Nina, an achingly cool yet awkward young Londoner, wasn’t expecting to meet Gabriel at a BBQ in Tooting, but she does. Their burgeoning relationship seems perfect. Descriptions of dates, parties, meeting each others’ families and moving in together feel natural and healthy, until things start to deteriorate. Moments that were previously joyful become tense, and physical affection is now forceful. As much as this is a monologue about falling in love, it’s also a piece about its deterioration into abuse and finding a way out.
In May 2021 I, a Jewish man, tweeted my thoughts about David Baddiel’s Jews Don’t Count. In response, I received a swathe of antisemitic messaging, including a direct message telling me that this person wished that the Nazis had won.
Frank Ocean fills the air, and audience members tap their feet and nod their heads in time. I jokingly ask my mum if she recognises the song as I recall how I wailed and begged about 10 years ago for her to download his album onto her iPod. Indulging in Frank Ocean’s music is like a Black right of passage. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t adore his range, and if you don’t – you’re lying.
Though a master of testing the theatrical limits of space and time, the first half of Alistair McDowall’s latest play unfolds like a straightforward Gothic thriller. In a largely recognisable style and form, an unnamed young woman is rescued from a Victorian asylum by a medium needing a new assistant, but her unanticipated power has frightening consequences for the household. Though an interesting enough consideration of spiritualism and class, the second half of the show is far more expansive and unpredictable. Like McDowall’s previous plays X and Pomona, dramaturgical conventions are so distended that the world in Act I seems alien. The real world we live in does, too.
Lou and Tosh aren’t long out of uni. They’re housemates and best friends who share everything with each other, including their rejection of society’s expectation of young women to want a serious, monogamous relationship with a man. However, their opposing approaches cause some friction between them, people grow and change, and friendships between girls and women are extremely complex, so the feminist utopia they’re trying to create may not be as perfect as they hope.
Determining a Top 10 has become increasingly troublesome what with the amount of work reviewed by guest critics and the even larger amount that we get invited to but aren’t able to see. So, rather than a more traditional ‘best-of’ list, here’s a totally subjective list of a few of my favourite things – in no particular order – from theatre and performance in 2019.
Night can be a time of rest and escape, or mystery and danger where anything can happen. For people with chronic illnesses, vampires lurk in the darkness whilst those around you sleep. In the wee hours of the morning, playwright Eve Leigh seeks refuge online from her pain and corporeal limitations. Whilst it’s all too easy to condemn the downsides of an extremely online lifestyle, Leigh celebrates its ability to fly her around the world when her body lets her down. This millennial fever-dream of memories, horror stories and conspiracy theories blur the real and the internet’s dark corners as two actor/avatars and colour-soaked design convey the realities of a life punctuated by an uncooperative body.
John Daniel and Noni are the last people on Bear Ridge Mountain. The butchers/petrol station/corner shop that has been in the family for decades is long closed. The village below them is abandoned and planes fly threateningly over head. As they bide their time in this empty, Beckettian hellscape crowded with the ghosts of fraying memories, a stranger appears out of the snow and threatens what little stability they have left.
A new Caryl Churchill play is a special occasion, but four at once is a treat. Radically different in tone and theme, this collection ranges from pleasantly surreal to shocking and strange. Though they stand alone as short plays, as a whole they take on an array of society’s ills – but the pronounced concepts that Churchill is known for occasionally stale here, despite regular moments of brilliance.
Kylie Jenner has just been announced as the world’s first ‘self-made billionaire’ and Cleo is VEX. Feeling this is undeserved, she has launched a tirade of tweets from her anonymous Twitter account @Incognegro about how to kill a social media entrepreneur or, as Cleo thinks of her, a ‘con artist-cum-provocateur’. She is now shut in her bedroom receiving persistent whatsapps from best friend Kara, who is worried about Cleo’s online rant.