Period dramas have become the ultimate weekend watch according to trending British media. And while Ladyfriends, written and directed by Clodagh Chapman, is pretty much suffragettes Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney’s story, this isn’t one of those dramas. Ladyfriends starts from the premise that Annie and Christabel are dating. Though historians dispute this based on ‘lack of scholastic rigour’, Chapman’s take doesn’t engage in these controversies and sees Chris and Annies’ dating as a fact. To her, a more exciting endeavour is to explore how people relate to history, and what lays behind re-visiting it and pursuing new readings.
Shakespeare depicts Richard II as an ineffective and selfish ruler with little regard for his people or country. Instead of ruling fairly, he wastes the country’s money on unnecessary wars and steals from citizens to recoup the costs. In director Annie McKenzie’s production, this results in a kingdom ridden with violence and poverty, signified by costumes little more than filthy rags, copious stage blood, and recurring fights. This concept largely works but is undermined by a slow start, unneeded movement sequences, and some inconsistent handling of the text. Though the second half dramatically improves, the first is somewhat baggy and lacking in urgency, reducing the cumulative impact of the whole.
The NHS estimates that postpartum psychosis affects around 1 in 500 mothers shortly after giving birth. Zena Forster’s explosive new dark comedy after birth looks at this, whilst being a real crowd-pleaser. Brutally honest and equally tender and tough, mother-of-two Ann (played by Sally Tatum) and her new-born are trapped in a mother and baby unit after Ann was sectioned for displaying postpartum psychosis symptoms shortly after giving birth.
She shoots, she scores with this one. Waiting for her friends to arrive so they can watch Coventry FC live, we join teenager Lizzie as she takes us on a nostalgic stroll down memory lane to the mid-90s. The show is packed with classic tracks and brand references from the era you may have tried to erase from your memory whilst reminiscing about all the bad outfit choices we made as teens. It’s also full of committed dance moves, chants and audience participation.
The stage is flooded in red light, ‘angry-chick’ music plays, and four women (Rachel Ferguson, Kirby Merner, Léonie Crawford and Chloe Pidhoreckyj) are eating what looks like chorizo slices with their faces pierced by disgust, fear, sadness, and anger. I feel like I might be watching the B+15 rated version of Pixars’ Inside Out, specifically the inside of an angry, feminist cannibal. Just when I wonder where Joy is, a frenzied character bursts in (Daisy Kelly, also the playwright), bringing some more food that the group rejects. We discover that it’s the flesh of a banker they’re eating, supposedly as a stand against capitalism. Violet, who kindled the revolutionary spark but is now sat silently, is forced to confess that it was not her rebellious spirit that inspired her but an episode of sexual harassment from the banker, also her former boss.
Burnt Lemon have taken their acclaimed 2019 Edinburgh Fringe hit Tokyo Rose on the road with a retooled cast, score and book and a good deal of anticipation. The bones of this new version of the show remain the same, telling the story of Iva Toguri, a Japanese-American radio journalist wrongly convicted of treason in 1945. As in the original, themes include xenophobia, cultural identity, and scapegoating, all with a six-strong female cast. The show opens with the high-energy and undeniably catchy “Hello America” – attention well and truly grabbed. Unfortunately, the number also represents the pinnacle of what is otherwise a flat, one-note production. The book (by Baldwin and Yoon) is generally good, retaining some of the smart, self-referential moxie that made the show charming in 2019, but is let down by the weakness of the score.
As writer and performer Kim Scopes points out, bisexual representation on our stages and screens is limited. When a bisexual character appears at all, they are usually defined by their sexual activity and reduced to shallow, biphobic stereotypes. So a whole show about being attracted to more than one gender, made by a bisexual/queer person, is hugely exciting. Unfortunately, despite many great ideas and individual moments of excellent execution, this production feels like a disjointed work-in-progress with sections that only tenuously connect to each other.
As part of Clean Break’s 40th anniversary celebrations, this outdoor, in-person production showcases some of the work the company created over the past year. The collection of short monologues created by Clean Break members and associate artists all share stories of loss, isolation and loneliness, which are further contextualised by lived experiences of incarceration. The character-driven pieces are remarkable examples of human resilience in the face of systemic oppression and a criminal justice system that is punitive and cruel.
Cleo has finally had enough of Kylie Jenner’s celebrity and with nowhere else to safely vent her frustrations, she takes to her anonymous Twitter account. After her first couple of tweets critiquing Kylie’s appropriation of Black culture, Cleo’s best friend Kara busts in when her concerned Whatsapps are ignored. Their ensuing discussion – that often descends into argument – also covers queerness, friendship, teenage offenses and indiscretions, and the long history of violence Black people have suffered at the hands of whites.
Freya, a teenager, is dealing with the micro-universe of lockdown life. She delves into music to evade an annoying younger sibling and two stressed-out parents struggling with employment insecurities. While dealing with home school, Freya daydreams about a boy and wishes she could know if her dreams are reciprocated. Enter Mab, Shakespeare’s neglected character now brought centre-stage in this new play by Danielle Pearson.