Dominoes, Tara Theatre

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There’s a database where you can look up the size of reparations paid to slave owners after slavery was abolished. In Dominoes, History teacher Leila and her fiancé Andy share the same last name – McKinnon. Andy’s white and Scottish, Leila’s half black-Caribbean. When curiosity gets the better of her in the run up to their half term wedding, she makes a discovery that pits family and friends against each other and threatens to destroy her big day.

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Identity Crisis, Ovalhouse

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Phina Oruche has had an extraordinary career. Growing up in Liverpool to Nigerian parents and desperately wanting to see more of the world, she let her best friend Amy talk her into doing a modelling photoshoot as a teenager. Soon she found herself living and working in London, then New York and LA. Eventually tiring of the high fashion world and feeling the pull of her home, she moved back to the UK where he career led her firmly into the film and telly world. Now a mum and conflicted about the cultural pushing and pulling on her life, she examines who she really is the self-penned Identity Crisis. The punchy tapestry of characters and experiences has messy and confusing moments and no clear resolution or story, but it’s brimming with heart and life.

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Bunny, White Bear Theatre

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Katie is a fairly average eighteen-year-old living a life busy with A-levels, uni applications and her older boyfriend, Abe. She’s not sure what she wants to do with the rest of her life, but she’s enjoying the here and now of Luton in the springtime. Her fragmented story by Jack Thorne focuses on one afternoon after school that starts out predictably, but soon spirals out of her comfort zone. The action that unfolds tests Katie’s maturity and independence, but the story is not one that is particularly interesting even with good delivery.

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Feature | No, Dominic Cavendish – You Are the Thought Police

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by Dr. Jami Rogers, University of Warwick

Dominic Cavendish can rest assured: he will not lose the opportunity to see his favourite (white) male actors in leading Shakespearean roles. After all, what producer would refuse Kenneth Branagh the chance to play Leontes in The Winter’s Tale or stop inviting Ralph Fiennes to work his way through the classical canon? The star system remains overwhelmingly skewed towards the (white) male and, as such, any (white) male classical actor who fancies it will most likely be first in line for a West End Shakespearean lead. Antony Sher has just played King Lear and Simon Russell Beale showed us his Prospero, to name two more male classical actors who are not exactly short of Shakespearean work. Cavendish’s opinion piece is misguided in its assertion that men are an endangered species on the classical stage – and somewhat light on facts.

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The Wild Party, The Other Palace

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Newly rebranded as The Other Palace and now part of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s empire, the former St Jame’s Theatre aims to focus on new British musical theatre. With Paul Taylor-Mills at the creative helm and two spaces in which to develop and showcase new work from the UK, their debut production is…(drumroll)…an American musical from 2000. An odd choice considering the Broadway production nearly two decades ago left critics unimpressed.

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Feature | Barker’s Play Doesn’t Erase Minorities – The Print Room Does

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by Daniel York

I actually sat down and read In The Depths of Dead Love last night.

If anything, I’m even more angry now. The argument put forth by the Print Room is that, although the play is set in ancient China and the characters have Chinese names, the characters are not “Chinese” and it’s a very “English story”.

Is this true? Well, there are a lot of “deep bows” and talk of emperors but reading the work leaves me wondering just exactly how ethno-specific a play would have to be before the people who programmed and presented this one would consider that, yes, we might just have to cast some actors who aren’t actually Caucasian and middle-class.

The thing that really does disgust me, though, is the Print Room’s argument that they should have the right to cast “the best actors for the roles, independent of ethnic origin”. Leaving aside that being “independent of ethnic origin” appears to be a privilege that only applies to white people, we have the Print Room citing Christopher Hurrell’s defence that, “the characteristics [Barker’s play] seeks in actors are not social, cultural or ethnic—they’re technical, aesthetic and artistic.”

Let’s just pause there. Would it have to be written in pidgin English before the demands were relegated to “social, cultural or ethnic”?

And this is what is utterly despicable about the whole argument I’ve had so many times in the past and, I hope, not too many more in the future: the sheer racial and social snobbery embodied by organisations like the Print Room and the Wrestling School when they assert that they cast “the best actors for the role”. What they’re actually saying is “you little ethnics just aren’t up to the job”.

This would be bad enough but we’re now all pretty much certain that they never met or considered any actors of any other ethnic background other than white Caucasian for this production. This play which was produced on the radio in 2013, which Christopher Hurrell maintains was given a reading at the Print Room in 2013. They’ve had FOUR YEARS to develop this. FOUR YEARS in which it looks as if they never once even considered casting actors who weren’t white. I presume, they never once considered that actors who weren’t white Caucasian were up to the “technical, aesthetic and artistic” demands of the play.

The racial and social snobbery is compounded by the Print Room alleging that the protests have come from “some members of the public” when in fact it’s mainly members of the theatre community. When they argue that the references to China are merely “oblique”. When they give trite lectures about The Great Man being a “fabulist” whose work “is poetic and often difficult to pin down in time or place”.

Yes, we do understand all those things. Because we’ve actually read a few books too. We understand the arguments perfectly because, believe it or not, we’re “artists” as well.
And, as artists, we politely but firmly reject this cultural ethnic elitist high-handedness.

Please join us in in our protest this Thursday Jan 19th. If you can’t physically make it (or even if you can) please partake in the “thunderclap” social media protest.

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Glockenspiel, Tristan Bates Theatre

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In the programme notes for Steven Dykes’ Glockenspiel, we are told that 40% of current personnel have been deployed more than once, and 27% of those veterans deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from anxiety disorders and/depression. A fifth of ex-service people are unemployed, and a fifth report cases of domestic violence. Male ex-service members are twice as likely to commit suicide than their non-serving peers. So it’s no secret that the US doesn’t look after its veterans very well. The play tries to look at the effects of service on those now finding their way in the civilian world, but Old Sole Theatre Company’s execution doesn’t deliver the power needed for this slowly-developing script.

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