Richard III, Alexandra Palace

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by Louis Train

There’s an annoying trend among artists to draw explicit parallels between historical texts and the present day, tossing around words like ‘prescient’ and ‘timely’, and finding hints of Brexit in Arthur Miller plays like religious fanatics spotting the face of Jesus on toast. That’s not to say, however, that we can’t find broad reflections of our world in old stories: people are still people, just as interesting, lovely, and ugly as they ever have been.

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The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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by Laura Kressly

Changez and an American tourist sit in a cafe having a cup of tea at the best cafe in Lahore. As they wait for their drinks, Changez narrates the story of his life in America as an Economics student at Princeton University and an analyst at one of the top consultancies in New York City. As a young man, he had the world at his feet. His world is very different now.

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Our Country’s Good, Theatre Royal Stratford East

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by an anonymous guest critic

Ramps to the Moon’s Our Country’s Good delivers a production that seamlessly integrates actors with and without disabilities to produce excellent all round performances. Originally written by Timberlake Wertenbaker in 1988, it tells the extraordinary true story of a group of convicts in Australia, who in 1797 with the help of an officer, rehearse and perform a play despite the odds being stacked against them due to strong opposition from the other officers at the settlement.

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The Drill, Battersea Arts Centre

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by Laura Kressly

‘See it. Say it. Sorted.’

Every Londoner knows this slogan from the British Transport Police encouraging us to be vigilant as we go about our days. Be alert, and if you see something suspicious, report it.

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The Tin Drum, Shoreditch Town Hall

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Oskar is a child of myth and legend. Or maybe he’s just bad-tempered and noisy. Either way, he comes into a fictional world of darkening shadows that’s clearly pre-WWII Europe. Born with a fully adult brain, he looks down on most people around him but has simple, childish request – that his mother buys him a tin drum.

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The Marked, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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It’s so easy to ignore the homeless people that line the periphery of routine journeys and forget they are just as human as the rest of us, with passions, fears and often troubled pasts. The Marked puts homeless young man Jack at the centre of a desolate, urban landscape populated with pigeons, people who move him on and demons from his past. Masks and puppetry add a richness to his story, but not always warmth. In most of Jack’s encounters, be they real or in his head, he is believably under threat.

Peter Morton’s puppets are sweet and whimsical, with Jack’s pigeon companion being particularly lovely and with an excellent range of movement. Jack as a child has a sadness to him, emphasised further by familial alcoholism that we can assume eventually drives him away from home.

Grotesque masks by Grafted Cede Theatre are skilfully used to differentiate between fantasy and reality, with the haunted, oversized faces ever in the back of Jack’s eyes. Zahra Mansouri’s costumes make these figures larger than life and all the more threatening, rendering Jack helpless in their presence and the audience to empathise.

Devised by the cast of three and presumably with the support of director Allin Conant, the spoken text centres around Jack’s encounters with a homeless couple, Pete and Sophie. Here is where the show falls short: the potential for conflict and tenderness amongst the three isn’t fully realised due to too few, underwritten scenes. Though these human characters ground Jack in reality somewhat, there is also little focus on the dichotomy of reality vs. demons. There is real potential for a fight for Jack’s life or sanity between the two forces, but the script doesn’t capture as much of Jack’s struggle as it could.

Visually, this is a wonderful production that makes some powerful points on the mental health of homeless people. Jack becomes a fully realised person through the creatures that haunt him, but his encounters with other humans don’t do him full justice.

The Marked tours nationally through 2017.

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