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Aug 29th

Grimeborn at the Arcola: The Dowager's Oyster by Mander/Cherry

By Carolin Kopplin


Grimeborn has returned to the Arcola for the 10th year, offering bold new versions of classic operas, forgotten works and brand new pieces.  The Dowager's Oyster with music by Louis Mander and lyrics/ book by Jack Cherry is a new operetta supposedly combining Gilbert & Sullivan with Agatha Christie.

The two-act operetta is based on an original story by the composer and takes us back to 1924, Rochester House. Cynthia (Jane Wilkinson) convinces her aged mother Lady Tindale (Melanie Lodge) to embark on a holiday to the French island of Oléron, accompanied by their maid unenthusiastic maid Genevieve (Caroline Kennedy). Cynthia's fiancé Freddy (Aidan Coburn) cannot join them as he prefers going to Morocco with his - unknown to Cynthia - lover Christopher (Tom Morss). On their journey to France, Cynthia and her mother encounter two old friends - Karl Grinzig (Henry Neill) and his wife Marta (Clare Barnett-Jones), who indulge in gossping about everyone on board the ferry, including the Dowager and Cynthia, who they consider much too dowdy for an attractive catch such as Freddy.

As they arrive on the somewhat backwards island Oléron that - nomen est omen - has a distinctive fishy smell, they share a rickety ride to their chalets. Whilst Cynthia is pining for her absent love, Freddy is having a ball in Morocco. But Freddy knows that his love for Christopher has to remain a secret. He will have to marry Cynthia and continue to hide his true love. One day when Cynthia and her mother, whose unpleasant demeanour has not made her many friends on the island as yet, have a meal in a nice café, Lady Tindale suddenly drops to the floor and dies. The coroner Dr Gibaud (Julian Debreuil) declares that Lady Tindale was poisoned and sets off to find the culprit as he is also the police detective of the island.

Jack Cherry's production is broad farce and the characters are drawn as caricatures, leaving the actors/singers little room to develop their roles. Still Melanie Lodge's comical performance as the sour faced Dowager is definitely one highlight of the show. Although this is a new operetta, the book appears very dated and does not even come close to Gilbert's writing, which seems fresh and sophisticated in comparison. Many of the jokes are very clichéd, e.g. "Freddy is having a gay old time in Morocco", and there is plenty of slapstick humour. However, the music and singing are highly enjoyable with many catchy tunes by musical director Louis Mander, who also directed the talented orchestra during the evening: Karen Street on the accordion, Jack Cherry on double bass, and Jacob Powell - usually hidden away in complete darkness - on the drums. The set design by Anna Driftmier is very basic, adding to the cartoonish nature of the production.

This is a very silly bit of fun.  

By Carolin Kopplin

Arcola Theatre

Running time: 100 minutes with one interval

Grimeborn Festival

 23 July - 8 Sepember 2016

More info:

Aug 28th

The Plough and the Stars at the National Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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Nora Clitheroe (Judith Roddy) and Uncle Peter (Lloyd Hutchinson)

Ireland has not known the exhilaration of war for 100 years.

After the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, the National Theatre is now also staging Sean O'Casey's classic to commemorate the centenary of the Easter Rising. The third play in O'Casey's Dublin trilogy, The Plough and the Stars is set in a tenement house in Dublin from November 1915 to Easter 2016 and focuses on the lives of the tenents rather than on the actual participants of the Easter Rising.

As the curtain rises, a run-down tenement building appears that looks like it is crumbling in front of our eyes. Mrs Grogan (Josie Walker) is gossiping about Nora Clitheroe who she accuses of thinking herself better than anybody else in the building. Her point seems to be proven when Nora receives a big package with an expensive hat inside. The good-natured Fluther Good (Stephen Kennedy) is taking her rant with a pinch of salt. Meanwhile Peter Flynn (Lloyd Hutchinson), Nora's uncle, is getting ready to attend a memorial in honour of the Irish patriots, to be followed by a "meeting". He is relentlessly mocked by Young Covey (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), a would-be socialist who throws quotes by Marx at him and makes snide remarks about Peter's outdated uniform. Also in the tenement building lives Bessie Burgess (Justine Mitchell), a unionist whose son has joined the British Army and is fighting in the trenches. She appears tough and stubborn but takes care of Mrs Grogan's daughter Mollser (Róisin O'Neill), who is suffering from comsumption.

This is Nora Clitheroe's (Judith Roddy) birthday and she is eagerly awaiting her husband Jack (Fionn Walton). Jack is a member of the Irish Citizens Army but has not seen much action lately because Nora has destroyed a message from Captain Brennan (Adam Best), Jack's commanding officer, promoting Jack to Commandant. When the Captain comes to find out whether Jack has received his message, Jack learns the truth from Nora and leaves immediately to do his duty, leaving his pregnant wife behind.

The revolving stage then transports the action to a pub where the meeting is taking place - outside. Sean O'Casey deliberately distances us from the speakers by letting us witness the meeting only in parts through the large pub windows, reducing the main speaker to a mere "Figure in the Window" (Christopher Patrick Nolan), who makes his appearance at the same time as the local prostitute Rosie Redmond (Gráinne Keenan): Both have something to sell and are equally unimpressed by the harm they might do - whereas the prostitute is probably the lesser evil. The Figure in the Window is portrayed as an agitator who praises World War I as being good for Ireland and tells people to strike now, to get accustomed to the use of arms and to fight the British: "Without the shedding of blood, there will be no redemption!" Neither of the men are particularly roused by the speech and Rosie is equally unsuccessful with the young socialist.

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Mrs Grogan (Josie Walker)

After the interval, the fighting is in full swing and a very pregnant Nora is desperately searching for her husband Jack to take him home. Nora is not impressed by the patriotic sacrifice she is supposed to make: "They have driven away the little happiness life had to spare for me". Whilst Bessie Burgess is enthusiastically belting "Rule Britannia" from her window, British artillery is rolling into Dublin. Bessie and Mrs Grogan are soon fighting over a pram to join the looters in the streets who take advantage of the anarchy in their city. When Jack appears with another officer and a wounded comrade, Nora tries to take him back inside but Jack cannot desert the cause. Jack might never return to her, leaving her alone to raise their baby: "Men die a hero's death and women are left to mourn them."

Sean O'Casey's play is a satirical view of the Easter Rising, there is little sympathy for the rebels who are responsible for immense suffering of the civilian population. The fighters are willing to sacrifice themselves for a free Ireland but the civilians who don't have any choice or say in the matter, also suffer the consequences: 450 people were killed and another 2,500 injured, half of them civilians. Yet there is also heavy criticism of the British Army as a corporal and a sergeant nonchalantly discuss "plucking" the occasional innocent civilian, also women and children, because they confuse them with snipers. There is little remorse.

When Howard Davies fell ill, Jeremy Herrin took over as director and their co-direction produced a round and gripping production that transports the audience 100 years back in time, helped by Vicki Mortimer's ingenious and flexible set design that uses the revolving stage to full effect. The cast is outstanding, most of all Judith Roddy as Nora who has to embark on a journey of pain because Ireland is more important than a wife.  

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 22nd October 2016 at the Lyttelton Theatre (National Theatre)

Tickets: Click here

Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes including one interval

All photographs by Johan Persson.

Aug 26th

Lazarus Theatre Company Presents Tis Pity She's a Whore at the Tristan Bates Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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Annabella (Lucy Walker-Evans) and Giovanni (Prince Plockey)

Love me or kill me, brother.

John Ford's scandalous play about an incestuous relationship between brother and sister was omitted from an 1831 collection of his plays and harshly judged until well into the twentieth century. Recently revived by the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, the controversial and rather gory play is now presented in a new adaptation by Ricky Dukes and Lazarus Theatre Company at the Tristan Bates Theatre.

The auditorium has been transformed into a traverse stage dominated by a table in the centre. Members of the audience are welcomed with red wine and directed to either side of the stage. The story is now set in the twentieth century and the actors are wearing modern dress. The performance begins with a dance that soon turns into violence - a metaphor for John Ford's gruesome tragedy.

Annabella (Lucy Walker-Evans) is the right age to get married and her guardian Putana (Steph Reynolds) is discussing suitable husbands with her. Soranzo (Alexander Shenton) appears to be perfect - "a rich, wise nobleman" but Annabella is not interested in any of her suitors. Annabella's brother Giovanni is meanwhile seeing Friar Bonaventura (Edward Boon) because he has a severe problem - he is in love with his sister. Despite the Friar's warnings, Giovanni declares his love to Annabella and she reciprocates his feelings. Putana welcomes Annabella's decision. Annabella and Giovanni are happy for a while but Giovanni knows that Annabella will have to get married. Soranzo seems like the best choice. But Annabella is already pregnant with her brother's child.

Hippolita (Sasha Wilson) and her lover Soranzo have plotted to murder her husband, Richardetto (Nick Biadon). After Richardetto is supposedly dead, Soranzo leaves Hippolita because he wants to marry Annabella instead. Soranzo's servant Vasques (Stephen MacNeice) promises to help Hippolita to avenge herself on Soranzo, and the pair agree to marry after killing him.

Bergetto (Luke Danford) is in love with Philotis (Valerie Isaiah) who has arrived with the new doctor. The doctor is really Hippolita's husband Richardetto and Philotis is his niece. Richardetto is plotting his revenge on the treacherous Hippolita and Soranzo.

The cast is on stage at all times, wearing 3D glasses like a 1950s cinema audience, whenever they are spectators watching the tragedy unfold - curious yet without emotion. Vasques takes over the role of MC, using a microphone for additional effect. Prince Plockey is excellent as Giovanni, wooing his sister with mellifluous verse and defending his love passionately before the scandalised Friar. Lucy Walker-Evans is virginal in her innocence before she is thrown into an abyss by her brother and her guardian, who should have protected her. Alexander Shenton is a smooth villain as Soranzo. Luke Danford provides some badly needed comic relief as the awkward yet lovable Bergetto.

Lazarus Theatre Company are committed to making classical texts more accessible to a modern audience by fusing text, music, and movement. Often this combination transports the essence of the play far more clearly than a traditional production. In his production, Ricky Dukes decided to focus on love and how society perceives it. Incestuous love is still a taboo today even though nobody would be burned at the stake or mutilated for engaging in it in our society. The gory scenes of the play are toned down and metaphors or narration are used instead, which is just as effective if less bloodthirsty. Lighting is used to great effect (design by Jai Mojaria) in the scenes with the Friar and Giovanni, particularly when the Friar describes what Giovanni's afterlife will be like - a green hell in eternal torment.

An intriguing adaptation of a controversial classic.

By Carolin Kopplin 

Until 10th September 2016

The Tristan Bates Theatre 

More information about the company at

Running time: 90 minutes without an interval.

Photo by Adam Trigg.

Aug 25th

National Youth Theatre: The Reluctant Fundamentalist at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

 Know the true definition of yourself and after you know it, flee from it.

This is the third and final production ending the short yet exciting season of the National Youth Theatre at the Finborough. It is also the first ever stage production of Mohsin Hamid's novel, in an adaptation by Stephanie Street.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist tells the story of a young Pakistani named Ghangez who wins a scholarship to Princeton and soon finds himself on the road to success, working as a financial analyst in Wall Street and living the high life. But after 9/11, Ghangez begins to question his choices. Written in the form of a dramatic monologue, the story is framed by a meeting between the protagonist and an American visitor whom he meets in a street café in Lahore to tell him the story of his life.

As the audience is taking their seats in the auditorium, which has been transformed into a theatre in the round, daylight is streaming in through a window facing Finborough Road. Two actors are already on the bare stage. One actor is looking out the window, then closes the shutters before he addresses the audience: The American visitor of the novel has been replaced by the audience as we find ourselves in a street café in Lahore, being served street food and tea throughout the performance. Ghangez, the Urdu form of Genghis, starts off with a discussion about identity: “We are made of who we’ve loved and hated.” Ghangez loves his brother Hafez (Abubakar Khan) who is a poet like his famous uncle. Together the two brothers take us on a journey from Lahore to New York, on to the Philippines and Chile.

When arriving at Princeton on a scholarship, Ghangez (Akshay Sharan) quickly adapts to the new culture, rooming with a WASP student named Chuck and soon finds himself spending a holiday in Greece with some of his fellow students. Whereas the American boys show the typical rudeness of ignorant western tourists, Ghangez treats the Greek waiter with respect, even bothering to remember his difficult name – Nikos. Ghangez’s mood lightens considerably when he meets Erica (Alice Harding), a would-be writer and genuine person who likes Ghangez because he is polite and “gives people space”. Her boyfriend Chris died of lung cancer some time ago but Erica is still feeling his presence. Ghangez and Erica become fast friends but their relationship is platonic. When Ghangez returns to the States, he starts a highly competitive job as a financial analyst with consultancy firm Underwood Samson in New York. The other new starters are Wainwright (Jasmine Jones), Penn graduate April (Jennifer Walser), and Brit Neil (Joseph Allan). Ghangez is always top of his class and soon wins the respect and friendship of his boss Jim (Laurence Bown), who recruited him because he saw a warrior quality in the young man.

Well adapted, well-adjusted and liked, Ghangez is the poster boy for integration. Yet then 9/11 happens – and Ghangez finds himself feeling pleased. He begins questioning “his new normal”, searching for his true identity. The process is sped up by the growing xenophobia and paranoia in his new home country. Returning from Pakistan, Ghangez faces a humiliating procedure before he is allowed to enter the United States. After Erica agrees to sleep with him, pretending that he is her deceased boyfriend Chris, her mental condition worsens and she breaks up with Ghangez.

Directed by Prasanna Puwanarajah with great skill and sensitivity, this highly relevant production features great performances by the young cast, especially Akshay Sharan as Ghangez and Alice Harding as Erica. The production asks many important questions and it is up to the audience to answer most of them. I overheard several discussions after the performance and found myself searching for answers, together with fellow critic.

A production not to be missed. 

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 27th August 2016

Finborough Theatre

Running time: 90 minutes without an interval. 

Aug 24th

Shook up Shakespeare Present Holiday Humour at the Phoenix Artist Club

By Carolin Kopplin


You sunburn'd sicklemen, of August weary / Come hither from the furrow and be merry. Make holiday!

Shook Up Shakespeare, known for creative reimaginings and explorations of Shakespeare's work and universe, present their Quad Centenary August Holiday production in memoriam of the Bard's demise four hundred years ago.

Featuring an all-female cast, Helen Watkinson's production is a mix of cabaret, pop songs, and Shakespearean verse. Led by Moll Cutpurse (Genevieve Berkeley-Steele), a dark mysterious presence resembling a deadly butterfly that emerged from Thomas Middleton's works, the multi-talented cast portray gender-bending Shakespearean women - Shylock's daughter Jessica (Lil Davis), Rosalind (Eboni Dixon), Imogen (Maisie Greenwood), Julia out of Two Gentlemen of Verona (Nell Hardy), Viola (Joanna Lucas), and Portia (Josie Paine).

Holiday Humour takes a closer look at the female cross-dressers in Shakespeare's work, pointing out that they quickly returned to wearing their women's weeds once their objectives were achived, being perfectly happy to be obedient wives ever after. The only exception being Middleton's Moll. Yet what is the difference between a man and a woman, or better put: What makes a man a man? Using Shakespearean verse, which is very beautifully spoken, and popular songs with updated lyrics, often sung a capella, accompanied by percussion or the odd ukulele or violin, Watkinson and the cast embark on a journey to get to to heart of the matter.

There is no actual storyline, and 40 minutes are not merely enough to solve all the mysteries, but Holiday Humour is a charming entertainment featuring several touching scenes from our favourite plays, dance numbers, beautiful songs and a cast that deserves to be seen in many future productions.

By Carolin Kopplin 

The run has now ended.

Running time: 40 minutes.

Aug 20th

National Youth Theatre: Bitches by Bola Agbaje at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

Things are divided because you can't even see the problem of it!

The second world premiere presented by the National Youth Theatre at the Finborough is Bitches by Olivier award winning dramatist Bola Agbaje, a two-hander about two teenagers running a YouTube channel. Cleo and Funke have created quite a following with their vlog"Sons of Bitches" but their plan to become rich and famous by vlogging is severely threatened when a meme of Funke's mother goes viral.

At the beginning of the performance, hip hop and and sound bites featuring Donald Trump and others are blasting through the auditorium whilst Cleo and Funke take selfies and dance. The action takes place in Funke's room where the two friends are getting ready to film their latest vlog, which usually consists of role playing, music and comedy. For today's vlog, Funke is planning to make fun of an argument that she had with her mother because Funke has been boycotting a shop for political reasons. Their role-playing spoof does not work at all and after repeatedly pressing the pause-button, Cleo and Funke are having a major argument. Cleo is tired of doing the "white girl can't dance" routine and leaving the limelight to Funke, who is allowed to be cool whereas Cleo gets nasty comments from the black Twitter community. Funke denies the charges, stating that she gets her share of negative comments, most of them racially motivated. Soon their argument escalates into a bad row, which could mean the end of their friendship and "Sons of Bitches".

Bola Agbaje's play is very topical, discussing many current issues such as Brexit, reverse racism, police violence against African-Americans, and the dangers of the internet - trolls, the consequences of posting without thinking, and the idea that one can get reliable information from Twitter and Facebook.

Valentina Ceschi's production is fast-paced and fuelled by energetic performances by Tara Tijani and Katherine Humphrey. Funke is a strong character, self-assured, mature and firm in her views if somewhat defensive. Cleo, however, is drawn as a naive girl who seems younger than her actual age as she is still coming to terms with the fact that she is becoming a woman, referring to "downstairs"instead of using the actual terms. Funke is her first non-white friend. When Funke tells her how upset she was because Cleo did not show any sympathy for the victims of police brutality in America, Cleo cannot comprehend how events in the U. S. might possibly concern her friend who, after all, lives in the UK, which is quite different.

A compelling and vibrant production with a talented cast.

By Carolin Kopplin 

Until 20th August 2016

Finborough Theatre

Running time: 75 minutes

Aug 16th

First Major Revival of Caryl Churchill's Blue Heart - 19 Years after its Royal Court Premiere

By Carolin Kopplin

A Tobacco Factory Theatres and Orange Tree Theatre co-production
Blue Heart

Tobacco Factory Theatres and the Orange Tree Theatre are embarking on a new co-producing partnership to stage the first major revival of Caryl Churchill’s Blue Heart. Tobacco Factory Theatres and Orange Tree Theatre are thrilled to make the link between the two organisations as they each expand their individual in-house production portfolios. Blue Heart brings both organisations together to work again with key creatives David Mercatali and Angela Davies, who have worked on previous projects with both organisations.

Gillian Axtell, Alex Beckett, Amanda Boxer, Amelda Brown, Andy de la Tour, Maroussia Frank, Mona Goodwin, Janet Henfrey and Tracey Lee Sharples will appear in Caryl Churchill's two exhilarating one act plays, which have not been seen for nearly twenty years.

Heart’s Desire sees a family awaiting their daughter’s return from Australia, though in a series of alternative scenarios, the play collapses as it keeps veering off in unexpected and ridiculous directions.

Blue Kettle tells the story of conman Derek and the five women he misleads into believing he is their biological son. Try as he might, Derek’s plans are scuppered as the play is invaded by a virus.

In Churchill’s ever-inventive style, the plays pull apart language and structure in a way that is theatrically remarkable and fast paced, in a stirring yet truthful exploration of family and relationships.

Blue Heart was first produced by Out of Joint and the Royal Court Theatre at Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds on 14 August 1997.

Tobacco Factory Theatres produces and presents art in unique, intimate spaces at Tobacco Factory Theatres in Bristol, as well as off site in Bristol and in venues across the country. It presents a jam-packed programme of diverse and exciting shows, workshops and events, from classic and contemporary theatre, to theatre for families, comedy, dance, music, opera and puppetry. It also runs an expanding programme of engagement, learning and participation opportunities for audiences, young people and artists.

Blue Heart is supported by the Tobacco Factory Theatres Production Fund. A small group of individuals have generously supported this fund to help Tobacco Factory Theatres to produce more of its own work.

Website | Email 
@tftheatres | Facebook/Instagram Tobacco Factory Theatres

The Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond, South West London wants to change lives by telling remarkable stories from a wide variety of times and places, filtered through the singular imagination of our writers and the remarkable close-up presence of their actors. Over its forty-five-year history the Orange Tree has had an exceptional track record in discovering writers and promoting their early work, as well as rediscovering artists from the past whose work had either been disregarded or forgotten. In the last year alone, the OT has been recognised for its work with nine major industry awards, including 5 Offies (Off West End Awards), 2 UK Theatre Awards, the Alfred Fagon Audience Award and the Peter Brook Empty Space Award.

Website | Email

Twitter @OrangeTreeThtr | Facebook/Instagram OrangeTreeTheatre 

Blue Heart

By Caryl Churchill


Tobacco Factory Theatres

Thu 22 September – Sat 01 October
8pm / Matinee Sat 2.30pm (No show Sun)

Tobacco Factory Theatres, Raleigh Road, Southville, Bristol, BS3 1TF

Box Office | 0117 902 0344
Post-Show Talk Following the performance on Tue 27 September

Orange Tree Theatre

13 October - 19 November 2016

Orange Tree Theatre, 1 Clarence Street, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 2SA

Box Office | 020 8940 3633 (open 10am to 6.30pm Mon-Sat).

Post-show talks Wed 26 Oct 7.30pm & Thu 10 Nov 2.30pm

Audio-described performances Wed 2 Nov 7.30pm & Sat 5 Nov 2.30pm

Aug 16th

Richmond Theatre Invites 8-16 Yr Olds for the Ultimate Musical Theatre Battle!

By Carolin Kopplin

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Calling all 8-16 year olds, this summer Richmond Theatre needs you! An almighty battle is brewing between which is best: the stage or the screen, theatre or movies and the theatre’s Creative Learning Department are inviting young performers to battle it out! 

From Monday 22nd August – Friday 26th August, the Richmond Theatre Summer School recruits will spilt into two age groups and prepare to do battle with their weapons of choice: acting, singing and dancing. The week will then culminate in a battle of musical theatre wills as they perform on the Richmond Theatre stage where the audience will decide the outcome! 

Nikki Ward, director of Let The Battle Commence: Stage v Screen! and Creative Learning Manager at Richmond Theatre said: “Our Summer Schools are always really popular and loads of fun. This year we are inviting 8-16 yr. olds to go to town on performing their favourite songs and dances from the theatre and from movies. They will perform scenes written by themselves and having the audience deciding the outcome of the show will be very exciting!” 

Places are strictly limited and available on a first come, first served basis. Therefore prompt booking is strongly recommended to be guaranteed a place.

 Booking information: 


Telephone: 020 8332 4524

In person: Richmond Theatre Box Office

Rehearsals: Monday 22nd August – Friday 26th August, 9.30 am – 4.30 pm

Performance on the Richmond Theatre stage: Friday 26th August at 5.15 pm

Photograph: © Alastair Hilton

Aug 15th

Steel Magnolias at the Hope Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin


Clairee (Lin Sagovsky), Shelby (Samantha Shellie) and Annelle (Ariel Harrison)

Why don’t we just focus on the joy of the situation?

Robert Harling's 1987 play about six southern women who meet up in the beauty parlour of a small town in Louisiana on four significant days over three years to have their hair done and exchange gossip, recipes, and beauty tips was made into a multi Oscar-nominated film with Dolly Parton, Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis, Darryl Hannah, and Julia Roberts as the six women. This comedy-drama is based on Harling's own experiences with his sister Susan who suffered from Type 1 diabetes. It is a celebration of friendship in times of unfathomable grief - and it is also very funny.

Truvy's beauty parlour is the communication hub of Chonquapin, LA. Today is Shelby's wedding and Truvy is busier than usual. Her new stylist Annelle is not much help yet but Truvy - and her customers - see the funny side of her mistakes. When Shelby arrives, all in pink as this is her favourite colour, she insists on a Princess Grace hairdo although her mother M'Lynn would prefer her to try for Jaclyn Smith. Shelby wins, of course. Because of all the excitement Shelby has forgotten to eat and falls into a hypoglycemic state - she suffers from Type 1 diabetes. Her quick-thinking mother gets her back on her feet with a glass of juice. M'Lynn reveals that Shelby was recently informed by her doctor that she should never have children because of her illness. Jackson, her husband-to-be is fine with it but Shelby, being a children's nurse, loves children and longs to have one of her own. When the six women meet again Shelby is pregnant and M'Lynn is sick with worry. 


Ouiser (Maggie Robson), Truvy (Jo Wickham) and Shelby (Samantha Shellie)

This is one of those rare plays with strong female characters, played by an equally strong cast in Matthew Parkers sensitive and touching production. Jo Wickham shines as Truvy, a down-to-earth, pragmatic businesswoman who immediately offers her new apprentice Annelle a place to stay when she finds herself with a horrible landlady. Samantha Shellie is excellent as the stylish Shelby who wants a child more than anything else in the world. After her baby is born she has her beautiful long hair cut short to get ready for the grown-up lifestyle she will now have to adopt for the sake of her little boy. Her mother M'Lynn, who works as a mental health professional, is an understated but deeply touching performance by Stephanie Beattie. Maggie Robson is hilarious as the cantankerous Ouiser who irritates everybody with her constant foul mood and tactless manner. Lin Sagosky plays Ouiser's friend Claree, the late mayor's widow, with sympathetic, witty authority. Ariel Harrison portrays Annelle who changes from a self-conscious, frightened girl to a self-confident young woman who is brave enough to design funky Christmas earrings for the whole town.

The traverse stage, which brings the audience very close to the action, features the necessities of a beauty salon, decorated with flowery wallpaper, changing posters of current festivities, and, my personal favourite, a telephone looking like two bright red lips (stage and costume design by Rachael Ryan).

This is a beautiful story about friendship and the strong bond between six women who support each other during the worst of times - Steel Magnolias.  

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 3rd September 2016

The Hope Theatre

Running time: 2 hours and 20 minutes including an interval

Photos provided by LHPhotoshots.

The Hope Theatre is working with Diabetes UK to raise awareness of the facts of the condition which features prominently in the play. A representative of Diabetes Islington visited the rehearsal room to give valuable medical input to the production.

A representative from Diabetes UK will speak briefly to audiences after the performances onTuesday 16 and Tuesday 30 Aug and a bucket collection will be held for the charity.

Aug 12th

National Youth Theatre: The Fall by James Fritz at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

Imagine being him. Every day you wake up. You're tired. Your body doesn't work properly.  ... You said it - you'd kill yourself. 

As part of the celebrations of its 60th anniversary, the National Youth Theatre presents three new plays at the Finborough, starting off with the world premiere of James Fritz's The Fall. The play, consisting of three parts, is only one hour long but highly relevant, exploring the reality of an ageing population and the attitude of the young towards the very old as they are forced to pay for their care whilst struggling to raise their own families.

The performance starts off with an energetic dance by the whole cast, clad in uniform grey outfits (costume and set design by Chris Hone), which is repeated between the three different parts. The first part begins with two teenagers called Girl (LaTanya Peterkin) and Boy (Oliver Clayton) who are planning to make out in a flat, owned by a former solicitor in his 90s. The Girl has a key to the flat to clean and water the plants, which she does because she is a nice person - and also because she gets paid. The Boy immediately notices the disturbing “old man smell” in the place so he uses Mr Butler’s bed for a few push-ups to keep in shape. Amazed by his own beauty, the Boy could never imagine looking like a man in his 90s: “If my body looked like this, I’d end it.” After trying to impress the Girl with his rendition of a popular 1960s song, he is ready for action. Yet Mr Butler is actually at home – ill and lying on the floor, possibly dying. After their initial disgust at the wasted body, the teenagers discuss the best course of action – a pivotal moment in the play. Unfortunately, this scene resembles a rehearsed reading as it is lacking in action and emotion.

The second part features two teenagers, named One (James Morley) and Two (Katya Morrison) and their sped-up journey into middle-age. Whilst they discuss their current situation, they are making and remaking the bed that dominates the stage. One cannot get a decent job and Two is pregnant. When she gives birth to a boy, the need for a suitable home becomes more and more pressing. Yet they cannot get a mortgage and the rent is being raised again and again. One’s ageing mother owns a flat and he hopes to inherit it one day. Yet when One’s mother has a bad fall from which she does not recover, their hope is turned to dust. She will now need constant care, which means that the flat will have to be sold. Two takes a rather questionable decision to secure the future of their son.

The third part is the strongest and most disturbing of the evening. In a distant future that resembles an Orwellian state, four elderly people share a room in a care-home. Too many people need a place in a home, there is an endless waiting list, so conditions are a bit crammed. The characters are called A, B, C, D as gender is not important to the story. A (Hannah Farnhill) is the newby in the room, a quiet, unassuming widow. She is suspiciously observed by cranky loud D (Ben Butler) who cries out in the middle of the night, waking everyone. As they are reminiscing about videogames, it becomes clear that we are looking at the less than enviable future of today’s young generation. Meanwhile the Liaison (Katya Morrison), a brand new type of nurse, tries to convince everybody to sign up for their assisted death offer to make room for the many others, assuring them that their families will get compensation for their deaths. But remember, once you sign, there is no going back. C (Simeon Blake-Hall) has already decided to end it so his family is taken care of. Meanwhile A is falling in love with B (Matilda Doran-Cobham) and suggests to escape to live somewhere else. The eerie atmosphere of the sterile care-home is accentuated by Seth Rook Williams creative lighting design.

Matt Harrison’s production features a talented young cast, most of all Hannah Farnhill, who gives a subtle, understated performance as A, trying to cope with her new life, remembering fondly but without sentimentality her days as a sprinter. Matilda Doran-Cobham’s sensitive performance as A’s lover B also impressed as did Katya Morrison’s portrayal of the desperate mother Two and the coldly efficient Liaison.

The Fall is a sharply observed study of what we are capable of when we find ourselves in desperate situations. The most horrendous acts are committed in the name of compassion, which is sketched out in part one, culminating in the cold sterility of the future care-home that encourages people to agree to assisted killing so others can benefit from their deaths. A different kind of utilitarism.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 13 August 2016

Finborough Theatre

Box Office: 0844 847 1652

 Running time: 1 hour without an interval