The lights dangling over the audience in the intimate pub garden theatre look rather like anal beads. It’s a great choice by lighting designer Richard Lambert because they suit the joyously raunchy tone of this adult panto in Vauxhall, or rather, the charming mountain village Vaüxhallen. The town’s residents we meet over the two hour-long show are all out for some action and adventure – in every sense of the word.
Emily Jane Rooney longs for a world that doles out praise for being happy rather than being skinny, and where people can comfortably be their true selves. On the other hand, she wants the posh kid she works with to just fuck off. This clever use of contrast – switching from warm and vulnerable, to biting and sharp, and back again – keeps this one-woman show consistently engaging and fun despite a few underdeveloped moments that don’t fully cohere with the rest of the narrative.
The first pub theatre reopening after 5 months of COVID-19 closure feels like a celebration of survival. Given the governmental neglect of the theatre industry has faced since lockdown started, and the number of job losses this has caused across the industry, a tiny space in Clapham being able to stage its first socially-distanced, indoor production is huge. However, this unassuming new play by Michael Dunbar is more of a tangled character study that, though largely well-performed, consists of under-developed subplots and good intentions that aren’t effectively conveyed.
A woman informs us that storytelling needs a sustained breath. She’s then interrupted by a crying baby, a young boy who wants her attention, and a husband who points out both but makes no attempt to help. The unnamed translator, who may or may not have lived in New York, now lives in Mexico City. Her days that – remembered or imagined – were once filled with reading and writing, nights out, casual sex and music, now consist of nappies, playtime and housework.
Nuclear war has broken out and most of North America has been destroyed. The bombs are getting closer to London, and there are fewer escape options now that the borders are closed. There’s a sex commune in Wales, or the opportunity to join an alien species on another planet seeking a cis het couple to perpetuate the human race. Liam and Tess have applied for the latter.
Before Jonathan Larson’s iconic musical RENT took the world by storm, there was the autobiographical show, Tick, Tick…Boom!. Originally performed by Larson as an solo show before his tragic death in 1996, the piece was later revamped into a three-hander by David Autumn.
Waves quietly break along the beach outside a remote holiday home. A woman drinks Earl Gray, eats biscuits and mourns her infant son. Her husband checks on her regularly, but within the icy sea of debilitating grief, they’ve lost the ability to communicate other than through fantastical stories of mythical creatures. Time all but stops in this sparsely-written series of snapshots depicting a couple trying their best to piece their lives together after a tragedy.
Over the August bank holiday weekend, people of West Indian heritage have been celebrating their history and culture in the face of racial oppression since the 1960s. Bright colours, elaborate costumes, loud music, dancing, and lashings of rum mark the Carnival that’s now one of the largest in the world. In her female-led, debut play taking place over a day at Notting Hill Carnival, Yasmin Joseph pays homage to the people, young and old, that make up the event’s vibrant landscape and give it its soul.
Under the fluorescent lighting stacking tins of soup, early 20-something Katie feels at home. The songs on the radio change but the customers don’t, and Hope is there to tease her, juggle fruit and kiss her on the countertop – when Jo the slightly frazzled shopkeeper isn’t there to tell her to get down.
Peter and Gladys pass their days tending potted plants and journaling. Life is quiet as they reflect on their lengthy pasts, stretching out behind them like toxic shadows. Neither are happy in their shabby, all-white suburb tense with apartheid-era legislation, but a visitor that evening may just be the thing they need.