All Wrapped Up, Stratford Circus

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by Laura Kressly

Oily Cart makes gently immersive, highly sensory performances for people under five years old, and people with complex needs. This winter-themed touring show for little ones takes them into a world of colourful lights, dark shadows and sparkly parcels that reveal an array of treasure, from reams of bubble wrap, to coloured lights to a magnificent puppet constructed out of cellophane. As lights dim and glow amidst the white drapes and shimmering cushions, children are invited to explore the tactile, etherial landscape that evokes the the wonder of unwrapping presents on a snowy Christmas morning.

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Fix, Pleasance Theatre

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by Laura Kressly

Kevin arrives at his last call-out for the day, a dilapidated house in the middle of a forest near where he grew up. Li Na presents him with a washing machine that no longer spins, but as Kevin attempts to repair it, there are obvious hints that the machine isn’t the only thing that’s broken. Intertwining mythical and personal histories, Julie Tsang’s horror story is a compelling blend of the supernatural and the real.

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Antigone, New Diorama

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by Laura Kressly

In 2018, Lulu Raczka’s A Girl in School Uniform (Walks into a Bar) showed her talent for writing compelling, teenage girl characters. In a world that’s so keen to criticise and dismiss young women and their interests and emotions, Raczka’s writing legitimises them. By putting them in life-or-death scenarios, she shows they are empathetic and capable of making huge decisions that shouldn’t be made by anyone other than those much older than them, but they can still like boys and partying. This two-person take on Antigone zooms in on young sisters Ismene and Antigone, social outcasts due to actions by others in their family and who are forced to grow up much too quickly.

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Once, Fairfield Halls

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by Laura Kressly

Made for a mere €112,000, Once is an award-winning, hit indie film. It’s easy to see why in the stage adaptation that has been running regularly around the world since 2011. The melancholic, Irish music performed by actor-musicians and the almost-love story set this show apart from the bold, brash showiness of musicals that stick more closely to traditional forms. It’s appeal lies in the story’s delicate balance of tapping into that tender part of the heart that sadly knows happily-ever-afters aren’t real, and the unrequited celebration of music’s power to bring people together.

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Cinderella, Fairfield Halls

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by Laura Kressly

Croydon’s Fairfield Halls re-opened to much fanfare this year, and their traditional pantomime – with all the glitz, glamour and gags that you’d expect – is ramped up with Disney-quality animations, LED screens and special effects. Though all the problematic elements of panto are still there – like heteronormativity, misogyny, and narrow gender roles – this production showcase the capabilities of tech within what is now a conservative form.

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A Kind of People, Royal Court

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by Laura Kressly

Pretty much anyone that isn’t rich is never far away from losing everything no matter how aspirational they might be. A decade of austerity measures mean that anything going wrong, like losing a job or a relationship breaks down, can lead to ruin within a matter of months, particularly for those who are already marginalised by Britain’s systemic inequality. At the start of Mark’s birthday party, it’s a possibility doesn’t occur to anyone. By the end, racism from one of the party guests catalyses a series of events that shows just how vulnerable people of colour and the working class are, and how desperation can make all of us do things that are ethically and morally questionable, even to our friends and families.

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