Dirty Work (The Late Shift), Battersea Arts Centre

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by guest critic Rebecca JS Nice

Esteemed company Forced Entertainment fill the council chamber of Battersea’s old town hall with an enthused audience who laugh and snigger at the text presented to them. The performers are framed by a false, red curtained, proscenium arch that forms, like the show itself a facade: a description of something without being either of itself or the thing it describes. An hour and fifteen minutes runs with Robin Arthur and Cathy Naden taking turns to speak.

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The Passion of the Playboy Riots, Hen & Chickens Theatre

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by guest critic Maeve Campbell

Backstage during three momentous Abbey Theatre productions, W.B Yeats’ Cathleen ni Houlihan (1902), J.M Synge’s Playboy of the Western World (1907) and Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars (1926), Yeats and Lady Gregory ponder the state of the Irish nation, and are every time interrupted by future revolutionary Patrick Pearse. An interesting idea, but not fully realised in Neil Weatherall’s The Passion of the Playboy Riots.

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Double Double Act, Unicorn Theatre

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What happens when two experimental performance artists join forces with a few kids to make a kids’ show? Utterly delightful, if messy, madness. 1990s Nickelodeon is a clear influence, as are fart jokes, poo, time bending and parallel universes. An attempt at education intrudes near the end, but otherwise the script is a joyful, jokey celebration of all things silly and gross. There are moments, particularly in the beginning, that are a touch too self-serving for a show pitched to children, but there’s plenty of slapsticky fun for adults and young people alike.

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Liza’s Back (is broken), Underbelly

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by guest critic Maeve Campbell

Liza Minnelli should have starred in the original Sound of Music, Gypsy and Les Miserables, but somehow things got in her way. That’s Trevor Ashley’s vision, and he is giving her some of those classic Broadway moments in this hour and a half show. Direct from rehab, Ashley’s Liza is suitably glittery, lispy and pant-suited. This is not a subtle impersonation, but the receptive London audience certainly don’t want that.

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Hir, Bush Theatre

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Issac is returning home after a three-year stint as a US marine where his job was to pick up body parts after front line attacks. He longs for the peace and quiet of his nuclear family and the familiarity of middle America so he can make peace with the demons of war. But on opening the door of the house he grew up in, he discovers a revolution has taken place on the home front. After a stroke turned his father into a near vegetable, his mother is avenging years of abuse. His sister Maxine has transitioned to Max. Both mom and Max have rejected social conventions and are living in an anarchic mess of laundry, dishes and socio-political soundbites.

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Blondel, Union Theatre

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I am often impressed with theatre’s ability to transform the most serious of topics into bouncy, chirpy musicals. Tim Rice and Tom Williams looked to the Crusades for their comedic tale of Richard I’s court musician, Blondel, but discarded much of the history. This 1983 show has some great numbers, but its frivolity and insubstantial book focusing on a personal journey rather than the larger political landscape is diminutive rather than powerfully sweeping. This is no Les Mis or Miss Saigon; it is instead an under-developed documentation of a rise to fame – but it still has its moments of fun.

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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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