Monster, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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I didn’t have any particular expectations from Joe Sellman-Leava’s new play on male violence. But I am joyfully surprised by an opening montage of rapidly-delivered Shakespeare, ranging from Othello to Taming of the Shrew. Disarmingly vicious in its delivery, this scene snaps into an audition for a play, then a house in Exeter, then the video research material for Joe’s character, and back again.

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Submission and Sarah, Sky and Seven Other Guys, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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A British Pakistani Muslim tries to reconcile his faith and family with his love of men and clubbing.

A gay guy and his straight female bff share a flat, a mutual adoration for classic films and the occasional man.

Liver & Lung Productions’ two new plays, whilst needing further development, look at two issues that queer men of colour face. Submission is the stronger of the two works, though Sarah, Sky and Seven Other Guys includes a mix of serious and light-hearted material.

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Brutal Cessation and Dust, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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Actor and writer Milly Thomas is an unstoppable force refusing to shy away from tough material. A First World Problem, her most recent play, lays bare the cruel adolescent world of a top girls’ private school. Her two shows at the fringe are stylistically different from each other, but both are similarly confrontational. Brutal Cessation forces the audience to examine the gender stereotypes within an abusive, cishet relationship and Dust, the significantly stronger of the two works, is a monologue on mental health and suicide.

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Odd Man Out, Hope Theatre

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A middle-aged, gay Welshman contemplates the English class he teaches in Hong Kong. Amongst the students is Windy, the Chinese woman with whom he shares his bed. Utterly smitten with her, he refers to her as his Pocahontas. He then kisses a barbie doll with long black hair and tanned skin.

Pocahontas was a Native American woman kidnapped by the colonising English in the 1600s, forced to marry, then taken to Britain. The same woman bore her husband a child then died, aged 21, after contracting a European illness.

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Blondel, Union Theatre

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I am often impressed with theatre’s ability to transform the most serious of topics into bouncy, chirpy musicals. Tim Rice and Tom Williams looked to the Crusades for their comedic tale of Richard I’s court musician, Blondel, but discarded much of the history. This 1983 show has some great numbers, but its frivolity and insubstantial book focusing on a personal journey rather than the larger political landscape is diminutive rather than powerfully sweeping. This is no Les Mis or Miss Saigon; it is instead an under-developed documentation of a rise to fame – but it still has its moments of fun.

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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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