Double Double Act, Unicorn Theatre

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What happens when two experimental performance artists join forces with a few kids to make a kids’ show? Utterly delightful, if messy, madness. 1990s Nickelodeon is a clear influence, as are fart jokes, poo, time bending and parallel universes. An attempt at education intrudes near the end, but otherwise the script is a joyful, jokey celebration of all things silly and gross. There are moments, particularly in the beginning, that are a touch too self-serving for a show pitched to children, but there’s plenty of slapsticky fun for adults and young people alike.

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Killology, Royal Court

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I have a fairly robust constitution and am not particularly squeamish, but Gary Owen’s latest had me trying not to be sick on Meg Vaughan’s bag on my right, or the empty seats to my left and in front of me. They were empty because some people walked out in the first half, and others didn’t return after the interval. That’s not to say Killology isn’t brilliant – it absolutely is. But the brutal story about fractured father/son relationships, toxic masculinity and revenge is bloody hard to watch.

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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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Oh Yes Oh No

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Some questions for women:

Is it ok to want to be fucked?
                                 Does wanting this oppose feminism?
Is it ok to want to be hit in bed?                      Will this man expect that from other women?
Is it ok to fantasise about being raped?               What does this mean if I’ve been raped?

Louise Orwin is asking big questions about female sexuality and desire, but she doesn’t have the answers. There are no definitive answers anyway, just individual experiences. To make Oh Yes Oh No, she interviewed dozens of women around the country and found some disturbing patterns – about 90% of the women she met had been raped. Many of them developed rape fantasies. Women struggled to reconcile their feminism with wanting men to dominate them in bed.

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Jeramee, Hartleby and Ooglemore, Unicorn Theatre

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Hartleby, Ooglemore and Jeramee are at the beach. It’s a beautiful, sunny day and the three are having a grand time, even though they can only use three words. The beach is full of potential for adventures – some happy, same scary, some frustrating. The language limitation doesn’t matter because it’s not what you say, but how you say it that matters. The colourful, clowning performance for kids ages 3 and up is a fun exploration of emotions without a storyline.

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The Ruff Guide to Shakespeare, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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There’s a good amount of Shakespeare-based work for children and young people at the fringe, which is a great way to introduce children to his work as well as give theatre makers a chance to experiment with different styles when approaching the bard’s text. The Ruff Guide to Shakespeare is a mashup of his most popular plays and characters with a biography of his life. There’s a lot packed into an hour, perhaps too much for the primary school middle years that are the target audience age. The show is otherwise well written, well performed and the story line constructed out of Shakespeare’s life gives it a solid grounding on which to sample extracts of his work.

Six Bristol Old Vic students perform Toby Hulse’s script. Though there isn’t a weak link amongst the cast, the strongest by far is Georgia Frost. She has a charisma and stage presence that the others lack, though they all show promise. The company handles their verse well, maintains high energy and warmly encourage the audience of children to join in.

The script is quick and punchy, most valuable for giving the young audience context about Shakespeare as a person in a easily digestible format framed by his “seven ages of man” monologue – a fantastic idea that parallels a short piece of text to a story. There are gags, games and songs that are interactive and playful, though more time could be taken within each activity in order to allow the audience to engage fully. The characters and scenes that are included are some of the most well known, kept short and explained well. There are a lot of them though, and the sheer amount is potentially overwhelming for the younger children in the audience.

Comparable to the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), this is a jolly, friendly romp through Shakespeare’s life and works that’s great for a young audience. Some tweaking to either cut some of the characters or pitch it to slightly older children would make this an even stronger piece, but it’s polished, slick and jolly good fun compared to similar shows on offer.

The Ruff Guide to Shakespeare runs through 19th 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.

One Under, Vault Festival

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Amy Fleming’s dad committed suicide when she was four years old. Fleming struggles with mood swings and wonders if she’s “mental,” like her dad. Luckily, she studied Molecular Medicine before becoming an actor so she understands how genetics dictates our characteristics. She also knows that talking about our problems and developing positive habits helps us overcome them. Combining her science and performance backgrounds, Fleming’s One Under is part conversational lecture, part interactive game. She relies on narration, humour and audience involvement to share her message, but the piece as a whole feels unfinished. It’s a nice idea, but it lacks theatricality and detail.

There’s no character, just Fleming and her generally cheerful honesty. She relaxes the audience straight away and easily facilitates discussion. After a frank introduction about her childhood and how genes are passed from parents to child; there’s some framing by her biography and a multi-round game/quiz with easily answerable mental health questions. These two elements aren’t solidly connected to each other, and the piece’s message isn’t spelled out until the very end. Structurally, it’s weak. By that point though, the message is less interesting that the journey we took to get there and the camaraderie that emerges en route.

This solo show isn’t very theatrical, but it’s lovely for its warm cuddliness and playful approach to form. Fleming is clearly passionate about helping people improve their quality of life and their mental health, which is a commendable mission. Her openness and her anti-performance make me feel uncomfortable writing any sort of negative judgement – it’s such a personal piece. But at an hour long, glossing over parts of her past with some audience debate over quiz questions about how to approach mental health issues at work, there’s a noticeable lack of depth.

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.