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Apr 7th

Out of Order at the Richmond Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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George Pigden (Shaun Williamson) & Richard Willey (Andrew Hall) 

She's not my bride, she's Jeremy Corbyn's secretary!

Ray Cooney, the Master of Farce, will be celebrating his 85th birthday this year. Whilst other people his age are happy to enjoy their hard-earned retirement, the energetic Ray Cooney, whose career now spans 70 years, presents a new version of his 1980 play Whose Wife Is It Anyway, which he also directs.

Out of Order is a fast-paced farce about a philandering Tory politician who sees his tête-à-tête with a Labour secretary rudely interrupted and spends the rest of the evening trying to save his hide. The play has been updated to include jokes about the current political situation and well-known polticians.

Junior Minister Richard Willey (Andrew Hall) has booked a room in the Westminster Hotel with a direct view of the the Houses of Parliament. He is expecting to spend the night with stunning secretary Jane Worthington (Susie Amy) whilst he led his wife Pamela (Sue Holderness) to believe that he is attending the debate in the House of Commons. He expects to sneak out for a bit to do his duty with the PM before returning into the arms of his stunning lover. With a bucket of champagne and a few dozen oysters, nothing should go wrong. But when Willey enters his room, there is a man caught in the window - he appears to be dead. After hiding the corpse in the wardrobe, Willey quickly calls his assistant George Pigden (Shaun Williamson) to take care of the mess.

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Ronnie Worthington (Jules Brown), Richard Willey (Andrew Hall), The Waiter (James Holmes) & The Manager (Arthur Bostrom).jpg

After a somewhat sluggish first half, complete chaos ensues and the jokes come one laugh a minute. The show includes a lot of physical comedy, often featuring a rather volatile window, and more than one pair of dropped trousers.

Shaun Williamson has the plum role as Willey's aide Pigdem whose problem-solving skills are challenged to the max. Andrew Hall is very convincing as the slick politician, who seems able to weasel his way out of any situation. Susie Amy does her best with a role that is very slight - she mostly shocks the other characters by popping up in her underwear when least expected. Arthur Bostrom is hilarious as the mortified hotel manager and James Holmes gives a comical tour de force as an incompetent but sly waiter. Jules Brown is hysterically funny as Jane Worthington's husband Ronnie who is raging with jealousy. Sue Holderness provides some humour as the inebriated Mrs Willey and Elizabeth Elvin has quite an entrance as the forceful Nurse Foster. David Warwick makes his mark as the rather animated "body". 

The set design by Rebecca Brower includes a defective window that develops a life of its own and deservedly gets a round of applause when it is taking its bow together with the cast.  

Although some of the jokes and situations seem a bit old-fashioned, this is a highly entertaining production.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 8 April 2017 at the Richmond Theatre

The Green, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 1QJ

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

Running time: 2 hours 5 minutes including one interval

Photos by Darren Bell.

Apr 7th

THIS JOINT IS JUMPIN' at London's Other Palace, Victoria

By Elaine Pinkus

Leave the woes of London behind and enter the ‘cotton club’ at the Other Palace Studio, Victoria (previously the St James Theatre), where a Harlem Rent Party is about to take place and we are invited to be its guests. Sit back, enjoy a drink and relax to the songs, dancing and general atmosphere of This Joint is Jumpin’, produced by Hoagy B Carmichael and directed by Patrice Miller, based on the book by Jeremy M Barker and Patricia Miller. In homage to Fats Waller, we are transported to the 1920s, to the music of swing which was greeted enthusiastically in its day and continues to do so. With musical arrangements moving between jazz and rhythm and blues, the mood was created. We might not have been jumpin’ as such, mainly because there was simply not the space to do so, but our feet were certainly a’tappin’ alongside the wonderful  Joseph Wiggan (sensational)  and Michela Marino Lerman as they whacked their taps to the fabulous song score of Fats Waller. With vocals by Vuyo Sotashe, (so mellow), Michael Mwenso and Lillias White, (a belting sensation) and the fantastic five piece band, The Shakes (Ruben Fox, Mark Kavuma, Dion Kerr IV, Mathis Picard and Kyle Poole) this was an evening of pure enjoyment.

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The cast

Opening with This Joint is Jumpin’ the mood was set and the ensuing numbers such as Honeysuckle Rose, Squeeze Me and so forth maintained this night club atmosphere. Lilias White oozed passion and kittenish sex appeal, whilst Vuyo Sotashe’s vocal range vibrated with mellowness and soul. We ached with White as she gave her heart rending passion of Black and Blue, remembering those victims of the Klu Klux Clan and then, deftly, were brought back once more to joy with the high level tap of the dynamic pair and the wonderful arrangements of the fabulous Shakes. Whilst all showed their skills Mathis Picard deserves an additional applause for his mind blowing piano playing.

THIS JOINT IS JUMPIN 4 (left to right) Mathis Picard (pianist) Vuyo Sotashe (vocalist) Mark Kavuma (trumpet) Ruben Fox (tenor s

The Shakes: Ruben Fox (Saxophonist), Mark Kavuma (Trumpet), Dion Kerr IV (Bass), Mathis Picard (Pianist) and Kyle Poole (Drummer)

In her role as Master of Ceremonies, Desiree Burch offered snippets of history and context, not only in the life of Fats Waller but also in the struggles of the Black communities, referring to James Baldwin and historical facts of Atlanta. Perhaps these were somewhat disconnected but as an homage, there was the need to include meaning and relevance. 

With a running time of just under two hours (including the interval) this is pure fun and entertainment. Well done to the well rehearsed cast who not only performed with commitment, energy and excitement but who also took time to chat to their audience during the interval. A highly enjoyable evening.

(note to myself: dust those tap shoes and get practising!)

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Michaela Marino Lerman and Joseph Wiggan

Photography: Darren Bell

THIS JOINT IS JUMPIN’

Tuesday 4 – Saturday 15 April

Performance Times:
Tuesday - Saturday evenings at 8.00pm
Fridays 6.30pm & 9.00pm
Saturday matinees at 3.00pm

Ticket prices:
£20/£25
Fridays and Saturdays:
£25/£30

The Other Palace Studio
12 Palace Street
London
SW1E 5JA
Box of] fice: 0844 264 2121
www.theotherpalace.co.uk

Twitter - @JointisJumpin
Facebook - /JointisJumpin

Apr 5th

Caste at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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George D'Alroy (Duncan Moore) and his beloved Esther (Isabella Marshall)

Kind hearts are more than coronets, and simple faith than Norman blood.

First produced in 1867, Caste was one of a series of plays in the naturalistic style by theatrical revolutionary T. W. Robertson. Robertson was the first playwright who dared to show comtemporary British people in realistic settings and directed his own work. He was a great influence on Arthur Wing Pinero, who based the character of Tom Wrench in Trelawny of the Wells on Robertson, and on W.S. Gilbert, who admired his theatrical innovations, stating that Robertson "pointed the way for a whole new movement". Caste, widely considered to be Robertson's masterpiece. focuses on the distinction of class and rank in Victorian Britain.

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of T. W. Robertson's comedy, the Finborough Theatre presents the first UK production of Caste in over 20 years.

London 1867. George D'Alroy (Duncan Moore), a soldier and the son of a French nobleman, asks his friend Captain Hawtree (Ben Starr) for advice. He has fallen in love with Esther Eccles (Isabella Marshall), a beautiful ballet dancer from a poor family. Esther's father (Paul Bradley) is a drunkard and her sister Polly (Rebecca Collingwood), also a performer, is engaged to a plumber with the unflattering name Sam Gerridge (Neil Chinneck). Hawtree warns his friend that he should never marry beneath him, although he himself has aspirations of marrying an aristocrat far above his station. However, George does not listen to his friend's advice. When Esther tells him about a dancing opportunity in Manchester, George proposes to her to keep his beloved in London.

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The Marquise de St. Maur is not amused - Susan Penhaligon and Paul Bradley

Six months later, George is called to arms and his mother, the Marquise de St. Maur (Susan Penhaligon) arrives to say her goodbyes. She is mortified when she learns of his marriage to a common girl but there are more important matters at stake. Family honour forces George to go and fight in India, leaving his wife behind to confront the class prejudices of e Marquise, whilst coping witthh her drunken father at the same time.

Charlotte Peters directs a charming production of Robertson's comedy drama, which naturally does not appear as revolutionary today as it did 150 years ago, but still has much to offer - some very witty lines and colourful characters. Duncan Moore and Isabella Marshall are lovely as the ill-fated couple, believing that love can conquer all. Susan Penhaligon's arrogant aristocrat evokes Edith Evans in her prime, and Paul Bradley's unscrupulous and workshy scrounger Eccles seems a lost brother to Eliza Dolittle's father in Pygmalion. Rebecca Collingwood impresses as Esther's flirtatious and self-assertive younger sister Polly who loves theatrics but makes the right choice with Neil Chinneck's hard-working plumber Sam. Ben Starr convinces as Captain Hawtree who also learns a thing or two about "caste".   

A rare revival of a delightful play that should not be missed.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 18th April 2017

Finborough Theatre

Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes including one interval. 

Photos by Greg Veit.

Apr 4th

POSH The Brand New All-Female Production by Laura Wade at the Pleasance Theatre, Islington, London

By Elaine Pinkus

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Posh first made its appearance on the London stage in 2010, at the time when live debate was presented on national television between the separate main party leaders. With a political bent clearly pointed at the Tory party, this expose of the privileged elite was shown through the degenerative behaviour of the Oxford Students’ Riot Club, based broadly on the exclusive all-male Bullingdon Club, at their evening celebration in a local family Gastropub.  Laura Wade’s production was met with outstanding reviews, with its impressive staging and excellent performances. Now, with the complexities of Brexit and with Theresa May in power, she has revived Posh but has cast the roles entirely as females. Both Wade and Director Cressida Carre have explained that ‘Over the course of the rehearsal process, we developed the belief that the play should remain as written, including ‘he’ pronoun, the male reference and names. At the same time it’s not about women playing men, it’s about fulfilling the same roles that men play – an important distinction’. And I guess that is where it fell short for me.  The fact that the strength and behaviour was still in the male realm somehow made the female casting superfluous. But I digress.

As its original, this is a quirky production and performed by a talented group of actors. It tells of ten Oxford undergraduates whose aim is to celebrate their Riot Club by getting absolutely battered, behaving in a lewd and course way and abusing any who dare to criticise their antics. This is a group who believe that no matter how appallingly they behave, they can repair both the physical and psychological fall out with money. Offer money and those with principles and high morals can be bought, especially the lower class who pretend to despise the elite but who in fact are simply jealous.

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At a time when the country is in turmoil over Brexit and social class distinctions are ever at the fore, Laura Wade's Posh is particularly poignant. Who deserves what? Do the elite deserve their privilege? Do those without deserve more? And who should pay? These messages, evident in Wade’s script, hit home with the audience and resonated profoundly. Moments of laughter, (particularly noted in the characters of Ed Montgomery played by Verity Kirk and Harry Villiers played by Alice Britain), moments of sheer dislike and disdain (Alistair Ryle/Serena Jennings), all could recognise the different personalities presented on stage. The political message was clear, leadership is the privilege of the elite. There is an ever growing gulf between those who have and those who have not. Was the audience those who have not? Certainly as the play began the ten students appeared in a chorus-line tableau, looking disdainfully at the audience who clearly were their social inferiors. Would they be the future ruling class with their trappings of inherited wealth, their craving for the power of aristocracy and their vile scorn of the 'lower' social classes.

With a main message of privilege assumed at the cost of morality and ethics, the strong cast led us through some cringe making moments. Against the hard working landlord and his daughter, these ten ‘boys’ were crass and, apart from their ‘plummy’ accents, lacked any true finesse. But money talks, networks are important and we know that somehow they will not be too damaged but will go on to repeat and abuse in the future.

Laura Wade wanted to see what might transpire by changing the casting to all-female. Would it throw light on the world of power and privilege as she had intended? Certainly the bullish behaviour was exposed through the physical performances of this strong group but I retain the feeling that it did not add to the exposure other than in parody, exaggeration and mocking humour. Nevertheless, this is a production that is worth seeing, not only for its strong message and well written script, but also for the fine performances, effective staging,interesting lighting and well considered sound/music effects.  

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Photography: Darren Bell

Running time, including interval, 2 hours 45 mins

 

Tom Harrop for Can’t Think Theatre Company
presents
the all-female production of
POSH
by Laura Wade

Pleasance Theatre
Carpenters Mews
North Road
LONDON N7 9EF

Box Office 020 7609 1800
www.pleasance.co.uk

Wednesday 29 March –
Saturday 22 April

Monday -Saturday at 7:30pm
Thursday & Saturday at 2:30pm

Tickets from £17.50

Age recommendation 14+

www.poshtheplay.co.uk

@poshtheplay

www.facebook.com/PoshThePlay

Apr 2nd

Gabriel by Moira Buffini at the Richmond Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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There is no justice left, only war.

Although Britain was never occupied by Nazi Germany, the Channel Islands were left without protection as they were considered strategically unimportant and quickly taken over by the Germans. Moira Buffini's first play, premiering in the Soho Theatre in 1997, takes place on Guernsey in 1943 when the tide was turning for the German invaders.

The widowed Jeanne Becquet (Belinda Lang) and her former housekeeper Margaret Lake (Jules Melvin) are running a black market operation to keep their home together and to overcome food shortages. Jeanne had become very friendly with Reichart, the former German commanding officer of the island, to protect her family - her adolescent daughter Estelle (Venice Van Someren) and her Jewish daughter-in-law Lily (Sarah Schoenbeck). Reichart has now been replaced and Jeanne has gone to meet the new German commander.

As the performance begins, Estelle, Jeanne's young daughter, is holding a candle and drawing "a square of power" to conjure up help against the Nazis. Mrs Lake is skeptical as usually a circle is required if this magical nonsense is to work at all when Lily comes storming in, asking for help - a man has washed up on the shore who looks like her missing husband Miles. It is impossible to tell who he is or where he came from as he is not wearing any clothes. Mrs Lake is reluctant to help the stranger, who might be an enemy, but Estelle leaves with Lily to help and they take the unconscious man to the attic.

Meanwhile Jeanne Becquet returns, accompanied by the new German commander Von Pfunz (Paul McGann). While Von Pfunz is residing in Jeanne's Hermitage, she has to live in a run-down shack. Assuming that the German officer has only a rudimentary knowledge of English, Jeanne insults him at will. Of course Von Pfunz understands every word Jeanne says but instead of reproaching her he appreciates her honesty: "To hear the truth is a privilege." The stunning red dress Jeanne is wearing, might help.

Jeanne is none to pleased when she finds out about the stranger in her attic, whom Estelle has named Gabriel, hoping that he is the "angel" who has come to their rescue. When Gabriel (Robin Morrissey) regains consciousness, he suffers from amnesia and appears to be fluent in both German and English. Is he an RAF pilot, an SS man who was sent to the island as an interrogator, a local boy or the angel that Estelle imagines?

Although the title of the play is "Gabriel", Moira Buffini's play focuses on the women in her story and their hardship during the war as they are left to fend for themselves whilst their fathers and husbands are off to fight. Belinda Lang is very good as the aristocratic Jeanne, whose family history goes back to the Norman conquerors, but who is willing to do whatever it takes to protect her family. Paul McGann is charming in a rather reptilian way as would-be poet Von Pfunz who condones Estelle's pranks because he is attracted to her mother. But his charm turns to ice when he tells the willful Estelle that she might be in error if she believes she cannot be killed because she is only a child, “My dear, there’s something you have not yet comprehended about war.” The chemistry between Von Pfunz and the aristocratic Jeanne is working very well as Jeanne finds herself attracted to the German officer despite herself. Venice Van Someren convinces as the quixotic Estelle and Sarah Schoenbeck is lovely as the angelic Lily who misses her husband and yearns for a friend, which she hopes to find in the attractively innocent Gabriel, a charming and boyish Robin Morrissey. Jules Melvin is pragmatic and loyal as Margaret Lake, much more a comrade in arms than a housekeeper. 

The atmospheric set by Carla Goodman is composed of a wooden shack with an unfinished look entailing a kitchen and an attic room that could be interpreted as heaven as Gabriel resides there, whilst the unseen German tunnels underneath the house are certainly hell. A permanently overcast sky in the background adds to the melancholy mood.

A compelling melodrama offering some comical relief.

By Carolin Kopplin

Starting off at Richmond Theatre, the next stop of the tour will be the Liverpool Playhouse on 4th April. 

Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes including one interval 

Adult themes and content. Contains strong language and scenes of a violent nature.

Recommended age 11+

Tour dates and tickets: http://www.gabrieltheplay.co.uk/tickets

Apr 1st

Incident at Vichy at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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Daniel Dowling and Edward Killingback

The important thing is not to look like a victim.

Arthur Miller is one of our greatest playwrights but although The Crucible, A View from a Bridge, and Death of a Salesman, as well as some of his lesser known plays are regularly performed, Incident at Vichy has been largely forgotten. The play opened on Broadway in December 1964, directed by Harold Clurman, and received excellent notices. Howard Taubman of the New York Times called it: "One of the most important plays of our time." However, it has not been seen in a professional production in London since 1966. More than 50 years later, Incident at Vichy is presented by the Finborough Theatre, under the direction of Phil Willmott.

The play is set in a detention room of a Vichy police station in 1942, before the full horror of the Holocaust was known. Eight men have been picked up, supposedly to verify their identification papers, but in reality to reveal Jews and other unwanted elements and send them to concentration camps. 

The performance begins with a violinist on stage, faced by the entire cast. Sounds of an orchestra tuning their instruments can be heard before the lights go out. As the lights come up again, eight men from different social and economic backgrounds are seated on a long white bench, facing the audience. Lebeau (Lawrence Boothman), a starving painter, can't stop talking. Why have they been picked up? Is it a routine identity check? Marchand (Will Bryant), a businessman, is not worried: "I don't see anything to fear if your papers are all right." The electrician Bayard (Brendan O'Rourke) is not optimistic as Germany is now ruled by concerns and the ruling class is less than sympathetic towards the working man. Marchand and the Waiter (Michael Skellern) suspect that the Gypsy (Andro Crespo) is certainly in trouble as his sort are thieves and beggars. The French Police Captain (James Boyd) ignores any questions and requests but when the Waiter detects the German Major (Henry Wyrley-Birch), who is a regular patron in his cafe, he feels safer. The Major, a line officer with an injured leg, is not comfortable with his assignment, a task usually performed by the SS. 

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Lawrence Boothman, Michael Skellern, and Brendan O'Rourke

Bayard, who is working at the railyard, knows about transports of Jews to concentration camps and warns the others. Yet the idea of sending people to their deaths seems so outrageous that the other detainees won't believe him. The actor Monceau (PK Taylor) will try to outreason anybody. After all he was still playing Cyrano in Paris until a short time ago, despite having the word "Jew" stamped in his passport. Von Berg (Edward Killingback), an Austrian prince, is more pessimistic as he was forced to see his favourite violinists arrested and taken away because they were Jewish. As the businessman is let go, the other detainees become more hopeful although Professor Hoffman (Timothy Harker) of the race institute is involved in the questioning. Monceau believes that self-confidence will be enough to convince the interrogators of his innocence. Leduc (Gethin Alderman), a Jewish doctor, believes that the only way to survive is to escape from the detention room but only the Boy (Daniel Dowling) is willing to help.

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Gethin Alderman, Edward Killingback, Jeremy Gagan, James Boyd

Phil Willmott's production is set in a sterile white room (design by Georgia de Grey) with the detainees being seated on a long white bench, as advised in Arthur Miller's stage directions. As more men are brought in, the room begins to feel more and more claustophobic.  

Although the characters appear somewhat like mouthpieces for different world views at times, the cast succeed in bringing them to life. Edward Killingback is very touching as the Prince, a sensitive aesthete, who detests the Nazis for their vulgarity and brutality. Von Berg does not believe in Bayard's glorification of the working man as Hitler's supporters appear to be overwhelmingly working class, which is not quite true. PK Taylor remains the eternal optimist as Monceau, certain that he will survive, despite Leduc's valid arguments. Henry Wyrley-Birch convinces as the German Major, who seems less than enthusiastic about his role in the investigation but reveals his despicable anti-semitism in his confrontation with Leduc, one of the most intense moments in the performance. As Leduc, Gethin Alderman eloquently deals with his abundance of philosophical and sociological speeches. Although Jeremy Gagan's role as the Old Jew is almost wordless, his presence on the stage is unsettling. Remaining alone in a crowded room, he shows dignity despite his humiliation.

An impressive and timely revival of a classic play.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 22nd April 2017

Finborough Theatre 

Running time: 90 minutes without an interval. 

Photographs by Scott Rylander.

Mar 31st

When the Dove Returns at the Blue Elephant Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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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.

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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 20th

Rounds at the Blue Elephant Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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 FROGS: House on the Hill Productions/Jermyn Street Theatre

By Elaine Pinkus

A comedy written in 405 BC by ARISTOPHANES freely adapted for today by BURT SHEVELOVE and even more freely adapted by NATHAN LANE. Music and lyrics by STEPHEN SONDHEIM. Original orchestration by Jonathan Tunick

Michael Matus and George Rae

Michael Matus (Dionysos) and George Rae (Xanthias)

Let me preface this piece by sharing with you that I am an absolute fan of Sondheim. So, it was with genuine excitement that I was given the opportunity to review Grace Wessel’s (House on the Hill) production of The Frogs and what a treat! Played with enthusiasm and energy by this company, The Frogs did not let me down.   

 Way back in 405 BC The Frogs (Artistophanes) played to audiences at the Leonaia Festival in Ancient Greece. Fast forward to 1974 when Burt Shevelove and Stephen Sondheim, the well known partnership behind A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, combined forces and adapted this play. Fast forward once again to 2017 to Nathan Lane’s ‘even more freely adapted’ Broadway version of The Frogs, whose message in these times of political mayhem resonates profoundly in the intimate surround of the Jermyn Street Theatre.

Against the exciting accompaniment of the accomplished quartet, led by Musical Director, Tim Sutton, The Frogs opens with the excellent ‘Invocation and Instructions to the Audience’ – a sure fire hit with the gathering. This is a song that should be played at all productions, reminding us of the etiquette that should be adhered to, with lines like - So please, don't fart --There's very little air and this is art which certainly was true of the small basement space of this lovingly cared for fringe theatre.

So, the story!  The Frogs, playfully explores the great challenges of human existence: confronting our fears, understanding life and death, and challenging the distractions that can prevent us from achieving our goals. We accompany Dionysos, Greek god of wine and drama (Michael Matus), and his slave Xanthias (George Rae) on a journey to Hades to collect renowned critic and playwright George Bernard Shaw so that he may enlighten the easily misled and misguided masses of Earth. Along the way there is mayhem and we are treated to the larger than life characters of Herakles (Chris McGuigan), Charon (Jonathan Wadey), Pluto (Emma Ralston) and, a chorus of giant frogs (Li-Tong Hsu, Martin Dickinson, Nigel Pilkington and Bernadette Bangura). There is the battle of words and wit with Shaw against Shakespeare in the challenge of receiving the honour of becoming reincarnated and bringing  sense to the world. But will it be through prose or poetry?

Shakespeare v Shaw

Shakespeare (Nigel Pilkington) challenges Shaw (Martin Dickinson)

Supported by an excellent chorus, congratulations must be given to Michael Matus and George Rae who appeared to be having great fun in their roles.  Songs were performed excitingly by all and, although there was restricted movement in the confined space, the production never felt static.

The Cast of House on the Hill Productions

Michael Matus, George Rae and Chorus

This delightful show sold out on line before its press night but on the day I reviewed it, I noted that the Jermyn Street Theatre does offer stand-by tickets and on that occasion the five or six people waiting eagerly for the chance to see this adaptation were delighted to gain seats, so it is well worth a try.

Photography: David Ovenden

THE FROGS: Jermyn Street Theatre, 16b Jermyn Street, London SW1Y 6ST

Box Office: 020 7287 2875   www.jermynstreettheatre.co.uk

Tuesday March 14 - Saturday April 8

Performances: Tuesday - Saturday at 7.30pm,Saturday and Sunday Matinees at 3.00pm,

Additional matinees: Thursday March 23 at 3.00pm Thursday April 6 at 3.00pm