Eyes Closed Ears Covered, Bunker Theatre

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by guest critic Liam Rees

Alex Gwyther’s Eyes Closed, Ears Covered is a slippery play that continuously raises questions. We’re immediately presented with Alyson Cummins’ concrete-grey, angular set, suggestive of a brutalist play park in a rundown housing estate. A recording of a distressed phone call to the police about a pair of young boys and a terrible act of violence adds tension. Gwyther’s script immediately has us hooked with the right amount of specific details to suggest what may have occurred whilst not to revealing too much.

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Box Clever, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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Marnie’s a 22-year-old single mum from Bermondsey and every day is a fight at the moment. Her mum’s harbouring Marnie’s abusive ex, the guy she’s in love with has a new bird who’s using the legal system to keep them apart and her daughter’s dad isn’t around. Marnie currently lives in a woman’s refuge and the shadow of social services is hanging over her.

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Brutal Cessation and Dust, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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Actor and writer Milly Thomas is an unstoppable force refusing to shy away from tough material. A First World Problem, her most recent play, lays bare the cruel adolescent world of a top girls’ private school. Her two shows at the fringe are stylistically different from each other, but both are similarly confrontational. Brutal Cessation forces the audience to examine the gender stereotypes within an abusive, cishet relationship and Dust, the significantly stronger of the two works, is a monologue on mental health and suicide.

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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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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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The Wild Party, The Other Palace

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Newly rebranded as The Other Palace and now part of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s empire, the former St Jame’s Theatre aims to focus on new British musical theatre. With Paul Taylor-Mills at the creative helm and two spaces in which to develop and showcase new work from the UK, their debut production is…(drumroll)…an American musical from 2000. An odd choice considering the Broadway production nearly two decades ago left critics unimpressed.

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Abigail, The Bunker

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Amongst the vocal campaigns fighting domestic violence against women and male rights’ activists misogynist responses, the fact that at least 4% of men are victims themselves is often overlooked. That 4% is reported abuse and no doubt there are many more cases that are never logged with authorities.

Fiona Doyle’s unnamed couple in Abigail aims to capture the universal potential for male domestic abuse, but misses the mark. Their relationship unfolds in non-linear episodes, but much is missed out and the fragmented structure causes a lack of variation in pace and energy.

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