35 Amici Drive, Lyric Hammersmith

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Council block 35 Amici Drive and the pub attached to it are earmarked for demolition. Luxury flats and commercial retail units will replace it, and plans to rehouse current residents are vague. Money-grubbing developers and local counsellors push for “positive change” but those who live there are having none of it.

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Richard III, Arcola Theatre

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As the audience enters, Richard sits at a pub table on an otherwise bare stage. It’s impossible not to watch him until the house lights dim, and this opening sets the tone for the two and a half hours to come. With generically modern costume and no clear concept, Mehmet Ergen’s interpretation employs a light touch on the design elements. However his focus on the text and story is on point, making this an easy to follow and engaging production. Staged in the Arcola’s main house where the audience closes in on three sides of the stage, this is the sort of space that brings out the best in Shakespeare’s energy and language.

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Love in Idleness, Apollo Theatre

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by guest critic Tom Brocklehurst

This is Trevor Nunn’s third production of a Rattigan play, and in his programme notes he calls it ‘a masterpiece’. On reading the plot synopsis, one might have trouble imagining this play as such.

It’s the 1940s. Olivia Brown awaits the return of her 18-year-old son Michael, whom she has not seen for four years. Whilst he’s been away, his father has died and Olivia has found love with a successful arms manufacturer, Sir John Fletcher. When Michael comes back with new-found left-wing ideas, he is horrified at the opulence of his mother’s new lifestyle, and disgusted with the man making his millions from warfare. It’s a fairly simple plot, in which Rattigan preempts a whole host of classic teenage-angst dramas, whilst happily throwing in comic references to Hamlet and Oedipus for fun.

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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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