When one of their friends died, theatre company Ugly Bucket navigated their grief the only way they knew how – by making a show. Using clowning and physical comedy, an ensemble of five flit between a dying man and his family, an afterlife of jagged pink gravestones where they playact a life cycle, various ways people die and depictions of people dealing with death. It’s both funny and immensely sad, as well as a sophisticated reflection on how we process loss and our own mortality.
Autism isn’t a subject that theatre shies away from. Portraying Autism onstage can be difficult, but plays such as Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime have done an effective job of not only showing different ways that autistic people interpret the world, but also the difficulties resulting from neurotypical people’s reactions to Autism. A crucial factor of other prominent shows with autism, however? A white protagonist.
Let ‘spirit tek yuh’ through a cycle of life and death in this time-warp through Brixton from the 1970’s to present day. Through the decades, three families try to navigate their way through an ever-changing environment. With gentrification and protests on the rise, trying to maintain dying family businesses proves difficult when they are all resistant to change.
Rainer isn’t fussed about the sort of day job she does, as long as it gives her the opportunity to meet people. Currently working as a bike courier for Angel Deliveries, the young writer narrates the trips that take her all over London delivering food. Her story is punctuated with anecdotes of getting too involved with customers, as well as escapades with her flatmate, sessions with her therapist, and aching odes to London. Her bicycle, named Jean, takes her on these adventures as well as gives her the means to outride her demons, but ultimately they are quicker than her.
Whilst feeling uncertain and lost may well be something everyone goes through at least at one point in their life, thats no consolation in the moment. Everyone else seems to have purpose, direction and a place, and the sense of not having that can be debilitating. That’s certainly the case for Myah.
Women’s anger is often expected to be suppressed or contained rather than be unleashed on the world. Otherwise, we risk being labelled ‘crazy’ or ‘a bitch’, no matter what injustice we experience. But Femi can’t hold it in anymore. The night before the group of white men who killed her killed her brother Seun on Margate’s beach face charges of manslaughter, his ghost visits her to share the truth of his death. Initially baffled by her dead brother’s appearance, she is transformed into an embodied fury that cannot and will not stop until she gets revenge.
John Daniel and Noni are the last people on Bear Ridge Mountain. The butchers/petrol station/corner shop that has been in the family for decades is long closed. The village below them is abandoned and planes fly threateningly over head. As they bide their time in this empty, Beckettian hellscape crowded with the ghosts of fraying memories, a stranger appears out of the snow and threatens what little stability they have left.
Penelope Skinner’s 2010 play feels like it’s bursting at the seams with damaged – and damaging – people, but there’s only four of them. Cassie works for a feminist charity and can barely contain her rage against the patriarchy. Her flatmate Rose believes in fairies, numerology and fate but is less concerned with holding down a job and paying rent. Mark owns a flat in Chiswick, works in marketing and is capable of extraordinarily disgusting misogyny and casual homophobia. Then there’s his flatmate Tim, a uni mate who wants to be a carer and is grieving the recent death of his grandmother. The combination of these four personalities could easily lend itself to sitcom-type comedy, but instead they create a perfect storm of dramatic chaos after Rose and Mark start sleeping together.
Waves quietly break along the beach outside a remote holiday home. A woman drinks Earl Gray, eats biscuits and mourns her infant son. Her husband checks on her regularly, but within the icy sea of debilitating grief, they’ve lost the ability to communicate other than through fantastical stories of mythical creatures. Time all but stops in this sparsely-written series of snapshots depicting a couple trying their best to piece their lives together after a tragedy.