I Know You of Old, Hope Theatre

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Hero’s coffin lies in a candlelit chapel of rest, draped in lace, overlooked by a portrait of the virgin Mary. Her cousin Beatrice and her lover Claudio quietly mourn the young woman, but their friend Benedick disrupts their grief. The characters are from Much Ado About Nothing of course, but this is not Much Ado About Nothing. David Fairs rips apart Shakespeare’s script to create a totally new story with Shakespeare’s verse and characters, I Know You of Old.

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The Enchanted, Bunker Theatre

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York and Arden are two men on America’s death row waiting to die. An investigator, known to the prisoners as The Lady, works night and day to save their lives. The similarly unnamed chaplain does the same to save their souls. As the two piece together the pasts of the men about to meet their deaths, a physical theatre ensemble and extracts from Rene Denfeld’s poetic novel The Enchanted creates a dreamlike, romanticised view of poverty-stricken rural America and the killers it breeds.

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The Ferryman, Royal Court

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Nearly a decade after Jerusalem opened to universal acclaim at The Royal Court, Jez Butterworth finally gives us another masterpiece. A sprawling family/political drama taking place over one day in 1981 rural Armagh, The Ferryman barrels towards a predicable end. But the genius lies in the final scene, where the plot shoots off in a different direction like a rogue firework before exploding. Laden with familial craic, rebel spirit, the complexities of colonialism and rounded off with phenomenal performances, The Ferryman encapsulates the best of contemporary British playwriting.

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Nuclear War, Royal Court

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In his introduction to the Nuclear War text, Simon Stephens explains that as a playwright, he does not want directors and performers to revere him. Rather, he wants them to see his scripts as a starting point for their own creativity. The third line of the stage directions is, ‘a series of suggestions for a piece of theatre’; from these suggestions, choreographer-director Imogen Knight shapes a haunting landscape of physicalised despair.

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Custody, Ovalhouse

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By guest critic Alistair Wilkinson

HOPE: A feeling of expectation and desire for something to happen.

How do we cope when we don’t get what we want? How do we beat a system that is set up to make you fail? Custody asks just these questions, as we are taken on a two-year journey of a family’s struggle for justice for their loved one, twenty-nine year old Brian, who died whilst in police custody. Through this eighty-minute narrative, we see four different individuals cope/hope, whilst their questions are left unanswered.

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The Principle of Uncertainty, Draper Hall

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According to one of the theories of quantum mechanics we’re taught in The Principle of Uncertainty, we can be in multiple places at once. If only that were true. I could review way more shows than I can currently, go on holiday, live in multiple countries and hold down several jobs, all at once. It would be wonderfully productive. Dr Laura Bailey (Abi McLoughlin), the lecturer who explains the theory to us, has a simpler wish – to be able to see her daughter again.

We are Dr Bailey’s freshman class in Draper Hall, a housing estate community space in Elephant & Castle newly doubling as a performance venue run by veteran Italian polymath Stefania Bochicchio. The non-traditional space doesn’t have a lighting rig or backstage, so shows like this that defy theatrical conventions are a natural fit.

Closely resembling a lecture, this production takes time to get to its point but when it does, it breaks hearts. McLoughlin excels as the warm, enthusiastic Laura and utterly convinces as a scientist. Her gentle breakdown is a moving climax to a script as it begins to lose focus, with the attention shifting from equations and concepts to her own, personal story.

Dr Andrea Brunello’s script is science heavy, though it doesn’t matter if it’s understood or not. It takes awhile for the story to emerge from the lesson; though it doesn’t work if it’s earlier, this happens well after the question of what the performance’s point is arises. McLoughlin is fully engaging throughout even if it’s difficult to care about the content of the lecture.

The piece suits the space well, and takes a relaxed and accessible tone – a great choice for a south London council estate venue seeking to bring new audiences to theatre. An excellent performance in this a show that doesn’t feel like a show charms, educates, and provokes reflection on the important things in life.

The Principle of Uncertainty runs through 1 April 2017.

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My World Has Exploded a Little Bit, VAULT Festival

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by guest critic Michael Davis

My World Has Exploded a Little Bit is not your average show at the Vaults (or anywhere else for that matter). Developed in collaboration with director/dramaturg Donnacadh O’Briain, My World Has Exploded a Little Bit is Bella Heesom’s response to her parents’ deaths occurring within a few years of each other. That’s devastating at the best of times. For it to happen during your 20s will have a profound effect on one’s relationships and worldview.

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