The Beggar’s Opera, Brockley Jack

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By guest critic Michaela Clement-Hayes, @_mickychaela

London in 1728 was a dark and dangerous place. Highwaymen, hangmen and harlots roamed the streets and life was hard. John Gay’s satirical musical The Beggar’s Opera steps away from the traditional romanticised stories of heroes and villains, unrequited love, choosing instead to tell a tale of rogues and murderers. And a little bit of love, for good measure.

Polly Peachum (Michaela Bennison) has defied her parents and married the notorious highwayman Macheath (Sherwood Alexander) However, he has most certainly not forsaken all others. Wanted for his crimes, he leaves Polly with a promise to return.

Lazarus Theatre have taken David Gay’s story and brought it into the 21st century with a bang. Literally – there are party poppers. It’s a whirlwind of a tale – quirky and fun, transcending the centuries and combining modern day with the past.

Performances are strong from everyone, with the cast acknowledging the audience with intense stares throughout, involving them discreetly yet hardly breaking the fourth wall. The staging is simple yet effective, with ladders, coloured masking tape and a few pieces of furniture whisked on and off, and the cast adopting masks and a few props as they switch from key character to chorus.

Singing is good, but feels a little strained in places. However, this does not detract from the story (adapted and directed by Ricky Dukes), and the new lyrics (penned by Bobby Locke) are both clever and amusing.

It’s fun, fast-paced and funny – a very enjoyable show.

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Elephant Man, everything theatre

“…In his original adaptation, writer and director Steve Green confronts audiences with the uncomfortable social history of ownership, entrapment and public appearance in the Victorian era.

“Actor Daniel Christostomou plays Merrick as a sensitive, articulate young man caged by his physical deformities and Victorian attitudes. Rather than prosthetics or make up, costume designer Anastasia Sarajeva has created an evocative, confrontational structure of wire, chain link and mesh for Chrisostomou…

“Steve McGarrick’s portrayal of Frederick Treves is warm but scientific…He genuinely cares for Merrick, but also has a sense of ownership for the man and wants to “keep him” in hospital for the sake of medical research. This is thinly veiled as concern for Merricks’ wellbeing.

“Adam Trussell’s Tom Norman keeps Merrick in a caged bed…as a freak show specimen in a Whitechapel shop front. Trussell also portrays Dr Reginald Tuckett, a deeply disturbed colleague of Treves. Trussell’s characters are very similar to each other, which unfortunately doesn’t allow him to show much range as an actor.

“Amy Sayers and Katie Turner also play a range of characters in Merrick’s life. Many of these characters are also caged, but by prejudices and attitudes that prohibit them from seeing Merrick as fully human.

“Despite Chrisostomou’s incredible performance and the unique approach to Merrick’s experience, the script falls short…

“Regardless of the confusing and unpolished script, the characters and the performances still make this a production worth catching…”

Read the entire review on everything theatre here.

Loaded, everything theatre

“…Loaded by David Brown, a one act play that has been around since 1998, still has the feel of new writing and is certainly innovative. Pete runs a garage, Mick and Hud are his employees. Carol is a firecracker who turns everything on its head whenever she drops by. The four characters’ hopelessness and desperation still rings true as they come up with moneymaking schemes and navigate doomed relationships in a dead-end job.

“The defining feature of this play is the writing…My favourite line is near the end, in a moment between on-and-off couple Pete and Carol. Carol comes to the garage after ditching Pete the night before in favour of having sex for money. When Pete confronts her, her brief but brutal response is, ‘I fuck other people because they aren’t you’…

“All of the performances are excellent. The sole female role, Carol (Gemma Paget), has a rock hard, mouthy exterior but we soon see this is because she is completely unable to cope with the failure that is her life…Pete (Andrew Murton), Mick (Nick Rogers) and Hud (Christopher Ward) all have very distinct characters that somehow manage to simultaneously clash and compliment each other…

“…Director Sean McGrath has great skill at bringing out the subtext and power struggles in the extremely masculine language. He also manages to finding touching moments of intimacy between these incredibly damaged people…

Read the entire review on everything theatre here.

Killed: July 17th, 1916 for everything theatre

“…On first impressions, the superior set evoked the patriotic idealism of small town England at the start of WWI. It was so well-designed and well made by the talented Dave Benson, that it would easily have been at home on West End stage…

“The play uses a non-linear structure to tell the story of Billy Dean, a volunteer solider from Bradford, sentenced for cowardice in the face of the enemy…The best element of this production is the script and story…Even though the ending is rather abrupt, to alter it would take away from the harsh circumstances.

“The performances are good, but not outstanding. This is mostly because the characters were written without a great deal of depth but they still suit the story as they are…

“The costumes were of a high calibre for fringe theatre…costume designer Lorena Sanchez’ creative talent certainly shined through. Sound designer Max Thompson’s relentless bomb blasts during scene transitions became predictable…We certainly never forgot the world of the play was amidst the front lines of WWI.

“This is a story that definitely needs to be performed again. Director Elizabeth Elstub handled it clearly and simply, without any complex directing trickery…”

Read the entire review on everything theatre here.

Shipwrecked! An Entertainment, for everything theatre

“Based on the true story of Henri Louis Grien, otherwise known as Louis de Rougemont, this is a tale of Victorian high adventure and a lying man’s downfall. It is the Jack Studio Theatre’s Christmas production, and one delightfully unlike other seasonal offerings…

“As a sickly child Louis yearned to experience life outside his bedroom walls, and at the tender age of 16 he decided that it was time to find his way in the world. After arriving in London, he meets a sea captain who invites him to work on an upcoming pearling expedition in the Coral Sea. A storm leads to shipwreck and a new life in Aboriginal Australia until he decides to venture home to London thirty years later. On his return to an unrecognisable city of smoke and industry Louis’ story has turns him into a celebrity, and the audience are surprised by a revelation that something was not what it seemed…

“Written by American playwright Donald Margulies, this is the UK premiere of this wonderful play. With a solid concept by Artistic Director Kate Bannister this is a delightful holiday theatre offering. Tony Taylor convincingly portrays Louis at all ages. Rose and Durbin skilfully employ physical performance to show us characters such as the captain, Louis’ mother, his Aborigine wife and Bruno the dog (the audience’s clear favourite). Performances are excellent throughout…

“The only flaws in the production are minor…The ending critiqued the press and society’s treatment of celebrities, but glorified creativity and imagination at the same time. This left me pondering how to view the principal character, and reminded me that life is not always black and white by any stretch.”

Intention: ☆☆☆☆☆

Outcome: ☆☆☆☆

Star Rating: ☆☆☆☆ 1/2

Read the entire review on everything theatre: http://everything-theatre.co.uk/2014/12/shipwrecked-an-entertainment-brockley-jack-studio-theatre-review.html

Elephant Man, for everything theatre

“Joseph Merrick, also known as the Elephant Man or John Merrick, is a hot topic in the theatre, what with Bradley Cooper’s imminent transfer to the West End in this title role. Despite this news, the current, smaller scale production at the Jack Studio Theatre in South London is certainly worth seeing… In his original adaptation, writer and director Steve Green confronts audiences with the uncomfortable social history of ownership, entrapment and public appearance in the Victorian era.

“Actor Daniel Christostomou plays Merrick as a sensitive, articulate young man caged by his physical deformities and Victorian attitudes. Rather than prosthetics or make up, costume designer Anastasia Sarajeva has created an evocative, confrontational structure of wire, chain link and mesh for Chrisostomou. Naked underneath, we see both the actor’s and Merrick’s silhouette…

“Despite Chrisostomou’s incredible performance and the unique approach to Merrick’s experience, the script falls short. The writing is choppy, with large gaps in time and no explanation of what events were excluded. Individual scenes are well-crafted, but not pieced together to form a particularly effective whole, and I found myself needing to read up on Merrick after the fact to clarify plot holes. There are two projected sequences, but they seem arbitrary and would not have been missed if excluded.

“Regardless of the confusing and unpolished script, the characters and the performances still make this a production worth catching…”

Intention: ☆☆☆☆

Outcome: ☆☆☆

Star Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2

Read the entire review on everything theatre: http://everything-theatre.co.uk/2015/02/elephant-man-jack-studio-theatre-review.html