Share |
Jun 29th

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

By Trevor Gent

Celebrating 10 years of the Iris theatre at St Pauls Church Covent Garden. My first visit to this unusual venue for theatre certainly was an interesting one and did not disappoint.

Most of the play is staged in the open air (so come prepared for the elements) and the audience follows the cast as they go from scene to scene. You really feel engaged as you are so close up to the action. The use of eerie sounds added to the atmosphere and the witches depicted as strange insect like creatures was a first for me too.

Macbeth 1

In this new production directed by Daniel Winder, you experience the greatest psychological horror story ever told. Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a terrifying journey into the mind of a murderer. Inspired by the psychosexual imagery of Hieronymus Bosch, this production weaves its way around the grounds of St Paul’s Church; reflecting the play’s journey into the twisted mental landscape of Macbeth as he rises to be king.

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, superbly played by David Hywel Baynes and Mogali Masuku maintain interest and the other characters certainly play their role admirably too. Shakespeare may not be for everyone but this venue certainly seemed to fit well with the style of the piece. Especially the very atmospheric section in the church itself at the end of the first act.

Macbeth 1

Be warned though this venue has no toilets but they are available in the Covent Garden Piazza not far away. There is also some noise pollution as it is so close to Covent Garden and mostly in the open air but this did not distract from my enjoyment of the performance.

Macbeth plays at the Iris from 21st June until 29th July.

Click here for detail and to buy tickets http://iristheatre.com/event/macbeth/

Reviewed by Trevor Gent

 

Jun 25th

The Kite Runner, Playhouse Theatre

By Douglas McFarlane

Kite Runner

 

I'd seen the film, and a colleague reviewing for another site had read the book. Both of us sat at opposite ends in the front row of the lovely Playhouse Theatre handy for Embankment Station.

We hadn't realised each other were there until the break. A few weeks earlier we had met on the set of a commercial we were both cast in, and realised through talking that we both lived in the same home town of Teddington. After watching it we were both enthused and motivated to write great reviews as we discussed it in detail going back over the bridge to Waterloo station with fantastic views towards the House Of Parliament and the London Eye.

It's a great night at the theatre and highly recommended from two reviewers.

What's it about ? 

It's a father-son story, to a background of war, touching on bullying and immigration. But most of all it's about friendship. With parallels to Blood Brothers, it tells the story with narration, of two young friends growing up in a household in Afghanistan. Each of them are from different social and religious backgrounds. They both have a love of the sport of kite running and their skill and passion brings them closer together.

Kite Runner's strength is it's story telling. The author had clearly close understanding of the subject and grew up in a similar environment so there has always been some speculation as to it's auto-biographical nature.

This production is brilliant. All carefully considered and thoughtful use of sounds, lights and shadows to represent the story and make it a visual delight from a simple set. A cast that interacts wonderfully with the narration and a beautiful and delicate flow throughout the play showcases the amazing talents of the production and technical team. From the amazing hypnotic sound of the timbala player, to the cast playing notes on some sort of mortar and pestle, to the shadows lighting the background telling part of the story or showing an active crowded backdrop.

There's some great talent in all the cast, many of them having to double up with different characters and actors but each delivering great nuances and visible emotions drawing you into their pain. Especially from the front row. 

There's no doubt the star of the show is David Ahmad. He has a lot of work to do being onstage for the entire play, narrating the story in one tone of voice, then switching to either young or older versions, and displaying a wide range of emotions wonderfully. He does in a subtle way. No big dramatic stage presence or vocal projection was needed. It was almost film acting on stage, where the more subtle your move or facial expression, the better the performance. 

I hope Kite Runner will win some well deserved acclaim and keep running and running. It teaches us a lot about today's modern world. It challenges our relationships with our loved ones as well as strangers. It makes us think about religion, war and the impact they have on real people around the world. Kite Runner manages to be happy, sad and funny and thought-provoking. What more do you want from a West End play.  

Get booking if you want to see it in London because it moves to Glasgow in September and then Brighton.

 

Find tickets on ATG's site.

 

Review by Douglas McFarlane

May 8th

Voices from Chernobyl at the Jack Studio Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

Karina Knapinska

 These people had already seen what for everyone else is still unknown. I felt like I was recording the future. (Svetlana Alexievich, Voices from Chernobyl)

I still remember the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in April, 1986. We were still in the middle of the cold war with Russia so very little information was shared. I lived in Munich at that time and we were warned by our government to avoid fresh milk for several weeks, venison and mushrooms - anything from the forest - for several years. And Bavaria is quite a distance from Ukraine. People in Ukraine were not warned. They continued eating fruit, vegetables, and dairy from their villages because the produce looked fine. After all radiation is invisible.

In the early to mid-1990s, Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich collected hundreds of stories from people living in villages near Chernobyl when the catastrophe happened - the wives of the firefighters who sacrificed themselves to save others, scientists, government officials, and ordinary people whose lives were changed forever. 

Director Germán D’Jesús adapted Keith Gessen's translation of Svetlana Alexievich's book for the stage and his 60-minute play, produced by Ténéré Arte, is currently running at the Jack Studio Theatre.

April 26, 1986. People in the towns near Chernobyl are going about their daily business when an explosion destroys a reactor of the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant Station. The government quickly tries to cover up the catastrophe whilst firefighters and workers are dying of radiation poisoning because they are spending far more than the allotted time in the radioactive environment, working without any protection. More than 600,000 fire-fighters and emergency workers are called in from all over the Soviet Union to put out the fire. Tourists arrive to look at the spectacle and the locals continue eating their contaminated produce whilst government officials do nothing to discourage them. When severely deformed babies are born, some with missing organs, others with missing or additional limbs, the extent of the catastrophe starts to sink in.

Oleg Sidorchik

The play, featuring a dedicated cast of six actors, lends a voice to the victims of the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl. Whilst the government was more concerned about protecting the state from the enemies of socialism than about the safety of its own people, many perished before they were finally evacuated from the contaminated areas, and the radioactive cloud moved on to bring contamination and death to other parts of eastern Europe, particularly Belarus, where Svetlana Alexievich was born.

The actors speak both English and Russian, which lends authenticity to the production. The cast all play a variety of roles but they still manage to create empathy for their characters. A newlywed young woman talks about how she could not even hold the hand of her dying husband because he was contaminated. A scientist describes the complete disorganization and disinformation after the explosion. And a worker talks about cleaning up the contaminated debris after the fire was put out, without a care for his own safety.

An unflinching and unsentimental account of one of the worst nuclear disasters.       

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 13th May 2017

Jack Studio Theatre

Running time: 60 minutes

In English and Russian (all Russian parts are accompanied by surtitles)

Photo credit Jack Studio Theatre.

May 7th

Brimstone and Treacle at the Hope Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

Martin (Fergus Leathem) praying for Pattie (Olivia Beardsley)

All I want is the England I used to know. The England I remember.

Originally written as a BBC Play for Today in 1976, Brimstone and Treacle was initially banned due to its disturbing content. The play had its stage premiere at the Sheffield Crucible one year later. Matthew Parker, who just won an Offie Award as Best Artistic Director, now presents the 40th anniversary production of Dennis Potter's darkly comic and divisive play about prejudice and fear in English homes at the Hope Theatre.

1977. A suburb in North London. Mr Bates (Paul Clayton) complains about the bland sandwiches that his wife (Stephanie Bettie) serves him as his dinner after he has worked very hard all day. But Mrs Bates has a good excuse - she is the full-time carer of their disabled daughter Pattie (Olivia Beardsley) who suffered severe brain injuries in a traffic accident two years ago. Mr Bates sees in his daughter little more than a breathing cabbage but Mrs Bates remains hopeful that Pattie is still present somewhere deep inside her damaged brain. Mrs Bates is at the end of her tether as she hasn't been able to leave the house in two years. Mr Bates refuses to employ a carer because it is too expense, nor will he allow any visitors because Pattie is an embarrassment to him.

All of a sudden, Martin (Fergus Leathem) arrives on their doorstep, claiming that he loved Pattie and had proposed to her before she had her accident. When Martin offers to lend a hand with the care of his beloved, Mrs Bates embraces the idea, but Mr Bates remains skeptical - and rightfully so as there is something rather strange about Martin. Yet Martin manages to win him over by sharing Mr Bates' xenophobic ideas and "England first" ideology. 

 

Mr Bates (Paul Clayton)

Although Dennis Potter's play was written in the mid-1970s, it is still very relevant today. Paul Clayton's Mr Bates is a patriarch who considers his home his castle. He does not like the changes that he has experienced over the past couple of decades and wants back "his England" - the way it was when he was a child, which means getting rid of a large part of the current population. When Martin describes the unavoidable consequences of such an action, Mr Bates is appalled and denies that he would ever support such crimes - although he is a devout member of the Nationalist Party. Stephanie Beattie portrays Mrs Bates as a docile housewife who always tries to be pleasant for her husband's sake but is now so desperate to get out of the house that she doesn't mind leaving a complete stranger alone with her helpless daughter. Fergus Leathem playing Martin with a mix of smarmy charm and sardonic humour, delivers a clumsy one-note rendition of "You Are My Sunshine" to sway Mrs Bates' doubts. She trustingly dashes off to have her hair done, whilst Martin sexually abuses Pattie. Olivia Beardsley is outstanding as the severely disabled girl.  

Rachael Ryan's exquisite set features a stuffy living room with wallpaper with a rather unappealing floral design, suffocating any liberating thought. The sound design by Philip Matejtschuk ranges from Mantovani's violins to the wrath of God, adding to the eerieness of the story. 

Matthew Parker's production brings out the absurdity and dark humour of Dennis Potter's play. One finds oneself laughing before one chokes on one's laughter because this is really no laughing matter, or is it?

An outstanding rediscovery that should not be missed.

By Carolin Kopplin 

Until 20th May 2017

Hope Theatre

Running time: 90 minutes without an interval

Photo credit: lhphotoshots.jpg

May 3rd

Everything Between Us at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

Dysfunctional siblings: Teeni (Katrina McKeever) and Sandra (Lynsey-Anne Moffat)

It horrifies me to be a human being.

David Ireland's dark comedy actually premiered in Washington DC before it went on to Belfast and Scotland in 2010. Produced by Solas Nua and Tinderbox Theatre, it won the Stewart Parker Trust Award, BBC Radio Drama Award and the Meyer Whitworth Award for Best New Play. It now receives its London premiere at the Finborough Theatre.

Just as Sandra Richardson prepares to take her seat on the newly formed Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Northern Ireland at Stormont, her long-lost sister Teeni storms in and punches the South African chairwoman in the face whilst hurling racial abuse at her. Sandra manages to drag Teenie into an empty, windowless room to calm her down. - Obviously this is not a realistic play or else Teenie would have been arrested by security and detained long before she could even come close enough to the chairwoman to attack her.

Sandra is a respected politician and the Protestant representative on the Commission at a crucial time in Northern Ireland whilst Teeni has just returned from Stavanger, Norway, where she lived in isolation, building ships. The two sisters have not seen each other in eleven years and it soon becomes clear that there is no love lost between them. As they fight and argue through years of unresolved conflicts, their relationship resembles the situation in their own country - or any country where fanatics try to torpedo any effort of peace and reconcilliation.

The two-hander focuses on the volatile Teeni (a tour-de-force performance by Katrina McKeever), who gets far more time to display her outrageous personality than her sister Sandra - shifting from stand-up comedy to pitiable loneliness before she erupts into another tirade of racial hatred. Sandra (an impressive Lynsey-Anne Moffat), who seems to have the patience of a saint, mainly listens but her character is not limited to being a goody-two-shoes. Although Sandra believes in reconciliation, she has dark thoughts and unresolved issues of her own, but Sandra is in control whereas Teeni is completely unpredictable.

The confrontation between the two sisters shows the difficulty of putting your past behind you. Both grew up as Irish Protestants, their father an Ulster Defence Association fighter who was murdered when they were children. Yet whereas Sandra is trying to overcome her prejudices and their violent history, Teeni's hatred remains unchanged: "Finians aren't people."

David Ireland seems to be an expert in using black comedy to dissect the irrationality of fanatics. His play Cypress Avenue, last year at the Royal Court, featured an Ulster loyalist who wanted to take revenge on his 5-week old granddaughter because he thought she looked like Gerry Adams.

Everything Between Us is not quite as shocking as Cypress Avenue, and Teenie's stand-up comedy act goes on longer than it needs to, but it is still a compelling play, sensitively directed by Neil Bull.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 16th May 2017

Finborough Theatre

Box office: 0844 847 1652

Running time: 70 minutes, no interval

Photograph by Tristram Kenton.

May 2nd

Twelfth Night at the Blue Elephant Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

If music be the food of love, play on.

The theatre company Original Impact draws upon performance art, popular culture and current affairs to create original work and is now presenting a modern, musical production of one of William Shakespeare's most popular plays. 

Sam Dunstan energetic production turns Illyria into a party island, defined by the words "To beer or not to beer (that is the question)" sprayed on the backwall. Duke Orsino (Andi Jashari), confident ruler of Illyria, is lusting after Olivia (Eve Niker), whose melancholy mood after her brother's death could not feel more out of place. Thankfully, she can count on her steward Malvolio (Timothy Weston) to calm her senses with his sombreness in this sunny paradise.

Sir Toby Belch (Joshua Jewkes) resembles a western tourist who has partied too long on Mallorca, complete with beer gut, sunglasses and white socks, whilst Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Dinos Psychogios) is turned into a rather hopeless DJ. Maria (Alexandria Anfield) is a self-confident bar maid and adored by Sir Toby for her wit. 

After an impressive storm scene that sees Katie Turner's Viola stranded on Illyria, Viola dresses up as the cheeky rapper Cesario, but she still looks very much like a girl. However, her scenes with Eve Niker's Olivia work very nicely as there is real chemistry between the two actors.

This is a very physical show with live music and a lot of slapstick. The songs have all been updated with Sian Eleanor Green's Feste emulating Whitney Houston and Andi Jashari's voice booming across the auditorium. There is no room for Elizabethan harmonies among selfies and mobile phones.

The cast speak Shakespeare's verse beautifully and the performance is entertaining, including many funny ideas. However, I felt that Sam Dunstan could have brought more to the production, there is little depth although Shakespeare's play offers so much to explore.

A fun night out.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 6th May 2017 at the Blue Elephant Theatre in Camberwell

Running time: 2 hours plus a 15-minute interval

May 1st

The Cardinal at the Southwark Playhouse

By Carolin Kopplin

Opponents: The Cardinal (Stephen Boxer) and Duchess Rosaura (Natalie Simpson)

Do not I walk upon the teeth of serpents?

The Cardinal was one of the last plays performed before Oliver Cromwell shut down the theatres. Considered one of James Shirley's finest dramas, this satirical revenge tragedy features two strong and witty opponents - the Cardinal (Stephen Boxer) and Duchess Rosaura (Natalie Simpson), who are equally weighted. The play pays reverence to some of the best-known revenge tragedies, most of all The Duchess of Malfi.

The Cardinal uses his influence on the King of Navarre (Ashley Cook) to arrange a marriage between the Duchess and his nephew Don Columbo (Jay Saighal), a fierce warrior who is presently fighting a war against Arragon. The Duchess, however, prefers the more refined and honorable Count D'Alvarez (Marcus Griffiths), and has no intention of marrying a brute. She writes to Columbo, asking to be released from the marriage contract. In his fury, Columbo almost kills the messenger - Antonio (Timothy Speyer) - but in his exaggerated self-esteem comes to think that the Duchess is just taunting him because she misses him so much. Antonio returns with the required release and the Duchess marries Count D'Alvarez. But Columbo returns on their wedding night and murders the Count, swearing that he will kill any future husband of Rosaura's, just as he killed D'Alvarez. Thanks to his war record and his influential uncle, Columbo remains unpunished. The Duchess becomes the ward of the Cardinal and is presumed to have gone mad. Meanwhile Colonel Hernando (Phil Cheadle), who has been publicly humiliated by Columbo, also seeks revenge against the Cardinal and his nephew.

Justin Audibert's production emphasises the satire in Shirley's text and the cast make the most of the dark humour in the play, creating a great rapport with the audience, who are frequently addressed in crowd scenes. The performance begins with a monologue by the Cardinal, played with smooth malevolence by Stephen Boxer. Natalie Simpson's Duchess Rosaura matches the Cardinal in wit and cunning. Phil Cheadle's Hernando is seething with restrained hatred which is finally released in his duel with Columbo, played as a rough brute by Jay Saighal. Timothy Speyer is a joy as Rosaura's amiable secretary Antonio.

The audience is welcomed by the smell of incense as they enter the auditorium. The stage is bare, yet resembles a grand hall or a cathedral (design by Anna Reid), also thanks to the sound design by Max Pappenheim, who composed the atmospheric music. The actors are wearing period costumes with matching weaponry, also beautifully designed by Anna Reid.  

Despite its length, Justin Audibert's atmospheric production is fast-paced and entertaining throughout, including a breathtaking sword fight (devised by Bret Yount) and a stunning masque, choreographed by Natasha Harrison. 

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 27th May 2017

Southwark Playhouse

Running time: 140 minutes including one interval

Photo by Mitzi de Margary

Apr 30th

Late Company at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

Todd Boyce, Lucy Robinson, Lisa Stevenson, David Leopold, Alex Lowe

You don't want an apology. You want blood.

Written by 28-year old Canadian Jordan Tannahill, this play deals with the suicide of a gay teenager who was bullied by other high school students in small-town Canada where homosexuality is still something that should be kept a secret. 

Debora (Lucy Robinson) and Michael Shaun-Hastings (Todd Boyce) are expecting guests for dinner. The table is beautifully set, with a bowl of flowers as its centrepiece, but Debora is not satisfied. Pacing around the table, she eventually disposes of the napkin rings because they might be too formal for the occasion. One year after the suicide of their 16-year old son Joel, the Shaun-Hastings have decided to meet with the high school bully, who was responsible for Joel's death, and his parents to find closure. Michael, a conservative politician, is not enthusiastic about this meeting but Debora, an artist who works in metal, tries to clear the negativity: "We're receiving and bestowing, Michael." But their guests are already forty minutes late.

When they finally arrive, Bill Dermot (Alex Lowe) explains that they are late due to an argument with his wife Tamara (Lisa Stevenson) - he shares Michael's skepticism regarding this meeting and did not want to go. Tamara, however, is eager to come together to achieve harmony and "put things behind them". She has been exchanging e-mails with Debora for some time and feels there can be reconciliation with Debora. Unfortunately, Tamara forgot to mention that her son Curtis (David Leopold) is allergic to shellfish so Curtis has to do with a sandwich and a few grapes whilst the rest of the dinner guests are having shellfish pasta.

Although Debora and Michael are trying to remain civil, the atmosphere is fraught with tension. Tamara soon switches from water to wine.

Curtis (David Leopold) reading his apology to Debora (Lucy Robinson)

Zahra Mansouri's beautiful set extends into the auditorium, placing the audience inside the dining room with the cast. As soon as the Dermots arrive, there is palpable tension. Debora seems calm and composed but there is bitterness and fury under her thin layer of civility. Tamara is longing for forgiveness and reconciliation. Michael, always the politician, is trying for the middle path whereas Bill proves to be even more of a bully than his son Curtis, who remains rather quiet during much of the evening, but is actually the most intriguing character.

Michael Yale's sensitive production about grief, forgiveness and reconciliation is almost painful to watch as two families are trying to find closure after a terrible tragedy. The play, which features an outstanding cast, shows that bigotry and intolerance also run in the family and dissects the relationship between sons and constantly absent fathers.

A gripping production that should not be missed.

By Carolin Kopplin 

Until 20th May 2016

Finborough Theatre

Box office: 0844 8471652

Running time: 70 minutes without an interval

Photo credit: Charlie Round-Turner

Apr 16th

The Crucible at the Richmond Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

 Crucible copy.jpg

Is the accuser always holy now?

Written by Arthur Miller in 1953 as a response to the communist witch-hunt, The Crucible is seen as a metaphor for McCarthyism as there were obvious parallels between the witch-trials in 17th century Salem and what witnesses were subjected to in hearings conducted by the House Unamerican Activities Community (HUAC). The cause was later hijacked by Senator Joseph McCarthy, who needed a patriotic platform that would generate enough publicity to guarantee his re-election. The play has never been more relevant than today when one can easily detect the strong parallels between the community of Salem - a society in the midst of great change and anxious about the future - and the political climate in the US and the UK. 

In the Puritan New England town of Salem, Massachusetts, a group of girls is detected dancing in the forest by the local minister, Reverend Parris. Parris’s daughter Betty, has since fallen into a catatonic state. There is talk of witchcraft and Reverend Hale, a specialist in this field, has been asked to come and investigate. Parris doesn't believe in unnatural causes but he is scared that his enemies might harm him over his daughter's improper behaviour. Abigail Williams, who led the dancing party in the woods, convinces the girls not to admit anything. Abigail had a secret affair with John Proctor, a respected local farmer, whilst being engaged in his home. She was consequently fired by Proctor's wife Elizabeth. Abigail still desires Proctor but he regrets his adulterous behaviour and fends her off.  

 

A separate argument between Proctor, Parris, Giles Corey, and the wealthy landowner Thomas Putnam soon ensues. This dispute regards land deeds and money with Putnam trying to grab Corey's land and to dictate the terms in Salem because of his wealth whilst Proctor argues that it is up to the community to make decisions. As the men argue, Reverend Hale arrives and examines Betty. Hale then demands to speak to Tituba. After Parris and Hale interrogate her, the panicky Tituba confesses to communing with the devil, and she hysterically accuses various townsfolk of consorting with the devil. Suddenly, Abigail joins her, confessing to having seen the devil conspiring and cavorting with other townspeople. Betty joins them in naming witches.

C9O9vuLXcAQn1Rx.jpg

Reverend Hale (Charlie Condou) having a friendly talk with John and Elizabeth Proctor (Eoin Slattery and Victoria Yeates) 

A week later, 14 people are locked up in prison because they were "seen with the devil" by the hysterical girls. At first only vagrants and eccentric old women are denounced as witches. John Proctor is reluctant to go to court and inform the judges about Abigail's character when Mary Warren, their servant arrives, and informs them that Elizabeth had been accused of witchcraft but the court did not pursue the accusation. Shortly thereafter, Giles Corey and Francis Nurse come to the Proctor home with news that their wives have been arrested. Officers of the court suddenly arrive and arrest Elizabeth. After they have taken her, Proctor browbeats Mary, insisting that she must go to Salem and expose Abigail and the other girls as frauds. 

680D98F29FF-F314-69E4-D755C6EB15FCE38E.jpg

Betty Parris (Leona Allen) and Abigail Williams (Lucy Keirl) having a vision

Douglas Rintoul's production is very fast-paced, which sometimes works against the tension of the play. Occasional stage directions, such as "The curtain falls" and "He conceives himself much as a young doctor on his first call" (regarding Reverend Hale), that are projected onto the wall can be amusing but I found them rather distracting.

Victoria Yeates gives a touching performance as Elizabeth Proctor but is rather subdued, which is especially noticeable in the important final scene between Elizabeth and her husband. Charlie Condou is very good as Reverend Hale who comes to regret his hasty judgment. Lucy Keirl convinces as Abigail Williams and Jonathan Tatler is excellent as Judge Danforth as he manipulates naive witnesses so their statements suit his agenda. Diana Yekinni impresses as Tituba, helpless in her low status as a slave and afraid for her life, and Augustina Seymour is very good as both Mary Warren and the dignified Rebecca Nurse.

The minimalist stage design by Anouk Schiltz consists of a panelled wall and a number of trees which works well for this play. However, the costumes seem to derive from various periods over the past few centuries without any consistency whatsoever. Unfortunately, this is also true for the accents. It is doubtful that a small Puritan community would entail accents from Ireland, Cornwall and Buckinghamshire. Yet is is possible that these minor points show the universality of the play.

An impressive production of a powerful play. 

By Carolin Kopplin 

The next stop of the tour will be Brighton from 24th April.

Tickets: http://uktheatrenet.ambassadortickets.com/whatson/aspx28

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes including one interval

Photo Credit: Alessia Chinazzo

Apr 10th

Write of Spring - a New Writing Showcase

By Carolin Kopplin

16195874_1530471870326876_334680405288655195_n-1-768x289.jpg

Network Theatre is a community theatre space in the underground railway arches of London Waterloo station. Run by the volunteers of the resident Network Theatre Company, an amateur theatre group, the venue offers productions of contemporary theatre and provide a rather unique location for visiting theatre companies and events.

The festival Write of Spring, which took place on just one day, 19th March, was a celebration of new writing, featuring six short plays that focus on beginnings - the start of a new life or a new discovery.

The first play One in Four, written and directed by Kate Pettigrew, takes place on a sheep farm. It is lambing time and Sally (Andrea Mentlikowski) is having a difficult birth. When the lambs are finally born, they are up to all kinds of nonsense, playing and rolling around in the stable, and they listen with big eyes as Sally tells them stories about green fields. Will they ever get to see them? Farmer Steve (Owain Jones) and his wife Jess (Kat Holland) have a rather fraught relationship ever since Jess had a miscarriage for which she blames herself. A delightful play with dark undertones.

Braincell by Shaun Smith, directed by Rebecca Mason, begins as the clock strikes twelve on New Year's Eve. Regret (Nigel Williams), Reluctance (Amy Andrews), Reminiscence (Edmée Sierts), and Recognition (Tekle Baroti) reflect on loss in this pinteresque play that consists mainly of monologues. Nigel Williams was particularly impressive as he expressed his grief about his recent loss.

The last play before the interval was Life Boat by Lisa Pancucci, directed by Kate Pettigrew. Middle-aged Martin (Nick Rutherford) visits Helda (Lisa Pancucci), his dominatrix, who is already annoyed by his delay: "Mistress Fury waits for no one." Delightful punishment awaits - but this time Martin would like to try a completely different direction. A bittersweet comedy with a surprise ending.

The Dark before Dawn by Amy Andrews deals with a couple that couldn't be more different. Ivy (Edmée Sierts) is the eternal optimist who loves to sing and enjoy life whereas Eben (Peter Kershaw), a pessimist, feels worn down by Ivy's seemingly carefree attitude: "Doesn't anything ever bother you?" A light-hearted play asking some serious questions about how one should live one's life.

Ryan M. Bultrowicz's play Shower Thoughts deals with writer's block. Robert (Nigel Williams) has taken umpteenth showers to restart his brain but he still cannot think of an ending to his book. His girlfriend Kate (Andrea Mentlikowski) prevents Robert from taking yet another shower with a different suggestion. The play is a bit too short for character development and Robert's change happens a bit out of the blue but the premise is interesting.

The evening concluded with Cuckoo by Shamini Bundell, directed by Kristen Farebrother. Miles (Owain Jones), a PhD student in archaelogy, is invited to an army base to investigate a mysterious object. The object is top secret and must not be moved. Miles is excited because he usually does not get the opportunity of shining with his expert knowledge as his professor is taking all the credit for his hard work. Will Miles dare to be bold this one time?

An entertaining evening with some promising work by new writers.

By Carolin Kopplin 

Network Theatre - London's Secret Community Theatre

246A LOWER ROAD, WATERLOO, LONDON, SE1 8SJ

More information on Network Theatre: https://networktheatre.org/

The next show will be Collaborators by John Hodge, from 21 June - 24 June 2017