The Passion of the Playboy Riots, Hen & Chickens Theatre

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by guest critic Maeve Campbell

Backstage during three momentous Abbey Theatre productions, W.B Yeats’ Cathleen ni Houlihan (1902), J.M Synge’s Playboy of the Western World (1907) and Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars (1926), Yeats and Lady Gregory ponder the state of the Irish nation, and are every time interrupted by future revolutionary Patrick Pearse. An interesting idea, but not fully realised in Neil Weatherall’s The Passion of the Playboy Riots.

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Hamlet Fool, Lion & Unicorn Theatre

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A lesson: always read press releases in full. Why? Because you might turn up to a show and discover it’s performed in Russian (when you don’t speak Russian). At least in this instance knowing the source material for Hamlet Fool, a one-woman street performance style retelling Shakespeare’s classic, provides a base knowledge.

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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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Jam, Finborough Theatre

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by guest critic Simona Negretto

There is always something unsettling and creepy about our memories of school. Almost everyone had “that” teacher who tends to reappear as a projection of our fears during stormy nights all through our life. But on those nights, teachers might find students in their nightmares too.

Matt Parvin’s claustrophobic play, Jam, shows how it is when those incubi become real. In a countryside school on a Thursday evening, Bella’s plans to leave her classroom are changed by the arrival of Kane, an ex-pupil with ADHD who haunted her past and forced her to rebuild her life elsewhere. He comes seeking confrontation, and old wounds, never quite healed, are reopened.

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Disconnect, Ugly Duck

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Imagine a production of Waiting for Godot with more characters, set in space, where the audience chooses the outcome of the story. What you are picturing is probably gloriously weird and kitschy. But now add clumsy dialogue, some poor performances and a loosely applied Brexit analogy, performed on a set that looks like it’s built of cardboard and/or they ran out of paint. If your mind’s eye makes a different picture now, it be more accurate.

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The Ferryman, Royal Court

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Nearly a decade after Jerusalem opened to universal acclaim at The Royal Court, Jez Butterworth finally gives us another masterpiece. A sprawling family/political drama taking place over one day in 1981 rural Armagh, The Ferryman barrels towards a predicable end. But the genius lies in the final scene, where the plot shoots off in a different direction like a rogue firework before exploding. Laden with familial craic, rebel spirit, the complexities of colonialism and rounded off with phenomenal performances, The Ferryman encapsulates the best of contemporary British playwriting.

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Den, Shoreditch Town Hall

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by guest critic Rebecca JS Nice

After working on Tristan Sharps’ Absent at The Shoreditch Town Hall in 2015, I have been given an education in the building’s rich maze of ballrooms and basements, shiny bars and crusty corridors, peeling paint and underground nooks and crannies that both delight and disorientate in equal measure. Dream Think Speak Company did just that, honouring the architecture of the building in a site specific work that set a precedent for work to come. As the evening of May 4th unfolds it seems that Cass Arts are unaware of their sophisticated forbears when they claim to produce “site-specific performances and installations on the themes of secrecy and disguise” in Den. As contemporary immersive theatre expands from the spectacle of Punch Drunk to the intimacy of Sheila Ghelani, Cass Arts have widely missed the context in which they have placed themselves.

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