Under the fluorescent lighting stacking tins of soup, early 20-something Katie feels at home. The songs on the radio change but the customers don’t, and Hope is there to tease her, juggle fruit and kiss her on the countertop – when Jo the slightly frazzled shopkeeper isn’t there to tell her to get down.
The dresses sparkle, the band swings, and the dancers fly at the Southwark Playhouse, where Ain’t Misbehavin’ runs through June. This revival of the Broadway show from the 1970s, which strings together tunes from Harlem Renaissance man and jazz great Fats Waller, proves that when music is really good, it’s really good in any decade.
An eighties jukebox musical set on the sunny coast of Spain sounds like a fun night out. However, Club Tropicana highlights the ignorance of British people on all-inclusive holidays, trivialises and stereotypes entire communities of people (in this instance the LGBTQ+ and Spanish communities), and scrapes the bottom of the barrel for a story that has clearly been written in order to serve the eighties tracks, with one-liners that are the lowest common denominator of gags.
What makes some people obsess over fitness? That’s the question at the heart of Brawn, a new play written and performed by Christopher Wollaton under the direction of Matt Staite. At a lean 60-minute run time, Wollaton, alone on stage save a pair of dumbbells, tells the story of how his character, Ryan, came to be the impressive physical specimen he is today, and what he has had to give up to reach it. Part confessional, part social insight, part torture, Brawn is a wise, shocking look into the mind of one man who wants to get bigger.
Making a bouquet of flowers is more than just bunging some random blooms in a vase. It takes care, thoughtfulness, skill and time to craft something beautiful and unique. People need that same sort of care and nurturing too, especially children and teenagers. This high stakes, solo performance shows the pressures that young women encounter daily, and how much they need support to grow and flourish in a world that is out to exploit them.
In 1988, when I was a 13-year-old boy in a provincial town in Derbyshire, being in
possession of Erasure’s number-one album The Innocents was a big deal. It was cool to
know the names of the synthpop duo, Andy Bell and Vince Clarke. ‘Yeah, we’re going to see Andy and Vince in concert, yeah, Andy Bell, Vince Clarke, Andy and Vince’, we bantered in the playground as casually as possible. So to see Andy Bell as Torsten in Queereteria TV, relatively up close, in the flesh, was for me a piece of pop history, big deal again, nostalgia.
What’s your anxiety like? For Michael, he feels stuck to the spot, unable to force himself to keep walking or to get out bed, or put on his hoodie. He knows he needs help but when he tries to discuss his worries with his friends, he is laughed at, brushed off or told to toughen up. Lost and alone, his struggles are captured in this physical, solo performance that gives a detailed perspective on the helplessness, expectations and daily struggles of a man struggling with mental health issues.
In May, the new Poet Laureate will be announced and Luke Wright thinks he’s up for the job. I agree. His lyrical, immediate collection of poems confronting modern Britain’s ills and praising its everyday heroes is a body of work that conveys an understanding and love for the intricacies of the nation.
Camille O’Sullivan performs a set of Nick Cave songs at Wilton’s Music Hall: I go into this gig being a fan of all three elements here. Camille is one of the most striking and versatile cabaret singers of her generation, Nick Cave is a brilliant songwriter, and Wilton’s Music Hall is a gorgeous, atmospheric venue perfectly suited to this sort of show. It absolutely doesn’t disappoint.
Meaning ‘father’, the word Pah-La is also inflected with a term of respect; ‘La’ is a sign of formality, and becomes more like ‘Dear Father’ in a crude translation. It is a richly ironic title then. Pah-La takes aim at the social and emotional structures of patriarchal revenge, and explores a radically non-violent alternative.