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Nov 4th


By Elaine Pinkus


The Last Five Years by Tony Award winner Broadway composer Jason Robert Brown has returned to the UK following its previous showing at the Menier Chocolate Factory in 2006 and its productions across the pond in the US. Now showing at the St James Theatre, Victoria, this cult musical has once again delighted its audience who whooped and cheered  at the excellent performances of Samantha Barks, (best known for playing Eponine in Les Miserables) in the role of Cathy and Jonathan Bailey (best known for TV productions including Broadchurch and Hooten and the Lady) as Jamie.

Marriage of Cathy and Jamie

Samantha Barks as Cathy and Jonathan Bailey as Jamie

This powerful and intimate musical tells the story of Jamie and Cathy, two New Yorkers in their 20s each with strong ambitions, she as an actress, he as a writer, who fall in love and marry. Over the course of five years their careers take different paths. Jamie gets the book deal of his dreams and moves onward and upward whereas Cathy struggles to get work and is on a treadmill of failed auditions. Once united by their dreams, their relationship struggles over the course of five years and we share with them their thoughts and experiences through song, supported by the talented band under the direction of Torquil Munro.

Jamie's story

From the start, Cathy’s Still Hurting leads us into the disappointments and sadness of what was once a powerful relationship. The songs that follow trace each stage of the past five years, with Cathy taking us back in time and Jamie reminiscing but also moving forward. Once his inspiration, Cathy now has too many doubts and Jamie's song If I didn’t believe in you sadly shows his frustration. And so the duo suffers with the finality of their marriage at the close. Is Cathy to exist only in his shadow? Are her dreams simply dreams (I Can Do Better Than That)?


Simplistically put, this is the breakdown of a marriage but the piece is far deeper than that. It is the disappointment on the one hand of failed dreams, failed expectations and frustration and on the other the power of success. Despite the passion and love, there is insufficient courage from our couple to ride the storm together.

Cathy auditions

At times there are memories of Lloyd-Webber/Don Black’s Tell Me On A Sunday and Hamlisch’s A Chorus Line but there is no denying that this musical stands up on its own merit. Both Barks and Bailey deliver their numbers, hers more heartfelt, his more punchy, with conviction and are deserving of the huge applause they received. If I have one disappointment it is that sadly the numbers are somewhat forgettable, which is possibly because the music tends to support rather than hold strength on its own.

The set is interesting with two levels, one of which houses the band and the other which is the main stage. Clever use of lighting and sliding set pieces set the tone of the different numbers and allow the audience to travel with Cathy and Jamie on their journey.

At times joyful and comedic, at others poignant, this production is worth the visit and is now extended until 3 December 2016,

Photographs Scott Rylander



12 Palace Street, London, SW1E 5JA

Performances: Monday – Saturday 7.30pm, Thursday and Saturday 2.30pm

Tickets: £10.00 - £59.50


Box Office: | 0844 264 2140

Nov 3rd

Rumpy Pumpy at Theatre Royal, Windsor

By Kate Braxton

When the Channel 4 documentary, The WI and Their Search for The Perfect Brothel aired in 2008, BBC-trained writer, Barbara Jane Mackie landed upon a charming idea for a musical comedy. Roll over jam and Jerusalem, and wet your whistle for tea and crumpets! Rumpy Pumpy was first showcased at The King’s Head in April, 2015 and is currently at planning stages to be made into a film. But this week the red light district comes to Theatre Royal, Windsor.

The story follows two genteel WI grandmothers, Jean Johnson and Shirley Landels, who take it upon themselves to campaign for the legalisation of prostitution. Despite Shirley’s ill-health, their seemingly dizzy quest transports them from Portsmouth to Amsterdam, Nevada to New Zealand, to greater inform their missionary positions.

We begin on a West Sussex roadside at night, where the worldly (theatrical) experience of RSC-turned-Eastenders actress Louise Jameson as Jean, is ably accompanied by her ‘Watson’, Tricia Deighton, who for me, gives the performance of the show as Shirley. She effortlessly plays second fiddle to strident Jean, but regularly gets the last laugh with sublimely timed one-liners and asides. They are a nimble, natural double act, whose chemistry abounds as their dedication to the cause rises above every intriguing distraction, from rubber arse midgets to the dentist's doings. (“I’m sure that man did my root canal treatment…”)

Their combined acting experience manages to carry the serious message through relentless comic scenes, which could otherwise dissolve into unintended farce. That, and the punctuating insights into the working girls’ daily hardship, uphold the true ethos of the piece beneath the saucy get-up.

Both Jameson and Deighton tend to speak-sing. A few more bars of pure written tune would give us a clearer understanding of the composer’s musical intention. However, the spirit of their partnership is so robust, and the rest of the cast offer a range of pleasingly delivered melodies, belters and titillating ditties, that it has the overall feel of a balanced offering.

In their pursuit of the perfect brothel, the ladies encounter local Madame, Holly Spencer, a role that is primed for show-business legend, Linda Nolan, to grab by the teeth and tonsils. She projects a tough-fronted, maternally protective stance over her girls, whilst watchful of the rife hypocrisy which brings Father Hugo and other society types to her back rooms. I was somewhat under-energised by the characterization of this powerful part, which included noticeable tip-toeing around the musical numbers, and the odd missed line. However, I can’t help feel that a few more runs and less dowdy costuming would help put the right kind of edge into this performance.

Rumpy Pumpy’s banter-laden comings and goings take place amid minimal staging. One plain room is built within the open space, lit red or blue to reflect the brothel or police station, with two simple flanking projected images to set the context. It doesn’t need to be any more complicated than this, as the musical score is intricate and interesting, the characters, bold and Panto-esque. The simple device of stepping out of the room to provide interim narrative keeps the story moving effectively under the direction of Stephen Greiff, and an interesting angle is given to the joy of sex when the ladies tout a mobile sex parlour around the streets of Hampshire.

There are some vibrant individual performances from the girls, in particular Sally Frith as blonde, gamine Goisa, the pole dancing Pole and Alex Roots as Holly’s daughter, searching for a ‘normal’ life with the boy next door, played with unequivocal likeability by James Charlton. Scarlet Wilderink and Liberty Buckland also inject youthful sparkle to the brothel with fresh sounding vocals and eye-catching presence.  Since most of the cast play more than one part, we are reminded of the dual lives of sex workers and punters alike, but are left with less room for empathy with the individual characters themselves.

All credit must go to the small band, whose presence feels a little too thin for some of the score’s bolder numbers. With greater conviction from the cast and a broader sound, there could be show-stopping moments rather than each song passing through and falling away, like a knocking shop conveyor belt.

Rumpy Pumpy lovingly sucks at its own sweet idea from start to finish, knowing at the centre it has all the ingredients for a fine piece of theatre. And just as Mackie intended, it succeeds at making the dark side of prostitution accessible to all. Technically, it’s not quite tight enough to produce a completely happy ending, but that’s nothing a big injection of passion and confidence in the production cannot overcome. It's all in the script.


Rumpy Pumpy runs at Theatre Royal, Windsor from Tuesday 1st - Saturday 5th November 2016

Tue - Sat 8pm

Thurs - 2.30pm

Fri & Sat - 4.45pm

Box Office: 01753 853 888




Nov 1st

Sam Shepard's Fool for Love at Found111

By Carolin Kopplin


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


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


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.


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.


Oct 24th

Gothic Season at the Hope Theatre: The House of Usher

By Carolin Kopplin


What was it—I paused to think—what was it that so unnerved me in the contemplation of the House of Usher? 

"The Fall of the House of Usher" is one of Edgar Allan Poe's most popular short stories and has been adapted countless times, by directors as diverse as Roger Corman and surrealist filmmaker Jan Švankmajer - it even became part of a concept album by The Alan Parsons Project called "Tales of Mystery and Imagination" in the 1970s, which is, in my opinion, one of the best musical adaptations. Luke Adamson and Daniel Bottomley were also drawn to the atmospheric gothic tale and decided to create a musical version of the story. 

An unnamed narrator (Richard Lounds) visits his boyhood friend Roderick Usher (Cameron Harle), who resides in a mysterious and gloomy house together with his sister Madeline (Eloise Kay). Having received a letter from Roderick, informing him that his friend was feeling physically and emotionally ill, the narrator felt it his duty to rush to his friend. Roderick is pale and suffers from a heightened sensitivity of the senses. He seems afraid of his own house, still he won't let his sister leave the cursed place. The narrator spends several days trying to cheer up Roderick, listening to him play the guitar and reading him his favourite stories, but all his attempts fail, and he comes to realise that the house might be alive after all and out to destroy Roderick and his sister.

The performance takes place in the round with the actors, in period costumes, and the pianist / keyboarder, respectively, positioned at the four corners of the stage as the show begins. Roderick and Madeline have their distinctive spaces defining their characters (design by Verity Johnson): Roderick's is cluttered with books and musical instruments, Madeline's is dominated by a clinging vine which adds to the feeling of claustrophobia that seems to stifle her. The three actors also serve as the orchestra which is quite a feat considering that they sing and act in the show - with Richard Lounds playing the cello, Eloise Kay the clarinet, and Cameron Harle as Roderick - naturally - the guitar.

Luke Adamson and Phil Croft's production benefits from a dedicated cast, most of all Richard Lounds who does his best to create a gothic atmosphere, assisted by unsettling sound effects, but the musical numbers by Dan Bottomley fail to convey any sense of mystery or imagination - with the sole exception of "The Raven". True, I know the story well but I was not scared even once, despite the best efforts of the hard working actors. The music is too pleasant to be unsettling in any way. There is some drama due to the possessive relationship between Roderick and his twin sister, which is played by Cameron Harle and Eloise Kay with threatening intensity, yet the pace of the production is too slow and lacks suspense.

Richard Lounds, who has the hardest task as the unnamed narrator, has great audience rapport and kept my attention throughout the performance. Eloise Kay has a beautiful singing voice and gives a good performance as the fragile Madeline. Cameron Harle, dressed in cool black leather, convincingly switches between irrational exuberance and suicidal melancholy.   

By Carolin Kopplin 

Until 5th November 2016 at the Hope Theatre

Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes including one interval.

Oct 23rd

The London Horror Festival at the Old Red Lion: The Wicker Hamper

By Carolin Kopplin


“I’ll be right back” is sure to get you killed

The UK's original and largest festival of horror at the Old Red Lion Theatre is still going strong. A celebration of the ghoulish, the thrilling and the macabre performing arts, the London Horror Festival is exactly what you are looking for if you love Halloween.

The Wicker Hamper by Stack 10 Theatre is a spoof on all the horror classics you can possibly imagine including Psycho, The Exorcist, Nightmare on Elm Street, Frankenstein, The Wicker Man - obviously - and quite a few more, all in the short performance time of one hour.

As the lights fade, Nigel (Conor Boru) and Sally (Octavia Gilmore) make the pre-show announcements that turn into an absurd discussion about the use of cigarettes and smartphones during the performance. The interval announcement - although there is none - is equally hilarious.

The actual show begins with a young woman who is trying to escape from an evil presence wielding a bloody sword, yet, like in a nightmare, she is stuck in one place and it is almost too easy for the demon to catch up with her. - Welcome to the island of Winterisle!

The year is 1974 and Marcie (Hannah Grace May) checks into the Bates Hotel & Golf Club for the weekend before starting her new job with Lady Winterisle (Bethany Greenwood), who is in desperate need of an experienced fundraiser to save her theatre. The hotel is run by Norman (Donncha Kearney), a young man with a manic grin who is living with his mother. When Norman disappears after Marcie has witnessed a series of strange noises, she investigates together with Sgt Howard (Elliot Thomas), a police officer from the mainland - and still a virgin. As they explore a pagan burial ground, they encounter Igore (Sophie Hughes), a deformed creature and Lady Winterisle's henchman. Who will end up in the Wicker Hamper?

Ed Hartland's script is a bit uneven and lacks coherence but the references to everybody's favourite nightmares work well and the song "I'll be right back" is sure to get your killed is ingenious. The cast was very good throughout, especially Donncha Kearney, who gave a truly creepy performance as Norman, and a more comical one as the gravedigger "with a stupid accent" and of course Hannah Grace May as our heroine Marcie, who remained cool except for one blood curdling scream which has to be part of a horror show. The stage design consisted of only a few props and set pieces that were employed very effectively by the cast.

However, Stuart Vincent and Ed Hartland's production still seemed more like a work in progress than a finished production. Perhaps there was not enough rehearsal time - which is often the case in unfunded productions - but this is promising work, which deserves to be more widely seen.

There was quite a bit of audience participation, which I thought, could have been handled a bit more sensitively. Not everybody in the audience feels the urge to become part of the action.

By Carolin Kopplin 

Until 23rd October at the Old Red Lion Theatre.

More information about the London Horror Festival:

More information about Stack 10 Theatre:

Oct 15th

Songs for the End of the World at Battersea Arts Centre

By Carolin Kopplin


Milly Oldfield as Betty

Earth's silent. I think I might be the only one left.

After a successful run at the Vaults Festival earlier this year, Dom Coyote's apocalyptic cabaret is shown at the Battersea Arts Centre. Commissioned by the Battersea Arts Centre and supported by Kneehigh, West Yorkshire Playhouse and Tobacco Factory Theatres, Songs for the End of the World is part gig and part theatrical performance.

The show takes place in the Member's Bar on the first floor but the audience is advised to use a different route around the back where some of the cast, clad in white overalls, guide us through plastic curtains into the auditorium. A placard with "REPENT THE END IS NIGH" welcomes us to the world of Ashley-Coombe.

Inspired by Philip K. Dick's post-apocalyptic novel Dr. Bloodmoney and the star-gazing world of Ziggy Stardust, the show, created by Dom Coyote and Michael Vale, is set in the dystopian future of post-Brexit Britain. Ashley-Coombe is one of the few safe-zone communities in New Albion, built and controlled by New Global Inc. The Free Radicals oppose the money-grabbing company and fight for a better future whilst evangelists preach about Armageddon. Astronaut Jim Walters is on his way to Mars to found a new colony with his new Eve when the catastrophe happens and he finds himself trapped in Earth's orbit. He spends his final days broadcasting songs for the end of the world hoping for a sign of life whilst Earth remains silent.

Dom Coyote plays astronaut Jim Walters and the rest of his band "The Bloodmoneys" take on the other roles. Milly Oldfield, the other lead singer, plays Betty who joins the Free Radicals, after listening to their pirate station, because she doesn't want to become a New Global clone. Ted Barnes is Arnold, a man tired of war and having nightmares about an imminent nuclear assault. His doctor (John Biddle) recomends Arnold use a dream purifier before he turns into the leader of Mrs Worthing's New Church, complete with white neon light crosses and her own New Bible preaching xenophobia.

The plot is rather thin but Dom Coyote's music covers a variety of styles, from rock 'n roll to Pink Floyd, performed beautifully by the band, particularly Daisy Palmer on the drums. Brett Harvey provides an impressive video design to create the pulp fiction world of Ashley-Coombe.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 15th October 2016 at the Battersea Arts Centre.

Running time: 60 minutes.

Photograph by Libby Overton.

Further info on the show:

Oct 13th

The Right Ballerina at the Hen & Chickens

By Carolin Kopplin


 We have voted.

Penny Leigh is the top ballerina of the company, attracting audiences from near and far who come to see her dance Gisèle. Artistic Director Jack Stevens and the board consider her a valuable asset. But Penny has a secret that endangers her entire future. When the enigmatic Mr X, who represents a powerful organisation, makes it known to the world, Penny has to make a choice between standing up for her convictions and saving her career.

Artistic Director Jack Stevens (Adam Grayson) has a problem. Somebody has spread a rumour that his principal dancer Penny Leigh (Genevieve Berkeley-Steele) is a member of an extreme right-wing party. When member of the board Trevor (Gregory A Smith) informs Jack that protesters are marching outside the theatre and booing, Jack is sure that the accusations are unwarranted and the whole thing will blow over in a few days. Penny refuses to comment on the accusations and expects Jack and the board to protect her freedom of thought and expression. Even after she agrees to comment on the accusations, the protests don't cease but instead grow stronger, affecting the box office and turning the board against her. The mysterious Mr X (Filip Krenus), who seems to suffer from a form of neurosis, informs Jack that he is representing an organisation and Penny Leigh will have to resign if he wants the protests to stop. There is no remedy as the organisation has voted on it.


The absurdist drama by award-winning playwright Billy Cowan is very entertaining as well as highly relevant. There are quite a few recent examples when political and public pressure have forced the arts to cancel performances or exhibitions making them appear spineless in the face of massive opposition, often by badly informed people. Cowan asks important questions regarding the reliance of the arts on private sponsors who might pull out at any time if the arts organisation does not conform to their ideas. Another crucial issue in the play is the question whether freedom of expression should have its limits at views that we find appalling. It is easy to be protective of political thoughts and ideas that match our own. These questions are especially relevant in our society that is still deeply divided over "Brexit".

Skilfully directed by Matthew Gould, the performance is fast-paced and features a good cast: Adam Grayson as the smooth and slightly manipulative Jack Stevens, Genevieve Berkeley-Steele - convincing as a star ballerina who worked her way up and made the company only to find herself abandoned by her friends and employers when she needs them most, Gregory A Smith as the duplicitous Trevor, and Filip Krenus as Mr X, an unremarkable, slightly neurotic man who wields enormous power through his organisation.    

Inspired by true events this darkly absurdist drama is a fun night out but also provides food for thought.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 21st October 2016 at the Hen & Chickens

109 St Pauls Road, London, N1 2NA

Box office: 0207 704 2001

Book online:

Photograph provided by Chris Hislop.

Oct 12th

Trident Moon at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin


Listen? Now I am the one who is to listen? Hai? Where were you when my sons were screaming? Where were you when my husband scream? Hai? No no no no no…I am not to listen to you, I am listen only to myself. 

Commissioned by the Finborough Theatre, the world premiere of Trident Moon by award-winning Canadian playwright Anusree Roy almost conincides with the 70th anniversary of India's partition in 1947. Her UK debut focuses on the women who are caught up in the conflict.

India, 1947. Six women are hiding in a coal truck that will take them from East Pakistan (today's Bangladesh) to the new India. Alia (Sakuntala Ramanee) has captured her former Muslim employers and intends to have her revenge on them for the death of her husband and her sons, who were beheaded by Muslims. She is well aware that the women will be raped and probably killed, including the child she has raised, yet like an Angel of Death she remains unmoved. Alia's sister has been shot and is critically injured. Also in the truck is Alia's mentally handicapped niece Arun (Rebecca Banatvala). As the Muslim women are pleading with Alia not to take them to India, rioting and shouting can be heard outside the truck. On their way to India Alia picks up more passengers: a very pregnant Hindu woman and a grandmother with her niece, who are disguised as Muslims.

Anusree Roy's play describes how friends and neighbours can turn into deadly enemies, which we have more recently witnessed in former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and the Middle East. Trident Moon focuses on the role of women in these conflicts as they are often used as tools to harm the enemy. Throughout their journey, Alia and her passengers are in constant fear that they might be stopped by the wrong side, which would mean that half of them would be raped and murdered.

This well-intentioned play deals with very important issues and carries a crucial and humane message. Yet it is lacking in content and there are too many implausibilities and logical errors. Would a highly pregnant woman really take a blunt knife and try to cut out a bullet from a stomach wound, without any way to sterilise the knife (except spit) whilst travelling across bumpy roads? This scene comes across as quite amateurish and also feels too long like Anna Pool's production as a whole, which was meant to be 90 minutes according to the program but now lasts almost two hours. However, the production benefits from an outstanding cast.

When the women encounter a Sikh thug, who wants to rob them, nobody thinks of untying the Muslim women although any kind of assistance would be helpful at this moment. The ensuing search for hidden gold is very unpleasant to watch and humiliating in the extreme but actually ineffective except for its demonstration of the disgusting treatment of women in times of war and civil unrest. The author also includes a child-bride, who survived the burning of her whole family, scarred and marked for life. Although I agree that it is necessary to make the public aware of these horrors, it would be more helpful to find out where this intense hatred and aggression stems from instead of focusing simply on the terrible crimes that caused by it.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 18th October 2016

Finborough Theatre

Running time: 115 minutes without an interval. 

Oct 12th

Steven Berkoff's Lunch and The Bow of Ulysses at the Trafalgar Studios

By Clare Brotherwood

The end of the pier show, Steven Berkoff’s double bill is not. These two short plays may be set on a pier, with a backdrop of the sea and sounds of a funfair and even donkeys braying (do they even still have donkey rides on beaches these days?) in the background, but there is nothing superficial about Lunch and The Bow of Ulysses.

In true Berkoff style the dialogue and the style of acting punches you in the face, and in the intimate space that is the Trafalgar Studios it is almost explosive.

Certainly, at times, Man’s character seems too big for the small space, and the energy that Shaun Dooley (currently in TV’s DCI Banks) puts into his performance made me glad I wasn’t sitting in the front row! Nigel Harman may be memorable as an actor in EastEnders and Downton Abbey, but he is now certainly making his mark as a director. He delivers, with a freshness, what Berkoff is about.

Lunch was written in 1983 and shows what happens when Man and Woman first meet, on a pier during their lunch break.

The exaggerated mannerisms, so typical of Berkoff, and Man’s awkwardness as he tries to chat up Woman, cause much amusement, and should be at odds with the beautiful, poetic dialogue. Instead, we gape in wonder as Dooley chews every word, savouring them or violently spitting them out.

Woman is the complete opposite - quietly leading Man on with very little expression, and Emily Bruni is beautifully controlled.

There are scenes which are uncomfortable to watch, and our perception of the characters change, but the exchange between them is sometimes electrifying.

The Bow of Ulysses was written in 2002 and is a sequel to Lunch. Now we find Man and Woman 20 years on and with an unhappy marriage behind them, blaming each other for their own inadequacies, soured and disappointed. It’s painful to watch, the only relief being that Woman’s delivery is so deadpan and cutting we can’t help but laugh. But is it a nervous laugh you make when you see how true to life - your life - it is.

Berkoff, in the capable hands of Harman, Dooley and Bruni, certainly hits home!


Steven Berkoff’s Lunch and The Bow of Ulysses is at the Trafalgar Studios until November 5