Dido’s Bar, Royal Docks

by Archie Whyld

It struck me that the journey to Dido’s Bar, through east London, past City Airport and to a warehouse adjacent to Tate and Lyle’s sugar refinery, allows us to imagine what it feels like to be a new arrival in a strange world. And this, Dido’s Bar, a reimagining and retelling of Virgil’s Aeneid, centres Dido’s narrative, namely her experience as a refugee in a foreign land.

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The Cherry Orchard, The Yard

by Laura Kressly

Through his most recent play An Adventure, writer Vinay Patel proved he can masterfully sustain family dramas grappling with big themes. By sticking close to Chekhov’s original story, this adaptation of The Cherry Orchard set in the distant future does similar. A spaceship replaces the estate, but the strict social stratification with a stark disparity in privilege mirror early-1900s Russia. It’s a smart adaptation that works well in surprising ways, though the heavy use of Chekhovian, reflective dialogue and a lack of high conflict mean the story is often slow and baggy.

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Caligari, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

by Laura Kressly

One of the four winners of the Untapped Award this year, an ensemble of young actor-musicians present their take on the 1920 silent film, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. Using music, movement and narration, the cast stick pretty close to the film but curse the doctor’s victims to a Sisyphean purgatory where they must tell their story over and over again. Though the company employ a visually striking aesthetic and great music, there are some creative choices that evoke the style of an A-level devised piece.

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Sister Act, Eventim Apollo

by Zahid Fayyaz

Based on the hit 1992 comedy starring Whoopi Goldberg, this is the latest touring incarnation of this highly entertaining musical. Originally set to star Goldberg in a reprise of the role, the cast instead has the more than able replacement of Beverley Knight. Joined by Jennifer Saunders, Lesley Joseph and Clive Rowe, this revival certainly isn’t lacking firepower in the casting department.

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The plot is a little thin, like in the film. Beverley Knight’s Deloris Van Cartier has to hide from her gangster ex-boyfriend in a convent, only to find herself connecting with the nuns living there. The show itself however has a lot of energy, with Saunders proving the crowd favourite because of her droll one-liners as the Mother Superior. Overall, the comic timing from the cast is certainly on point as well, and the set and majority of the songs are wonderful. Particular highlights are Beverly Knight and Clive Rowe when they are able to let loose during the musical numbers. It is fair to say that the crowd are having a blast throughout.

There are a couple of flaws in the show, unfortunately. Firstly, the song with Curtis and his goons working out how they want to kill Delores is extremely distasteful. Additionally, some of the off-colour jokes given to Lesley Joseph’s Sister Mary Lazarus are not particularly wise to include in this day and age. At two hours and 40 minutes long, it could also do with an edit.

However, despite these issues, the high points of the production turn the show into a highly enjoyable evening, It’s a fun musical running for the rest of the summer, and makes for great seasonal theatregoing.

Sister Act runs through 28 August then tours.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.

Singin’ in the Rain, New Wimbledon Theatre

by Zahid Fayyaz

This adaptation of the much-loved 1952 Gene Kelly film has had a very productive life as a stage musical, what with its catchy songs and tap dancing routines. This particular touring production by Jonathan Church previously ran in the West End and Sadler’s Wells so as expected, the dance has received a lot of attention. The lovely New Wimbledon Theatre where it’s on for this leg of the tour is one of the bigger theatres that lie outside of the West End on the edges of London.

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No One, Brighton Fringe

by Diana Miranda

Invisibility’s appeal has a new angle in this show by AKIMBO physical theatre company. Loosely inspired by H. G. Wells’ The Invisible Man, AKIMBO gives the narrative an original twist that locates the story within the millennial scene of social media, instant messaging, pub parties and nightclubs. The story stands on its own and explores themes that move away from the questions of science and ethics of Wells’ novel. As such, AKIMBO’s No One navigates (in)visibility in the digital era and offers a tragicomic thriller that starts as a detective investigation and slowly takes on a warmer, more intimate focus on an invisible man that craves connection.

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Anne of Green Gables – London Children’s Ballet, Peacock Theatre

by Michaela Clement-Hayes

Anne of Green Gables is one of those stories that will never lose its appeal. She is a charming, feisty orphan who gets into continuous scrapes, but is ultimately trying to do her best.

It’s far from a complex story, but there is a lot going on. Yet, telling the story through the medium of dance seems no simple feat. The London Children’s Ballet have accomplished this phenomenally. Director Ruth Brill ensures all children have a significant role to play, with different ages and abilities involved in multiple scenes.

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The Wonderful, Theatre Peckham

REVIEW: The Wonderful at Theatre Peckham celebrates diversity and spreads  festive joy

by Romy Foster

It’s opening night at Theatre Peckham and I am one of the first to see The Wonderful performed in front of a real, live audience (they only had their dress rehearsal THAT DAY). I followed the yellow brick road through the foyer to my seats and eagerly awaited this Peckham-ised twist on the lovable children’s classic, The Wizard of Oz.

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The Magician’s Elephant, Royal Shakespeare Company

Vibrant, joyous and fun' - The Magician's Elephant at RSC reviewed - Sarah  Probert - Birmingham Live

by Michaela Clement-Hayes

Everyone deserves a happy ending, and as we head towards the festive season, messages of hope and forgiveness start to provide us with a real sense of magic. This is perhaps what the RSC is tying to do with its winter production of The Magician’s Elephant, based on Kate DiCamillo’s book. A young orphan is told by a fortune teller that he will find his sister if he follows the elephant. But there has never been an elephant in Baltese…or has there?

It’s a fairly traditional arc, with our suffering hero going on a journey of discovery, helped and hindered by plenty of interesting characters. It begins with a mesmerising opening scene. A magical narrator (Amy Booth-Steel) introduces us to the town and her sleight of hand provides ripples of anticipation and excitement around the theatre.

Our hero Peter (Jack Wolfe) is excellent. Naive and curious with an excellent voice and stage presence, he is totally believable as a young boy looking to belong. The police chief (Forbes Masson) provides the comedy, while the young couple (Melissa James and Marc Antolin) guide our hero on his quest. Antolin and James are wonderful to watch. Their chemistry is genuine, but their sadness is heartbreaking; in spite of this their concern for Peter is very natural and touching. Summer Strallen plays the ‘villain’ – a spoilt, childlike countess who is incensed that the elephant’s arrival has stopped people talking about her. But the real star is of course the elephant, which is an impressive feat of stage design and incredibly realistic. The lighting works well to create a mysterious ambiance which is effective and intense.

It’s a lovely story, with simple songs that children will enjoy and a nice sprinkling of humour for the adults. Although a good production, it feels quite safe and there’s little to make it stand out from other musicals. At times it is very hard to hear some of the actors, especially those speaking quickly. There are also certain topics that make the story very dark in places and almost unsuitable for very young audience members. That said, this is still a magical production that leaves you with a fuzzy, festive feeling of joy.

The Magician’s Elephant runs through 1 January.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.