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Nov 20th

Princess - The Good Girls Gone Bad at LOST Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

download.jpegJennie Dickie and Morgan Scott

Critically acclaimed writer/director Stuart Saint presented his variation on the "Princess" theme in a unique interdisciplinary dance performance, fusing video projections with live performance, at LOST Theatre, one of the more hidden venues near Vauxhall station. 

Saint's gig theatre features an electro-pop soundtrack inspired by Soft Cell and Depeche Mode and an impressive choreography. Structuring the show like a series of quests in a videogame, Stuart Saint provides a spirit guide in the form of a Rabbit (Morgan Scott) to a little girl (Jennie Dickie) who dreams of becoming a princess. But princesses are not the way they are portrayed in Disney movies any more. A coming-of-age tale as well as a quest to become a Princess, Princess shows how the Girl discovers a world of wonders as well as cruelty.

The bare stage is lined with old TV sets with a little white rabbit placed in the centre. The Girl comes on wearing dungarees and carrying her soft toy rabbit. As she is entering the fairy tale world, her toy eventually turns into a man wearing a rabbit mask. The princesses have a definitive Goth look with dark eyes and dark lips, dismissing the Girl as obviously not being one of their equals. But this is only the beginning of the Girl's adventure.

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Stuart Saint takes his audience into a mysterious world of princes, princesses and fairies but the princes are not always charming and the princesses can be tough and rather unpleasant. The Girl has her Rabbit guide to cling to but if she wants to become a Princess, she might have to leave him behind.

The most important element in this production is not the acting, it is the choreography performed by very skilful dancers. Some of the acrobatic stunts, especially by Morgan Scott and Onyemachi Ejimofor, are breathtaking. Stuart Saint creates some memorable images such as Ejimofor's Granola, an evil presence in a black cape, and a gigantic ballooning dress worn by the Girl as the rest of the company moves underneath.

The narrative seems open to many interpretations, which is actually a very welcome aspect of this production. Stuart Saint is certainly a name to remember. I am looking forward to his next work.

By Carolin Kopplin 

The run has now ended.

Running time: 65 minutes without an inteval

Further info on LOST Theatre: http://losttheatre.co.uk/

Nov 19th

Pride and Prejudice at the Richmond Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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My good opinion once lost is lost forever.

Following a sucessful run at Regent's Park Theatre, Simon Reade's adaptation of Jane Austen's classic novel is now touring the UK, starring Matthew Kelly and Felicity Montagu as Mr and Mrs Bennet.

Mrs Bennet (Felicity Montagu) is burdened with five daughters, none of them married yet. What to do? When eligible bachelor Mr Bingley (Jordan Mifsúd) arrives at his country home, he is immediately targeted as a prospective husband for her eldest daughter Jane (Hollie Edwin). Mrs Bennet's plan seems to work as Mr Bingley is enchanted by the lovely Jane. Meanwhile Mr Bingley's friend Mr Darcy (Benjamin Dilloway) is less impressed by the charms of the Bennet girls, clearly showing his disdain for Mrs Bennet's predatory behaviour. Elizabeth Bennet (Tafline Steen) overhears Mr Darcy's remarks and dismisses him as proud and arrogant.

Written almost 200 years ago, Jane Austen's novel, in Simon Reade's adaptation, is as delightful as ever. Of course this is not just a shallow romantic comedy about a money-grabbing woman, trying to marry off her daughters to the richest bidders. When Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice, only men could inherit property, which means that in the case of Mr Bennet's demise his wife and five daughters would have to rely on the generosity of his heir - Mr Bennet's cousin Mr Collins - who might very well decide to turn them out of their own home. Considering the gravity of the situation, it is more than understandable that Mrs Bennet frantically tries to marry off her daughters so they won't be destitute in the future. When Mr Collins proposes to Elizabeth, Mrs Bennet is overjoyed because, along with Elizabeth being taken care of, this would also mean that she is less likely to be evicted by the prospective heir. Therefore, Mrs Bennet's hostile reaction to Elizabeth's refusal to marry Mr Collins is not as selfish as it seems at first glance.

Although Tafline Steen is excellent as Elizabeth Bennet, who is one of the most endearing characters in literature, capturing her intelligence, wit, honesty, and compassion, Deborah Bruce's production clearly focusses on Felicity Montagu who inhabits the role of Mrs Bennet, giving an outstanding comical performance. Matthew Kelly is also very good as Mr Bennet, a gentleman who has married below his station, delivering some of the witties lines of the play with dry humour. Equally remarkable is Steven Meo's portrayal of Mr Collins, a frightful little man and busybody who is in great awe of his benefactor Lady Catherine De Bourgh (Doña Croll), a haughty aristocrat and Mr Darcy's aunt, who greatly disapproves of her nephew's interest in Elizabeth Bennet, expecting Darcy to marry her sickly daughter Annabel (Leigh Quinn). Mr Darcy has never seemed more arrogant and disdainful as being played by Benjamin Dilloway before he reveals his true feelings to Elizabeth.

Diverse casting adds to the attraction of this charming production, featuring an beautiful costumes (designed by Tom Piper), skilfully choreographed dances with a lovely musical score by Lillian Henley, and a flexible stage design consisting of a metallic structure and enhanced by projections of forests and soft landscapes to replace the open air venue at Regent's Park (designed by Max Jones).

By Carolin Kopplin

The run at the Richmond Theatre has now ended.

The next stop of the Pride and Prejudice UK Tour will be Bath.

Further information: http://prideandprejudiceplay.com/#tour

Running time: 2 hours 35 minutes including one interval.

 

Nov 14th

This Really Is Too Much by Gracefool Collective at the Blue Elephant Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

Gracefool_Image web.jpgLook. (Point.) You've never had it so good. We. Are moving. Forward.

 

Gracefool Collective is a company of dancemakers consisting of four women: Kate Cox, Sofia Edstran, Rachel Fullegar and Rebecca Holmberg. Their "post-intellectual-pseudo-spiritual-feminist-comedy-dance" has been twice shortlisted for the Vantage Art Prize and after seeing their latest work, I can understand why.

This Really Is Too Much focusses on female gender stereotypes in an anarchical and hilarious way as the four characters struggle to find their own identities only to be put in boxes because there is no room for variation.

4 characters, dressed in black, are sitting on the stage, looking straight ahead with a blank stare. As the show begins, there is silence. Suddenly, one character speaks: "I'll tell you something." Again silence. "I am the answer." This is followed by variations of the quote "Look. (Point.) You've never had it so good." Suddenly, a tune resembling elevator music leads to a surprising change: All four characters strip down to bikinis and begin performing in commercials for various products, from cleaner to skin lotion. As soon as the music stops, the characters get dressed, changing into their different roles: a participant in a beauty pageant, a  housewife who shows off her impressive skills in a very seductive way, a scientist, and lastly an umemployed therapist searching for work. As the characters are trying to tell their stories, they are frequently interrupted by the elevator music and they immediately feel the urge to strip off for the objectifying commercials.

The production is highly entertaining as well as thought provoking as Gracefool Collective show the absurdity of trying to be a person as well as a woman in our society in their dance comedy. The scientist is as much ignored as the beauty queen, who is completely reduced to her looks, the job searching therapist is confronted with a rigid bureaucrat who has boxes to tick, no matter whether the answers fit or not. But no use complaining: "Through all of this, it is important that you keep smiling." Nobody likes an ill-tempered woman.

By Carolin Kopplin

This Really Is Too Much was shown at the Blue Elephant Theatre on 11th & 12th November.

It will transfer to Yorkshire Dance, Leeds for one performance on 26th May 2017 only. Further info: yorkshiredance.com.

Running time: 60 minutes without interval

Nov 13th

Gothic Season at the Hope Theatre: The Worst Was This

By Carolin Kopplin

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... if he thrive and I be cast away,
The worst was this: my love was my decay.

The Gothic Season at the Hope Theatre continues with the latest production by Wild Goose Chase in association with the critically acclaimed New Room Theatre. Matte O'Brien's play, a mix of modern Grand Guignol and Elizabethan mystery story, takes place in a post-apocalyptic Britain.

After a great war has destroyed all animal life on Earth, meat has become very scarce. However, in a pub named "The Wayward Sisters", there seems to be a constant supply of fresh meat. Pub landlady Agatha (Sarah Barron) and her two sisters Rue (Lauren Hurwood) and Odette (Beth Kovarik) run a successful black market business with the help of Bob aka "Bones" (Mark Jeary), who carries out the bloody deeds. When Will (Ben Clifford), a young actor and playwright, enters the sisters' pub to meet with disfigured poet Chris (Robin Hellier), who was presumed dead, a Shakespearean love triangle turns into tragedy. 

The show begins with cheerful songs by Lesley Gore and the Partridge Family but the joyful tunes are soon distorted and a breathless man enters with a dagger and a bloodied script. Cut to the pub "The Wayward Sisters" where Bob drags in some more fresh meat to be turned into a tasty stew. When Will enters the pub, the sisters make a mess trying to explain what is in the bag but Will is not really interested, he is looking for Chris to teach him how to write plays.

Director and playwright Matte O'Brien transports Elizabethans Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare into the future with the premise that Marlowe survived the attack on his life, though badly disfigured, and Shakespeare took advantage of Marlowe's preference to be assumed dead, claiming Marlowe's plays as his own. Combined with a Grand Guignol type horror story that involves gory murder, cannibalism, and resurrection of corpses, this production is a lot of nonsensical fun, written in blank verse and prose that is skilfully delivered by the cast.

Sarah Barron is especially good as Agatha, the eldest of the three sisters who considers Lady Macbeth a softie and follows in Dr Frankenstein's footsteps to pass the time. Beth Kovarik is enticing as Marlowe's muse, desiring so much more from the poet who is unable to reciprocate her feelings. Robin Hellier gives a fine performance as the tortured Marlowe.

Vari Gardner's costumes are a successful mix of modern garments, such as t-shirts, and period costumes. The fight scenes, choreographed by Robin Hellier, are very exciting and somewhat frightening in such an intimate space.

An absurd horror story with a lot of funny moments. 

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 26th November 2016

The Hope Theatre

Running time: 80 minutes without interval

 

 

 

Nov 12th

The Beggar's Opera by Lazarus at the Jack Studio Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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Of all animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.

After their intriguing production of Brecht's Chalk Circle, Lazarus Theatre Company return to the Jack for their season finale - John Gay's ballad opera. With new lyrics and music by Bobby Locke and Chris Drohan, Gay's biting satire about Walpole's administration, a society dominated by money, self-interest and celebrity criminals is transported in the world of today featuring greedy bankers, corrupt politicians, and the all powerful media.

Entering the auditorium, we are welcomed with bags of sweets. Well, some of us. Highwayman Mcheath (Sherwood Alexander) obviously wants a favourably disposed audience for the show which starts off with a rousing song right after the prologue as we enter a world of cheats and liars, filled with a deep craving for money and power.

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 Sherwood Alexander as Mcheath

Peachum (David Jay Douglas), a fence and businessman, who manages a syndicate of highwaymen and has splendid connections to the government and court, is appalled when he finds out that his daughter Polly (Michaela Bennison) has secretly married Mcheath. Upset that Polly won't be of much use any more, Peachum and his wife (Natalie Barker) decide to have Mcheath killed for his money. Unknown to Polly, Mcheath, a serial philanderer, is whiling away his time in a tavern, surrounded by women of dubious reputation. He discovers too late that Jenny (Rachel Kelly) was contracted by Peachum to capture him and he ends up in Newgate prison, which is run by Peachum's associate, jailer Lockit (Josie Mills). Lockit's daughter Lucy (Elizabeth Hollingshead) is pregnant by Mcheath and expects him to keep his promise that he will marry her. When Polly arrives and claims him as her husband, Mcheath convinces Lucy that Polly is crazy and Lucy helps him escape by stealing Lockit's keys. Yet this is not the end of the story. 

TBO-062.jpgElizabeth Hollingshead as Lucy

Ricky Dukes' adaptation of John Gay's classic, which was written in eight weeks and rehearsed in three, has become a fast-paced production with a beautiful musical score by Bobby Locke and Chris Drohan, which helps transport the action into the present. Bankers and politicians dance and booze with members of organised crime, returning to their jobs to do their benefactors' bidding whilst the media manipulate public opinion. A surprise guest also joins the party of the rich and privileged who obviously are no better than the criminals they consort with.

Lazarus, known for combining text, music and movement to present the heart of the play and thereby making it more attractive to modern audiences, create a symphony of colour in the umbrella scene, and a comical dance of the MPs who are puppets of organised crime.

Sherwood Alexander is very good as the attractive rogue Mcheath. David Jay Douglas is all businessman as Peachum and Natalie Barker sings the praises of promiscuity and widowhood with conviction and with the highest notes. Elizabeth Hollingshead resembles a seductive panther as Lucy when she faces the naive and innocent Polly, a lovely Michaela Bennison. Josie Mills is very good as the corrupt jailer Lockit.

Ricky Dukes' production could not be more relevant.

By Carolin Kopplin 

Until 3rd December 2016

The Jack Studio Theatre 

410 Brockley Road, London SE4 2DH

Admin No: 020 8291 6354

Running time: 80 minutes without an interval

Photographs by Adam Trigg. 

Nov 10th

Morir Soñando at the Blue Elephant Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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The winter season at the Blue Elephant Theatre has started with the exciting ELEFEET Dance Festival presenting new and innovative work. Morir Soñando is an exploration of Dominican identity, beautifully choreographed by Stephanie Peña.

Titilayo Adebayo, dressed in a white top and black pants, arrives in a new environment, a new country. Firmly rooted in her own cultural background, she dances in a freeform style with African elements to the song "Ae Mamá Si E' / Candelo (Palos o Atabales)" by Mercedes Cueva & Los Paleros de Nigua. The other three dancers - Samanta Ceriani, Larren Jeffries and Alice Seager - wear uniform reddish tops and black pants. Their style is very different from Titilayo's and they treat her with suspicion and rejection at first. After making a stand for their own style of dance and music (songs by Fernando Villalona, Juan Luis Guerra, Rokabanda), they try to assimilate Titilayo's character but she clings to her own roots, refusing to give up her indiduality and her heritage.

As the performance begins, Titilayo Adebayo is kneeling on the floor with her back to the audience. She is swaying to the music and eventually gets up to dance joyfully. Two other dancers enter the stage and lie down at first, dreaming and swaying. When they encounter the unknown dancer, they first react with curiosity, admiring her elegant and strange movements, but this soon turns into hostility because of her otherness. As they are trying to make the stranger one of their group, her own song keeps pushing to the surface. She refuses to copy the new dance moves and returns to her own style.

This is a beautiful production dealing with the complex subjects of integration and cultural identity featuring skilled dancers and a tuneful and rousing score. Titilayo Adebayo shines as the outsider but the other dancers are equally delightful.

By Carolin Kopplin 

 The show ran the Blue Elephant Theatre from 7 -8 November 2016.

Running time: 45 minutes without an interval.

More information on ELEFEET: http://www.blueelephanttheatre.co.uk/whatson

Photograph provided by Blue Elephant Theatre.

Nov 8th

Drones, Baby, Drones at the Arcola Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

Drones Baby Drones image.jpgTuesday is just the day we take the garbage out.

Nicolas Kent, former Artistic Director of the Tricycle Theatre, is known for his "Tribunal Plays", political pieces - often including verbatim material - dealing with complex issues. The first work I ever saw was the impressive 9-hour event The Great Game in 2009, covering the history of Afghanistan and attempting to grasp the complexity of the ensuing conflicts. I talked to Afghani audience members during the day who were deeply touched by Kent's production, confirming the truthfulness and authenticity of his work.

Drones, Baby Drones also combines verbatim material with two short plays, written by three authors. The show is framed by excerpts from an interview with Clive Stafford Smith (Sam Dale), Director of Reprieve, who comments on certain aspects of the drone war, serving as an introduction to each play.

This Tuesday by Ron Hutchinson and Christina Lamb is a kaleidoscope of characters in high positions regarding national security who are directly or indirectly involved in the drone war. Taking place in real time, we meet CIA director Maxine Forman (Anne Adams), watching anxiously over her daughter, who was involved in a severe car crash as the clock is ticking away, whilst discussing an upcoming bombing of a wedding with Jay Neroli (Joseph Balderanna) to kill an alleged terrorist leader. Meanwhile Doug Gibson (Tom McKay), a White House security adviser, married with children, is spending his Tuesdays sleeping with intern Meredith Zane (Rose Reynolds). Meredith is critical of Doug's "high tech assassination bureau" but Doug remains unfazed, pointing out that the country is at war and has the right to defend itself. Commander Ben Crowe (Sam Dale) and Captain Mario Garcia (Raj Ghatak) are playing basketball whilst talking about the power shift in favour of Langley: Important tasks have been taken away from the army and shifted to the CIA. Whereas Garcia is critical of military action in the field being replaced by paper-pushers playing videogames, General Crowe, who has an affinity to Greek drama, welcomes the development. In the end Maxine, Jay, and Doug meet to "take out the garbage".

Nicolas Kent's direction feels a bit rushed and the play itself has elements of a soap opera with echoes of Homeland but it touches on important issues and is an exciting piece of theatre with a strong cast. During the scene changes, black and white images resembling those that are transmitted by drones are projected onto a screen adding to the eeriness of the piece.

The second play, The Kid by David Greig, is the stronger and more intense of the two short works. Two drone operators, Pete (Tom McKay) and Shauna (Anne Adams), get together in a suburban home with their partners to celebrate. Pete and Shauna managed to take out a bad guy, a top terrorist, and now present their work as "a clean cut". Shauna's partner Ramon (Joseph Balderanna), a soldier in the regular army, is excited, praising them as American heroes, as they drink wine and eat pop corn. Yet Shauna feels uncomfortable about the celebration. She eventually admits that it wasn't a precision killing, there was collateral damage: A child was killed. Pete's wife Alice (Rose Reynolds), who is expecting a baby, shows remarkably little concern for the murdered kid. Her speech leeds to a shocking conclusion.

Featuring an impressive cast, both plays criticize the questionable method of a long-distance war. Eliminating a target by pressing a button, thousands of miles away, reduces the action to a move in a videogame. There is also the question of collateral damage. Is it justified to kill innocent people along with the suspected terrorist in order to - possibly or probably - save hundreds of lives? Directed by Mehmet Ergen, The Kid shows the ambiguity of drone warfare even more intensely than the first play that focuses on too many characters and their stories. The subjects of both plays overlap somewhat and these issues have been discussed in other plays and films before but this does not make this double bill less relevant.

By Carolin Kopplin

Drones, Baby, Drones runs at the Arcola Theatre until 26 November 2016

Box office: 020 7503 1646

Running time: 100 minutes including one interval

Nov 5th

The RSC Presents Cymbeline at the Barbican

By Carolin Kopplin

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Hang there like fruit, my soul, till the tree die.

The romance Cymbeline is one of Shakespeare's late plays and rarely performed because of its complex and convoluted plot. Therefore, we are rather fortunate that we've been given the chance to see two intriguing productions in London this year - one by Shakespeare's Globe and now another by the Royal Shakespeare Company as part of their London Season.

When Innogen (Bethan Cullinane), the Queen's daughter and the only living heir, marries her childhood friend Posthumus (Hiran Abeysekera) in secret, the enraged Cymbeline (Gillian Bevan) banishes him. Cymbeline's husband, the Duke (James Clyde), realising that his foolish son Cloten will never win Innogen's heart, is plotting to seize power by murdering Innogen. Meanwhile Posthumus, in exile, agrees to a bet regarding the faithfulness of his wife, suggested by the cunning Iachimo. When Iachimo tricks him into believing that his wife betrayed him, Posthumus joins the Roman army to fight against Britain. Innogen, deceived by Posthumus's servant Pisania (Kelly Williams), that she is to meet her husband at Milford Haven, learns about the plot against her life and disguises as a man to save herself, hiding away in a forest in Wales where she meets Belarius and - unknown to her - her two siblings who were abducted by Belarius when they were just little babes.

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Hiran Abeysekera (Posthumus) and Bethan Cullinane (Innogen)

Director Melly Still transports the action from the times of Augustus Caesar to a dystopian future where a deeply divided and isolated Britain has slipped back into a pre-industrial state. Queen Cymbeline is wearing a garment made of sacks, the characters inhabitating the forest in Wales hunt with bows and arrows and look like they are part of the "Mad Max" franchise. Whereas Britain is presented as a series of run-down builidings, sprayed with graffiti, Rome is featured as a glorious metropolis, cosmopolitan and trendy where the characters freely converse in Italian, French, and Spanish - even English, which should come as a relief to Iachimo's friend Philario (Byron Mondahl) who, apart from being awkward with languages, uses a strong English accent to great comic effect. Even Latin is used when the Roman general and Cymbeline discuss the state of their relationship. Cymbeline refuses Rome's rule, declaring "we are a warlike tribe" Yet towards the end of the play Britain returns to the fold of Rome and to peace and harmony.

I am not so sure about the analogy to post-Brexit Britain. There is a difference between being part of the Roman Empire, which was comparable to colonialism, and being a member of the European Union. I doubt that the EU is going to wage war against Britain any time soon after Article 50 has been evoked although the other member states certainly wish Britian would remain.

However, Melly Still's production is intriguing and beautifully staged. Bethan Cullinane's Innogen is lovely and deeply touching - a sweet and innocent character who openly displays her love for Posthumus, played as somewhat awkward and rough by Hiran Abeysekera. Oliver Johnstone's Iachimo is an Italian Latin lover, smooth and slippery at first, yet tortured by his conscience later. Cloten, a great comic performance by Marcus Griffiths, is hilarious as the unwanted suitor as he is awkwardly serenading Innogen with the song "My Lady Sweet Arise".

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Gillian Bevan (Cymbeline)

The production features a diverse cast and some gender swapping with Cymbeline being turned into a Queen, which lends more relevance to her relationship with her abducted children, and Innogen's stepmother thereby becoming an scheming Duke and avoiding the fairy tale stepmother cliché. The servant Pisanio is transformed into Kelly Williams' cheeky and self-confident Pisania. One of Innogen's lost brothers becomes Natalie Simpson's wild and free Guideria.

Designer Anna Fleischle has created a sparse set featuring parts of buildings that can be transformed from medieval towers sprayed with graffiti, covered by creepers with a tree stump in the centre. Video projections add to the the story telling when videoclips of Innogen and her siblings playing as children or the city of Rome are projected onto a big screen. A live band on elevated platforms on either side of the stage provide Dave Price's haunting and often beautiful soundtrack for the production. 

An outstanding production of a difficult and rarely performed play that should not be missed.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 17th December 2016

Barbican Centre

Running time: 2 hours 25 minutes

Photographs by Ellie Kurttz.

Nov 1st

Sam Shepard's Fool for Love at Found111

By Carolin Kopplin

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I get sick every time you come around, and then I get sick when you leave.

Following the successful shows The Dazzle, Bug, and Unfaithful, the final production in the unique space Found111 is Sam Shepard's dark play about relationships, identity, and abandonment. 

Set in a run-down motel room in the Mojave Desert, Fool for Love is the story of a couple who cannot live with or without each other. Eddie (Adam Rothenberg) is the son of an unaffectionate alcoholic father who had a long affair with another woman. Eddie has been repeating his father's mistakes by cheating on May (Lydia Wilson) and abandoning her whenever he felt like it. May has finally managed to start a new life when Eddie suddenly appears in her door, informing her that he has travelled 2,480 miles just to see her and expects her to move to Wyoming with him. May is still angry about Eddie's affair with "The Countess" as she calls the other woman and turns him down, informing him that she has a job, a new life, and is expecting her date. Yet when Eddie tries to leave, May holds him back. As they kiss passionately, she kicks him in the groin. Eddie tries to sway May's opinion of him by amusing her with lasso tricks and painting an idyllic picture of their life in Wyoming yet May remains unimpressed. When May's date Martin (Luke Neal) arrives, Eddie does his utmost to provoke him and to scare him away, trying to prove to May and to himself that he is her man.

The action is observed by an Old Man (Joe McGann) who exists only in the minds of May and Eddie, adding to the dreamlike quality of the play. The Old Man, converses with both May and Eddie and comments on their stories and actions. As the stories begin to contradict each other, one wonders which character is actually telling the truth.

Adam Rothenberg, who is making his London stage debut in Simon Evans' production, and Lydia Wilson - who was nominated for an Olivier award for her performance as Kate Middleton in Rupert Goold's King Charles III -, who performed together in the popular TV series "Ripper Street" are very good as the ill-fated couple living through a love-hate relationship. Joe McGann is excellent as the Old Man, a grisly, weathered cowboy with an affinity to Barbara Mandrell. Luke Neal convinces as Martin, a good-natured gardener who is drawn into the poisonous relationship.

The design by Ben Stones features a dreary motel room with black soil widening the space to the front and back. Although the set is fascinating, with touches of the wide open spaces in the West, it takes away a bit from the claustrophobic atmosphere that is so important to the play. 

An intense performance with an outstanding cast.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 17 December 2016

Found111

111 Charing Cross Rd, London WC2H 0DT

Box office: 020 7478 0100

Personal callers 

Mon-Sat 10am-6pm

Soho Theatre 21 Dean Street, London W1D 3NE

Running time: 60 minutes without an interval.

Oct 30th

Howard Brenton's Magnificence at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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Joel Gilman (Jed), Tyson Douglas (Cliff), Daisy Hughes (Mary), Will Bliss (Will), Eva-Jane Willis (Veronica)

We are the writing on your wall!

Originally commissioned by the Royal Court Theatre in 1973, Howard Brenton's political play reflecting the state of Britain at that time has not been seen in London in over forty years. The Finborough in co-production with Fat Git Theatre is presenting a revival of Magnificence and sadly, many of the issues addressed in the play are still unresolved and remain as relevant as ever.

London, 1973. A group of left-wing activists have broken into an empty flat to protest against homelessness and redevelopment. The squatters hope to make a point by occupying the flat and hanging a banner from the window that nobody can actually read: "We are doing our humble best to wreck society". Newcomer Veronica (Eva-Jane Willis), who used to work at the BBC, is appalled by the lack of efficiency and action. After ten days the bailiff forces them out, using excessive violence against the pregnant Mary (Daisy Hughes), whilst Veronica is shouting quotes from Mao's little red book at the "fascists". Jed (Joel Gilman) is sent to prison and his girlfriend Mary miscarries. When Jed is released, he has become radicalised and plans to use gelignite to make an explosive statement.

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Hayward B Morse (Babs) and Tim Faulkner (Alice)

Set against the main plot are two darkly comic sketches, one entailing a conversation between the bailiff Slaughter (Chris Porter) and a police officer (Tim Faulkner) who thinks that we are all part of a Martian experiment. Slaughter, a racist and a bully, admits that he did have a bad conscience when harrassing a nice old British lady to repossess her flat, he didn't even blink when bullying her Pakistani neighbours. The second sketch involves dying Tory politician Babs (Hayward B Morse) who has been shuffled off into Academia after his extensive political career. He has invited his former lover Alice (Tim Faulkner) to keep him company on his last day. As they are punting along the Cam in this hilarious scene, Babs reminisces about old times and creates his own obituary. The strings all come together when Jed assaults Alice, a high-ranking Tory politician, with the intent to blow him up: "A little blaze for the the delight and encouragement of all your enemies."

The activists seem all very incompetent and toothless against the establishment. While they choose to leave their middle-class existence to squat in a run-down flat, a homeless man (quite a departure for Hayward B Morse) is already living there because he has no choice. Nobody cares about their protest except for the bailiff who considers them a nuisance and evicts them eventually for the redevelopment to go ahead. Today protests are far better organised, with the help of the internet and social media, and the efforts of this group seem pathetic at best. But how effective are our protests today? Redevelopment, gentrification, and homelessness are still very much with us, forty years later. However, violence should not be an option, as Brenton clearly demonstrates.

Josh Roche's production features an excellent cast, particularly Hayward B Morse as the retired Tory Babs, Tim Faulkner as the seemingly pleasant Alice who tries to keep his stiff-upper-lip attitude in any situation, and Chris Porter as the ruthless Slaughter who does have a conscience as long as his victim is white and British.

Designer Philip Lindley's set with peeling wallpaper and debris lining the walls is in absurd contrast with the posh Tory scene, adding to the irony of the play.

A highly relevant must-see production.

By Carolin Kopplin 

Until 19th November 2016

Finborough Theatre

Running time: 2 hours 5 minutes including one interval

Photographs by Tegid Cartwright.