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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 www.lazarustheatrecompany.com

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

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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
BY CARYL CHURCHILL

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 tobaccofactorytheatres.com | Email tickets@tobaccofactorytheatres.com 
Twitter 
@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 Orangetreetheatre.co.uk | Email box.office@orangetreetheatre.co.uk

Twitter @OrangeTreeThtr | Facebook/Instagram OrangeTreeTheatre 

Blue Heart

By Caryl Churchill

AGE RECOMMENDATION 12+

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 tobaccofactorytheatres.com | 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 orangetreetheatre.co.uk | 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: 

Online: http://www.atgtickets.com/Movie-Madness-and-Magic-Summer-School-22nd-26th-August-2016-Tickets/45/17805/

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

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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. 

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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 

Aug 4th

Escape - Aerial Dance Performance at the Blue Elephant Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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LCP Dance Theatre presents its new production at the Blue Elephant Theatre in Camberwell before taking it to Edinburgh. Fusing aerial performance and dance theatre, the show means to explore the social, political and psychological challenges a refugee faces when trying to live in a new society. Multimedia projections by Eran Tsafrir and an original musical score by Italian composer Steffano Guzetti add to the story-telling and atmosphere of the show.

In the beginning, a plastic curtain is drawn close with one the dancers lying behind it. As she raises her legs, film clips of running water are projected onto a big screen and it seems like the dancer puts her legs into the water. The screen dominates the back wall and a swing is located in front of it. After the curtains are drawn back by the two dancers, one of them begins exploring the swing, testing the fabric, playing with it, using it as a cocoon or a rope, performing stunning acrobatic feats on it. 

As one dancer is exploring the swing, the second dancer moves across the floor of the stage, crawling and stretching to explore the space, finally culminating in a headstand. The lighting changes the colour of the swing from purple to red and the swing is being shaped into a pulsating human heart with rhythmic drumming adding to the impression - a very strong image that stays with you.

As the story progresses, the two dancers (Joanna Puchala and JC Bailey) begin to interact with each other, first pushing and shoving, then offering support and warmth. Choreographed by Joanna Puchala, the dancers express the isolation and alienation of the stranger in a strange environment as well as the need for a feeling of security and human companionship of both characters.

The show concludes with eye witness reports of refugees who have crossed the Mediterranean, risking their lives to escape the horror of their homelands. Yet these reports are not really necessary because the message of the show already very clear and strong.

A compelling dance performance dealing with highly relevant issues.

 By Carolin Kopplin 

Until 6th August 2016

Running time: 50 minutes without an interval

Blue Elephant Theatre

Box office: 020 7701 0100

Jul 31st

Extravaganza Macabre by Little Bulb at Battersea Arts Centre

By Carolin Kopplin

(c) Alex Brenner, no use without credit, Little Bulb - Extravaganza Macabre @ Battersea Arts Centre (_DSC8051).jpg

Clare Beresford, Alexander Scott and Dominic Conway

Tonight we have a tale!

On Tuesday 26th July, Battersea Art Centre's new theatre and activity space - the Courtyard - was launched with Little Bulb's Theatre's latest work Extravaganza Macabre. Designed by Stirling Prize winning architects Haworth Tompkins, the Courtyard is an intimate 75 m² open-air space that allows for close contact between performers and audience. Part of the audience is seated on wooden benches downstairs, part has standing tickets on a balcony walkway upstairs with a convenient railing to lean on. The removable stage floor is equipped with trap doors, which are used to great effect during the performance.

Little Bulb Theatre inaugurates the new space with a highly entertaining spoof of Victorian melodrama complete with evil arch rogue Lord London, a fair-haired maiden named Elizabeth Pureheart, her valiant young beau Ernest, clairvoyant servant girl Bertha, and a clever street urchin with a birthmark shaped like London who is accompanied by his loyal companion Dog Dog.

(c) Alex Brenner, no use without credit, Little Bulb - Extravaganza Macabre @ Battersea Arts Centre (_DSC8084).jpg

Elizabeth (Clare Beresford) and Ernest (Dominic Conway) with the priest (Alexander Scott)

The performance begins with a brass trio and a song about "London - the Greatest City the World Has Ever Seen" before the theatre manager welcomes his audience to the theatre and introduces the lover, played by Hector, and his lady love, played by Nell. He himself will play the villain, Lord Octavius London, who will lead us into the depths of depravity.

The story follows two strings. The first involves a little orphan boy named Chipper who was found as a baby floating on a raft in the river Thames. Seven years later, in 1893, Elizabeth Pureheart and Ernest are going to be wed. But a terrible storm blows Ernest into the Thames never to reappear, leaving Elizabeth lonely and heartbroken. Trying to commute with Ernest's spirit world via her servant Bertha, Elizabeth receives ambivalent messages from her mother.

This highly imaginative and theatrical production is performed by three actors and several members of the audience who are selected to play the remaining parts. There is quite a bit of audience participation in this production and it is worth paying close attention to the story if you are (un)fortunate enough to be cast in a speaking role. It is all in good fun though and nobody is put on the spot. Being on the balcony, my only task was handing on a prop.

(c) Alex Brenner, no use without credit, Little Bulb - Extravaganza Macabre @ Battersea Arts Centre (_D3C6338).jpg

Elizabeth (Clare Beresford) and Bertha (Dominic Conway) braving the storm

Little Bulb presents original compositions including opera tunes, acapella, chimes and euphonium with the cast playing a variety of instruments. Using wooly fake beards and a multitude of cheesy props, this show is a lot of fun and is never meant to be taken too seriously. You have to release your inner child to get involved in this production and it is well worth it. The actors are doing a very fine job. And watching Dominic Conway, I still remember his outstanding Django Reinhardt in the unforgettable Little Bulb show Orpheus which was performed in the beautiful Grand Hall of the Battersea Arts Centre before it became a victim of the flames.

Come to see this show for a fun night out. During the interval penny pies and a selection of gins are available.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 26 August 2016

Battersea Arts Centre

bac.org.uk ¦ 020 7223 2223

Running Time: 100 minutes with one interval

All photos by Alex Brenner.