We have time, and life is short. It’s ok to make mistakes, and every choice has a consequence. Self-care is important and so is hitting milestones. These conflicting truisms living within us inform small decisions and big ones. As actor/writer Hayley McGee demonstrates, they are often the root of our greatest pleasures and most suffocating griefs. Her monologue narrating an unnamed person’s life, from age 25 through the years after the they die, hones in on key episodes that irrevocably define them and their future, as well as drawing attention to death’s inevitability. As sombre as this piece is, it also adeptly encapsulates moments of joy. As a whole, it’s deeply human and beautifully performed.
When one of their friends died, theatre company Ugly Bucket navigated their grief the only way they knew how – by making a show. Using clowning and physical comedy, an ensemble of five flit between a dying man and his family, an afterlife of jagged pink gravestones where they playact a life cycle, various ways people die and depictions of people dealing with death. It’s both funny and immensely sad, as well as a sophisticated reflection on how we process loss and our own mortality.
New Celts Productions and Oddly Ordinary Theatre Company presents their take on pool (no water), a show that delves into the drive that a group of artists find in envy and ambition after an incident with one of their friends, the successful one. Written by Mark Ravenhill, the script has no assigned parts for any specific character. This leaves freedom for each production to explore and devise the motivations behind the text, as if the lines themselves were abstract protagonists that take human shape when a show sets them in motion.
Women’s anger is often expected to be suppressed or contained rather than be unleashed on the world. Otherwise, we risk being labelled ‘crazy’ or ‘a bitch’, no matter what injustice we experience. But Femi can’t hold it in anymore. The night before the group of white men who killed her killed her brother Seun on Margate’s beach face charges of manslaughter, his ghost visits her to share the truth of his death. Initially baffled by her dead brother’s appearance, she is transformed into an embodied fury that cannot and will not stop until she gets revenge.
What starts off as a razzle-dazzle cabaret musical, full of mockery of his ever-so-gay charm, darling, and name-in-lights showbiz dreams, Simon David’s play soon becomes a deeply personal meditation on life, death and art, often jutting between extremes before we even know it.
Kevin arrives at his last call-out for the day, a dilapidated house in the middle of a forest near where he grew up. Li Na presents him with a washing machine that no longer spins, but as Kevin attempts to repair it, there are obvious hints that the machine isn’t the only thing that’s broken. Intertwining mythical and personal histories, Julie Tsang’s horror story is a compelling blend of the supernatural and the real.
In 2018, Lulu Raczka’s A Girl in School Uniform (Walks into a Bar) showed her talent for writing compelling, teenage girl characters. In a world that’s so keen to criticise and dismiss young women and their interests and emotions, Raczka’s writing legitimises them. By putting them in life-or-death scenarios, she shows they are empathetic and capable of making huge decisions that shouldn’t be made by anyone other than those much older than them, but they can still like boys and partying. This two-person take on Antigone zooms in on young sisters Ismene and Antigone, social outcasts due to actions by others in their family and who are forced to grow up much too quickly.
Jeanine is in her early 30s and seems to have herself together, but her friends know better. Though she can hold down a job, a relationship and hobbies, she can’t manage to get a handle on cleanliness and hygiene. Not that this really comes across in this production, though. Jay Miller’s low-key, casual realism and a clean design contradict the filth that Jeanine is supposed to embody.