Samuel Coleridge-Taylor is one of this country’s great classical composers and conductors. His cantata trilogy The Song of Hiawatha is considered the best adaptation of Longfellow’s epic poem, and he had a celebrated career in the UK and abroad. Despite this, he died in 1912 at the age of 37, exhausted and in poverty. This was the end result of a lifetime spent resisting white supremacy that oppressed him for his Blackness.
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.
A blend of Orwell’s 1984 and the American Horror Story TV series, The Messiah Complex is a dystopian thriller that explores the extremes of conflicting belief systems. It takes place in a society where religion is banned and treated as a mental illness, and those who oppose scientific dogma are prosecuted without scruples. Sethian, a prophet who grapples with inner conflict, is held captive in a complex where a scientist – someone really between a nurse and a political propagandist – attempts to correct his behaviour. If Sethian fails to cooperate, the complex’s ‘administrators’ threaten to erase his memory of Sophia, his partner and fellow leader in a revolutionary movement.
This is a new, box fresh new musical, with a LGBTQ+ focus. Set in a Catholic school, it features four young student musicians trying to play their music, which shows their queer identities. Since it’s 1994, the school is not happy about it and tries to shut them down. However, the students in question are not going to give up without a fight.
Roman emperor Caligula has provided numerous artists with inspiration, and this year’s Vault Five artist Yuxuan Liu is no different. He has devised a new interpretation of Caligula’s story particularly focusing on the ruler’s megalomania, his queerness, and a bargain he made with Neptune as a young man in exile on Capri. Puppetry and set design effectively complement the script, and the prominent theme of nature’s power resonates strongly in the context of the climate crisis.
Billed as a work-in-progress, this is a four-person play set in 17th century France, based on the true story of ‘La Voisin’, otherwise known as Catherine Montvoisin, a female poisoner who was said to have murdered thousands of people in Paris. The play centres around the concept of a police recreation of what happened when one of King Louis’s mistresses hires Montvoisin to make the king first fall in love with her, and then when that doesn’t work, to attempt to poison him. The four actors both act out the events of what was purported to happen during the time frame of the events in question, and in a metatheatrical twist, question the nature of the story being written and its validity.
Saint Hildegard von Bingen was a prolific polymath – a theologian who advised many religious higher-ups in the Catholic church, a composer, a writer of scientific and rhetorical works, a linguist, an abbess and a religious visionary. Though she lived over a millenium ago in the late 1000s and early 1100s and was – of course – largely at the whims of the men around her, she strove for more independence for herself and her nuns so they could worship how they best saw fit. A multigenerational ensemble use text, music and physical theatre to focus on this part of her life, positioning her as a liberating protofeminist in a strikingly beautiful, highly sensory piece.
This is an absolute blast of a show. The fourth show from Police Cops, who have previously been on tour and in London and the Edinburgh Fringe previously. It is clear that the three-man group have a great handle on the jokes and physical aspect of their performances.
A beautiful exploration of love and nostalgia, Elsewhere Production’s debut show follows a group of flatmates who shared and cherished many moments together and have since had to part ways. The storytelling weaves together contemporary dance, physical storytelling and poetry. Through lyrical, movement-led sequences, a captivating ensemble of seven captures the audience, creating a tranquil yet powerful atmosphere.