The Red Lion, Trafalgar Studios

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I have no interest in football, or any other sports for that matter. It’s not for lack of trying, what with growing up in a middle America that reveres sporting ability above all else. So I approach plays about football with caution, wary that my prejudices could sway my judgement. Fortunately, the tempestuous story of two ideologically opposed, minor league football men and the young player caught between them has little to do with the actual game and has a compelling, emotional narrative.

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Thebes Land, Arcola Theatre

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A playwright wants to write a play about patricide, but with an actual criminal onstage instead of an actor. Initial research leads him to a young man called Martin Santos, serving consecutive life sentences in Belmarsh for killing his father. As weeks pass and the two men get to know each other, stereotypes and expectations are upended in this moving story of masculinity, violence and theatre.

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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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Ponyboy Curtis vs., The Yard

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Trying to write about Chris Goode’s latest Ponyboy Curtis show vs. is like trying to fit a hurricane into a canning jar. The energy, love and freedom on the Yard’s stage is irrevocably alive and unrestrained, and trying to pin this one-of-a-kind butterfly onto a page kills it a little, or a lot. So take this review as a tiny sample of an extravagant banquet that can only be fully experienced directly.

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Punts, Theatre503

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by guest critic Willa O’Brian

Deciding what is best is a tricky thing to do. It’s particularly difficult if you’re trying to do what is best for someone else. How do you know if you’re doing the right thing? Is your aim and end admirable but your means slightly suspect? It’s a constant balancing act and Punts attempts to tackle this fundamental question in myriad ways. Jack is twenty-five and has a learning disability so severe that he lives with his parents and needs constant supervision, or so his mother believes. But it’s difficult growing up under the wing of so protective a maternal eye.

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Bubble Schmeisis, Battersea Arts Centre

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Nick Cassenbaum grew up in London’s Jewish community and experienced all the cultural mores that go with it – Spurs games, dubious summer camps, trips to Israel and discovering his willy isn’t like the other boys’ at school. Like many young people as he got older, he hadn’t quite found his place in the world. Until he went with his grandfather, Papa Alan, to the Canning Town bathhouse.

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Day Two at Buzzcut Festival

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Part of the reason I wanted to come to Buzzcut is that I find it hard to write about live art. I don’t dislike it, far from it – I have a broad but uninformed appreciation of it. But my theatrical home is built from Shakespeare, text-based narratives and the great American playwrights. I’m no Megan Vaughan or Rosie Curtis – I see performance art every now and again, but not nearly enough as I should. So the goal is to see a lot of live art, and write about. The range in styles and approaches is vast and the festival draws live artists from around the country, so it’s a great place to experience this form of performance.

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