Unseen Unheard, Theatre Peckham

by Euan Vincent

Unseen Unheard, a show seeking to improve the representation of Black women with breast cancer, is a co-production between Black Women Rising and Peckham Theatre. The production emerged from the real stories of black women’s struggles after a cancer diagnosis and the myriad problems that the system affords them, based on their race. From the belief that black women don’t feel pain – “they see us as superhuman and subhuman at the same time” – to the absence of prosthetics of an appropriate skin tone, point to health inequities that the statistics sadly bear out. Black women are 28% more likely to die from a triple-negative breast cancer diagnosis than white women with the same diagnosis.

Continue reading

Stages, VAULT Festival


by Bryony Rae Taylor

This is an ambitious, interactive new video-game inspired musical, melding a tale of the trials and tribulations of a contemporary family with an 8-bit video game aesthetic. Each audience member is given a ‘controller’ (a bit of card which is blue on one side and red on the other), and at certain points in the narrative, they gets a say in what direction the plot turns. Towards the latter part of the show, the narrative rewinds and you see all of the alternative paths that could have been taken.

Continue reading

Madame Ovary, VAULT Festival

Image result for madame ovary

by Laura Kressly

Rosa’s been bloated and uncomfortable for about week, but she’s sure it’s nothing. She just needs to find some clothes that hide it, and are also suitable for a first date. A week after that, convinced the pain is something she’s eaten or trapped wind, she’s diagnosed with cancer. It’s 1 April 2018. She’s only 23 years old. Despite her hopes for it to be the year she sorts her life out, the reality is much more stark and scary.

Continue reading

The Archive of Educated Hearts, VAULT Festival

Image result for the archive of educated hearts, vault festival

by Emma Lamond

The Archive of Educated Hearts shows a steely determination to deliver a hopeful and uplifting whirlwind tour through the lives of four women affected by breast cancer.  Casey Jay Andrews presents this deeply personal, yet painfully universal, experience with the utmost kindness and calm. This provides the audience with a space to celebrate the women who make up the narrative of the piece, and also take time to reflect on their own experiences of cancer.

Continue reading

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Gynaecologic Oncology Unit At Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Of New York City, Finborough Theatre

Image result for finborough, A Funny thing happened On the Way to the Gynaecologic Oncology Unit At Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Of New York City

by Amy Toledano

Although this show has an incredibly long title, it is the only thing about it that feels drawn out. This comedy about a cancer ward in New York city is a touching tale of unlikely friendship and the broken relationships and the ways in which we forgive in the face of tragedy.

Continue reading

Beginners, Unicorn Theatre


by Laura Kressly

Kids are intuitive. They’re smart, observant and know a lot more about the world than adults think they do. Tim Crouch’s play where adults and children play each other and kids eventually run the show also proves that they aren’t that different from each other anyway. Whimsical design, innovative dramaturgical devices and an unwilling to patronise young people with obvious storytelling combine to create a marvellous and thoughtful piece of theatre for all ages.

Continue reading

Bechdel Testing Life, The Bunker


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.

Continue reading

Team Viking, Edinburgh Festival Fringe


How far would you go for your best mate? Are there any limits, any lines, you wouldn’t cross?

What if your best friend was dying?

What if he asked you to ensure he had a viking funeral?

James Rowland does exactly that for his best friend Tom. He grew up as part of a neighbourhood trio that stayed close well into adulthood. As children, their favourite game was to play Vikings (as in the Kirk Douglas film). When Tom is diagnosed with terminal cancer at age 25 and given only a short time to live, he calls in one final favour from James and Sarah, the other third of their childhood gang. Tom doesn’t care about logistics and legalities, and his magnetic charisma convinces Sarah and James to do this for him, and James is here to tell us the story of their friendship through life and death.

Rowland’s engaging, laddish charm makes you laugh loads, then the tiniest change in pace and inflection turns on the tears. His script approaches death and friendship with respectful levity that does not gloss over the reality of grief, but neither is it too weighty. It’s a perfectly balanced emotional journey, and Rowland’s relaxed delivery draws the audience to him and to each other.

Director Daniel Goldman chooses simple staging – Rowland is on a small, bare stage with few props and tech, and the venue’s lighting is barely existent. The piece would work well in the round to foster it’s warmth and inclusivity. It’s simple, storytelling structure would also suit the intimacy of a circle.

Team Viking is an exemplary solo storytelling piece excelling in its honesty and simplicity. It’s a powerful tribute to his friends, but it’s not insular – it’s the complete opposite, and a truly delightful, heartwarming adventure story for those who have loved and lost.

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.

Beetles From the West, Lion & Unicorn Theatre


Half of the UK population born after 1960 will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime. Considering this figure, cancer rarely features as the primary subject matter in theatre, though last year there were several productions that put it at the forefront. I caught two of them in Edinburgh: The Eulogy of Toby Peach and Goodstock. James Hartnell’s debut play, Beetles From the West, is also driven by a diagnosis. Set in a hospital waiting room, immature Boyd waits with his girlfriend for news of his father’s health after a sudden collapse that’s left him unconscious. A young doctor’s attempts to explain what’s going on are aggressively questioned as Boyd comes to terms with what it all means. Hartnell’s script, obviously early career from its unwieldy text and underdeveloped characters, spotlights the importance of cancer screenings but it needs more development to have greater impact.

A combination of flowery, metaphor-filled monologues directed to the audience and simplistic scenes between the characters attempts to show range, but they are so dramatically different that they seem spoken by different characters. Dialogue paints Boyd (Ryan Penny) and his girlfriend Jenny (Amy Doyle) as immature and ignorant young teenagers. Their monologues have a more mature gravitas, but these contrasting tones don’t reconcile. The transitions in the writing are abrupt and jarring, creating an unconvincing baseline reality. Hartnell has a sense of dramatic arc and a satisfying ending that suits an awareness piece, but individual scenes and monologues sit clumsily within it. The script does manage not to preach, though.

There’s little subtlety or depth in the characters despite their dialogue, but Penny, Doyle and Matthew Marrs as the doctor attack them with gusto. Penny also directs, and favours heightened performances – though this might suit the language, it clashes with the thematic content. It’s an interesting choice, but not one that consistently works. There are some moments of good chemistry, particularly when the doctor reveals details of his own past – though highly unprofessional and unlikely to happen in the real world.

Beetles From the West shows cancer isn’t a battle, it’s a disease we are just as likely to get as not. It reminds us to monitor our mental and physical health and have symptoms investigated, something men are more likely to neglect than women. This is definitely a men’s health play, though it doesn’t alienate women. It’s just a shame that the script doesn’t do the themes justice or give the performers properly developed, meaty roles.

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.