NetherBard, TheatreN16

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by Amy Toledano

In a man’s world, Budding Rose Productions is creating space where women take the lead, playing the kings, the warriors, and fools. And while our four actresses bring guts to this unique show, the potential for a feminist, Shakespearean world isn’t completely met. The characters feel quite 2D and a desperate need of fleshing out is in order to deliver such a powerful message.

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Three Sisters, Yard Theatre

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By Laura Kressly

British theatre’s slavish reverence for classic texts stifles innovation, resulting in safe, similar productions of the same collection of canonical works. This attitude needs to be challenged, and RashDash’s Three Sisters proves they’re the company to do it. Their female-centred, millennial take on Chekhov’s story of three women trapped in the Russian countryside pining for their old lives in Moscow is a gloriously irreverent and refreshing interpretation.

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Sacha Guitry, My Daughter and I, Drayton Arms Theatre

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by guest critic Kudzanayi Chiwawa

Director Marianne Badrichani brings us this adaptation inspired by Sacha Guitry, a 20th Century playwright, actor and director. It includes short plays and extracts of his works, performed by an ensemble of three – Edith Vernes, Sean Rees and Anais Bachet.

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Curtain Call, White Bear Theatre

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The backstage comedy has been around for what feels like as long as theatre itself, and it’s difficult to improve upon or innovate it. Simon Bradbury’s attempted dark comedy Curtain Call takes a different direction, instead using the genre to look at ageing, failure and unrequited love. The overwritten script needs significant cutting and dramaturgical streamlining, but it has a dynamic premise that looks at an often-ignored demographic.

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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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The Marriage of Kim K, Arcola Theatre

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by guest critic Maeve Campbell

In 2011 Osama Bin Laden was killed, Pope John Paul II was beautified, and Kate and Wills tied the knot. Nearly as many people watched another televised wedding that year  as a new reality-TV religion swept the globe. This is where The Marriage of Kim K, a new opera penned by Leoe Mercer and Steven Hyde, begins.

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Don Q, Greenwich Theatre

Production shot 4 croppedI really struggled to come up with a suitably erudite introduction to this review of Flintlock Theatre’s Don Q. Not because it’s hard to summarize – quite the opposite. The structure works, the message and plot are clear and the performances are excellent in this suitable-for-all-ages appropriation of Cervantes’ Don Quixote. I am chalking my difficulties up to this being such an enchanting and moving play that words aren’t quite capturing that “warm and fuzzy but actually quite sad” feeling I had the entire time. Everything I tried to write came across as cold and clinical. It’s a rare occasion that I go to theatre and nearly forget to take notes because what I am seeing on stage grips me by the proverbials that as a woman, I don’t even have. Seeing Don Q evoked the joy and wonderment I had on my first experience of theatre as a small child.

It’s not a simple show, though. Four actors take on numerous levels of characterization. Like Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a group of unrelated characters bookend the play. In this case hapless librarians, frustrated by the council’s efforts to close them down, highlight the importance of storytelling by relating the tale of Norman Vaughan to us. Norman, as we soon find out, is probably their most infamous patron. Norman’s nameless nephew thinks Norman, now 81 years old, has gone mad. You see, Norman loves to read and reenact the stories he reads with his younger friend Sam and anyone else he cajoles into joining him. It is immediately and painfully clear that Norman is completely lucid; he just has a joyful passion for stories and acting them out. The younger generation are so busy being adults that they have forgotten the pleasure of playacting and the power of an absorbing tale. So not only are the audience reminded of the importance of reading and allowing ourselves to be absorbed in a good book, we are also more subtly admonished for not taking the time to listen to our elders and treat them like human beings. So what if Norman (or any other elderly person) loves what he does? As long as no one gets hurt, we are told to leave well enough alone.

Norman’s nephew, having had enough of Norman’s mishaps and convinced he has gone mad, puts him in a nursing home to be looked after properly. He strictly forbids Norman from having access to any books. Sam, on one of his visits, smuggles in a copy of Don Quixote into the nursing home. A comedy chase results in their escape and an adventure imitating a selection of escapades from the original novel. Sam is a begrudging Sancho Panza, a pair of scooters augmented with push brooms and spoons are their trusty steeds and other people they encounter on the way play other characters (some more willingly than others). Their madcap journey is full of whimsy, spontaneity and emotional turmoil but with a potentially tearful ending for the more sentimental of audience members.

Director Robin Colyer skillfully employs physical theatre sequences to add variation and an atmosphere of a touring troupe of players. This is clearly a well-rehearsed, established production; not a breath was out of time. Objects and costume pieces are used liberally and often comically, in a style reminding me of the West End’s 39 Steps. The set and costumes are simple and rustic, but versatile and thought through. Nothing is excessive, nor sparse; the production design is just right.

The performances unite a fantastic script with heaps of audience interaction, and the great design to create a beautifully polished little show. Some call and response would have made more people feel included, as well as giving costume and lines to those in all parts of the auditorium rather than only those sat in the front row. Actors Jeremy Barlow, Francesca Binefa, Kate Colebrook and Samuel Davies are versatile multi-rollers with outstanding chemistry as an ensemble. Whilst I considered that having an older man play the role of Norman would have brought more to the story, the role is incredibly physically demanding and would be difficult to play at a more advanced age.

Don Q is only at Greenwich Theatre for a brief time, but then continues its national tour. This Oxford-based company is worth seeing no matter what your age, where you are or what you do. They use physical theatre, Brecht, storytelling and meta theatre but in an unobtrusive, charming way to create this lovely, warm, gem of a play.

Intention: ☆☆☆☆☆

Outcome: ☆☆☆☆

Star Rating: ☆☆☆☆ 1/2


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