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Oct 30th

Howard Brenton's Magnificence at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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

We are the writing on your wall!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A highly relevant must-see production.

By Carolin Kopplin 

Until 19th November 2016

Finborough Theatre

Running time: 2 hours 5 minutes including one interval

Photographs by Tegid Cartwright.

 

Oct 25th

Cats at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Alison Smith

 Reviewed by Alison Smith 24th October 2016

 

I have always loved  T.S.Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats for the cats themselves the curious Rum Tum Tugger, the ‘horrible cats’ Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer, Skimbleshanks, who travels on the Night Mail train, and my particular favourite Jennyanydots, who sits and sits and sits – a cat after my own heart.

In Cats the Musical it is the characterisation of each feline which is exceptional. Partly this is done through the make-up, the wigs and the amazing costumes but in the main through the actors’ presentation of their cat alter ego, the prowling and padding, slinking and dancing. Each cat has its own idiosyncrasies brilliantly choreographed by Gillian Lynne – a mixture of ballet, jazz and acrobatics.

There is little story – but story is not missed as Cats is fundamentally a long, visually spectacular, dance sequence. John Napier’s stage is dark in Act 1; a few lights tantalise the audience.  But soon a colourful junk yard with a scattered array of disused objects – an old car, newspapers, a massive tyre, ladders and clothes, and in Act 2 a pirate ship and a train miraculously appear, the latter formed  from a tube of cloth a piston and a large parasol. Some of the discarded objects ease the entrances and exits of the cats at different levels but the cats are not limited to the stage and insinuate themselves into the aisles (to the delight of the audience.) The Jellicle cats meet in this junk yard for the Jellicle Ball on the night of the Jellicle moon to tell tales, dance, rejoice and await the decision of their leader, Old Deuteronomy, about which cat will be reborn. This gives all the felines the opportunity to be in the spotlight, in the moonlight, for a while. Deuteronomy, the wise old tom, is played impressively by Kevin Stephen Jones; the depth of his operatic voice reinforcing his rank. 

And so the cats present themselves in song and dance. I was particularly impressed by ‘magical’ Mistoffelees ‘the original conjuring cat…with surprising illusions and eccentric confusings’; Shiv Rabheru excelled himself in this technically demanding dance. Javier Cid plays Macavity: the Mystery cat, the Napoleon of Crime. His acrobatic routine demands great energy and stamina. Sadness and loneliness come in the role of Grizabella, (Marianne Benedict), once the most glamorous cat, now the social outcast. She also gives an outstanding rendition of the only memorable song of the show, the much recorded Memory.  And Jennyanydots, the old Gumbie cat, performed a wonderful tap dance routine with a clutter of beetles. Lastly Marquelle Ward’s Rum Tum Tugger is a modern twist on the role; he is a rapping, street dancing cat, a gymnastic wonder. But all the cast are excellent and come together to produce an unforgettable performance; their voices harmonise perfectly and their timing in the dance routines cannot be faulted, nor can the music. Lloyd Webber is due much praise for his ability to compose such memorable scores for Eliot’s poems.

This is an excellent show. All the performers are talented dancers and singers; they are energetic and enthusiastic and, importantly, never lose their individual cat personalities. But it is the audience that gets the cream.

 Cats is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 29th November

 

www.atgtickets.com

 0844 871 7652

Booking fee applies

 

 

 

Oct 24th

Gothic Season at the Hope Theatre: The House of Usher

By Carolin Kopplin

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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

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“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: www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk/

More information about Stack 10 Theatre:

http://stack10theatre.wixsite.com/stack10

Oct 20th

Battersea Arts Centre News: Cash, Capitalism and Corporations | February - April 2017

By Carolin Kopplin

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The banking crisis, Brexit, capitalism and corporations take centre-stage at Battersea Arts Centre in early 2017 as a host of artists tackle some of the most urgent issues facing Britain today. The season features critically-acclaimed shows from this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe by Theatre Ad Infinitum, Mark Thomas, LUNG and Kieran Hurley – performances that should provoke discussion and debate about the relationship between people, money and power, and the need to challenge the status quo and imagine the alternatives.

 

The old town hall, recently rejuvenated through a final phase of work with architects Haworth Tompkins, will once again be an engine room for social change. Also taking place are creative projects such as The Agency, supporting local young entrepreneurs to make positive change in their communities, and That’s Power, a project in development combining art, democracy and digital technologies to get people sharing their visions for spending in advance of the Government’s spring budget announcement.

 

Theatre Highlights: 

Bucket List | Theatre Ad Infinitum | 13 February – 4 March 
Powerful physical theatre performed by an international all-female ensemble, Bucket List tackles neo-colonialism and free will versus fate. Milagros is an ordinary Mexican woman who, with only a bloodstained list of those responsible for her mother’s murder, embarks on extraordinary quest for justice.

The Red Shed | Mark Thomas | 6-11 March

Three decades after he first took to its stage, Mark Thomas returns to The Red Shed in Wakefield, a 47-foot-long wooden hut that doubles up as a Labour Club, to celebrate its 50th birthday and the people that have inspired him.


E15 | LUNG | 13 March – 1 April 
Adapted exclusively from the real-life testimonies of 29 single mothers and children threatened by skyrocketing rent and eviction from their Newham homes, this piece of documentary theatre follows their campaign to push housing to the top of the political agenda. 

 

Heads Up | Kieran Hurley | 20 March – 1 April

Multi award-winner Kieran Hurley weaves a picture of a familiar city at its moment of destruction and three people within it  – a drunken woman, a faithless priest and a broken finance worker – asking what we would do if we found ourselves at the end of our world as we know it. 


Cash, Capitalism and Corporations also features hip-hop theatre by Conrad Murray (Denmarked | 22 Feb – 11 Mar), a half-term offering by non zero one (Ground Control | 17 Feb | For ages 7-12) and more.  

 

More info: 

www.bac.org.uk | @battersea_arts

Oct 20th

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at The Kings Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

 

 

The show certainly bursts onto the stage with a bang (bang), but can you believe the hype?

 

Seven years on from my first sight of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on tour and I must confess that the “wow” factor has diminished a little.  It’s still a great show with many positive elements and little to say that is actually ‘wrong’ with it … but the action was not quite as gripping for me as the first time around (and, before you suggest otherwise … I wasn’t 12 when I last reviewed the show!).

 

Even if the car had been a huge disappointment, the show would have proved itself as to be a good piece of musical theatre.  The sizable cast of adults and children filled the stage with energetic performances, solid vocals and entertaining dance routines.  The large scale set added a childlike sense of drama as it dwarfed everything and provided a dynamic backdrop for the extensive use of animated projections.  Choreography was characteristic and entertaining in equal measure and flawlessly executed throughout – including a musical theatre favourite – a tap routine!  The adapted script was bold in both cuts from and additions to the original 1968 movie screenplay and delivered rounded characters who were quickly lovable (or loathable) as required.

 

As I said; very little to complain about.  Picking nits I might suggest that some principal characters lacked a little verve and there was a sense that the show lacked freedom as everything had to click along at a fixed pace to match the projected animations.  But this was a small criticism of a polished (and expensive looking) gem.  It’s true to say that this is a family show which is firmly aimed at the younger members of the family.  There was the occasional double entendre (Spotted Dick was mentioned twice!) but this is no Shrek in the script department.

 

The score is packed with childhood favourites like Toot Sweets, The Ol’ Bamboo and Truly Scrumptious and the principal cast together with the large and talented ensemble delivered all to a good standard and to the delight of the audience of young and old alike. Headliners Jason Manford (Caractacus Potts), Phill Jupitis (Baron) and Claire Sweeney (Baroness) don’t disappoint while Charlotte Wakefield proves to be a sweet Truly Scrumptious (pun intended).

 

But the car … oh, the car is the star (as they say)!  Take every wish that you may have dared to fanaticise upon for the delivery of your childhood dream Chitty and it is produced as a reality on stage.  There is a seemingly endless escalation of awesomeness as the car performs one miracle after another from its first spotlight reflecting reveal through a speeding countryside journey to a jaw dropping slow motion fall from a clifftop!  Chitty deservedly takes the final bow at the end of the show to the strains of the Superman movie theme!  WOW!

 

If you have kids (or can ‘borrow’ one) don’t miss this fantastic show … its fantasmagorical!

 

Listing Information

 

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

King’s Theatre Glasgow

Wed 19-Sat, 29 Oct

Wed-Sat eves,7.30pm

Wed (26 Oct), Thu & Sat mats 2.30pm

Box Office 0844 871 7648 (bkg fee) Calls cost 7p per min plus your phone company’s access charge

www.atgtickets.com/glasgow (bkg fee)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oct 17th

Footloose The Musical at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Alison Smith

 

Reviewed by Alison Smith 

Footloose is based on a true story – that of the town of Elmore City, Oklahoma, where dancing was banned. In Footloose the Musical there is a twist to the tale, the dancing is banned in Bomont by the vicar, Shaw Moore (Nigel Lister) after the deaths of four teenagers, including his son, driving home after a dance. Into this quiet hick town comes Ren McCormack. His father had uppped and left and, out of necessity, the family have come to live with an uncle. Ren was a student in Chicago – a place more unlike rural Bomont is difficult to envisage. So the scene is set and fireworks ensue when the young people, led by Ren, break the veto on dancing.

The main protagonist, Ren (Luke Baker), is a typical teenager, energetic, optimistic and rebellious and of course he breaks the rules of the community. His saving grace from becoming obnoxious is his charm and sympathy. Ren is aided and abetted by Ariel Moore (Hannah Price), daughter of the vicar, a fiery, trouble – seeking girl. Her previous beau was Chuck (Tom Hier), Bomont’s bad boy, and one result is confrontation between the new boyfriend and the ex. These three actors/musicians are extremely talented. As in many modern musicals, actors are expected to play instruments, dance, sing and act simultaneously. Luke Baker especially is a versatile performer who also skates and backflips and Tom Hier excels on both keyboard and guitar. However, occasionally, the individual performances- especially the dancing suffer from the multi - tasking (It is difficult to dance clutching an instrument!).

One of the attractions of the musical is the presence of Gareth Gates as Willard, Ren’s unlikely, hill-billy friend.  Gates’ comic timing is excellent, as is his dancing, but the audience was short-changed with his performance – he should be given more solos. Maureen Nolan as the vicar’s wife, Vi Moore, is outstanding; her rendition of Can You Find It In Your Heart emotional.  Mention must be made of the actors who played  Ariel's friends,  Rusty, Urleen and Wendy-Jo; they  danced, sang and played instruments  with great skill. 

Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie have successfully adapted the story from film to stage with its limitations of space. The choreography by Racky Plews seems overly frenetic at times, but this may appear so as the performers are somewhat limited by the lack of space. It is lucky that the drummer, David Keech, who is also the musical director is perched almost out of sight up in the set. The set rates high for adaptability - the whole of small-town life is captured – church, diner, gym.

The story setting in the first act did at times feel slow, but there was a rise in energy in the second act. The music is energising and resonated with the audience – Holding Out For a Hero and Mama Says were sung with great effect and the final number Footloose had everyone on their feet moving to the music. Footloose is satisfyingly feel-good – it is rare in real life that people who believe in what they are fighting for actually win, so it is heart-warming, if fictional, to see Belmont’s teenagers’ success.

 Footloose is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 22nd October

 www.atgtickets.com

 0844 871 7652

 Booking fee applies

 

Oct 16th

Winter Season of the Blue Elephant Theatre in Camberwell

By Carolin Kopplin

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The Blue Elephant Theatre launches an ambitious and engaging new Winter Season this October. Their commitment to supporting emerging artists is demonstrated yet again, especially by their second Elefeet Dance Festival which provides an important platform for upcoming choreographers to showcase their work in London and runs until 19th November.

 

Elefeet includes the final Blue Cloud Scratch of 2016, an exciting collaboration with Cloud Dance Festival, which has already fed into the main programme at the Blue Elephant. 

 

The Blue Elephant continues to present quality children's productions, with Moon on a Stick returning to Camberwell in December with their magical Christmas show Jack Frost.

 

This season also sees the launch of Mad about the Elephant, the Blue Elephant's new Friends' Scheme. For as little as £25 a year, Friends of the theatre can support its important work with emerging artists and local young people and help secure its future.

 

Executive and Co-Artistic Director Niamh de Valera says “2015 and 2016 have seen some of our toughest times, but also some of our most rewarding. We've faced the reality of cuts in core funding and uncertainty over whether there will be any funding at all. At the same time, we've reached thousands of young people, ran successful projects with adults around mental health, engaged new audiences and supported many companies to secure funding for the first time and showcase their work. We're especially delighted that Sulaimon Idris, who was part of our youth theatre from the time he was 10, is now the assistant on the project and an incredible example to the young people he works with. We're so excited about the shows we have coming up and we hope people will venture to Camberwell to support these fantastic performances and join our Friends' Scheme so that we can continue to offer opportunities like these.”

 

Listings Information:

 

Venue: Blue Elephant Theatre, 59a Bethwin Rd, Camberwell, SE5 0XT (entrance on Thompson Ave)

Nearest tube: Oval (Northern Line)

Wheelchair accessible

Box Office: 020 7701 0100

www.blueelephanttheatre.co.uk

info@blueelephanttheatre.co.uk

Twitter & Instagram: @BETCamberwell

 

Oct 15th

Songs for the End of the World at Battersea Arts Centre

By Carolin Kopplin

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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:

http://www.domcoyote.com/projects/songs-for-the-end-of-the-world/

Oct 13th

The Right Ballerina at the Hen & Chickens

By Carolin Kopplin

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 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.

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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: www.unrestrictedview.co.uk

Photograph provided by Chris Hislop.