The Boy and the Mermaid, Waterman’s Arts Centre

A boy and his gran live in a lighthouse, high on a cliff. The town below them is a pile of houses where fisherfolk live who love tea and are wary of anyone from outside the town. Mythical creatures live in the depths of the sea that swirls below the cliff and supports the fishing boats, protected by the long-lost silver shell. Some of the creatures are friendly and some less so, but the fisherfolk think all of them are threats. The boy and his gran eventually need to intervene to help the fisherfolk understand that just because someone is from somewhere else, that doesn’t make them a bad person.

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Jam, Finborough Theatre

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by guest critic Simona Negretto

There is always something unsettling and creepy about our memories of school. Almost everyone had “that” teacher who tends to reappear as a projection of our fears during stormy nights all through our life. But on those nights, teachers might find students in their nightmares too.

Matt Parvin’s claustrophobic play, Jam, shows how it is when those incubi become real. In a countryside school on a Thursday evening, Bella’s plans to leave her classroom are changed by the arrival of Kane, an ex-pupil with ADHD who haunted her past and forced her to rebuild her life elsewhere. He comes seeking confrontation, and old wounds, never quite healed, are reopened.

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Snapshot, Hope Theatre

Brian Martin and Joey Akubeze in Snapshot at the Hope Theatre. Photo: Will Austin

James and Daniel are chalk and cheese, and very much in love. The unemployed photographer and Canary Wharf stockbroker are adorably domestic, but both are hiding secrets. When James’ uni mate and ex-girlfriend Olivia vengefully reveals one of them, this irrevocably opens the floodgates to the rest. Excellent performances give this domestic drama its punch. Whilst the script is far from groundbreaking, it’s an accurate reflection of human intentions and fallibility.

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35 Amici Drive, Lyric Hammersmith

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Council block 35 Amici Drive and the pub attached to it are earmarked for demolition. Luxury flats and commercial retail units will replace it, and plans to rehouse current residents are vague. Money-grubbing developers and local counsellors push for “positive change” but those who live there are having none of it.

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Catch Me, Underbelly Southbank

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by guest critic Rebecca JS Nice

The Underbelly Festival Southbank is like a mini Edinburgh Festival where visitors cocoon between pop up bars, fake grass, fairy lights and giant flowerpots have a sense of exclusivity, as they wonder through to enjoy the bars as much as the shows. This vibe will stay all summer and I will no doubt be returning to sip Pimm’s in the sun whether I have show tickets or not. But having seen both currently billed shows twice now, in Edinburgh and London, their quality, popularity and longevity cannot be argued.

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The Color Purple in Concert, Cadogan Hall

By guest critic Alistair Wilkinson

Thunderous applause from the audience welcomes the cast as they take their starting positions. It is evident that I am in the company of committed fans and, being a show that I have been enamoured of three times on Broadway, I was eagerly awaiting what was to come.

Tyrone Huntley as Harpo is the real star of the show. His entrance brings a needed energy shift after a weak start, and totally ignites the stage. The youthful passion he conveys shows a desire to always give his best performance. In years to come, Huntley will be one of those names up there with the musical theatre greats; his charisma and charm perfectly blend with his gorgeous tone and wide vocal range. It’s a shame that he is let down a bit by his co-star who seems to not have the sass required to play Sofia. Her lack of strength is disappointing and leads to an uninteresting performance.
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Richard III, Arcola Theatre

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As the audience enters, Richard sits at a pub table on an otherwise bare stage. It’s impossible not to watch him until the house lights dim, and this opening sets the tone for the two and a half hours to come. With generically modern costume and no clear concept, Mehmet Ergen’s interpretation employs a light touch on the design elements. However his focus on the text and story is on point, making this an easy to follow and engaging production. Staged in the Arcola’s main house where the audience closes in on three sides of the stage, this is the sort of space that brings out the best in Shakespeare’s energy and language.

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Manwatching, Royal Court

An anonymous woman frankly monologues about taboo sexual fantasies, abortion, orgasms and what turns her on. It’s honest, personal and as a fellow woman, easy to relate to. But rather than a woman performing the text, Funmbi Omotayo is given the script onstage having never read it before. The experiment to explore the effects of a man delivering a woman’s words on female sexuality has good intentions, but it doesn’t work. Most of the content is common female experience, and there is no primary narrative thread. The reading is often clumsy and flat and with little to look at, the piece lacks much of a dynamic.

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Love in Idleness, Apollo Theatre

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by guest critic Tom Brocklehurst

This is Trevor Nunn’s third production of a Rattigan play, and in his programme notes he calls it ‘a masterpiece’. On reading the plot synopsis, one might have trouble imagining this play as such.

It’s the 1940s. Olivia Brown awaits the return of her 18-year-old son Michael, whom she has not seen for four years. Whilst he’s been away, his father has died and Olivia has found love with a successful arms manufacturer, Sir John Fletcher. When Michael comes back with new-found left-wing ideas, he is horrified at the opulence of his mother’s new lifestyle, and disgusted with the man making his millions from warfare. It’s a fairly simple plot, in which Rattigan preempts a whole host of classic teenage-angst dramas, whilst happily throwing in comic references to Hamlet and Oedipus for fun.

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The Cardinal, Southwark Playhouse

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Within 50 years of Shakespeare’s death, playwriting was changing quickly. Less flowery language and more powerful female characters are prominent in James Shirley’s rarely-staged The Cardinal, written in 1641. The plot is more streamlined, but some of the outdoor playhouse performance conventions linger along with the grandness of the king’s court. The story proudly flaunts influence from earlier revenge tragedies and is no less bloody, but easier to follow than some of those on stage a few decades or so earlier. In Southwark Playhouse’s smaller space with historical costumes, Justin Audibert’s production evokes the intimate atmosphere of indoor playhouses that were beginning to take over towards the end of Shakespeare’s career.

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