Share |
Mar 31st

When the Dove Returns at the Blue Elephant Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

Ensemble.jpg

Captain Ned (James Little) and the survivors 

I'm going to live!

Following their debut Bibs, Boats, Borders & B*stards about the refugee crisis in 2016, which opened to good notices, Backpack Theatre now present a devised piece about the long-term effects of climate change.

The survivors of an apocalyptic flood combined with poisonous smog have fled to a ship - "The Dove". After reluctantly saving their lives, the Captain enforces a strict regime, limiting food rations to the bare minimum to ensure the survival of the fittest. After 30 days on board the small ship, coping with storms, hunger, and unbearable living conditions, the refugees are ready to revolt - but Ned is the only one who knows the coordinates to reach land.

The performance begins with audio clips on the greenhouse effect, setting the tone for the production. An ominous shadow appears on the wall before the flood survivors arrive on a simple set by Brittany Stillwell representing the deck of a ship - a slightly raised platform covered with plastic, a bucket, and a few black bin bags. The cast splash around in stagnant water which adds to the atmosphere, along with sound effects of waves crashing against the boat and constant rain. Music by Ella Bellsz and pop songs are used for the lighter moments.

Duncan Rendall.jpg

Joshua (Duncan Rendall)

Alice Lavender's intense production focuses on the effects of hunger and extreme living conditions on a group of people. Are they able to keep their humanity or will their baser instincts take over to ensure their own survival?

The song "Tick, Tock" represents the passing of time on the boat as the flood survivors, convincingly played by the dedicated cast, become weak with hunger and frustrated by Ned's strict rules. The lack of privacy is demonstrated by the frequent use of a toilet bucket, an action that is repeated once or twice too often. Yet there are also funny moments such as the enthuasiastic welcome when the survivors arrive aboard the ship and a techno dance later in the performance.

Director Alice Lavender plays Victoria, a young mother who left her newborn baby behind. Along with James Little as Ned, Lavender's touching character has the strongest impact in this production.

A valid commentary on the social and envionmental consequences of climate change.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 1st April 2017 at the Blue Elephant Theatre

Running time: 60 minutes without an interval.

Contains some nudity. Recommended for ages 16+.

Tickets and further info: http://www.blueelephanttheatre.co.uk/when-dove-returns

Images by Brittany Stillwell.

Mar 26th

Sally Cookson's Jane Eyre - UK Tour from 8 April - 23 September 2017

By Carolin Kopplin

Jane_Eyre_Revised_carousel_2016.jpg

Sally Cookson's imaginative new adaptation of Charlotte Brontë's beloved novel Jane Eyre will tour the UK from April to September 2017. Nadia Clifford will take over the central role of Jane Eyre and Tim Delap will play Rochester.

Before the beginning of the tour, the National Theatre invited regional press and representatives of regional theatres to a second-week rehearsal with the opportunity to interview director Sally Cookson and members of the cast. 

A collaboration between the Bristol Old Vic and the National Theatre, the production was originally presented in two parts in Bristol. Rufus Norris, Artistic Director of the National Theatre, asked to have it cut down to one part before it transferred to the NT. Director Sally Cookson agreed and got rid of the "not so good bits" which made the production "even more epic". The UK Tour will feature the third version of Sally Cookson's Jane Eyre.

After directing Peter Pan at the Bristol Old Vic, Sally Cookson was asked what she would like to do next and she immediately decided on an adaptation of Jane Eyre. Cookson had seen Orson Welles' film as a child and had been fascinated by the images and Bernard Hermann's music. When she eventually got to read the book, she realised that Jane Eyre was not a mere love story but a cry for equal rights of women, focusing on the importance of individual human rights and what is needed to thrive as a human: "Jane Eyre understands this from an early age and strives for it". Sally Cookson wanted to tell Jane Eyre's life-story, not a romantic costume drama with a love story at its centre.

Sally Cookson's imaginative production captures the spirit of the novel but is geared towards a modern audience. Cookson felt that costumes and a historical set limited the story. The Victorian period is referenced but the main purpose of Michael Vale's set is to reflect Jane's struggle. An obstacle course consisting of various platforms and ladders demands physical strength and fitness from the cast. Sally Cookson confirmed that the actors ran about 5 miles during every performance.

After working on the story with a dramaturg to achieve a basic structure, the play was developed by Cookson and the cast during an 8-week process through collaboration and improvisation, using dialogue from the novel as well as creating new dialogue. All songs in the production were written by Benji Bower and emerged during the rehearsal period, with the exception of "Mad About the Boy" and "Crazy". There is an orchestra on stage, creating an impressive soundscape. The production is miked to make sure that the actors can be heard over the orchestra and sound effects which include many percussive elements.

The actors performed some parts of the production that had already been rehearsed beginning with Jane's birth and her struggle with her aunt Mrs Reed after she is orphaned. The conflict is exacerbated by the death of Jane's kindly uncle and Cookson's production clearly shows Jane Eyre, now played by the charismatic Nadia Clifford, as a strong and determined character. It was also important to the director to do justice to Bertha who gets a bit of a raw deal in the novel. Bertha is always present at Fairfield Hall and finishes with a melancholy but very lyrical song.

This compelling and highly creative production can now be seen in many regional theatres after a sell-out run at the National Theatre.

By Carolin Kopplin

Running time: 3 hours with one interval

Tour dates: https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/jane-eyre-on-tour

First stop Salford from 8th April 2017

Mar 20th

Rounds at the Blue Elephant Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

Rounds_one.jpg

I'm supposed to be a doctor and all I've done today is hurt people and file paperwork.

Although junior doctors have not been in the news lately, their situation has remained unchanged whilst the NHS continues to be in crisis. Resuscitate Theatre have conducted interviews and collected anecdotes to tell the story of six junior doctors in a physical and theatrical way.

The performance begins with a news clip on the plight of junior doctors as one junior doctor has fallen asleep on her desk. As the others arrive, they are swiftly going through a variety of tasks - hurrying to cubicles, opening and closing curtains, writing reports. It is obvious that they are dealing with a workload that is hardly manageable.

Grace (Alex Hinson) learns that her mentor has resigned after the death of a patient which could have been prevented by timely treatment but the doctor simply could not find the time. Lucy (Penelope Rodie) has an introductory meeting with management and is thoroughly questioned about the gap in her CV. Meanwhile Tom (Adam Deane) deals with the workload by being careless but Tom knows how to work the system to stay on top of the game. Kal (Nicolas Pimpare), a brilliant doctor who keeps on studying throughout his spare time, sees his competency questioned by patients who demand to be treated by an English doctor. Dom (Iain Gibbons) tries to be hospitable but his colleagues are just too tired to care for dinner. Felicity (Christina Carty) keeps going on alcohol and cigarettes.

rounds_two.jpg

The beginning of Anna Marshall's production feels a bit rushed as the cast use movement to reflect the hustle and bustle of a busy hospital, which is somewhat hard to follow. Yet after the fast-paced beginning, Rounds becomes more engaging and succeeds in making valid points on the stressful and frustrating situation junior doctors continue to find themselves in. The stress is taking its toll as relationships crumble, some doctors turn to alcohol and other stimulants, and others suffer from increasing anxiety attacks.

Apart from the huge number of patients, inequality and racism add to the stress. When the overwhelming workload leads to mistakes, two junior doctors face disciplinary consequences. The public school boy is let off with a slap on the wrist and is still transferred to the most popular ward whilst the female doctor is severely disciplined and consequently sent to a ward that is not even among the top 50 on her list. Another female doctor with a clean sheet is sent to the other end of the country. Although Kal is an excellent doctor, he is replaced with a "proper English doctor" when a racist patient demands it.

This highly relevant play reflects the situation of not only junior doctors but the health service in general as more and more tasks and responsibilities are shouldered by fewer and fewer doctors, nurses, and carers. The NHS is one sector that does not benefit from any more cuts.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 25th March 2016

Blue Elephant Theatre

Running time: 60 minutes with no interval

Recommended for ages 12+

Post show discussion on Friday 24th March

Panel will include: Resuscitate Theatre, Doctors Support Network, Creative Dissent and Docs not Cops.

Images by Stephen Poole.

Mar 20th

The Bad Seed at the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

Bad Seed 1.jpg

Rhoda (Rebecca Rayne)

People tell lies all the time.

OutFox Productions return to the Jack with a psychological thriller by Pulitzer Prize winner Maxwell Anderson. Written in 1954, The Bad Seed became one of Broadway's most outstanding hits and was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The play is set in a small Southern town in the 1950s. Kenneth and Christine Penmark live an idyllic life with their seemingly perfect 8-year old daughter Rhoda. The girl is sweet, charming and full of old-fashioned graces, loved by her parents and admired by most of her elders. However, Rhoda is not liked by other children and Miss Fern, the school principal, does not consider Rhoda a good fit for her school. When one of Rhoda's schoolmates is mysteriously drowned at a school picnic, Rhoda's mother becomes alarmed by the growing number of fatal accidents that happen when her daughter is around.

Bad Seed 2.jpg

A present from Daddy - Rhoda (Rebecca Rayne) and her mother Christine (Beth Eyre)

The performance begins as Kenneth Penmark (Andrew Futaishi) has to say goodbye to his family. He is going on a prolonged business trip. Landlady Monica Breedlove (Jessica Hawksley) and her brother Emory Wages (Daniel Osgerby) stop by for a chat and it is clear that everyone adores the little princess Rhoda (Rebecca Rayne) - except for Miss Fern (Jessica Gilhooley) who disapproves of Rhoda's reaction to not winning the penmanship medal, and handyman Leroy (Brian Merry).

This afternoon Christine and her neighbours expect a visit from famed criminologist Reginald Tasker (Aneirin George) whilst Rhoda is on a school trip. "Reggie" indulges in telling murder stories. Christine is becomes upset and Monica, an amateur psychologist, immediately tries to dig into Christine's psyche. The party is broken up by the news that a terrible accident has happened at Rhoda's school picnic. Rhoda returns unfazed, not showing the slightest bit of remorse for Claude Daigle, the drowned boy, who won the penmanship medal.

Bad Seed 4.jpg

Leroy (Brian Merry) is suspicious

John Fricker's sensitive and exciting production of Maxwell Anderson's psychological thriller keeps the audience in suspense throughout the performance. There are delightful performances by the whole cast but Rebecca Rayne is exceptionally good as Rhoda, giving a convincing portrayal of an 8-year old girl, and Beth Eyre is very good as her tortured mother Christine. Jessica Hawksley adds some badly needed comic relief as the good-hearted amateur psychologist Monica Breedlove.

The entire play takes place in the living room of the Penmarks, designed in 1950s style by Mary Sankey, and features a rousing original score by Philip Matejtschuk.

Another hit for OutFox Productions and great entertainment for your evening out. 

By Carolin Kopplin 

Until 1st April 2017

Brockley Jack Studio Theatre

Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes including one interval.

Images by David Monteith-Hodge.

Mar 19th

The Miser at the Garrick Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

L-to-R-Ryan-Gage-and-Griff-Rhys-Jones-in-The-Miser.-Credit-Helen-Maybanks.-1-1000x600.jpgCléante (Ryan Gage) and his father Harpagon (Griff Rhys Jones)

Money gives me everything I want and more.

Writer-director Sean Foley considers most productions of Molière's comedies "far too respectful". Therefore, Foley and Phil Porter have created an irreverent adaptation of The Miser to bring it up to 2017 standards. Does it work? In parts.

A variety of tunes played on a spinet takes the audience back in time before the cast enter in period costumes. The play is set in a stately home, now in a state of dilapidation (costumes and set design by Alice Power) - there are cracks in the walls, broken windows and the plasterwork keeps falling down. Candles line the front of the stage, adding to the period feel.

Valère (Matthew Horne), the steward of Harpagon’s house, is in love with his employer’s daughter, Élise (Katy Wix). Valère is sure that he is of a good family but he knows that Harpagon loves nothing but money and will never accept a poor stewart as his son-in-law. Instead he demands that Elise marry a rich man who is old enough to be her father. Harpagon’s son, Cléante (Ryan Gage), is in love with Marianne (Ellie White), a poor girl who lives with her widowed mother. Since Marianne has no money, Cléante keeps his love for the girl from his father. What he does not know is that his father has seen Mariane and wants her for himself. Cléante is to marry Marianne's mother. Harpagon has employed matchmaker Frosine (Andi Osho) to prepare Marianne for the desired marriage.

image.jpg

Maître Jacques (Lee Mack), Harpagon (Griff Rhys Jones) and Valère (Matthew Horne) 

Sean Foley's production is broad farce and dispenses of the fourth wall almost immediately. There is plenty of slapstick and physical comedy, which often entails falling plasterwork or rickety furniture, and the cast has to act a breakneck speed to keep up with Molière's plot. The updated jokes do not work too well. Most of them are not terribly funny and distract from the story. Stand-up comedian Lee Mack, however, is having a ball as his Baldrick-like character Maître Jacques, quipping jokes whilst filling almost every position in the house because the stingy Harpagon keeps on firing his staff. 

L-to-R-Andi-Osho-and-Katy-Wix-in-The-Miser.-Credit-Helen-Maybanks.-2.jpg

Matchmaker Frosine (Andi Osho) and the beautiful Marianne (Ellie White)

Griff Rhys Jones plays Harpagon somewhat straight as he stumbles around in tattered clothes to appear as poor as possible, convinced that everyone is after his treasure. Ryan Gage is hilarious as his son Cléante, a fashionista as colourful as a tropical bird, who spends his money as fast as gets it - and more. Matthew Horne is very good as the efficient Valère who believes that being as sycophantic as possible will help him obtain Harpagon's consent to marrying Élise, played by the lovely Katy Wix with a funny speech impediment. 

Despite the failed updates, this show is still good entertainment value featuring a lovely cast.

By Carolin Kopplin 

Until 3rd June 2016 at the Garrick Theatre

Tickets: https://www.nimaxtheatres.com/garrick-theatre/the_miser/

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes including one interval

Images by Helen Maybanks.

Mar 17th

Syndicated Interview with Paul McGann about UK Tour of Moira Buffini's Gabriel

By Carolin Kopplin

35138_full.jpg

It’s 30 years since Paul McGann made a name for himself in the classic cult film Withnail & I. Now he’s about to embark on his first UK theatre tour playing German Major Von Pfunz in Gabriel. Kate Gould catches up with him for a chat. 

Paul McGann needs no introduction. He’s the man whose portrayal of the eponymous I in the cult classic Withnail & I propelled him to stardom. That was 30 years ago and in the years since his career has gone from strength to strength and he’s become a household name in the process. Indeed his CV is as impressive as it gets showing his versatility as an actor with performances on both stage and screen including in Hornblower and Luther and of course playing the eighth incarnation of the Doctor in Doctor Who

But he’s never done a UK theatre tour - that is until now. For next month the 57-year-old actor is to pack his bags for an eight-week stint in Moira Buffini’s acclaimed play Gabriel which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary.  

Set in 1943 German occupied Guernsey, it tells the story of widow and mother Jeanne who does whatever it takes to keep her adolescent daughter Estelle and daughter-in-law Lily safe on an island filled with danger and fear. However she meets her toughest test in the form of the terrifying Commander Von Pfunz whose romantic advances are dangerous to say the least but which may be the only way to keep her family alive. The tension racks up further when a mysterious young man is washed ashore with no memory of who he is. It transpires he’s fluent in German and English, so the question is, is he an RAF pilot, an SS interrogator, a local boy with amnesia or a saviour sent from heaven? 

Kicking off in Richmond on March 28, the production will cross the country visiting theatres in Greenwich, Liverpool, Windsor, Guildford, Eastbourne and Clwyd, something Paul tells me he’s looking forward to.  

We meet in a private members’ club in central London where Paul is spending the day chatting to various journalists about the production before he gets stuck into the rigours of rehearsals. And if he’s understandably growing a bit weary of all the attention and the barrage of questions by the time I arrive, he doesn’t show it. In fact he is as relaxed as they come with an easy going manner, affable charm and a warm sense of humour. 

So keen is he about the production, and being part of it, that he wastes no time in telling me all about it and about the research he did into the occupation of the island. 

“It’s a fascinating piece,” he says. “It’s dark and intense, although it’s not all doom and gloom of course, but it’s a real thriller, exciting and incredibly gripping. 

“It’s set in Guernsey in the middle of the Second World War, and it’s a great place to set a story. It was a strange time for the islanders as in many respects, life continued as normal. 

“On the face of it, it was a peaceful occupation. There was no armed resistance nor any uprisings. However food was scarce, there was a thriving black market, and plenty of wheeling and dealing going on. Indeed some people made a fortune. And while some worked the land, most of the men of fighting age were away so it was mainly women left on the island. 

“So to have the central character in this play a woman is entirely fitting. Jeanne is widowed and has a daughter with whom she lives and a son who is in the forces. Her house is requisitioned by the German so she has to be careful. There are hints that she had a relationship with a German officer who has now been sent away and by all accounts they got on well - and again if you read the history books, this was what happened in many cases.” 

Into her life comes Von Pfunz, played by Paul, an army officer who has served in Poland but has now been sent to Guernsey and finds himself captivated by Jeanne. “He’s not a nice man, in fact he’s horrible, and he comes on to Jeanne much to her disgust,” he grimaces. 

“She is repulsed by him and is quite fearful of him, but there is a courage about her that he finds thrilling and intoxicating. It throws her completely.  

“Her dilemma is how to get on with the Germans, keep her family safe and survive without submitting to something she doesn’t want, where a mistake could be fatal. 

“The tension is ratcheted up even further when a young man appears, washed up on a nearby beach. The girls save him and bring him to Jeanne’s house where he’s hidden. He claims not to know who he is, and when Von Pfunz later discovers him there the boy is able to speak with him in perfect German.” 

It was, Paul says, a play he was instantly drawn to not least by the writing which he describes as “superb”. “The writing is key and is what really attracted me to playing this role,” he says. 

“Von Pfunz is like nobody I’ve played before but it’s the way Moira beautifully weaves these situations and tensions together that is so good. It’s brilliantly told and when you get a really good story as an actor you can’t wait to tell it.” 

However, keen not to give away any spoilers Paul simply says the audience will be on the edge of their seats to find out what happens. 

“Jeanne is constantly in danger, the tension builds to a crescendo and she ends up in a really tight corner,” he says eyes twinkling. 

It’s clear throughout our chat that Paul still gets a buzz out of being on stage and he says he's excited to be making his debut theatre tour in such a “fantastic play”. 

“I’ve found over the years that the old actor clichè is true that live is best,” he smiles. 

“Doing TV and film is great, and I’ve been jammy enough over the years to do a lot of it, but when you go out on stage and feel the atmosphere and get that instant feedback from the audience, you just can’t beat it. 

“It is also a way of working that teaches you the most.”

So why has it taken so long to get out on the road? It seems it’s mainly down to logistics and finding the right vehicle for his talents. This particular role and the fact his two sons are grown up has allowed him the flexibility to take on the challenge of a tour.  

“Many touring shows are musicals and there are few straight dramatic plays. I’ve  been offered tours in the past, some of which were tempting, but they tended to last for months so were difficult to commit to.” 

“This one stood out though as it’s so thrilling so I was really up for it. Also I’ll get a chance to discover and visit all these theatres that I’ve never performed in before as well as the different characters of the audiences, which I’m really looking forward to. It’s a new experience for me. 

“It’ll be a bit like running away to the circus!” 

Paul is endearingly modest about his career and the word “jammy” to describe it crops up often. Indeed it is a surprise when he insists he never wanted to be an actor, instead harboured dreams of being a track and field sportsman. He was eventually persuaded to give acting a shot when he was 17 by one of his teachers. Somewhat alarmingly he also tells me he very nearly didn’t go to the RADA audition that had been organised for him as he was so unsure about whether it was the right thing to do. Fortunately for his legions of fans he didn’t walk past the door but went through it and got in on his first audition. He spent the next few years there “very happy” alongside such notables as Kenneth Branagh and Mark Rylance and says he has no regrets. 

“I was a 70s kid growing up in Liverpool, left school at 17, not qualified in anything and never thought about being an actor,” he remembers smiling.  

“However, my teacher saw something in me and helped me prepare my audition to RADA. It was pretty embarrassing and I felt it went terribly. But I got in, and I loved it. 

“I remember there were plenty of working class kids at RADA then. I think most of us had just fancied being movie stars. Of course that was all pie in the sky as there was no guarantee you’d even get into Equity. I was pretty jammy to get Withnail & I after just five years out. I loved working on it. We were pretty innocent and, in truth, didn’t really know what we were doing. We certainly had no idea how cool it would become.” 

“Theatre has always been my favourite though - it’s what many actors will tell you - and the older I get the more I prefer it although I still get very nervous. 

“I’ve been lucky enough to play some incredible roles over the years and I'm proud to add Commander Von Pfunz to that list.”  

Paul McGann plays Commander Von Pfunz in Moira Buffini’s Gabriel, directed by Kate McGregor. Visit www.gabrieltheplay.co.uk for full listings.

Review will follow.

Mar 17th

Spring-Summer Season at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

ImageLateCompanyCREDITCharlieRound-Turner.145956.jpg

The new season at the Finborough features six premieres and another rediscovery from Scottish dramatist James Bridie, with the first London production since 1950 of Mr Gillie. Already well known for presenting Canadian work in the UK, the Finborough celebrates Canada’s 150th birthday with the UK premiere of Late Company by Jordan Tannahill; a rediscovery of Footprints On the Moon by Maureen Hunter; and a late night cabaret of the songs of Cree-Canadian Tomson Highway in Songs in the Key of Cree. Other premieres include Everything Between Us which won playwright David Ireland the Stewart Parker Trust Award, BBC Radio Drama Award and the Meyer Whitworth Award for Best New Play; Jam, the world premiere of a first full length play from new writer Matt Parvin; and the new Australian play Food by Steve Rodgers.

The season opens with the European premiere of Late Company by Jordan Tannahill, playing for a four week season from 25 April-20 May 2017. It runs concurrently with the English premiere of David Ireland’s Everything Between Us, playing Sunday and Monday evenings and Tuesday matinees between 30 April-16 May 2017.

The world premiere of first play Jam by Matt Parvin, plays from 23 May-17 June 2017, alongside the rediscovery of Footprints On the Moon by Maureen Hunter, playing Sunday and Monday evenings and Tuesday matinees between 28 May-13 June 2017. Multi-award-winning Cree-Canadian writer, composer and musician Tomson Highway appears in a one-off late night performance of his music – Songs in the Key of Cree– on Saturday, 6 May.

The season ends with the first production outside Australia of Food by Australian playwright Steve Rodgers, playing for a four week limited season from 20 June-15 July 2017, running alongside the first London production in over 60 years of James Bridie’s Mr Gillie on Sunday and Monday evenings and Tuesday matinees between 25 June-11 July 2017.

The hard-hitting production My Eyes Went Dark which received its world premiere at the Finborough Theatre in 2015 will transfer Off-Broadway this summer, while Neil McPherson’s impressive play It Is Easy To Be Dead – presented at the Finborough Theatre in June 2016 prior to its transfer to Trafalgar Studios – has just been nominated for an Olivier Award.

More info: Finborough Theatre

Image by Charlie Round-Turner.

Mar 15th

Not Dead Enough at the Richmond Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

7c62f820c74c62381d5457bd467ec2f6.jpg

 You hurt someone by killing what he loves.

Following the success of The Perfect Murder and Dead Simple, another adaptation of a Peter James crime novel is being brought to the stage. Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, played by Shane Richie, returns to investigate a mysterious murder case and Laura Whitmore, of Strictly Come Dancing fame, is his love interest Cleo Morey. 

Peter James is one of the most popular crime fiction writers, his novels have sold over 17 million copies worldwide, and he is the 2016 recipient of the Diamond Dagger, the most highly esteemed award for crime writers. The third novel of his Roy Grace series sees the troubled detective hunt a serial killer.

Popular philanthropist Katie Bishop is found strangled, wearing a gas mask. Detective Superintendent Roy Grace suspects the victim's husband - Brian Bishop - although Bishop claims to have been sixty miles away from his home in Brighton when the murder was committed. Bishop appears to be devastated by his wife's death but Roy Grace does not trust Bishop's overwrought emoting. Apart from being overcome with grief he is jumpy and nervous. Grace's suspicions seem to be confirmed when it turns out that Bishop cheated on his wife.

Meanwhile Cleo Morey (Laura Whitmore), Roy Grace's attractive girlfriend in forensics, is expecting a bit more commitment from the hesitant detective, who is still struggling with the disappearance of his wife Sandy ten years ago. Her colleague Sophie Harington (Gemma Atkins) seems more fortunate with her dashing paramour. 

Not-Dead-Enough.-Photo-by-Mark-Douet-_31B9393-1024x683.jpgRoy Grace (Shane Richie) and Glenn Branson (Michael Quartey) are grilling Brian Bishop (Stephen Billington) 

Directed by Ian Talbot, there is some rather dark humour in this suspenseful production which offers one or two surprises that will make you jump. Yet the first half of Shaun McKenna's adaptation is a big sluggish. There is too much small talk slowing down the action whilst the characters pace between the forensics lab upstage and the police office downstage, both held in a drab grey. Yet the action picks up considerably in the second half when Roy Grace finds himself hunting a serial killer who is also responsible for a number of unsolved crimes.

Shane Richie convinces as the investigator who is tormented by the disappearance of his wife and Stephen Billington manages the right balance of charm and menace as the suspect. Michael Quartey delivers some of the best jokes as Grace's colleague and friend Glenn Branson. However, the female characters are rather clichéd and mainly serve as romantic props, except for Bella Moy, played by Gemma Stroyan with cool efficiency. Laura Whitmore and Gemma Atkins are doing their best with characters so overcome by emotion that they are unable to think straight and therefore put themselves - and others - in harm's way. 

Still there is much to enjoy in this solid thriller which offers more than one twist. 

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 18th March 2017 at the Richmond Theatre, then continuing its UK tour.

Tickets: http://uktheatrenet.ambassadortickets.com/whatson.aspx

Photograph by Mark Douet.

Mar 10th

Summer Season at the Battersea Arts Centre

By Carolin Kopplin

image001.jpg

This summer Theatre Ad Infinitum, Forced Entertainment and Little Bulb Theatre return to the Battersea Arts Centre. The BAC has commissioned Scratch performances for their Courtyard space to create a new programme for open-air theatre. Furthermore, the BAC is hosting Edinburgh previews.                    

THEATRE HIGHLIGHTS

Light | Theatre Ad Infinitum | 31 May – 17 June

Style-switching mavens Theatre Ad Infinitum bring back their wordless Orwellian thriller, Light, following two sold-out runs in 2016. A nightmarish tale of love, betrayal and technological power, Light is a sci-fi thriller accompanied by a pulsating soundtrack and lit solely by LED strip and torchlight.

Dirty Work (The Late Shift) | Forced Entertainment | 27 June – 1 July
Ibsen Award-winners Forced Entertainment return to their London home to reinvent Dirty Work, a performance first created nearly two decades ago. The UK premiere of Dirty Work (The Late Shift) draws the audience into imaginary performances dreamt up by two figures on a stage. With an imaginary cast of thousands, no event is too large and no image unstageable for this extraordinary performance.

Extravaganza Macabre | Little Bulb Theatre | 4 – 29 July

Having delighted audiences under summer skies last summer, Little Bulb Theatre return for four weeks in July to Battersea Arts Centre’s unique 75m2 Courtyard theatre and activity space. This mischievous musical melodrama follows two passionate lovers separated by a freak storm, their fate in the clutches of a scheming villain set on keeping them apart forever. Lashings of drink and picnic fayre complete the festive experience.


MORE HIGHLIGHTS
London Stories: Made by Migrants film screening | Date TBC during Refugee Week (19 – 25 June)

Battersea Arts Centre is adding to its portfolio of digital projects, including BBC Arts and Arts Council England partnerships Live From Television Centre and the ongoing Performance Live strand, with a film released for Refugee Week.  Capturing a range of personal stories told by people who moved to London from elsewhere in the UK or from overseas, the film made by Fettis Films documents the acclaimed London Stories: Made by Migrant festival held in November 2016. These film screenings are raising money for Universal Language, a project developed as part of The Agency that combines football and learning for young people with English as a second language. Tickets go on sale 1 April.

 

Edinburgh Comedy Previews | 10 – 22 July 
Battersea Arts Centre is revving up for another riotous summer of big name comics and bright new talents as the Edinburgh Comedy Previewsgive London audiences a sneak peek of what’s to come on this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Sara Pascoe, John Kearns and Nish Kumar air fresh material alongside stars of tomorrow’s comedy circuit. 

Further information: www.bac.org.uk

Mar 9th

You're Human Like the Rest of Them

By Carolin Kopplin

Sarah Berger 2.jpg

Wife (Sarah Berger) in Not Counting the Savages

Sometimes I feel like a spectator of my own life - outside. 

In a production commissioned by the Finborough Theatre, You’re Human Like the Rest of Them, an evening of three short plays by the experimental novelist, poet, playwright and film producer B. S. Johnson, are staged together for the first time. 

Spanning ten years of Johnson’s short yet prolific career, the production features revivals of Johnson’s short plays You’re Human Like the Rest of Them and Down Red Lane, and the world stage premiere of Not Counting the Savages, all dating back to the early 1970s. This is a rare opportunity to see the work of this undeservedly forgotten author and one of the most irreverent and subversive writers in post-war Britain.  

Not Counting the Savages was originally produced as a teleplay directed by Mike Newell and starring Brenda Bruce as part of the BBC’s Thirty Minute Theatre season in 1972. A middle-aged lady (Sarah Berger) returns traumatised from visiting her son's grave after an encounter with a flasher. She expects her family to support her but her husband (Brian Deacon) couldn't be more indifferent: "You've seen one before". Instead he begins to talk about his experiences in the Soviet Union - where he has never been. Daughter Rosa (Emma Paetz) shows a little sympathy but accuses her mother of overreacting and instead uses the opportunity to criticize her father's despicable behaviour. Son Jerry (Bertie Taylor-Smith) wants to hear all the sordid details of the story as he might need them for his soft porn films. This is all very amusing until the victim of this outrage screams: "I want him hanged!"which silences her offspring but leaves her husband untroubled as he continues eating his dinner.     

Reginald Edwards and Alex Griffin-Griffiths.jpg

Diner (Reginald Edwards) and Belly (Alex Griffin-Griffiths)

Down Red Lane was Johnson’s final work written before his untimely death at the age of 40. Possibly an inspiration for an episode of Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life", this gastrodrama features an enormously obese man - the Diner (Reginal Edwards) - who barely makes it to his table in a posh restaurant to indulge in another luxurious meal. The Waiter (Bertie Taylor-Smith) knows what his patron desires and showers him with expensive wines, oysters and venison with juniper berries whilst the Diner's long suffering Belly (Alex Griffin-Griffiths) flinches with every bite his master takes. Finally Belly stirs up the other fed up organs and starts a revolt. A very funny and absurd play about a man who is "digging his grave with his teeth".

Emma Paetz and Reginald Edwards.jpg

Emma Paetz and Reginald Edwards

You’re Human Like the Rest of Them was Johnson's first play, originally commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1964 and later turned into an experimental short film by Johnson himself.

A young supply teacher named Haakon (Bertie Taylor-Smith) is sent to hospital with a back complaint and finds himself being lectured in back care by the therapist (Sarah Berger) alongside a group of octogenerians. Haakon wants to know why the spine was not designed for bending down but the therapist has no answer. Upset, Haakon returns to his own classroom and asks his pupils to explain the meaning of life as his own beliefs have been irreversibly shattered.

Carla Kingham's direction is fast-paced and exact. There are only short interruptions between the plays to move the few props. The stage design by Rüta Irbite consists of a few geometrical shapes scattered across the stage with the set pieces of the main production in the background. 

The cast find the correct balance to make their characters believable in this highly absurd and stylised play. Sarah Berger is touching as the lonely wife, Alex Griffin-Griffiths and Reginald Edwards are hilarious as the Belly and its gluttonous owner. Bertie Taylor-Smith convinces as the smug son and the perfect waiter who seems to move on rails as he swiftly caters to the Diner's every whim.

A rare opportunity to see some of B. S. Johnson's sadly neglected plays.

Until 21st March 2017

Finborough Theatre

118 Finborough Road, London SW10 9ED

Telephone 020 7244 7439

Running time: 70 minutes without an interval

The run will be accompanied by the FINBOROUGHFORUM, a series of informal post-show discussions and debates, on Monday evenings: 13 and 20 March. All events are free to ticketholders for that evening's performance of the play. FINBOROUGHFORUM events will all be Twitter friendly with live tweets from @FinboroughForum. Using the hashtag #finfor, the speakers will also answer questions posed on Twitter so everyone can be included, no matter where they are in the world. Speakers will be announced shortly. 

Images by Matthew Foster.