and then provides a powerfully meaningful final transition in the last scene as he ultimately comes to recognise what his true self is. But also mixed in is another layer of racial tension: Magwitch becomes a black African convict, Estella is Miss Havisham’s “African princess” and so Gupta keeps the interplay much more universal than a simplistic Asian updating and she is unafraid to show both the comedy and violence in the story in its starkest forms.


Director Nikolai Foster (no relation!) manages the achievement of a great sense of fluidity to proceedings which is all the more remarkable when one considers that there’s 31 scenes here, reflecting the serialised way in which the story was originally published. Pulling in elements of traditional dance from Zoobin Surty and music from Nicki Wells (with Nitin Sawhney onboard as musical advisor too), the atmosphere is set perfectly and well-matched by Colin Richmond’s design with its saffron-dyed gauzy curtains which allows us to move effortlessly from murky graveyards to the burning sun of the village, from shadowed dusty corridors in mansions, to the bustling city streets of Calcutta and much more. Energy crackles from all aspects, from cast members bursting through the stalls to bowls of incense being lit in front of us, to create a real theatrical experience.

Tariq Jordan is exceptional as Pip, starting off as the naive youth oblivious to anything but his own desires and progressing slowly as experience is acquired, hearts broken, friends gained, dreams shattered, charting his maturing from boy to man and never letting us forget Pip’s humanity even when he is at his most blinkered. But this is a strong ensemble throughout: from Tony Jayawardena’s beautifully warm Joe Gargery and Kiran Landa’s wise-beyond-her-years Biddy, to Lynn Farleigh’s near-dessicated Miss Havisham and Simone James’ emotionally estranged Estella, there’s a real sense of clarity to all the characterisations here. Giles Cooper’s ever-so-English Herbert Pocket was a particular delight, as was Jude Akuwudike’s raw energy as Magwitch.

The only real criticism I found was that a couple of the more emotional moments were too heavily underscored by the swelling score that felt more akin to a Hollywood film, yanking at the heartstrings instead of playing to the more subtle poignancy of the actual play. But minor quibble aside, this is a superbly effective reimagining of Great Expectations which breathes a new vibrancy into this well-known story, which remains highly recognisable (the character of Orlick was the only one I could think of that has been omitted) and provides it with a timeless resonance, none more so than at the beginning of the final scene where a public speaker exhorts his crowd of listeners to “rise up brothers…break the shackles…we must argue our case for our right to determine the affairs of our own country”.

Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes (with interval)
Playtext cost: £3.50
Booking until March 12th then touring to Cambridge, Brighton, Richmond, Guildford, Oxford and Malvern

Originally reviewed for The Public Reviews