Dumbledore is So Gay, VAULT Festival

Image result for dumbledore is so gay, vault festival

by Dora Bodrogi

Forget trying to get your Friday Forty tickets to Cursed Child. Dumbledore is So Gay is a play so good you won’t need a philosopher’s stone to give you life.

Meet our hero, Jack – a teenage boy who hates French, got sorted into Hufflepuff, and who is in love with his best friend Ollie. Life is not going to be easy for him growing up gay during the heyday of Harry Potter. His story is told in three acts.

Continue reading

The Future is Mental, VAULT Festival

Image result for the future is mental, vault festival

by Dora Bodrogi

The Network Theatre Company has put together a brilliant night of short plays that are certainly entertaining, if slightly alarming about where the world is heading. The Future is Mental gives us an assemblage of six near-future, ‘soft-dystopian’ stories, admittedly inspired by Black Mirror, that makes us take a step back and really rethink our present lifestyles.

Continue reading

Lord of the Game of the Ring of Thrones, VAULT Festival

Image result for Lord of the Game of the Ring of Thrones, vault festival

by Matthew McGregor-Morales

Magic birthrights, long-lost heirs and horrific “juicing” procedures: Hivemind’s one-night fantasy improv just about has it all. The team behind Edinburgh Fringe’s 2017 Playlight Robbery have brought their 2018 fantasy epic improv to London stages, and you can see they’ve done this (well, not exactly this) before.

Continue reading

Big: The Musical, Dominion Theatre


by Laura Kressly

It initially seems like a harmless premise – after a tween boy in early 90s New Jersey is embarrassed in front of the girl he has a crush on, he makes a wish that he was bigger on a fortune telling game at the carnival passing through town. On waking up the next morning, he discovers he’s still 12 years old, but in the body of a grown man. Though his mum chases him out of the house, his best friend Billy offers to help him track down the machine and reverse the spell.

Continue reading

Eugenius!, Other Palace Theatre


by Susannah Martin

Continuing from its stratospheric success earlier in the year, now-cult classic musical Eugenius! sets to stun audiences with another limited run at The Other Palace. Minor changes have occurred to revamp the fun, with some recasting and a new song replacing “Superhot Lady”. Sadly, there are no book rewrites, as this is where the show has the potential to go from global to universal.

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

Manwatching, Royal Court

An anonymous woman frankly monologues about taboo sexual fantasies, abortion, orgasms and what turns her on. It’s honest, personal and as a fellow woman, easy to relate to. But rather than a woman performing the text, Funmbi Omotayo is given the script onstage having never read it before. The experiment to explore the effects of a man delivering a woman’s words on female sexuality has good intentions, but it doesn’t work. Most of the content is common female experience, and there is no primary narrative thread. The reading is often clumsy and flat and with little to look at, the piece lacks much of a dynamic.

Continue reading

Mr Incredible and Deal With a Dragon, Edinburgh Festival Fringe


Solo performances are popular at the Fringe, and there are some good ones this year. So far, the best production I’ve seen this year is one-woman show Torch, celebrating womenhood in all of its flaws and glory. To portray men from such a perspective is much harder what with society already granting men more privilege than women, but Camilla Whitehill’s powerful Mr Incredible does just that in order to highlight male entitlement.

Adam and Holly have recently split up, and Adam hates it. Men like him aren’t meant to be single. He has a good job, owns a flat in London and desperately wants marriage and children. Whilst he loves Holly’s youth and fighting spirit, he was glad when she started to mellow and come round to the idea of settling down. But she wouldn’t be tamed by his sedate nights in front of the telly watching trashy programmes. She wants to write about important issues and change the world for good.

Though Adam’s account of Holly betrays an obvious, fundamental incompatibility between the two, Adam is blind to it and his desire for Holly to conform, and it’s infuriating. As he details moments from their relationship and its unravelling, he blindly transfers all blame onto her. The script cleverly paints Adam as a generally good guy, making his privilege initially subtle, then growing until their relationship reaches a horrible end. His ingrained entitlement to Holly and the belief that she should conform to his ideal life is a good capture of male immovability around women’s goals and desires, and hopefully framed in a way that triggers male reflection.

Alistair Donegan fleshes out Adam with genuine grief for the loss of his relationship and fully believed justification of the character’s choices. Whitehill’s script paints Adam overly-simplistically at times, but Donegan makes the character three-dimensional.

As a solo performance, it is initially unclear who Adam is talking to, but this is revealed in the play’s final moments when the severity of their breakup is horrifyingly revealed.This moment is subtle and takes some processing, so perhaps a bit more obvious spelling out will make the intended message stronger. Overall, this is a strong, polished production with acute comment on male privilege over women’s bodies and choices.

Deal With the Dragon also looks at male entitlement, but likely not deliberately and with a hefty dose of absurd fantasy. Bren is a gay dragon who finds vulnerable gay men that need looking after and offers to help, but not without signing a contract. The Faustian pact between Bren and artist Hunter looks at artistic temperament and dependency in the arts with both comedy and gravitas, though Kevin Rolston’s piece is lacking in a concise storyline and clear message.

Rolston is an excellent performer who distinguishes between Hunter, another artist Gandy and Bren with physical skill that is delightful to watch. With no costume or props, it’s perfectly clear that Rolston is a dragon. The transformation is simple, but utterly delightful.

The script has a nice premise – What if you had a gay, German dragon to help you get through the unpleasantness of life – but it’s never made clear what the premise is trying to communicate. Are people eventually better off with Bren’s assistance? Worse? What does it say about life’s obstacles as a whole? Should men have someone at their disposal to do their dirty work? These questions go unanswered. Though Rolston’s ability as a performer is undeniable, Deal With the Dragon never makes a definitive statement.

Mr Incredible runs through 28th August, Deal With the Dragon runs through 29th August.

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.

Empty Vessels, Rosemary Branch

Bethany runs a work-in-progress writers’ retreat on an idyllic Greek island. Her current guests are realty TV star lad’s lad Travis who is paying her to ghostwrite his autobiography, and Eric, a hippie idealist who chucked in his comfortable life to write a fantasy novel set in the present day based in Greek mythology. When mysterious biker chick Athena turns up looking for username Ferryman4 in response to his online advert of souls for sale, Eric’s fantasy starts to look rather like reality.

This dark comedy by Greg Freeman directed by Ken McClymont has an interesting premise and is chocka with witty one-liners. A couple of the characters could use a bit more detail and the dialogue can be a bit clunky, sometimes obviously spelling out plot development unnecessarily. The main thread of the plot is quickly predictable, but doesn’t interfere with enjoyment of the character-driven comedy. With nods to online identity vs. real life, narcissistic selfie culture, and the relevance of ancient history in the modern day, Empty Vessels shares socially relevant messages with a hefty dose of humour and without being preachy.

Travis (Tobias Deacon) is the most entertaining of the four characters, an amusingly abhorrent young man epitomizing the self-obsessed who determine the value of the life by the number of followers they have on social media. He and Eric (Ben Warwick) have some frustratingly funny opening clashes that resemble Christmas dinner with your UKIP voting cousin. Deacon gleefully gets stuck into Travis’s despicable character, but Warwick has less to work with as Eric, who comes across as well-intentioned but confused much of the time, which is less interesting to watch.

The set is simple but not sparse, probably quite cheap, and clearly indicates the setting with a couple of pillars, an army of potted plants, and concrete blocks. Constructed by Jules Darker and presumably designed by McClymont, it immediately evokes Greece. It’s a lesson in how fringe theatre sets don’t have to be sparse to save money, unless there really is no budget for one. Leo Steele’s lighting is warm and inviting, with sharp transitions to show change in time of day and mood. These transitions are wonderfully quick, with no lost momentum.

This one-act also looks at humanity in a positive light despite the mocking of Narcissus’ descendants. The final scene’s revelation is both funny and endearing after the Comedy of Errors-esque soul swapping. It also gives Sophia Hannides (Athena) a chance to showcase her range. Even with the self-obsession of today’s society fostered by the dominance of online presence, there are still gods amongst us who have the power to wake us up and refocus attention onto the real here and now rather than on a smartphone screen.

The Play’s The Thing UK is an independent theatre criticism website maintained voluntarily. Whilst donations are never expected, they are hugely appreciated and will enable more time to be spent reviewing theatre productions of all sizes. Click here to make a donation with PalPal.