The Principle of Uncertainty, Draper Hall

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According to one of the theories of quantum mechanics we’re taught in The Principle of Uncertainty, we can be in multiple places at once. If only that were true. I could review way more shows than I can currently, go on holiday, live in multiple countries and hold down several jobs, all at once. It would be wonderfully productive. Dr Laura Bailey (Abi McLoughlin), the lecturer who explains the theory to us, has a simpler wish – to be able to see her daughter again.

We are Dr Bailey’s freshman class in Draper Hall, a housing estate community space in Elephant & Castle newly doubling as a performance venue run by veteran Italian polymath Stefania Bochicchio. The non-traditional space doesn’t have a lighting rig or backstage, so shows like this that defy theatrical conventions are a natural fit.

Closely resembling a lecture, this production takes time to get to its point but when it does, it breaks hearts. McLoughlin excels as the warm, enthusiastic Laura and utterly convinces as a scientist. Her gentle breakdown is a moving climax to a script as it begins to lose focus, with the attention shifting from equations and concepts to her own, personal story.

Dr Andrea Brunello’s script is science heavy, though it doesn’t matter if it’s understood or not. It takes awhile for the story to emerge from the lesson; though it doesn’t work if it’s earlier, this happens well after the question of what the performance’s point is arises. McLoughlin is fully engaging throughout even if it’s difficult to care about the content of the lecture.

The piece suits the space well, and takes a relaxed and accessible tone – a great choice for a south London council estate venue seeking to bring new audiences to theatre. An excellent performance in this a show that doesn’t feel like a show charms, educates, and provokes reflection on the important things in life.

The Principle of Uncertainty runs through 1 April 2017.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.

The Bad Seed, Brockley Jack Studio Theatre

L-R Rebecca Rayne as Rhoda, Jessica Hawksley as Monica and Beth Eyre as Christine © David Monteith-Hodge

Rhoda is the picture-perfect 1950s American child. Obedient, clever and helpful, she is a dream for any parent. But after the death of a classmate who won the penmanship medal Rhoda coveted, mum Christine’s investigations into past “accident” uncover a dark secret from her own childhood that means Rhoda isn’t all that seems. The revelation ends in tragedy with serious implications for Rhoda’s future.

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Made in India, Soho Theatre

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@hannahnicklin: Since reading this I keep on thinking in quiet moments ‘women are raped nightly so I can have tomatoes in winter’

We know we exploit foreign workers for cheap goods, because we’re liberal and aware. But does that stop us? Largely, no – because we can’t afford to. I buy my clothes from Primark and my fruit and veg from the stalls that line Peckham Rye because I work in the arts and I’m poor. I don’t give any thought to where they come from in the transactional moment, but am righteously moved by articles like the one above that Hannah Nicklin tweeted. Sure, this makes me a hypocrite. But I need only to look at the other people also shopping on Sunday mornings to reinforce that I am far from alone. Most of my fellow “liberal elites” (educated, urban and left leaning) are the same, and centuries of imperialism (obviously white, male and western-led) have established the systems that the whole of society (including the liberal factions) implicitly condones through consumerism.

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Space Play, VAULT Festival

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by guest critic Michael Davis

In recent years, tales of space travel have been making more of an appearence in theatre. While the Royal Court showcased Alistair McDowall’s X last year, the Fringe scene has had mature, high-quality productions of its own – including Emily Holyoake’s Stasis and Curious Directive’s Pioneer. Space Play, which has been running at the VAULT Festival, looks at the aftermath of orbital collision with space debris, inspired by the events of the film Gravity.

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Assisted Suicide: The Musical, Royal Festival Hall

It’s uncomfortable to watch a play that conflicts with your politics or world view, and Liz Carr’s Assisted Suicide: The Musical does just that. The gay actor and comedian aligns with cuddly liberal ideology other than her avowed opposition to legalising assisted suicide in the UK. As a disabled woman, she worries that disabled people will consequently feel pressured to end their lives so they are no longer burdens on their loved ones, especially as many non-disabled people flippantly comment how hard their lives must be. After all, if you’re told the same thing over and over again, it’s too easy to start believing it.

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Songs For the End of the World, Battersea Arts Centre

 

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Jim Walters is the first person sent to colonise Mars. But when a global apocalypse occurs, trapping him in the Earth’s orbit and running out of oxygen, he and his guitar are left to broadcast music to the devastation below. Can anyone hear him? Are there any survivors? Will he ever know? Dom Coyote and his band the Bloodmoneys present a post-Brexit apocalypse in the gig-theatre Songs For the End of the World, a piece overly heavy on the ‘gig’ and reliant on a plot constructed of dystopian tropes. Though the story is thin, Dom Coyote’s songs are fantastically varied and plentiful, helping to gloss over any shortcomings in the script.

There’s rockabilly, 90s rock anthems, glam rock, and blues numbers with a touch of connecting story sprinkled in between. Set in Ashley Coombe, the village serves as a window into the attitudes of small, English towns of this dictatorial era – the elderly preacher woman who runs the place condemns foreigners, terrorists and space exploration whilst the rebels put on club nights in an underground bunker. The country is now called New Albion and rather than run by an individual, a corporation dictates all rules and procedures. These plot devices are predictable within a story of a dystopian future, but are simplistic enough to work within the gig-theatre format without needing much explanation. As these two tribes clash, Jim Walters is in space – a symbol of both human progress and arrogant dominion. It’s no surprise which side survives down on Earth, and that the future beyond the end of the show looks particularly bleak.

Though the story is overly familiar, the music is wonderfully varied. David Bowie’s promised influence is clear, but not limiting in style. All of the characters in this Little England kitsch/cold international corporation hybrid are suitably blown out of proportion, but feel eerily familiar in a fundamentalist-driven, isolationist Britain and a world where Donald Trump may become the next leader of its most powerful country. Staging is fairly static as per the usual gig-theatre approach, but there is some variation in movement and costume. The lighting design adds power and hope to the bleak, clinical setting.

A more substantial script and dynamic staging would lend more theatricality to the excellent set of tunes in of Songs For the End of the World; as is, it is overly driven by music and the narrative potential is neglected. That said, it would make a fantastic concept album, and the design is strong – an extra half hour of script would add polish to this fun, vibrant performance piece.

Songs For the End of the World is now closed.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.

World Without Us, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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Imagine the world if the entire human population disappeared suddenly, without a trace. What would it look like after a day, a month, a century, an era? A lone performer from Belgian company Ontroerend Goed methodically describes how the theatre space we sit in would change as a focal point within the wider world’s transformation. Delivered in a near monotone on a stage bare except for a grey obelisk, World Without Us is a meditative account of our solar system’s lifespan, and humanity’s inconsequence in the great scheme of planetary existence.

Karolien De Bleser quietly narrates this epoch-spanning journey of our planet with matter of fact coolness. What she describes really is remarkable in its compressed state, but the almost total lack of inflection makes the text pedestrian even in its most dramatic moments. Her movement around the space is relaxed and random, to look for meaning in it feels silly what with the story she tells.

With the ability to focus on the story without the mind drifting to topics such as what to have for lunch, the overall effect is a sense of calm acceptance that our lives, whilst impacting the planet immediately, really don’t matter. Our absence has little effect other than the gradual decay and burial of the artefacts we leave behind. Even in periods of environmental turmoil such as we see in the planet’s history, the impact is meaningless.

Even though the sun eventually swells and engulfs the Earth before it dies, all is not lost. Lightyears away, a single human artefact remains with a friendly but assumptive purpose. Its contents are, depending on one’s world view, absurd or incredibly beautiful. Perhaps they are both.The whimsy of human invention is particularly poignant at this moment.

World Without Us is a lovely, contemplative piece of performance and would work particularly well as an audio recording. As theatre, it could come across as flat, or upsetting or remarkable, depending each individual’s world view. Calmly provocative, it is wonderfully wide open to interpretation and effect.

World Without Us is now closed.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.