The Cherry Orchard, The Yard

by Laura Kressly

Through his most recent play An Adventure, writer Vinay Patel proved he can masterfully sustain family dramas grappling with big themes. By sticking close to Chekhov’s original story, this adaptation of The Cherry Orchard set in the distant future does similar. A spaceship replaces the estate, but the strict social stratification with a stark disparity in privilege mirror early-1900s Russia. It’s a smart adaptation that works well in surprising ways, though the heavy use of Chekhovian, reflective dialogue and a lack of high conflict mean the story is often slow and baggy.

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Block’d Off, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

by Romy Foster

A young black boy has just been stabbed in the hallway downstairs. The neighbours are sad but ultimately, not surprised. This one-woman show follows the lives of these working-class people in this typical London block.

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Red Pitch, Bush Theatre

by Laura Kressly

The centre of the world is somewhere in south London within walking distance of the Camberwell Morley’s. It might be up Walworth Road towards Elephant, or in the direction of the Oval on Camberwell New Road. It could also be between there and Peckham, or somewhere down near King’s College Hospital. With all of these areas at the mercy of predatory property developers and skint local governments who are tearing down council blocks and throwing up ‘affordable’ (spoiler: only affordable to rich people) housing, it’s hard to tell exactly where red pitch is. It’s there though, tucked amidst small, shabby shopfronts and concrete estates. To 16-year-olds Bilal, Joey and Omz, the red-fenced football field is everything.

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Big Girl, Bread & Roses Theatre

by Laura Kressly

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.

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Meat, Theatre 503

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by Laura Kressly

Two mouldering animal carcasses dangle from butchers hooks at the back of the stage. Glistening fat and muscle clinging to white bone waits to be turned into an expensive meal, then served at the high-concept restaurant’s table for two in the foreground. But fuzzy, green patches around the edge of the larger, more exposed dead body exude an unsettling energy – this meat is old, with the mould indicating a deeper, more insidious rot that’s not so easy to cut out.

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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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Rage But Hope, Streatham Space Project

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by Laura Kressly

An M&S-shopping grandmother. A year seven girl. A young, gay black man. An armed services vet. These are some of the Extinction Rebellion activists that playwright Stephanie Martin celebrates through this articulate and impassioned collection of monologues that advocate for people to commit to any level of action against climate change. However, the problematic aspects of the movement are largely glossed over in order to frame its collective impact as wholly positive.

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