Odd Man Out, Hope Theatre

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A middle-aged, gay Welshman contemplates the English class he teaches in Hong Kong. Amongst the students is Windy, the Chinese woman with whom he shares his bed. Utterly smitten with her, he refers to her as his Pocahontas. He then kisses a barbie doll with long black hair and tanned skin.

Pocahontas was a Native American woman kidnapped by the colonising English in the 1600s, forced to marry, then taken to Britain. The same woman bore her husband a child then died, aged 21, after contracting a European illness.

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Bechdel Testing Life, The Bunker

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Women don’t always talk about men.
Women don’t always talk about men.
Women don’t always talk about men.

It bears repeating because it’s often forgotten, ignored or not believed. Popular culture is particularly deaf to the sentiment, and theatre still likes to rely on this inaccurate gender trope. Whilst this has been slowly changing for some time, particularly on the fringe, it’s still a problem.

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The Marriage of Kim K, Arcola Theatre

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by guest critic Maeve Campbell

In 2011 Osama Bin Laden was killed, Pope John Paul II was beautified, and Kate and Wills tied the knot. Nearly as many people watched another televised wedding that year  as a new reality-TV religion swept the globe. This is where The Marriage of Kim K, a new opera penned by Leoe Mercer and Steven Hyde, begins.

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Disco Pigs, Trafalgar Studios

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by guest critic Simona Negretto

In 1997 Edna Walsh’s Disco Pigs hit the world with the story of an intoxicating and obsessive friendship between two teenagers, Runt and Pig, and their crazy, oneiric, visionary night out. Today, to celebrate its 20th anniversary, Tara Finney reprises the play in a vivid production permeated by the bittersweet taste of nostalgia.

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Touch, Soho Theatre

by guest critic Gregory Forrest

The bed is the first thing we see. The mess is the second. By the end of the evening, we see just how messy one bed can get. Written and directed by Vicky Jones, winner of the 2013 Verity Bargate Award and co-artistic director of DryWrite, Touch is an acerbic slice of contemporary womanhood, romance, and urban isolation.

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Man-Cub, Etcetera Theatre

By guest critic Laura Dorn

The entrance to the jungle. For some, it is the threshold to freedom, a passageway into adventure, into uncertainty and discovery. 

The keeper of the gates decides who is ready for the adventure, who isn’t, who deserves to proceed, who is sent home. Once inside the jungle, animal instincts take over. Natural selection, survival of the fittest and everyone for themselves become the new guidelines. In the words of Rudyard Kipling: “Now this is the law of the jungle, as old and as true as the sky, and the wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the wolf that shall break it must die.” Abide by the rules and your time in the jungle will be a success, break them and the outcome could be tragic.  

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Bodies, Royal Court

By guest critic Laura Vivio

Expectations are rarely exceeded or even met in critical theatre-going, yet this is certainly one case where they are. What I expected to be an impenetrable piece for anyone who does not have children, or has ever desired to become parent, turned out to be 90 minutes of intense and highly relatable theatre-making. 
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KlangHaus: 800 Breaths, Southbank Centre

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by guest critic Archie Whyld

A dozen or so of us were led to the roof of the Royal Festival Hall where we were told to expect: ‘A multi-sensory encounter of shifting sound, colour and light, which reinvents the gig-going experience as a site-responsive close-up standing performance.’ Whatever that is.

The roof space of the building has a boiler room, pipes and generators claustrophobic submarine feel and we were gently led through it by the actor, performer, musicians The Neutrinos and visual artist Sal Pitman. The guitarist checked his pulse, and then he checked mine, and then he gave me a nod of reassurance.

What was going on? The live music alternated between industrial electronic noise jazz and hypnotic acoustic, haunting lullabies. The projections and colour-scape, provided at points by an old fashioned slide projector, combined with the music and submarine architecture, to create a dreamlike and otherworldly experience. There was no narrative to speak of, other than the mention of breaths – 800 of them. Is this the number of breaths we take in an hour, the length of the performance?

Proceedings culminated with a projection of a cloudscape on the ceiling and the audience being led outside on to the roof of the building to be exposed to the air and the beautiful summer London skies. This is a beautiful moment. Is it theatre, though?

Depends on your definition. Post-dramatic theatre probably, in that there were no discernible characters, nor was there an apparent plot. It favoured feeling and mood rather than action, and in this respect it was hugely successful.

KlangHause: 800 Breaths runs through 23 July.

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