Boys, VAULT Festival

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by guest critic Ava Davies

Boys, the inaugural piece by physical theatre group The PappyShow, is about exactly that. It’s an exploration of manhood, of masculinity, of what it means to be a man of colour in the UK today. It’s about mess and silliness and play and pain. It’s about the complexity of selfhood – because how can one man possibly contain all these multitudes?

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Double Trouble, Intermission Youth Theatre

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It can be tough to get kids to engage with Shakespeare. Many of them see the foreign-sounding language and old-fashioned stories as irrelevant to the issues they battle as growing up today. Fortunately, Intermission Youth Theatre artistic director Darren Raymond focuses on exploring contemporary themes in Shakespeare’s work with the 16-25s that make up the theatre company and convinces them to love the Bard.

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Heather, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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Harry receives a children’s book manuscript from an unknown writer, Heather Eames. Impressed, he wants to discuss an advance, rights and making her book the Next Big Thing, but Heather’s based outside of London, heavily pregnant and ill. It doesn’t really matter that they can’t meet in person, so they move forward with negotiating. Three books, several films and endless merchandise later, the public are desperate to meet this mysterious author. But she still refuses to meet her publisher or her fans. Harry pushes and pushes until the truth is revealed.

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Changelings, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Mowgli, a ferocious boy-child raised by wolves in the jungle, has been kicked out of the pack. He’s trying to figure out what to do next when he meets a mysterious creature from another world – or rather, another story. Puck has been watching Mowgli with unusually keen interest, so the two might be able to help each other out.

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Identity Crisis, Ovalhouse

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Phina Oruche has had an extraordinary career. Growing up in Liverpool to Nigerian parents and desperately wanting to see more of the world, she let her best friend Amy talk her into doing a modelling photoshoot as a teenager. Soon she found herself living and working in London, then New York and LA. Eventually tiring of the high fashion world and feeling the pull of her home, she moved back to the UK where he career led her firmly into the film and telly world. Now a mum and conflicted about the cultural pushing and pulling on her life, she examines who she really is the self-penned Identity Crisis. The punchy tapestry of characters and experiences has messy and confusing moments and no clear resolution or story, but it’s brimming with heart and life.

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The Poetry of Exile, White Bear

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You can be who you want to be, right? Rob, a driving instructor in modern day Romford, believes himself to be an 8th century Chinese poet from the Tang Dynasty. When he finally chooses to live the sequestered life of a poet out on the marshes in a wooden hut, it has huge repercussions on his family and friends. The whole thing’s silly – sure, you can choose a career, or where you live, but contrary to what Rachel Dolezal and desperate sci-fi fans may think, we cannot chose our race or the century we live in.

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Swifties, Theatre N16

 

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By guest critic Alistair Wilkinson

The fetishism of absorbing someone else’s life and making it your own is the theme explored in Swifties, particularly how to give your world meaning when everything seems so dismal. The play puts in to question why celebrities exist – is it for people like Nina and Yasmin, whose obsession with their idol Taylor Swift has totally taken control over their own identity?

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