The lights dangling over the audience in the intimate pub garden theatre look rather like anal beads. It’s a great choice by lighting designer Richard Lambert because they suit the joyously raunchy tone of this adult panto in Vauxhall, or rather, the charming mountain village Vaüxhallen. The town’s residents we meet over the two hour-long show are all out for some action and adventure – in every sense of the word.
Determining a Top 10 has become increasingly troublesome what with the amount of work reviewed by guest critics and the even larger amount that we get invited to but aren’t able to see. So, rather than a more traditional ‘best-of’ list, here’s a totally subjective list of a few of my favourite things – in no particular order – from theatre and performance in 2019.
Michael and his best mate Charlie are typical teenage boys – they just want to hang out and play Fifa and party. Michael’s patient girlfriend Liv is often at their side, his mum is there to fret and nag, and his half-brother Josh reliably winds him up. They’re 17 and life is good – until it isn’t.
A story of two men who murder people in order to sell their corpses to doctors in 1820s Edinburgh shouldn’t work as a dark character comedy with music. But largely work it does and this three-hander, though somewhat structurally clumsy, is a good alternative to more typical Christmas theatre.
A wholesome guy group from the 1950s with dreams of superstardom died in a bus crash before they could make it big. But for some inexplicable reasoning, a little-discussed deity gives them one more shot at fame. Plopped in front of an expectant audience seeking Christmas cheer, the Plaids muddle through their posthumous encore. Though the story is utterly baffling, the four performers have heaps of holiday charm.
Born in 1913 in Koscice, Slovakia, Ján Ladislav Kalina was a man of theatre and art. He
lived the bohemian life that young people in Eastern Europe romanticise when they get lost in the works of Milan Kundera. Jan is Miriam’s grandfather, and in many ways his story, is that of my grandfather too. Miriam is a theatre-maker. Rendezvous in Bratislava is her ode to what’s lost and what’s remembered.
A woman sits at a drawing table analysing jigsaw puzzle pieces under an anglepoise lamp. On the other side of the stage, another woman rhythmically bounces on a small trampoline. What starts off as just another post-narrative, young theatre piece becomes a satisfyingly layered work questioning subjects as wide-ranging as ableism, friendship and polarising opinions.
When the results of the referendum came through in 2016, a big percentage of Londoners were shocked. Many people who had grown up here and made the UK their home suddenly felt unwelcome, and those feelings have only grown in the years since the announcement of Brexit.
Fan fiction has probably been around for as long as celebrity culture has existed, with the internet playing a pivotal role in its dissemination. But sharing her love of Shakespeare online isn’t enough for playwright Victoria Baumgartner, who brings her unbridled devotion to Shakespeare to the stage. This speculative, queer narrative presents Shakespeare’s ‘lost years’, between 1585 and 1592, with an earnest devotion that appeals to Shakespeare fans but lacks finesse and depth.
So what really happens when the fat lady sings? If it’s anything like Red Belly Black’s accomplished take on on the exquisitely human experience of grief and letting go, expect laughter, tears and harsh truths served with a glittering side of live music.