The Mutant Man, Space Arts Centre

315_The Mutant Man @ The Space. Photo by Greg Goodale

By guest reviewer Maeve Campbell

Contemporary pop culture is awash with true crime stories: NPR’s Serial, HBO’s The Jinx and Netflix’s Making of a Murder are just a few titles that have recently gripped public imagination. It is therefore not surprising that two plays about the life of Harry Crawford, born Eugenia Falleni in 1875, have been dramatised in the last few years. The Trouble with Harry by Lachlan Philpot played in Melbourne in 2014 and now Christopher Bryant’s The Mutant Man comes to the Space Arts Centre.
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Chinglish, Park Theatre

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Since the Print Room came under fire for whitewashing a Howard Barker play set in China earlier this year, three notable productions featuring East Asian actors graced UK stages. At different venues and produced by different companies, they were too close in time to the Print Room’s racism and to each other to be a deliberate, unified challenge. Instead, they optimistically indicate a sea change in on-stage visibility of East Asian actors. Perhaps they will no longer be relegated to silent maids, martial artists and geeky mathematicians; instead they will take on leading roles that showcase the diverse talent of British theatre.

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Escape the Scaffold, Theatre 503

Escape the Scaffold

Grace and Marcus are a picture perfect, upper-middle class married couple, even with their opposing politics. They own their own home by their late 20s, she’s an artist and writer, and he works for the government. Nothing is as it seems on the surface, though. When radical old friend Aaron turns up much to Grace’s delight and Marcus’ resentment, the threesome’s complicated history stemming their student days is gradually relived over dinner. A series of fragmented, vague flashbacks interspersed with a confused present muddies truth, lies and allusions to a violent, dystopian world outside the tidy, suburban house – but there is a pronounced lack of overriding purpose to the messy story. 

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Big Guns, Yard Theatre

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Do social media and violence against women go hand in hand? Are we all rendered voyeurs or exhibitionists by the internet? Is the web the downfall of society? Nina Segal’s two-hander Big Guns suggests that the answer to these big questions is a resounding “yes”. The relentless delivery of violent imagery doesn’t tell us anything new about the modern world, but in its red-soaked telling, Segal forces us to take a look at ourselves and decreasing sensitivity to the horrors around us.

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Dark Vanilla Jungle, Theatre N16

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Andrea isn’t very well. In solitary confinement at some sort of secure facility, she has no one to talk to other than those who briefly visit and those who live in her head. It’s likely the audience is the latter, as her monologue reveals the story of a young woman unstoppably desperate to love and be loved. This desperate runs so deep that she conjures a past relationship with a vegetative amputee she encounters in passing at a hospital, and goes on to do Very Bad Things that land her in this facility.

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a profoundly affectionate, passionate devotion to someone (-noun), Royal Court

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There are loads of jokes and stereotypes about life within a heterosexual relationship – women talk too much, men don’t understand the difficulties of pregnancy, LTRs feel like a burden, and so forth. Of course each relationship has its unique aspects, but there are common elements that often make generalisations about love ring true. Writer/director debbie tucker green discards many of the trappings of character specificity to expose universal truths about love and relationships in a powerful, moving script with elemental staging that taps into common experience.

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Tamburlaine, Arcola Theatre

Stylistically revolutionary as it was when first written, Marlowe’s Tamburlaine is still a clumsy brute of a play (not unlike Shakespeare’s first tragedy, Titus Andronicus) that has plenty of challenges when it comes to its staging. But the messy and violent journey from common thief to emperor includes some extraordinary moments that appealed to wider audiences in a way that went on to shape Shakespeare and his other contemporaries. There are shadows of the Richard III, Mark Anthony and Henry VI that are yet to come, and delightful to behold in this rarely staged play. Director Ng Choon Ping trims a lot of the excess script and gives it a clean, quick pace but in doing so, the story loses rigour. In an attempt to it tidy up, the story is flattened to a relentless quest with little light and shade.

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