Hamlet Fool, Lion & Unicorn Theatre

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A lesson: always read press releases in full. Why? Because you might turn up to a show and discover it’s performed in Russian (when you don’t speak Russian). At least in this instance knowing the source material for Hamlet Fool, a one-woman street performance style retelling Shakespeare’s classic, provides a base knowledge.

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My Country; a work in progress, Theatre Royal Stratford East

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After 52% of 72% of the British voting population voted to leave the EU, Rufus Norris’s concern that London theatre was out of touch with the majority of British people drove him to launch a nationwide project of listening. He sent a team of ‘gatherers’ to all corners of these sceptered isles, and they collected 70 interviews from people up and down the country. The transcriptions combined with text by Carol Ann Duffy gave birth to My Country; a work in progress.

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The Kite Runner, Playhouse Theatre

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By guest critic Alistair Wilkinson

A father and a son. Two best friends. Immigration, refugees and global politics. It’s the mid-1970’s and Kabul is enjoying a time of peace and tranquillity. That is until a violent war engulfs Afghanistan tearing apart the friendship of Amir and Hassan. After a terrible incident alters their life forever, The Kite Runner is a story about guilt and redemption.

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I Know You of Old, Hope Theatre

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Hero’s coffin lies in a candlelit chapel of rest, draped in lace, overlooked by a portrait of the virgin Mary. Her cousin Beatrice and her lover Claudio quietly mourn the young woman, but their friend Benedick disrupts their grief. The characters are from Much Ado About Nothing of course, but this is not Much Ado About Nothing. David Fairs rips apart Shakespeare’s script to create a totally new story with Shakespeare’s verse and characters, I Know You of Old.

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The Misanthrope, Drayton Arms

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Exchange Theatre sets The Misanthrope in a contemporary newsroom full of gossip, affairs, backstabbing and cocaine-fueled all-nighters. Alceste loathes the way his colleagues behave, but fancies the flirtatious Celimene in spite of his prejudices. His jealousy and inability to be polite to his colleagues causes a litany of issues that play out over their broadcasts, eventually leading to his lonely downfall.

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The English Heart, Etcetera Theatre

Politics is a veritable pick n’ mix of source material for playwrights, and new works inspired by Trump and Brexit abound. No doubt we’ll soon see a wave of hot takes on the debacle that continues to be the general election. Writer Matthew Campling attempts it with his rapid response work set in Boston, Lincolnshire, where Leave votes had the highest national percentage. Framed by a local couple and their new neighbour, a city boy who wants a quiet, weekend pad in the countryside, The English Heart attempts to be a fast-paced, political, sex farce but doesn’t manage to settle on a political metaphor or writing style. 

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Tristan and Yseult, Shakespeare’s Globe

By guest critic Maeve Campbell

The audience enter a Globe theatre transformed into ‘The Club of the Unloved’, populated by a chorus of anorak wearing, bird-watching members. We are serenaded by a virtuosic Roy Orbison cover, foreshadowing the production’s impeccable soundtrack, performed by a slick live band. What follows is a show that is silly, scrappy and homemade looking, and at the same time unfeasibly magical. 

Based on a medieval folk tale, The Cornish King Mark has intentions to marry Yseult, sister of his defeated Irish enemy. He sends his loyal French knight Tristan to kidnap her. But he’s sexy and she’s sexy, and it’s love at first sip of a magical potion. Here ensues a messy love triangle and an anguished discovery of betrayal. 
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