The Understudy, Canal Cafe Theatre

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by guest critic Jo Trainor

“An actor who needs money? What a unique situation!”

A long lost Kafka play is having its premiere on Broadway. Two big Hollywood action stars are playing the leads, but the fickle nature of unseen Bruce means they’ve had to cast Harry as an understudy. Breaking the fourth wall to speak to the audience, Harry takes us through his first rehearsal with actor Jake and stage manager Roxanne.

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Feature | No, Dominic Cavendish – You Are the Thought Police

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by Dr. Jami Rogers, University of Warwick

Dominic Cavendish can rest assured: he will not lose the opportunity to see his favourite (white) male actors in leading Shakespearean roles. After all, what producer would refuse Kenneth Branagh the chance to play Leontes in The Winter’s Tale or stop inviting Ralph Fiennes to work his way through the classical canon? The star system remains overwhelmingly skewed towards the (white) male and, as such, any (white) male classical actor who fancies it will most likely be first in line for a West End Shakespearean lead. Antony Sher has just played King Lear and Simon Russell Beale showed us his Prospero, to name two more male classical actors who are not exactly short of Shakespearean work. Cavendish’s opinion piece is misguided in its assertion that men are an endangered species on the classical stage – and somewhat light on facts.

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The Wild Party, The Other Palace

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Newly rebranded as The Other Palace and now part of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s empire, the former St Jame’s Theatre aims to focus on new British musical theatre. With Paul Taylor-Mills at the creative helm and two spaces in which to develop and showcase new work from the UK, their debut production is…(drumroll)…an American musical from 2000. An odd choice considering the Broadway production nearly two decades ago left critics unimpressed.

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Mouths In a Glass, Hope Theatre

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by guest critic Alistair Wilkinson

Having never been to The Hope Theatre before, I am impressed by the intimacy of being in a space that only seated fifty audience members at a time. It’s a shame that Mouths In A Glass has a small crowd, resulting in a shortage energy.

Perhaps it is this that leads to a lacklustre performance on stage, resulting in a rather basic delivery. The narrative doesn’t flow and the majority of the comedy falls flat. There are occasional laughs in the audience, however they seemed to come from family and friends.

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Boy Stroke Girl, Etcetera Theatre

By guest critic Jo Trainor

“There aren’t many feminine girls who like Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes, and vintage motorcycles.”

This line comes after protagonist Peter has met Blue, a non-binary waiter stroke artist, and is trying to explain to his friends why he’s interested in Blue. His friend Sara says this infuriating phrase as part of an explanation as to why Peter has been attracted to tomboys in the past and so might still fancy Blue if they turn out to be male. Peter responds by saying that he doesn’t really respect women who dress in a feminine way. 

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On the Crest of a Wave, VAULT Festival

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Camilla Whitehill’s grandmother died when her dad was 10 years old. He never talked much about her, but Camilla is fascinated by this woman she never met. Inspired by familial memory and grief, Whitehill and five other theatre makers draw on their own histories to create a playful homage to the endurance of family stories. It’s a joyful experience with a retro seaside aesthetic and a big heart, though lacking in polish and a consistent throughline.

Whitehill’s dad is present through excerpts of a recorded interview that are often difficult to hear what with the acoustic challenges of the space. More effective is her conversational discussion about her grandmother Valerie. There’s music and spirited banter from the cast of four, with some transitions clearer than others. When the story abruptly shifts to that of a local beauty queen, it isn’t immediately clear that this is a totally different set of people. Valerie is the primary focus of the piece, and the other stories that make appearances aren’t given as much stage time, which causes a lack of balance and thematic consistency.

The cast’s charm and enthusiasm are undeniable, as is their commitment to sharing the stories of their ancestors. The appeal of the piece comes more from this and the need to share stories than its construction. But that’s not to say On the Crest of a Wave wouldn’t stand up to further development and streamlining the execution of its intention. It’s certainly one to watch.

On the Crest of a Wave runs through 19 February.

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