An Abundance of Tims, King’s Head Theatre

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by guest critic Amy Toledano

Shepard Tone Theatre Company’s An Abundance of Tims is a rather strange one-man show that feels like exactly what it claims to be – a story all about Tim and the misadventures he and his two speaker companions (also both played by Tim) have.

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A State of Mind, King’s Head Theatre

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by Laura Kressly

Billie has been around. Now in her 60s, she reflects on a life filled with sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. But it’s not always been carefree – looking after her dying mother, dysfunctional relationships and a lack of parental support system meant that from her teen years she largely had to find her own way. Though she grew up in the age of free love, she also saw its dark underbelly and wants to share what she’s learnt along the way.

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The Unbuilt City, King’s Head Theatre

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by Laura Kressly

Claudia is a reclusive collector whiling away the time in her Brooklyn Heights townhouse overlooking the East River and lower Manhattan. Jonah is a young writer day jobbing for his old university’s academic archives. He’s been sent to see if Claudia has a priceless item, long thought lost, hidden away in her home. As her life approaches it’s midnight hour, she is desperate to cling to the last thing that gives her some power and Jonah is desperate to win this commission which would financially secure his immediate future.

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Trainspotting Live, Vaults

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by Laura Kressly

Two men pelting it down Princes Street in Edinburgh as a voiceover lists the goals of typical adult life – big tellys, cars, careers – is one of the most iconic moments in British cinema. Ranked tenth by the BFI in its 1999 evaluation of best British films, Trainspotting has left an indelible mark on popular culture.

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The Magic Flute, King’s Head Theatre

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by guest critic Alistair Wilkinson

The King’s Head Theatre has been turned into a South American jungle, and we are invited to go along with the intrigued explorer Tamino, as he embarks on his journey to discover a world full of magical beings. In this world, and actually this performance too, nothing is what is expected.

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Russian Dolls, King’s Head Theatre

Russian Dolls at King's Head Theatre, Stephanie Fayerman and Mollie Lambert_1 © Andreas Grieger

Camelia’s just got out of young offenders’ but her mum never turned up to collect her, so she’s back to looking after herself. Hilda is a blind elderly woman fending of her goddaughter’s attempts to move her to Basingstoke. When Camelia robs Hilda after tricking into believing she’s covering for her carer, the two end up influencing each other much more than ever expected. Kate Lock’s Russian Dolls tells the fraught story of an unlikely dependency that is doomed to end badly for both women. Lock’s characters are fantastic, and their scenes together are tense and charged with moments of genuine tenderness. In between the scenes are narrative monologues that, whilst providing necessary information, are awkwardly addressed to the ether and disrupt the story’s momentum.

Stephanie Fayerman as Hilda and Mollie Lambert as Camelia are a volatile pair. The energy between them is either stormy or potentially so; the tension makes them wonderfully watchable. Their few scenes of relaxed openness towards the other are fleeting, but hugely rewarding and loaded with tough love. Both performances are excellent, and the dependency on the other is great to watch.

There is no sentimentality towards young people, the care system or aging in Lock’s script. The lack of happy ending is a touch disappointing, but it’s accurate. The stories of young people from broken homes actually managing to turn their lives around are rare considering the 69,540 young people in care as of March last year. Every now and again an “inspiring” case hits the news, but for the majority of these children, their lives are part of an endless cycle of poverty, abuse, drugs and jail time. Well done to Lock for not going the easy route with her narrative.

Structurally, the script is quite simple and there are large, frustrating chronological jumps that skips huge sections of both characters’ emotional journeys. This could easily be a full length, two-act play and would work very well as such. Provided the current ending is kept, a 2 hour or so build up would make it all the more devastating.

Russian Dolls, winner of the Adrian Pagan Award and shortlisted for the Bruntwood Prize, is a bolshy play full of life in all of its glorious imperfections. It’s an honest look at the care system and its flaws, but the actors’ characterization and electric relationship is the highlight of this new play.

Russian Dolls runs through 23 April.

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