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Feb 28th

La Strada at the Richmond Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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Gelsomina (Audrey Brisson) and Zampanò (Stuart Goodwin)

Zampanò - he's here!

Before I had even seen the film, my mother kept talking about it as one of the true masterpieces of European cinema. She was fortunate enough to see Federico Fellini's La Strada in the cinema when it was released in 1954, with Anthony Quinn as the great Zampanò and Fellini's wife Giulietta Masina as his gentle assistant Gelsomina.

Bringing La Strada to the stage is no mean feat but director Sally Cookson and her ensemble succeeded, supported by Mike Akers as Writer in the Room. Instead of using a finished adaptation of the screenplay, they used improvisation as well as the film and the original script to create something new whilst keeping the essence and the spirit of Fellini's work.

La Strada (The Road) tells the story of the naïve and slightly awkward Gelsomina (Audrey Brisson) who is sold to the travelling street performer Zampanò (Stuart Goodwin) to replace her late sister Rosa. Gelsomina is reluctant to go. She prefers spending her time alone at the sea, listening to the sound of the waves, but her mother has many mouths to feed and Gelsomina is expected to help support her family. Zampanò, a strongman whose act consists of breaking a chain around his chest, is not too pleased with an assistant who cannot even cook or sew but Gelsomina is smart enough to announce his act and then pass a hat around. The crude Zampanò beats Gelsomina and often leaves her alone at night, visiting bars and picking up women. Still Gelsomina remains loyal. When joining a small-time circus, they meet Il Matto (The Fool), played by Bart Soroczynski, a clown who also performs daredevil stunts on a tight-rope. Obviously Zampanò and Il Matto have a past and they are not the best of friends. Despite Zampanò's violent tendencies, Il Matto cannot stop taunting his rival - with tragic consequences.   

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 Il Matto (Bart Soroczynski) and ensemble

The stage design by Katie Sykes consists of a grey backdrop with chains and ropes hanging from the ceiling. Two telegraph poles rise up from the stage, indicating the continuous travel of the protagonists on the country roads and allowing Gelsomina and other cast members to climb them, thereby adding another level to the performance.

The international ensemble, composed of actor-musicians, is permanently onstage, often acting like a Greek chorus, introducing the performance as narrators and watching the story unfold, creating props such as Zampanò's motorcycle with a few wheels and movements, performing as a band in a bar, or representing a wedding party. The chorus often speaks Italian which provides a closeness to the Italian source text. Benji Bower's beautiful original score adds to the Italian setting and the narrative. Sally Cookson's production achieves a surreal quality matching the original film.

Audrey Brisson is an outstanding Gelsomina. A dreamer, at first awkward and socially shy, she gains enough confidence to demand her fair share of Zampanò's earnings. She is touching in her innocence and admirable in her loyalty and brings a Chaplinesque touch to her performance whilst using her soft voice to sing Benji Bower's melancholy melodies. Stuart Goodwin convinces as the brutish Zampanò, spending his money as soon as he earns it, giving little thought to what tomorrow will bring. He is a rough character but there Goodwin shows that there is more to him than expected. Bart Soroczynski's Il Matto is a world-weary clown who is kind to Gelsomina but cannot stop antagonising Zampanò. Maybe taunting the strongman provides the same kind of thrill as walking on a tight-rope. Soroczynski is a skilled acrobat who shows some astonishing feats during his performance.

A beautiful and highly theatrical production with an outstanding ensemble. 

By Carolin Kopplin 

Until 4th March 2017 at the Richmond Theatre

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

Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes including one interval

Tour dates: http://www.lastradalive.com/

Photographs by Robert Day.

Feb 28th

Round the Horne @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye

Round The Horne Tickets at Victoria Hall,

“Oh, Mr Horne! How bona to vada your dolly old eek!”

If you were around between 1965 to 1968, you may recognise this line from the biggest radio programme in Britain at the time, the ground-breaking Round the Horne.  For half an hour every Sunday afternoon, audiences of up to 15 million people would gather around the wireless to listen to Kenneth Horne and his merry crew get up to all sorts of mischief.

With its infamous movie spoofs and hilarious regular characters such as Rambling Sid Rumpo, Charles and Fiona, J. Peasemold Gruntfuttock and Julian and Sandy, Round the Horne was one of the biggest and best radio comedy shows of all time.  Over 50 years since it began it still earns new fans every year and with packed theatres around the country to see the tour, set in the BBC’s Paris Studios, its success is assured for years to come. 

This is the end of the 50th anniversary tour which has been running since 2015 with three U.K. tours and eight weeks in London. The cast were all excellent at recreating the iconic characters portrayed in the radio show, though Colin Elmer deserves a special mention for perfectly emulating  Kenneth Williams’ voice and mannerisms.

Kenneth Horne - Julian Howard McDowell

Kenneth Williams - Colin Elmer

Hugh Paddick - Alex Scott Fairley 

Betty Marsden - Eve Winters 

Douglas Smith - Alan Booty

SFX/Musician - Miles Russell 

The show was compiled, produced and directed by Tim Astley who set up Apollo Theatre Company in 2010, after graduating from Guildford School of Acting.

Personally, I didn’t know the radio shows so a lot was lost on me, but the almost full theatre whooped at familiar lines and characters they recognised.  What I loved, as an actor myself, was that all of the actors seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves which made me wish I was up there with them!  We certainly need to see more comedy on stage and it’s a compliment to the clever writing of Barry Took and Marty Feldman that it still works to this day.

The tour ends on 1st March at The Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent.  Tim Astley says ‘It is entirely possible that we may produce a 'Round the Horne' show again in the future but for now there are no immediate plans.’

For further details of all their productions, go to www.apollotheatrecompany.com

Reviewed by:

Yvonne Delahaye

27.2.17

 

@yvonnedelahaye

Feb 25th

Orbits at the Drayton Arms Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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  Do you have inner bravery or inner cowardice?

During the Nazi regime, many German artists and writers fled to America, among them Bertolt Brecht. He collaborated with Charles Laughton on his play Life of Galileo to get his big break on Broadway and Laughton felt that working with Brecht would add some extra spice to his stagnant career. Wally Sewell's play focuses on this collaboration and the clash of two big egos. 

The performance begins with Charles Laughton (Edmund Dehn) rehearsing a scene as Galileo who is being questioned by the Inquisitor, played by Bertolt Brecht (Peter Saracen). Galileo attempts to navigate his way out of an accusation of heresy whilst the Inquisitor quietly listens and observes. When Galileo is finished, the Inquisitor is not satisfied. Neither is Bertolt Brecht.

The power structure of the play within a play somewhat reflects the relationship between the two men, both of whom have something to hide - Brecht his communist ideas, Laughton his homosexuality. Whereas Laughton is in awe of Bertolt Brecht, calling him a writer as great as Shakespeare, Brecht dismisses Laughton's work, especially his appearances on the radio, sponsored by Lux Soap. He expects Laughton to be pure as an artist, not selling out and giving in to commercialism. Laughton takes Brecht's slights with good humour. As their collaboration continues, the power balance shifts - Brecht is summoned by HUAC because of his communist leanings, which suddenly puts him out of favour and turns him into a persona non grata. 

Although Sewell bases his play on real events, the portrayal of the characters and the dialogue is fictitious. The Brecht character does not resemble Brecht any more than Peter Shaffer's Mozart resembles the real Mozart. Sewell draws Brecht as an arrogant and rude artiste who feels superior to Laughton and despises the superficial life in California and the commercialism of the U. S. Because of his unbearable arrogance and complete lack of any positive qualities, the sympathies of the audience are entirely with Charles Laughton, who also had a gigantic ego but is portrayed as a reasonable man expecting at least some appreciation for his work from the man whom he admires so much.

I first saw this production in April 2015 at the White Bear Theatre with the same cast and director. It remains an intriguing play because it discusses important issues but it would be more exciting and convincing if the characters were equally weighted. Edmund Dehn is very good as Charles Laughton, playing his character with quiet authority and a gentle sense of humour. Peter Saracen does his best with the rather unappealing Bertolt Brecht character.

By Carolin Kopplin 

Until 11th March 2017

Drayton Arms Theatre

Please read my original review here: http://www.uktheatre.net/magazine/read/orbits-at-the-white-bear-theatre_2730.html

Feb 22nd

La Strada - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

 

Reviewed by Louise Winter 20th February 2017

An evocative, poetic, striking, and enigmatic piece of art

Based on the Oscar-winning 1954 film by Fellini, La Strada (the road) tells the story of the Gelsomina (Audrey Bresson), sold by her widowed mother to travelling strongman Zampanò (Stuart Goodwin) in a desperate move to feed her other children. Gentle, 'artichoke faced' Gelsomina works as Zampanò’s assistant, setting up his act and passing around the hat. Zampanò is violent, beats Gelsomina into submission, spends all their money on booze and women, and gives her nothing to send home to her family. Gelsomina has no choice but to remain with him, being far from home and powerless. The pair are eventually taken on by a travelling circus where Gelsomina strikes up a friendship with The Fool, Il Matteo. Past events, which are never explicit, between The Fool and Zampanò lead to tragic events.

La Strada

image by Robert Day  

The approach of this company is to create the show, using the original film as a source, as rehearsals progress. There is no initial script and all elements of the production are developed organically by the cast and creatives. There is a seamlessness and unity in the production; a harmony of story, cast and staging as a result. 

The physicality of this production is central to the impact with almost all characters on the simple, stark stage set throughout. Much is portrayed by the ensemble who watch and comment on the action like a Greek chorus, creating the whooshing of the waves and the rattle of the rain with their bodies. The narrative is on occasion moved along by them yet who speaks and from where on stage is not always evident, adding to the sense of mystery and hidden elements of this story. Not all is laid bare on stage and the audience is left to interpret the characters and events to some extent. This oftentimes sense of looking beneath the surface is challenging and stimulating, more like reading literature where one’s imagination is key to completing storylines and character motivations.  The use of vignettes which flow into and through one another gives us fleeting glances into hidden aspects, yet scenes transform and move on before we see too much, leaving us to our imaginations and interpretations. This movement, created under the direction of Cameron Carver, waxes and wanes physically over the stage creating a sense of timelessness and impermanence.  

La Strada

image by Robert Day

Staging by Katie Sykes is a versatile set with simple backdrop, high telegraph poles, ropes and chains upon which the cast climb and hang. Crates are shifted to become tables, chairs, beds and Zampanò’s motorbike. It is a contained and at times effectively claustrophobic set, keeping Gelsomina confined with The Strong Man. Lighting by Aideen Malone creates warm golden sunshine, cold sharp nights, the inside of a circus tent or a bar at night - always a sense of time and place. 

Original music from Benji Bower and an ethereal soundscape from Mike Beer present wonderful energetic gypsy-like songs and instrumental moments in some scenes, all performed by the multi-talented cast ,and then strange other-worldly sensations at other times; a haunting, ghostly sense is a constant companion.

La Strada cast

image by Robert Day 

Director Sally Cookson’s international cast of supremely talented actors/musicians are outstanding. There is a sense of sure-footedness and cohesiveness to them which must come from the way the company develops its work.

Audrey Brisson is outstanding as the awkward Gelsomina. Tiny on stage, looking like a female Chaplin her stance, walk and physicality depict humour, vulnerability and fragility; at times uncomfortable and emotional to watch. Bresson connects with the audience immediately. Her transformation to a slightly more confident figure is done with subtlety – a small shift in her body language, a change in gear for her movement across stage. Bresson is spellbinding to watch. The final scene is a complete revelation; that such an incredibley powerful voice and purity of tone comes from the little clown Gelsomina is truly breathtaking.

Stuart Goodwin as Zampanò is completely commanding and dominating. Despite Zampanò's coarse, uncouth and violent behaviour, Goodwin gives us tiny glimpses of another layer to this man. The motivations behind his aggression and hate for The Fool (Bart Soroczynski) is unstated but The Fool’s mocking causes him agitation and to ultimately lose control.

Soroczynski demonstrates his consummate circus skills on the unicycle setting up the second half. As The Fool he is a jaded, melancholic clown and a soft-hearted kindred spirit to Gelsomina. Finding fun and pleasure where he can includes insulting and goading Zampanò but in doing so and his care for Gelsomin he holds a mirror up to humanity. As in Shakespeare, here The Fool is no fool but shines a light on others. 

This is a remarkable and captivating piece of theatre; intelligent, engaging and unusual in the midst of so much mediocrity. Productions like this need to be supported, embraced and treasured. 

La Strada is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 25th February 2017 and then on tour.

Box Office:                   0844 871 7652 (bkg fee)* 

Groups Hotline:         01908 547609 

Access Booking:       0844 871 7677 (bkg fee)* 

Online Booking:        www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes  (bkg fee)

 

 

Feb 21st

Blue Elephant Theatre 2017 Spring Season

By Carolin Kopplin

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The Blue Elephant announces a new season of collaborations with exciting emerging artists, bringing urgent, thought-provoking and intriguing work to the black-box fringe venue in Camberwell. 

The Blue Elephant continues to support work at all stages of development and the season includes scratch nights and work-in-progress showings as well as Haste Theatre’s Oyster Boy and Resuscitate’s Rounds. Both these shows have had successful past productions but are now premiering ‘revamped’ and further developed versions at the Blue Elephant in March. 

Other highlights include When the Dove Returns, by recent East 15 graduates Backpack Theatre, and Female Intuition, two nights of new writing written and directed by women. 

The season closes with a new production of Twelfth Night by Original Impact Theatre, reimaging the play for new audiences. 

As well as its professional artistic programme, the Blue Elephant has a vibrant and far-reaching participation department, which delivers workshops in local primary and secondary schools and runs two youth theatres in the local area, reaching up to two thousand people each year. 

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: @BETCamberwell

Feb 21st

Dreamboats and Petticoats The Musical @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye

Dreamboats and Petticoats Tickets at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre,

Inspired by the smash-hit multi-million selling CD albums Dreamboats and Petticoats One, Two, Three, Four and Five, the West End sell-out sensation Dreamboats and Petticoats The Musical is celebrating its 10th anniversary tour and features some of the greatest hit songs of the Rock ‘n’ Roll era. These include Let’s Dance, To Know Him Is To Love Him, Shaking All Over, Bobby’s Girl, Little Town Flirt, Only Sixteen, Runaround Sue, Happy Birthday Sweet 16, Let It Be Me, Great Pretender, C’mon Everybody, Let’s Twist Again and many more hits from music’s golden era!  Dreamboats and Petticoats The Musical  was nominated for an Olivier Award in 2010 for best new musical.

The dazzling success of the first five albums in the Dreamboats and Petticoats series sent the message loud and clear. With over 4 million copies sold and several weeks at the Number One spot in the compilation charts, the Great British public were saying that they didn’t just want to listen to pure nostalgia: they’d love to see it as well. Written by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, the writers behind TV classics Goodnight Sweetheart, Birds of a Feather, The New Statesmen and Shine On Harvey Moon, the show features classic tracks from Roy Orbison, The Shadows, Eddie Cochran, Billy Fury, and many more. Dreamboats and Petticoats The Musical is produced by Bill Kenwright and Laurie Mansfield in association with Universal Music.

Set in 1961, emotions are running high as young musicians Norman and Bobby compete to win a national song writing competition – and, more importantly, the attention of the gorgeous Sue! But when Bobby discovers that shy Laura is no slouch on the piano, love and rock‘n’roll fame beckons.

The role of Laura was played by Chloe Edwards-Wood for this performance and she totally owned the part, playing the love-sick schoolgirl who transforms into a beautiful young woman.  Alistair Higgins plays spotty teenager Bobby, who pursues glamorous Sue (Laura Darton) who in turn is pursuing cool dude Norman (Alastair Hill), who can have his pick of girls and ignores her advances.

Whatever era you grew up in, we all remember the music of that time and it defines who we are now with the memories it creates.  Being a teenager is probably the most difficult period in all our lives, with raging hormones and the juxtaposition between being a child and an adult creating conflict as we strive to work out our place in the world. This show gives a good insight into a time long before the internet, when youth clubs reigned and this was probably where you met your first love.

It’s a fabulous way to spend a winter’s evening and the energy, vibrancy and sheer talent of all the cast ensures that you have a really great night out. 

The talented cast includes:
Jimmy Johnston as Phil/Older Bobby, Gracie Johnson as Donna, David Luke as Ray, Henry Alexander as Colin, Jay Osborne as Richard, Rob Gathercole as Jeremy, Lauren Chinery as Babs, Josh Tye as Derek, Sheridan Lloyd as Andy, Billy Stookes as Barry, Mike Lloyd as Frank/Slugger, Stephanie Hackett as Daisy/Brenda, Alan Howell as Eric

The show continues at Aylesbury Waterside until 25th February, so there’s still time to call the Box Office, on  0844 871 7607 (bkg fee) or visiting www.atgtickets.com/Aylesbury   (bkg fee).

And for the next few months to:

27th - 4th March
Palace Theatre, Manchester
6th - 11th March
Orchard Theatre, Dartford
20th - 25th March
Southport Theatre and Convention Centre, Southport
3rd - 8th April
Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham

Further tour dates can be found on www.dreamboatsandpetticoats.com

 

Reviewed by:

Yvonne Delahaye

20.2.17

@yvonnedelahaye

 



Feb 21st

Ding Dong Murder Me On High!

By Clare Brotherwood

Back in the day, The Questors Theatre in Ealing was synonymous with The Art of Course Acting, a sort of precursor to The Play that Went Wrong, which is so popular today.

Questors is an amateur theatre group and member Michael Green drew upon his experiences to write a book on the subject before taking The Course Acting Show to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and then into London’s West End.

There are aspects of this talking Scarlet (why do they have to italicise, underline and not cap up?) production which brings me in mind of course acting. Obviously Ding Dong… is a spoof, but it’s not done well enough to be admired.

David Callister, as the aptly named Sgt Pratt, is the only one to get my vote with his Malapropisms and double entrendres. It must be so difficult to have to keep dropping the wrong words into the dialogue, and he does it so well, even when he corpsed during Windsor’s first night and then said, ‘I don’t know what I am talking about any more’. It was the highlight of the evening.

The opening night audience seemed to enjoy it well enough, and that’s the main thing, but I found it all too silly and the characters too transparently over the top.

The action takes place in the home of Sir Walton Gates, where his family are gathering together for Christmas (I was just beginning to put Christmas behind me!). Enter Sgt Pratt and his sidekick WPC Potter, collecting for the police benevolent fund, and chaos ensues. In the mix there are guns going off, sub plots and imposters, but I was inclined to agree with another theatregoer who queried, ‘Is this supposed to be for adults?’

Only Anna Brecon as Lady Gates appears believable (well, mostly), with a cool sophistication (well, mostly) which brought me in mind of Samantha Bond. I’ve always liked Jeffrey Holland, and his portrayal of the creaky old Lord is passable. Oliver Mellor (Dr Matt in Corrie) does well to irritate us as the cocky James Washington, but the others are just too silly. Natasha Gray as Sir Walton’s PA Morag McKay brought me in mind of Dr Finlay’s Janet (for those old enough to remember) with her high pitched pseudo-Scottishness, but Carly Day ladles on so much affectation as Sir Walton’s excitable daughter Emma that, half the time, she is inaudible. And there were knowing chuckles when someone refers to Archie Gates’ (played by Neighbour’s Mark Little) ‘ridiculous Australian accent’.

This is the world premiere of this production, and apparently there are many other misadventures involving Sgt Pratt. Good luck to him, and his creator Peter Gordon. With this company they need it.

Ding Dong Murder Me on High! is at the Theatre Royal Windsor until Feb 25.

Box Office: 01753 853888.

www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk

It then continues touring:

Mar 13-15: Grand Theatre Swansea

 

Mar 17-18: Garrick Theatre, Lichfield

Feb 21st

Sister Act at The Alhambra, Bradford

By Cameron Lowe

 Review by Graham Clark

The last time that Alexandra Burke was in Bradford was to open the Broadway Shopping Centre,the X Factor winner is now back in the city playing the disco diva, Deloris Van Cartier, whose life takes a surprising turn when she witnesses a murder. So, under protective custody she is hidden in a place that she will not be discovered - a convent!

 

It was always going to be a test playing such a commanding role (played by Whoopi Goldberg in the original film version) but Burke pulls it off with ease. Her facial mannerisms are are a treat.

 

It is a feel good show set in Philadelphia in the mid 70's when disco was king and Deloris was more into Donna Summer than the church.

 

Deloris finds solace in the convent choir.  Mother Superior (Karen Mann) is a complete contrast to Deloris. The smooth talking man about town who turns into the murderer, Curtis, is played by Aaron Lee Lambert who also doubles up dressed up as a percussionist playing nun in the shows band.

 

Police officer Eddie played by Joe Vetch strikes up a relationship with Deloris who has a new identity as Sister Mary Clarence. The choir go on to be so successful that they gain media attention that advertises the whereabouts of Deloris so that Curtis and his sidekicks  know where to find Deloris (the disco diva turned Nun)!

 

The dance routines are infectious, the songs seem to be pastiches of disco classics but holding it all together is Alexandra Burke who is always the star of the show.

 

Sarah Goggin as Sister Mary Roberts comes to the fore during the evening, her singing voice perhaps a little too shrill at times. The underdog of the choir, she provides the comical role of the night.

 

There are influences of other 70's shows too like Saturday Night Fever with Police officer Eddie doing a good John Travolta impression at some points in the show.

 

With her new identity blown, Deloris decides to stay with the nuns and sing for a performance in front of the Pope.

 

As the title of one of the songs says, "Look At Me I'm Fabulous Baby", this is a fabulous show.  A standing ovation from the audience was rightly deserved.   Fabulous.

 

 

Runs until Saturday 25 February 2017

 

www.bradford-theatres.co.uk

 

Telephone: 01274 432000

 

Feb 19th

Summer Nights in Space at the Vault Festival

By Carolin Kopplin

Everything is better in space.

The VAULT Festival is now in its fifth year. Until 5 March, hundreds of new shows are presented in the Waterloo Vaults. Summer Nights in Space is a musical comedy about the search for love across the universe by Hannah Elsey Productions, the same company that created the hilarious The Quentin Dentin Show.

Ever since Captain John Spartan (Matthew Jacobs) was a little boy, growing up in a bio dome and living on soylent green, he dreamt of going boldly where no man has gone before. After finishing space school, he was given command of the Excelsior. After his third year in space, a dull computer as his only company, John is getting increasingly scared of catching space madness. 

But then he detects a distress call in his spam folder and, despite the warnings of his computer, calculates a trajectory to the perishing astronaut. On his way to the damsel in distress, John finds a dangerous alien (Candice Palladino) on board. To make matters worse his arch nemesis and space rival "Lethal Space Bizzle" (Benjamin Victor) appears, rapping across the bridge.

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Candice Palladino, Matthew Jacobs Morgan and Benjamin Victor

Henry Carpenter's musical is a spoof on popular science fiction, with references to Star Trek, Alien, Soylent Green, Dark Star, Moon and many other famous films. Accompanied by the Spacebugs - Henry Carpenter (musical director), Mickey Howard (guitar), and Archie Wolfman (drums) -, clad in white coveralls, with insect antennae and futuristic glasses, the three actors are singing their hearts out, sometimes in vain as the band can be overpowering. The songs are not very memorable but "Lady in Space" entails all the longing Captain Spartan feels for the unknown astronaut with the sexy Russian accent.

Sinead O'Callaghan's production is entertaining and includes some good twists. It benefits from a talented cast: Matthew Jacobs Morgan gives a highly energetic performance as Captain John Spartan, Candice Palladino is delightful as the space alien, moving in a predatory crouch, smiling threateningly, accompanied by the occasional hiss. Benjamin Victor has the most thankless role as the aggravating Lethal Space Bizzle. His appearance is too short to make much of an impact, yet he is very good as the voice of the computer.

The stage design by Lars Davidson entails a spacey floor with grid pattern, two walls in glittery white and a few gadgets, including a silvery truck that delivers Spartan's food among many other items. A monitor dating back to the 1980s with green fonts represents the computer - basic but sufficient.

An entertaining show.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 19th February 2017

Vault Festival

Running time: 80 minutes

Photographs provided by Chris Hislop.

Feb 18th

Richard III by Schaubühne Berlin at the Barbican Centre

By Carolin Kopplin

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Lars Eidinger as Richard III

I myself find in myself no pity to myself.

After a successful and critically acclaimed run at the Edinburgh Festival last summer, Thomas Ostermeier brings his intriguing Schaubühne production to London, with Lars Eidinger in the title role.

Using a translation by Marius von Mayenburg, one of the most important contemporary dramatists in Germany, Shakespeare's verse is replaced by prose and the play has been cut down to a running time of two and a half compelling hours without an interval, which seems taxing but is doable as there is not one dull moment in the show.

Thomas Ostermeier's production begins with thunderous drumming by Thomas Witte and a cacophony of noises before we find ourselves at a swell party. The Yorks are celebrating their victory in frat party style, covering the stage with glitter and giving in to any possible vice imaginable. Only Richard finds himself excluded from the festivities. An outsider because of his disfigurement, he has been pushed to the sidelines for far too long. Richard decides to get what he deserves by using deceit and murder. The glitter remains on the stage, stomped into a mix of clay and blood as Richard murders his way to the throne.

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Lars Eidinger (Richard III) and Jenny König (Lady Anne)

Commanding centre stage from the beginning, Lars Eidinger provides Shakespeare's antihero with sexual magnetism and a boyish charm, displaying a set of braces whenever he smiles. He is rapper and stand-up comedian, using a microphone to share his most intimate thoughts with his audience. Using his fake humility to deceive his opponents, Richard makes his lies appear like the truth. When wooing Lady Anne, Richard strips down, offering himself for the kill. Yet instead of piercing his heart, Lady Anne gives Richard a passionate kiss. Richard's seduction has worked and he despises Anne for being such an easy prey. Lars Eidinger's Richard is a monstrous but highly seductive performer. He fondles the microphone like a rock star, aware of his power over his audience.

One could say that one flaw of this production is that it centres too much on Lars Eidinger, thereby sidelining the other characters, which leaves him short of serious opponents. Margaret, played by Robert Beyer in drag, is comical. Her curse has been cut and she does not appear as a threat in any way. Jenny König, who gave a splendid performance in Ophelia's Zimmer at the Royal Court, is very good as Lady Anne but her character and Elizabeth (Eva Meckbach) are mere victims, doomed to passivity. Buckingham (Moritz Gottwald) is smeared with a brown paste by Richard, who then exclaims that Buckingham "looks like shit", getting many laughs from the audience. Yet in the end Richard destroys himself by taking his course of action, haunted by his victims and ending up alone in a rather surprising twist.

Thomas Ostermeier's production benefits greatly from Jan Pappelheim's stage design, depicting a bare stage, covered with clay, that seems to be in decay, rotting away with the mayhem caused by the protagonist, and Erich Schneider's atmospheric lighting design. Sébastien Dupouey provides video projections reflecting the unsettling events on the stage. 

An impressive and challenging production.

By Carolin Kopplin  

Until 18th February 2017

Barbican Centre

Running time: 2 hours 30 mins/no interval

Age guidance 14+ (contains nudity and violence)

Performed in German with English surtitles

Weekend Lab

All photographs provided by the Barbican Centre.