My Country; a work in progress, Theatre Royal Stratford East

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After 52% of 72% of the British voting population voted to leave the EU, Rufus Norris’s concern that London theatre was out of touch with the majority of British people drove him to launch a nationwide project of listening. He sent a team of ‘gatherers’ to all corners of these sceptered isles, and they collected 70 interviews from people up and down the country. The transcriptions combined with text by Carol Ann Duffy gave birth to My Country; a work in progress.

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Ponyboy Curtis vs., The Yard

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Trying to write about Chris Goode’s latest Ponyboy Curtis show vs. is like trying to fit a hurricane into a canning jar. The energy, love and freedom on the Yard’s stage is irrevocably alive and unrestrained, and trying to pin this one-of-a-kind butterfly onto a page kills it a little, or a lot. So take this review as a tiny sample of an extravagant banquet that can only be fully experienced directly.

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Snapshot, Hope Theatre

Brian Martin and Joey Akubeze in Snapshot at the Hope Theatre. Photo: Will Austin

James and Daniel are chalk and cheese, and very much in love. The unemployed photographer and Canary Wharf stockbroker are adorably domestic, but both are hiding secrets. When James’ uni mate and ex-girlfriend Olivia vengefully reveals one of them, this irrevocably opens the floodgates to the rest. Excellent performances give this domestic drama its punch. Whilst the script is far from groundbreaking, it’s an accurate reflection of human intentions and fallibility.

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The Cardinal, Southwark Playhouse

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Within 50 years of Shakespeare’s death, playwriting was changing quickly. Less flowery language and more powerful female characters are prominent in James Shirley’s rarely-staged The Cardinal, written in 1641. The plot is more streamlined, but some of the outdoor playhouse performance conventions linger along with the grandness of the king’s court. The story proudly flaunts influence from earlier revenge tragedies and is no less bloody, but easier to follow than some of those on stage a few decades or so earlier. In Southwark Playhouse’s smaller space with historical costumes, Justin Audibert’s production evokes the intimate atmosphere of indoor playhouses that were beginning to take over towards the end of Shakespeare’s career.

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Disconnect, Ugly Duck

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Imagine a production of Waiting for Godot with more characters, set in space, where the audience chooses the outcome of the story. What you are picturing is probably gloriously weird and kitschy. But now add clumsy dialogue, some poor performances and a loosely applied Brexit analogy, performed on a set that looks like it’s built of cardboard and/or they ran out of paint. If your mind’s eye makes a different picture now, it be more accurate.

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Dominoes, Tara Theatre

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There’s a database where you can look up the size of reparations paid to slave owners after slavery was abolished. In Dominoes, History teacher Leila and her fiancé Andy share the same last name – McKinnon. Andy’s white and Scottish, Leila’s half black-Caribbean. When curiosity gets the better of her in the run up to their half term wedding, she makes a discovery that pits family and friends against each other and threatens to destroy her big day.

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Room, Theatre Royal Stratford East

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Originally a novel by Emma Donoghue that swept up the award nominations last year after being made into a film, Room is now a play. Adapted by the writer for the stage, it stays true to the original story of a young woman abducted at 19 and imprisoned as a sex slave. After two years in captivity she gives birth to her son Jack. Five years later as they celebrate his fifth birthday, all Jack has ever known is the inside of the shed. To ensure he copes, Ma’s taught him that the only things that are real are what’s inside the room. Everything outside isn’t real, and the pictures on their telly exist only in the small box. But Ma’s had enough and wants Jack to help them escape now that he’s big enough.

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