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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Sublime, Tristan Bates Theatre

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Sam and Clara live the ordinary, domestic life of a young professional couple, until Sam’s sister Sophie turns up unannounced. The playful, carefree young woman eventually chameleons into someone much more sinister. Caught up in the criminal underworld, she’s back in town with an agenda. As Sophie lures Sam back to the adrenaline-junkie lifestyle of high-end burglary and fraud he’s desperate to leave behind, the siblings’ facade deteriorates further. No one is what they seem in Sublime, though the plodding script that should be thrilling never reaches its potential.

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The Bad Seed, Brockley Jack Studio Theatre

L-R Rebecca Rayne as Rhoda, Jessica Hawksley as Monica and Beth Eyre as Christine © David Monteith-Hodge

Rhoda is the picture-perfect 1950s American child. Obedient, clever and helpful, she is a dream for any parent. But after the death of a classmate who won the penmanship medal Rhoda coveted, mum Christine’s investigations into past “accident” uncover a dark secret from her own childhood that means Rhoda isn’t all that seems. The revelation ends in tragedy with serious implications for Rhoda’s future.

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The Monkey, Theatre 503

The Monkey - Theatre 503, George Whitehead and Morgan Watkins, photos by Simon Annand 2

Tel and Dal are two Sarf London geezas who grew up together on a Bermondsey estate. Dapper and ambitious Tel has moved up in the criminal underworld, away from Dal’s small-scale thieving so they don’t see each other much. Dal’s less aspirational, still robbing people on the street with his mate Becks. When they’re not out working, Dal and Becks get their drugs from young dealer Al, who lives upstairs. Life’s ticking along as normal until Tel shows up unannounced looking for the money he leant to Al a month ago. Tel’s volatile temperament, sharp intelligence and vanity mean the other three are no match for the increasing danger.

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Siren, VAULT Festival

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By guest critic Michael Davis

As the Welsh part of Celtic Trilogy at the VAULT Festival, Over The Limit Theatre with Siren has arguably saved the best to last. Directed by Rosa Crompton, and written by Sasha Wilson  and Joseph Cullen, Siren is a delightfully dark comedy about murder and the reasons one could justify this most extreme of actions.

Eleanor (Wilson) and Stuart (Cullen) travel to a remote hotel in Wales to meet up. Except this isn’t a clandestine romantic break, though it does at first appear that way. They’re on the lam and need to lay low for a while.

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The Long Trick, VAULT Festival

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Tristan is the stuff of Cornish legends. The Robin Hood-esque figure who lives along the Helford River gives much needed gifts to local people the moment they reach utter despair – or so people believe. The reality is rather different. Tristan does live on the Helford, on a boat with his teenaged daughter Kelsey. He can’t find a job so steals electronics from second homes and sells them on to make a living. He occasionally helps out locals when he’s feeling flush, but his virtue is up for debate. When Tristan meets Gale, a vegan activist who suddenly appears in Cornwall after years of drifting around Europe, his world is transformed, but not quite in the manner he expects.

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Skin of the Teeth, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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Nick is fearless. Literally, he can’t feel fear. The young man’s father finds this most unsettling and whilst Nick thinks it’s kinda cool, he desperately wants to find his shudder so he can fit in with everyone else in his small coastal town. When a mysterious stranger appears on the beach and offers to help, Nick jumps at the chance. This modern myth by Anna Beecher is a vibrant, young hero’s journey through a dark underworld of a solo performance with good potential.

Daniel Holme tells Nick’s story with sweet, wide-eyed naiveté, making the people he encounters in the big city after his father sends him away all the more threatening. The gang of men with green gloves who claim they will help him find his shudder through increasingly extreme tasks builds suspense and danger to a climax in Beecher’s script that Nick only vaguely understands. An open ending and some unanswered questions are a bit of a letdown, but otherwise her script is a good piece of storytelling.

Holme’s performance does a good job at keeping the audience’s attention, though more dramatic lighting design, projections and/or props would add visual variation and further increase the ebb and flow of his adventure. Beecher’s language contains some gorgeous moments of imagery and dystopia that certainly deserve to be supported further through a strong design concept and a larger space that grants more freedom of movement to Holme.

Skin of the Teeth is a strong character monologue that can work well on its own, but also has scope to develop further into an action-driven, multiple character script. The story is a good concept though in its current incarnation in a small venue, it is limited in its power. Beecher is a promising writer with dynamic ideas who, with more resources, has the power to make even greater impact.

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