Review: The Feeling, The Other Palace Studio

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸

Presented by Monsteers Artistry in the intimate space of The Other Palace Studio, The Feeling written by Kyra Jessica Willis was dubbed ‘a new dark comedy musical’. Though the work tackled many social issues and fought fiercely to create tangible characters in the six friends the narrative revolved around – each with their own problems and differences, the musical quite clearly needs a lot of work and doesn’t quite feel as dark as the title suggests. It has gritty moments, but lacked either a shock factor or an engendered deep tragedy that had been truly built up to.

Monsteers are a young, British talent agency and collaboration of creative minds who garnered their name by merging two of their inspirations: Marilyn Monroe and West-End star Danielle Steers. Here, they collaborated to present a uniquely British, millennial-centric, jukebox musical featuring many modern rock, indie and pop classics. The piece, dramatically focussing on toxic relationships between mates and lovers, followed six problematic friends: Edie, Kasey, Jessie, Lexie, Archie and Mel, each with their own unique source of misery. However, unfortunately its sporadic and fleeting superficial conversations between characters meant it struggled to build the necessary levels of sincerity and believability, leaving its audience somewhat uninvested in both the narrative and the characters. As far as characterisation goes, this simply didn’t stretch too far beyond the two-dimensional. Which is a shame, as the writing posed a worthy attempt, there were several enigmatic moments of both depth and comedy, whilst the intent was good, aiming to shed light on social problems such as mental health, addiction, suicide, unrequited love and unwanted pregnancy. Perhaps part of the problem was the songs and their placements, these seemingly came from no where and weren’t always built up to, or interwoven well into the narrative. The changes from dialogue to song were also made severely abrupt as they were often accompanied by stark lighting changes and the loud beating of the piano, the sound and lighting thus neglecting to form a gentle incline into the musical sections. Furthermore, to its detriment, occasionally the choices of song didn’t quite fit the engendered mood. Thus the premise was strong, the format and design just didn’t quite lend itself to the proposed narrative. Perhaps a naturalistic play would have worked better, as the characters are reasonably relatable, with everyone knowing someone like at least one of the friends. From the shy and reserved cafe owner Mel to the cutting and sarcastic addict Jessie, or the sweet and nerdy love interest, Jamie.

Staging wise, the direction by George C. Francis did provide some vibrant moments, where characters had heated or tender exchanges, peppered with tension and passion. Francis ultimately utilising the small space well. But in direct contrast to this, there were also many rushed moments with the actors hurriedly bustling in or out of playing space that ultimately fell flat. As well as far too many directed exchanges between characters in the background, meaning attention was often drawn away from those in the foreground singing a ‘soliloquy’ to the actors residing behind them. These ‘knowing glances’ were both repetitive and distracting. As far as individual performances go there were a few diamonds in the rough. Firstly, Halie Darling’s Mel, the owner of the café they frequent throughout, is wonderfully naive and righteous. Darling’s performance showcases balance and clarity whilst remaining  understated, perfect for the character’s reserved nature. Whilst George C. Francis’ nerdy Jamie was both charming and adorable, his chemistry, (as Mel’s love interest), with Darling was particularly strong. Chloe Hazel’s obsessive and bitter Edie chasing after her ‘stolen ex’ Kasey, was perfectly sharp-witted and powerful at times. Her voice along with PJ Tomlinson, (Kasey) and Sean Erwood, (Archie) delivered some of the best vocals. It’s plain to see, that most of the issues with the rest of the performances would be easily rectified with more character development, in both the text and the rehearsal process.

To conclude, Monsteers Artistry show some creative promise, they just need to work on their craft to get the overall form right and with that, sincerity and proficiency will come.

 

Cast:

Kasey – PJ Tomlinson

Archie – Sean Erwood

Lexie – Pippa Lea

Mel – Halie Darling

Jessie – Kyra Jessica Willis

Edie – Chloe Hazel

Jamie – George C. Francis

Holt – Chris Barton

 

Writer and Producer – Kyra Jessica Willis

Director – George C. Francis

Associate Director – Chris Barton

Musical MD – Connagh Tonkinson

Casting – Tara Jones

Stage Manager – Adeane Hardy

Review: Macbeth the Musical, White Bear Theatre

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸

Stage Splinters are a vibrant theatre company who premise their work as the telling of ‘untold stories’. Whether that be an old tale in a totally new way, or the staging of an entirely new narrative. They intend to be definitive storytellers who create worlds for their audiences and most importantly, provoke thought. Well it can’t get more fresh and exciting than a boldly re-imagined version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The narrative here, is presented congruently in puppet and song form by only four actors, the adaptation taking on a unique perspective by determinately focussing on how the other characters are affected by Macbeth’s actions. It sounds bonkers and let us be there first to tell you, that it is!

Adapted by Chuma Emembolu and Ruth Nicolas, this new musical-comedy is wonderfully self-aware. It juxtaposes satire, smut and profanity with a largely operatic score and classic tale, condensing the narrative to cover the main plot points. Instead of dwindling on Macbeth himself, it explores the non-speaking, (or barely-speaking) characters such as the women and servants. Not only does this make the story more accessible, (the narrative arc of Macbeth‘s ascension to corruptive power remaining simplified and easy to follow), the characters developed behind the crown provide an abundance of depth and weight to the story, engendering more empathy than Macbeth ever could as a man who was tempted to kill by fate and subsequently falls into descent. A clever and enigmatic concept taking Macbeth from tragedy to comedy.

Stylistically, the work seemingly pays homage to the puppetry and essence of Avenue Q. Firstly in the phenomenal design of the puppets. Much like the Lyon Puppets servicing the many productions of Avenue Q around the world, the puppet design here, showcases vibrantly coloured, geometric, human-like figures, their shape and features fiercely resembling the residents of Avenue Q. These, like Lyon’s are operated by a single rod with one arm posed, as a double rod, or instead, they are a live hand puppet. Additionally, much like Avenue Q, the piece is a conundrum of versatile actors successfully multi-rolling. With assistance, they occasionally even change characters whilst onstage. Furthermore, as aforementioned there is an abundance of satire, wit and profanity making the production as outspoken and unapologetic as Avenue Q is. This devised work blisteringly not shying away from the problematics of the source material. Instead it cleverly pokes fun at the moral ambiguities or rashness of the character’s decisions and their variegated motivations. The result is a severely modernised production that allows for a comparative view between then and now to be drawn, another wonderful step closer to making Shakespeare accessible to all. It wittily touches on topics such as toxic masculinity, rape culture and the corruptive nature of power. Design-wise, much like Avenue Q, television screens are hung and utilised to present various cartoon storyboards, helping to situate scenes or move the narrative along. These intricate, sketched animations are also underscored well by the sound design.

Unfortunately, what Macbeth the Musical doesn’t have from Avenue Q, is it’s score. This is practically none existent. Which is kind of an issue for a piece billed as a musical. There is an abundance of songs, but unfortunately no stand-out or remotely memorable compositions materialise. In fact, most of the numbers sound exactly the same and though there are moments of glimmering harmony, for the most part it regrettably sounds like operatic wailing with no real purpose or structure. The operatic style, does however give a charming nod towards the story being a timeless classic. Subsequently, this style doesn’t particularly show off the actors voices well either. Although it is apparent Eloise Jones and Red Picasso have exceptional vocal talents. However, this isn’t to say the performances weren’t strong. The cast prove themselves to be wonderfully versatile and adroit performers. Eloise Jones’ Lady Macbeth is formidable, she is a powerful and expressive performer displaying beautiful intricacies in her physicality and demeanour. Whilst Elliott Moore’s comedic timing shines, he is a smart and emphatic actor. Alongside them, Bryony Reynolds and Red Picasso are exceedingly dexterous performers, able to instantaneously switch between personas whilst adding a vividness to their delivery. Reynold’s Rose, the servant girl is an especially enchanting character, delivered beautifully and brilliantly written/directed. 

Macbeth the Musical certainly needs a lot of work, it felt a little rushed in parts, somewhat diminishing the humour and meaning-making and definitely lacked a sizzling score. However, it has moments that are incredibly humorous or poignant and is a good concept. All it needs is a little development. The show runs at White Bear Theatre until Saturday 7th September, click here to book now.

 

 

Creatives:

Director: Chuma Emembolu

Adaptation: Chuma Emembolu and Ruth Nicolas

Stage Manager: Sophia Start

Assistant Director: Gwenan Bain

Music: Stefan Potiuk

Lighting and Sound Design: Chuma Emembolu Animation: Lizzy Rogers

Movement Director: Eloise Jones

General Manager: Faye Maughan

Associate Producer: Laura Shoebottom

 

 

Cast:

Elliott Moore: Macbeth, John

Eloise Jones: Lady Macbeth, Madison, Agnes, John

Bryony Reynolds: Rose, Breanna, Duncan

Red Picasso: Macduff, Conleth, Banquo, Agnes

Review: Truth After Murder, The Etcetera Theatre,(Camden Fringe)

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸

Fresh, fast-paced, stirring and raw. Truth After Murder takes part of an epic Greek trilogy and thrillingly reimagines it for the modern audience, with effortless meaning-making and intent.

Presented by To Be Creative the piece is a modern and dystopian adaptation of The Orestia, set after a Fourth World War leaving mass devastation and a cut in international communications. It enigmatically frames the events from Orestes’ resurgence from exile and his reunification with his sister Electra, up until the murder of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus, within the concept of a talk being given by famous author Orestes Carter on his new book Truth After Murder, a ‘fictional’ and thrilling retelling of the events. The result of this, is a pacey, relevant and thrilling reimagining, that is both reflective of the modern society and presents many questions on identity, morality, truth, financial greed and social justice.

The actuality of the plot is centred within a mental institution that Electra has been held in for 15 years. Orestes returns from Spain in the guise of an appointed psychiatrist to clinically evaluate his sister. Without revealing himself, he urges her towards sanity. His plan being to present himself and Electra as the rightful inheritants of their slain father’s assets and, (as the sibling guided strictly by his moral compass), to calmly and lawfully ask his mother and step-father to obey, leaving the island they rule behind. However, as this plan falls apart so does Orestes’ morality. Resulting in an interesting exegesis on whether we are defined by our actions, motivations or both? Examining greed, revenge, sought justice and trauma as determinants towards action. And whether we all could be, should we ever be given the chance, capable of murder? Particularly if we could get away with it.

Ricardo Carollo (Orestes) and Mariana Elicetche (Electra) are phenomenal performers. Carollo adeptly switches between his fourth-wall-breaking dialogues with the audience – explicating on the character’s  ‘new book’ and reading out various passages, into his vulnerable narrative-enacting scenes with Elicetche. He is an adroit and strong storyteller with excellent pacing and clarity. Whilst Elicetche is an exceedingly emotive and expressive performer, able to realistically convey incredible amounts pain and anguish. She is effervescent on stage. The pair are sublime counterparts for each other and should be commended for their powerful deliveries. The music by Catarina Dos Santos  is incredibly divisive, it builds tension wonderfully and quickly and effectively moves the piece on, keeping a good pace it divides scenes up perfectly. Alongside this, the writing itself exquisite, it is impassioned and bold. Arif Alfaraz get this adaptation so very right. Creating two layered and complex characters, their differing and pained experiences provides a dialogue on many prevalent cruxes in society such as homophobia, sexual assault, how we handle mental health, financial greed, corruption of power and the criminal justice system. It is impressive that Alfaraz is able to curb so many topics in one short show.

There is however, not much development on the year being 2099 and why this choice has been made or why this is significant. It is simply mentioned in a few fly away comments. As the work is so relevant to today, perhaps 2019 would have been more apt and striking. Furthermore, there is a little confusion over mobile phones. Orestes mentions the limited nature of communications as a result of the war. Necessary to explain why the siblings haven’t spoken or even seen each other on social media. Yet Orestes goes on to use a smartphone in several scenes alongside an old fashioned dictaphone. If he has a smartphone  an app would replace this bulky equipment, yet according to the dialogue he shouldn’t really have one at all. However these are minor technicalities that do not spoil the overall delivery.

Truth After Murder is a Camden Fringe must see! There’s only one performance left on Sunday 25th August, book here.

 

Playwright and Director: Arif Alfaraz

Producer: Montse Carrasco

Cast: Riccardo Carollo and Mariana Elicetche

Costume Designer: Ruth Chesterton

Music: Catarina Racha

Review: The King in Yellow, The Lion and Unicorn Theatre (Camden Fringe)

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸

Presented by GayInnocentHeartless Theatrics, (a relatively new and exciting London-based theatre company), The King is Yellow is an intelligent, darkly enchanting, totally unique and deliciously decadent adaptation, based on the Victorian cosmic horror anthology by R. W. Chambers of the same name.

This suspense-driven work by Josephine Czarnecki and Darwin Garrett, beautifully takes inspiration from and pays homage to, The King in Yellow, Chambers’ aforementioned anthology of surreal and macabre tales. The collection is an unusual, supernatural fiction set in a dystopian 1920s America and was inspired by a play of the same name, (referenced in several of the stories and said to drive the reader to madness by the second act). GayInnocentHeartless tackles the dystopian writing by staging their adaptation in a Brechtian and highly representative manner. Their ambiguity in era does much to aid the understanding and drawing of various parallels to today. Whilst the original play retains much of the significance it holds in Chambers’ text, representatively featuring in many scenes, (a strikingly yellow copy of Chambers’ book enacting as the place holder here). The yellow cover is thus intrinsically highlighted against the backdrop of the monochromatic set, costume and props.

The prime appeal of Czarnecki and Garrett’s adaptation is however, the format. Though the pace did drop at points, their version effortlessly with both wit and charm, interweaves the narrative between re-enactments of Chambers’ first four interconnected stories; The Repairer of Reputations, The Mask, In The Court of the Dragon and The Yellow Sign. The production commands its audience to bear witness to a group of young bohemians, artists and decadents who fall under the influence of the sinister play. This demonstrated indoctrination is melancholically coupled with hints towards imperialism, (in both the dialogue and the execution), making for a deeply striking comparison to Donald Trump and other world leader’s own seemingly imperialistic intent, (hello Greenland) and of course, his indoctrination of a large proportion of American citizens who unwittingly support him.

The resulting work is wonderfully ensemble-led, stylised and episodic. It darkly explores the thematic of sanity against madness and investigates the infectious nature of an idea. On par, the piece is superbly well acted, Ashton Spear, Robbie Heath, Owen Clark and Nina Atesh are all particularly emotive and strong performers. Whilst Charlene Segeral and Zuzana Spacirova are stand outs, they both display clarity, prosaic passion and certain subtleties in their delivery.

Despite this, the ensemble nature of the piece does cause some confusion. The multi-rolling converging with the interwoven stories makes it difficult to keep up with the characters and who exactly is who. Whilst the relatively niché nature of the stimuli means those who aren’t familiar with Chambers’ work can be left struggling to understand the significance of particular moments and overall plot, at least until some of the later scenes.

Overall, The King is Yellow is unique and well thought out. It does need some tweaking, but is reasonably insightful and has certain striking and witty moments. The King in Yellow runs at The Lion and Unicorn Theatre as part of Camden Fringe until Sunday 25th August, book here. 

 

WRITTEN BY: Josephine Czarnecki & Darwin Garrett

DIRECTED BY: Josephine Czarnecki & Darwin Garrett

ENSEMBLE: Ashton Spear, Robbie Heath, Owen Clark, Nina Atesh, Charlene Segeral and Zuzana Spacirova.

Review: Blue Tights, Red Knickers and an ‘S’ on her Vest, Lion and Unicorn Theatre (Camden Fringe)

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸

Laura Shoebottom’s Blue Tights, Red Knickers and an ‘S’ on her Vest presented by Thematic Theatre is a personable, touching and intriguingly realistic dissection of the pressures surrounding anxiety. Way to shatter the stigma!

This witty monologue delivered by the writer herself, recounts the tribulations of Jenna, a young professional who is silently drowning as she tries to free herself from the solitude that is her own anxiety, a powerful and affecting reminder that it is okay to take off the costume every once in awhile. It follows her from the initial devastation of her friend David moving out – blaming it on Jenna’s condition, to the bullying she receives in her workplace, on to her coping sessions that seem to be getting her nowhere and to top it all off, to her unsympathetic mother and their endless phone conversations. Shoebottom’s writing is wonderfully raw and genuine, this, coupled with her enigmatic delivery, means the work has an instantaneously warm feeling. We can all find a bit of ourselves in Jenna.

The design collectively achieved by Chuma Emembolu, Daniel Foggo and Phil Matejtschuk is particularly invigorating. In the moments that Jenna’s anxiety is heightened and at its worst, the design beautifully reflects this. The volume of the sound increases as sound bites overlap, whilst the lighting harshly brightens, shining from a rig at the back of the stage directly into the audience, the effect of this is to recreate the overwhelming sensation that Jenna is feeling, desensitising and allowing the audience to share in it and experience the paralysis anxiety engenders. Furthermore, the sound throughout is particularly slick, the piece employing a series of voiceovers to manifest the various figures in Jenna’s life, from her phone conversations, to the voices inside her head. The staging is also wonderfully representative of Jenna’s character journey. The stage starts out with a cluttering of boxes scattered, the remnants of her move from the house she shared with David, him leaving being the point Jenna notes as her worst. As she battles through various obstacles from her lowest low toward a moment of clarity, she moves the boxes away, we physically see her struggle with her own demons and eventually carry them away. This is an inspired choice and wonderful direction from Liam Ashmead.

The only element holding this back is the format. The writing is gritty and strong, yet the piece employs present tense scenes intermittently amongst Jenna describing in the past tense, whilst occasionally acting as if she is in the present tense. Culminating in a confusing understanding of the concept of time within the work, as well as some of the genuine anguish being lost and coming across as melodramatic and exaggerated, which of course is far from the piece’s intent. The actions either need to happen in the present moment and Jenna comment using asides, (in kind of Fleabag-esque manner), or Jenna needs to wholeheartedly adopt the role of the storyteller and cleverly recount her tale. With a little work we are sure it wouldn’t be difficult for the narrative to be streamlined and clarified in this way.

To conclude, Blue Tights, Red Knickers and an ‘S’ on her Vest is a fun, enchanting, one-woman show with a lot of heart and a lot to say. Does it need work? Yes. But it’s still worth the watch? Yes. Pop down to the Lion and Unicorn to see it this week as part of Camden Fringe. Click here

 

Laura Shoebottom (writer and Jenna)

Liam Ashmead (Director and David voice-over)

Georgia Richardson (Clare voice-over)

Natasha Calland (Trish voice-over)

Connor Maxwell (Tom voice-over)

Ela Yalçin (Mum voice-over)

Chuma Emembolu/Daniel Foggo (Lighting and Sound)

Phil Matejtschuk/Chuma Emembolu (Sound Designer)

Review: Orlando, Pit – The Vaults, (Vaults Festival 2019)

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸

A charming and vivacious exegesis on love, identity, time and of course, Virginia Woolf.

Having surmised the entire plot of Virginia Woolf’s classic 1928 novel Orlando, published just a year shy of the Great Depression, Lucy Roslyn goes on to deliver a witty, if somewhat jumbled and misguided comparison of ‘her own’ circumstances to those of Orlando. She both imagines the character as if in front of her, suggesting what Orlando would say when experiencing the world today, whilst symbiotically taking on that role herself and acting as the character. We’re sure there is meant to be a clever commentary on the ideology behind characterisation and the adoption of different guises here, but unfortunately it gets lost as we scramble to try and understand the point to Roslyn’s nebulous conversationals. It’s kind of ironic that the piece starts with her asking when and how does a play start? and how do we define the beginning and the end? when it’s difficult to define her version of Orlando, was it simply an analytical delivery of the plot, mixed in with a modern comparison? Or was the offering deliberately vague as an overall commentary on identity and labels? It’s a long stretch, but as Roslyn navigates the changes in gender of the character and ‘her own’ choice to shy away from the label of bisexuality, we begin to understand the overarching theme of identity as a choice. Orlando could therefore have been presented as deliberately open to interpretation, open to be what you want it to be. As much as the novel promotes being seen for who you choose to be.

Despite this, Lucy Roslyn herself is a competent and exuberant performer and storyteller, commanding the space well whilst dynamically holding her audience’s attention, making it all the more frustrating that the work seems to have no solid through-line. Don’t get us wrong a through-line exists and there are interesting explications on the aforementioned thematics, whilst Roslyn fosters a genuine warmth on the subject of love and lost love. The piece just needs more focus and overall clarity. It does however craft a beautifully balanced love-letter to Woolf’s original novel, building on the motifs and symbols found within. Allowing for an acknowledgement of the novels relevancy even today, a stand against the ‘identitarian bullshit of 2019’.

Orlando plays until Sunday at Vaults Festival. Click here to book.

Written and performed by Lucy Roslyn
Directed by Josh Roche

Producer: Jessie Anand
Designer: Sophie Thomas
Lighting Designer: Peter Small
Sound Designer: Kieran Lucas

Review: Drought, Pit – The Vaults, (Vaults Festival 2019)

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸

Hauntingly beautiful!

Theatre-maker Kate Radford is a true artist, visionary and storyteller. Navigating the ancient mythology surrounding Caenis, a woman known for her beauty, charm and knowledge, Radford veraciously explores what it is to be a women, through the lenses of both consent and expectation. Utilising this age old story of submission as a vehicle for her bright, bold and witty sound offs, noting of the tale’s consistent repetition and the fact it should be dutifully learned from. No doubt inspired by this erupting #MeToo era.

From the offset it is abundantly clear that Radford is an immensely talented spoken word writer and performer. Regaling her audience with an informative and well-crafted anarchistic dialogue, she speaks with masses of passion and conviction in metered prose, rightfully leaving her spectators in awe. Not only is her dialogue impeccable, she is also insanely musically gifted, turning her talents to song throughout and blending her chosen styles expertly. The spoken word, storytelling and musicianship mix with digital aspects to bring this retelling prominently into the modern age and pinpoint its utter relevancy. With this in mind Radford spiritedly utilises a looping system to craft vibrant soundscapes, layering variegated sounds and colourful harmonies, whilst projections of images and landscapes help further to locate Caenis’ story. Sound and visualisations thus engender a series of exciting ‘digital landscapes’, these digital vistas gently entwine and cohere to the explored thematics. Caenis’ narrative traversing both water and sand, ocean and desert, wet and dry, the drought and not, yes and no, a simple black and white explorative, yet raging discussion on consent. These elements all therefore surmise into an atmospherically powerful piece that promotes the generation of new narratives for women, an end to this ‘drought’ as it were.

The story does at points somewhat deviate from Caenis’, making it intermittently difficult to follow. However this is forgivable as the character’s experience can be seen as that of a universal female experience, the work promoting the need for a change away from this. The crafted soundscapes also tend to drown out Radford, though again, at points this is necessary to promote a sense of women being seen as ‘secondary’, not the heroes of their own story something simply to be had by men.

To conclude Kate Radford is hugely talented and Drought is an artistic delight, beautifully blending Ancient mythology with performance genres and digital elements aplenty. You can catch the show at Vault Festival until Sunday, click here to book.

 

Written and Performed by Kate Radford
Video composition and design by Kate Radford
Photography – Bryony Good
Associate Artist – Laurence Alliston-Greiner

The Twelve Shows of the Year – 2018 edition

This year has been a fantastic year for exceptional, affecting and meaningful theatre, something that should be celebrated loudly. This Year of the Women has been characterised by, and offered a plethora of exceptional pieces promoting gender equality and women’s power, whilst giving a voice to those that typically have none. Thus, let’s look back at the best incremental productions this year…

Once again, we’ll be counting down from twelve to one, our list comprising of musicals, plays and even works in progress, with the majority of productions as per usual coming from London-based venues, though there are regional exceptions. We would also like to offer two honourable mentions, firstly to the Old Vic’s return of their truly magical production of A Christmas Carol, the ensemble of which have been providing thrilling and awe inspiring performances this festive period, as well as a mention to the Young Vic’s Twelfth Night, whose community-led, musical retelling made Shakespeare incredibly vibrant and more importantly accessible to all. But without further ado, lets begin the countdown, here’s number twelve…
12. I’m Not Running, Lyttelton Theatre (National Theatre)

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David Hare’s newest work intricately intersects politics with the personal, telling the tale of a fictional 2018, using a narrative that explores personal choices and their public consequences, through a twenty year intimate friendship.

Hare spiritedly writes for female empowerment, he anatomises the current political landscape and grippingly stages what it must be like for a women in the male-dominated topography of government, particularly capturing the consensus of women feeling as if they are not being taken seriously because of their gender. A sense wonderfully encapsulated in a section when politics and leadership are arrogantly mansplained to the female protagonist, affinities with which can only truly be shared by women. Hare furthermore, does not simply skate over issues such as FGM and the NHS, he bountifully sounds off about them.’ Read the rest of our review by clicking here.

I’m Not Running runs until January 31st. Click here to book tickets.

 
11. Fun Home, Young Vic.

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Winner of 5 Tony Awards, this electrifying Broadway phenomenon staging Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel took America by storm and colourfully exploded onto the British Stage this year. The show introduces it’s audience to Alison at three stages of her life. Memories of her 1970s childhood in a funeral home merge with her college love life and her coming out.

This delicate musical wonderfully examines Alison’s relationship with her father, through which she finds they had more in common than she thought. ‘Fun Home is both tragic and completely uplifting. It is a delicate personalised piece that packs a punch and is ultimately relatable even for those that do not find themselves to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community.’ The perfect way to celebrate pride month this year. Read more here.

Fun Home may have closed, but writers Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori will have yet another musical on the London stage when Violet opens in January at the Charing Cross Theatre, click here to find out more.

 
10. Wise Children, Old Vic

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A collective of collaborators brought together by Emma Rice cemented their formation this year with their first production Wise Children, from which they take their name, now touring the UK. Wise Children stages the impossible, that being Angela Carter’s last novel that spans over three generations.

It’s 23 April, Shakespeare’s birthday. Exploring the lives of Nora and Dora Chance, we join them on their 75th birthday and their father’s 100th Birthday as they reflect upon their father, or lack of a father, alongside their years in show-business providing an interesting commentary upon gender and perception, artistically contrasting utter joy with painful turmoil. ‘As a love letter to the theatre and not just Shakespeare, Wise Children wonderfully employs any and all theatrical techniques in order to exhibit the breadth of talent within the collective, from puppetry to actor-musicianship, song and dance, to burlesque, caricature and even a specifically generated gestural language similar to sign language. Each technique symbolically representative of the theatre industry and its trials, tribulations, skill requirements and unlimited boundaries.’ Read our full review here.

To find out more about the Wise Children collective or to book to see their current tour, click here.

 
9. Zelda, The Other Palace (Studio).

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With sounds similar to Post Modern Jukebox, Zelda brought the debaucherous 1920’s to The Other Palace Studio utilising an exquisite and satirical post modern score of reworked modern songs. Situated in the home of infamous flapper and socialite Zelda Fitzgerald and her husband F.Scott Fitzgerald, we meet the pair as they are throwing a party like no other… Packed with drama and wit, though the presentation was a work in progress and only semi staged, it provided so much viscerally, it wasn’t difficult to imagine a fully staged, extravagant party with huge numbers and intricate choreography to match.

With the piece filled with climactic and decisive drama, it is interesting to find that the work also has an absurdist and humorous layer to it. In the midst of these poignant moments the character’s sing modern, popularist songs such as Rihanna’s Umbrella and Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy.’ To read the full review click here.

In the titular role Jodie Steele absolutely shone, and do not despair, though she has finished her stint in Heathers, she can currently be seen in Rock of Ages on tour across the country. Click here for more info.

 
8. The Lehman Trilogy, Lyttleton Theatre (National Theatre).

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Legendary director Sam Mendes returned to the National this year to direct Ben Power’s English version of Stefano Massini’s vast and poetic play. The story follows a family over three generations, a family and a company that changed the world. Providing a history of western capitalism in the scope of this famed banking family, the production following from the formation of their firm through to its collapse 163 years later, dramatically triggering the biggest financial crisis in history. With the narrative being told in three parts on a single evening this is an epic offering demonstrating the changing definition of the American Dream.

Simon Russell Beale, Adam Godley and Ben Miles provide a masterclass in acting and storytelling, effortlessly shifting from character to character between gender and age instantaneously. Engendered by the intricate revolving office space and representational style of the piece.

This illuminating and beautifully metaphoric work can be seen on Broadway next year and will then return to London for a West End run at then Picadilly Theatre in May. Click here for more information.

 
7. 100, 200, 300 Milligrams, John Thaw Studio (Tristan Bates Theatre, The Actor’s Centre)

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Presented as part of The Blacktress Season, a collaboration between the John Thaw Initiative and Blacktress UK, Gloria Obianyo debuted her self-written and directed one women show, a musical weaving of a tragic monologue. Executed magnificently, focalising her work meaningfully on mental health and responsibility.

Gloria writes with such a level of compassion and emotion, synergistically inclusive of an awarity of her audience and the story she is trying to tell, that her compositions feel immediately real and raw, particularly when entwined with a psychological, poignant monologue. Resulting in an instantaneous bond of affection and empathy being formed between her and her audience. Obianyo’s musical configurations enacting cleverly, feature pockets of witty relevant phraseology and well-crafted metaphors, something she, through her character Remi, jestingly comments upon‘ throughout, to read our full review click here.

Obianyo can currently be seen in Antony and Cleopatra at the National Theatre, a production filled with both spectacle and exceptional acting. The piece runs until January 19th, click here to book tickets.

 
6. The Lovely Bones, Birmingham REP.

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We were lucky enough to go to a pre-show talk with writer Alice Sebold in which she enlightened us not only upon her life and work, but the intricacies of this adaptation by award-winning playwright Bryony Lavery and we must say what she has to say is both fascinating and imminently worthwhile. Here Lavery takes Sebold’s delicate world and stages it so incredibly viscerally, giving it its own soundtrack and appearance whilst sustaining its heart wrenching qualities and stylistically allowing for the non-specifities of Susie’s heaven, making it aesthetically stunning, yet simple and imaginative. In short, it can be anything you want it to be.

With Susie dead, having been abused and brutally murdered, all she can do is watch her loved ones and her murderer as they go on living, in this beautifully tragic production, Susie is consummately played by Charlotte Beaumont backed by an ensemble of extraordinary actors who multirole terrifically. The piece providing a detailed examination into humanity, eloquently juxtaposing euphoria and tragedy.

The tour unfortunately finished in November, but hopefully it will be back soon.

 
5. Network, Lyttelton Theatre (National Theatre)

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‘We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take this anymore’. Lee Hall’s adaptation of Paddy Chayefsky’s film of the same name, saw Bryan Cranston make his British stage debut toward the end of last year continuing into this year. Cranston gave the performance of a lifetime, supported by a powerful and large cast, including exquisite performances from Douglas Henshall and Michelle Dockery.

Network depicts a dystopian media landscape where opinion trumps fact. Howard Beale (Bryan Cranston), in his final broadcast, unravels live on screen. But when the ratings soar, the network seize on their newfound populist prophet, and Howard becomes the biggest thing on TV. Utilising cameras, live feeds and projections, this big budget work did much to construct the world of television and news broadcasting upon the National stage. Directed by the incomparable Ivo Van Hove, whose work proves to be continuously magnetic and electrifying, this truly was satire at it’s best. To read our review click here.

Cranston is reprising his award-winning role on Broadway this year. Click here for more info.

Additionally, Ivo Van Hove will next be directing All about Eve starring Gillian Anderson and Lily James. Click here for tickets. 

 
4. SIX Divorced. Beheaded. LIVE!

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If you don’t know what SIX is, where have you even been? Taking the UK by storm and becoming somewhat a phenomenon with fans young and old, SIX is a girl-power, pop musical and concert experience telling ‘her-story’ from the perspective of Henry VIII’s wives and importantly includes an all female cast and band. We’ve been lucky enough to follow this production since it’s work in progress days earlier this year, having seen it at the Arts Theatre pre-Edinburgh, since then we’ve caught it again a few times in London and Kingston. Currently finishing its UK tour, SIX will be heading back the Arts Theatre for an open ended run in January.

One of the most inventive elements of the work is its experimentalism with the musical theatre form. The piece has remained intuitively not linear, moves away from providing a strictly musical theatre score and is self-aware. It allows the queen’s to speak directly to their audience and become their own storytellers, the pop-genre, concert-style becoming the force driving the narrative, this form symbiotically validating stories told by women. Proving these can be witty, clever and engaging and do not have to be about, or even include men.’ To read our newest review click here.

To book tickets for the Queen’s return to London or to find out about the upcoming Chicago production, click here.

 
3. Sylvia, Old Vic.

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Featuring a past queen of the aforementioned SIX, Genesis Lynea in the titular role, and pop royalty Beverley Knight as her mother, this offering added a further girl-power / women’s rights explosion to the theatrical landscape this year. Billed as a hip-hop musical, Sylvia tells the story of the Pankhurst family and the suffragettes, from mobilising and militancy to politics and diplomacy. With inevitable stylistic parallels to Hamilton, this musical satirically and dramatically presented as a work in progress, left audiences begging for more, particularly for a cast recording. The perfect stand for women’s rights in a year characterised and celebrated for their past bravery.

Not only is the piece powerful and motivated, there is something so eloquently personal about the production as well, perhaps because it delves deeper into the lives of these powerful women and not just their involvement in the unions, particularly that of Sylvia. This makes her intrinsically identifiable with every women in the audience, as the varied occurrences in her life, such as love, lust, passion, family issues and beliefs are practically universal. This is superbly conveyed through the costuming as well, as from the neck down we get gorgeous and detailed period costumes, but above this the actors sport modern hair and make-up, reminding us that though they are portraying women from 100 years ago, they are women of today and have the same struggles as we do.’ The production unfortunately was caught in a media frenzy, to understand why and read our comprehensive open letter and review of Sylvia click here.

Sylvia will be back, to sign up to here more click here.

Alternatively, Sylvia herself, Genesis Lynea will be choreographing new musical Club Mex at the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester. Click here to book. 

 
2. Hadestown, Olivier Theatre (National Theatre)

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Rachel Chavkin directs this folk-opera non-specifically modernising the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice fusing American Folk Music and New Orleans Jazz. Hadestown crucially uses myth and music to comment upon the current socio-political climate in a polished and stylised, indirect manner.

Quite simply astonishing! Hadestown is wholeheartedly urgent and relevant, beautifully executed and thoroughly entertaining, the work is wonderfully inventive and imaginatively staged.’ To read our full review click here.

Hadestown runs at the National Theatre until the end of January, before transferring to Broadway. To find out more click here.

Rachel Chavkin will next be directing The American Clock at the Old Vic, click here to book. 

 
1. Emilia, Globe Theatre.

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In this Year of the Women, the Globe Theatre in Michelle Terry’s capable hands, has delivered astonishing work, promoting change whilst demonstrating its inclusivity and diversity. Highlights include their magical Sonnet Sunday event, their inclusive production of As You Like It and their ephemeral and historical Voter’s Choice ensemble that went on to tour the country. But the most affecting and sincere offering was in fact a brand new production, Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s Emilia. A dramatisation of the life and times of Emilia Bassano, told through her eyes and by a cast of entirely women, this is the story of a poet and women’s activist who was detrimentally said to have been the muse for Shakespeare’s dark lady in his sonnets.

‘…a manifesto rather than an absolute history. It chooses to focus upon the biggest issues of the today and not just simply the oppression of women… Malcolm also touches upon themes of physical abuse and violence, sexualisation and the stereotypical journey of a women, i.e birth, marriage child birth and death… Therefore, Emilia is monumental, the performances are exceptional and the underlying manifesto is timeless.’ To read in full click here.

Emilia excitingly returns to the stage this year, this time at the Vaudeville Theatre. Click here to book your tickets and remember this is essential viewing!

The Globe’s next hotly anticipated venture will be an all female version of Shakespeare’s Richard II in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse in 2019. Click here to find out more. 

 

As aforementioned this year has been an incredible year for theatre decisively characterised by activism. With this in mind, we are certainly looking forward to the year ahead! Stay tuned for our article detailing the most exciting productions set for 2019.

Oh and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Review: 100, 200, 300 Milligrams, John Thaw Studio, (Tristan Bates Theatre, The Actors Centre)

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸

Obianyo’s voice is a unique gift, glorious in tone, range and power it lends itself to a series of different styles, soaring and filling the space wonderfully, yet her song writing ability is something to be considered far more superior.

Gloria writes with such a level of compassion and emotion, synergistically inclusive of an awarity of her audience and the story she is trying to tell, that her compositions feel immediately real and raw, particularly when entwined with a psychological, poignant monologue. Resulting in an instantaneous bond of affection and empathy being formed between her and her audience. Obianyo’s musical configurations enacting cleverly, feature pockets of witty relevant phraseology and well-crafted metaphors, something she, through her character Remi, jestingly comments upon in her piece 100, 200, 300 Milligrams. Remi, a budding musician, is the parent of her parent, and by that we mean her mother suffers from a form of schizophrenia and often refuses to take her medication, resulting in her continuously turning away carers and eventually being sectioned, meaning Remi is often responsible for her mother and has been since she was a child. An increasingly difficult amount of pressure for a young adult, something Remi is now buckling under.

Though she self-proclaims that the dialogue needs work and it does in places, lacking some clarity and logic here and there, (something that may well be attributable to nerves also), what was provided by Obianyo in this manifestation of the work was for the most part aptly plaintive, juxtaposed by moments of endearing humour, that in part resembled a stand-up comedy performance, giving Remi a characterful and warming persona, a light to the darkness of the mounting pressure physically shown in the more consequential and impassioned sections of despair, where Remi tries to appease her mother. These feelings good and bad bubbling inside of her, are thus shown staggeringly by Obianyo’s own prolific acting abilities. Something she should be wholeheartedly proud of, we’ve never seen someone perform so powerfully, moving both themselves and us to tears in the process.

Most importantly 100, 200, 300 Milligrams truthfully considers what it is is like to be a young carer and admirably traverses the themes of mental health and suicide in an anecdotal manner. It delicately takes the concept of youth and explores what being a young carer means in relation to this. Such as the effects of losing your childhood through having to look after someone, juxtaposed with the needs of a young adult. Touching upon the urge to escape and explore the world, whilst delving into the euphoria of sex and relationships. Something Remi reveals she has done, but then as she explains, her obligations taint this due to their mental and physical constraints upon her life. Constraints that mean she battles both the stigma of having a ‘crazy’ mother and the difficulties of her mother’s non-compliance. Though the thematics are weighty, the delivery was nothing but charming and moving. Here, it is worth mentioning the wonder of Remi’s world that Obianyo effortlessly crafted, which warmly invited us in. This is Remi’s story, so you are in Remi’s room, hearing directly from Remi herself and it is incredibly personable. The engendering of Remi’s world, was not only built through a personal direct address, but also via the use of the stage space. The platform enacting as her bedroom, which, as a result, appeared remotely messy, filled with personal items, shoes, pens, paper and scraps of songs she had been writing. Yet the space simultaneously was distinguishable as the set up for a music gig, with both a mic and guitar stand, instruments and amp. Giving a reflection to Remi’s personality and aspirations, (as a musician and creative mind), whilst also practically providing the means to weave music into the piece, with Remi singing, writing and rehearsing here to pass time. Ultimately, it presented a safe space for the character to talk about her situation, a space that was hers. The bedroom setting was also the location of the plot, with the character retreating to her room to wait for the carers to arrive, her presence being required as means to let them in, as her mother had been refusing to whilst she had been away on tour. This sense of waiting beautifully accented the piece, with a ticking clock forming a continuous soundscape.

The only apparent criticism is the dialogue, as earlier mentioned it needs to be more developed and refined. An overall flow, as well as a cause and affect methodology must be applied in order to help in the earning of tension buildingm simply so Remi’s outbursts don’t appear as 0-100’s without much cause, giving us a greater understanding and reasons to feel empathy for her. She is already so likeable as a character, but just needs a coherent voice and means behind her. On the flip side, as aforementioned, the score was truly eloquent and beautiful, with Obianyo proving herself to be an exceedingly talented musician, playing guitar tempestuously whilst even navigating percussion at the same time. She surprisingly goes as far as to demonstrate her abilities as a looping artist, layering samples and harmonies on top of each other and even splitting a few beats along the way. A skill that to perfect live is particularly difficult, yet Obianyo, having demonstrated her pure talent, utilises it further for comedic effect in composition ‘I feel shit’. Another stand out songs are ‘Give Me A Reason’ and the upbeat, ‘Hey Momma’ number, in which Remi envisions the best possible, but totally fantastical scenario in which she can ask her mother to take her meds. If you want something to compare the overall vibe to, you could look to Charlie Fink’s Cover My Tracks which played limited performances at The Old Vic last year before touring. This stark comparison only provokes us into asking, when and where can we get an EP? The music is equally as, if not more stunning that the Noah and the Whale frontman’s and he released his music beforehand, don’t leave us hanging!

100, 200, 300 Milligrams was presented as a work-in-progress at the Tristan Bates Theatre in the John Thaw Studio for two nights only as part of the Blacktress Season. It is written, composed and produced by Gloria Obianyo. The Blacktress Season showcases the voices of identifying Black British Womxn from October to December, a John Thaw Initiative in collaboration with Blacktress UK for new writing/works in progress. To see what else is on click here.

To conclude, we ultimately hope Gloria Obianyo develops her piece further and presents it to audiences again soon. To visit Gloria’s soundcloud click here.

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Review: Blink, Lion and Unicorn Theatre

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸

Blink is a compelling and witty unconventional love story. Performed sincerely and jovially, the composition of the work presented by director Samantha Robinson delicately built something both exquisite and charming, the perfect dysfunctional romantic comedy.

Sophie’s father’s death leaves her with a void to fill and two conjoined flats in Leytonstone. Having been made redundant, she fixes up the lower flat which was her father’s and awaits a new tenant. Falling into a lonely routine of video games and trash TV. Jonah, a Quaker living on a farm finds hidden inheritance left to him by his mother, her words willing him to use it to go out and experience the world away from the sheltered lifestyle of ‘a self-sustaining religious community’, he travels to London and coincidently, through an estate agent, rents from Sophie, living beneath her. Sophie’s grief has pushed her into a position of loneliness, whilst Jonah’s inexperience, naivety and placement in a new city means he fails to connect with other living beings, except for a mange-ridden Fox in the garden. Sophie watches Jonah, Jonah watches Sophie. Something beautifully demonstrated with unseen glances towards the other, between sections of dialogue enigmatically directed straight out to the audience, facilitating the sense that though they are both present with each other, they are by choice not present, simply watching and not engaging. Brilliantly enacting the way people often passively act towards each other online.

As mentioned above Phil Porter’s work gravitates around the theme of watching (voyeurism), it is therefore rightfully so packed with symbolic references to seeing, following and visual stimuli, making for an interesting exploration into what it is like to be watched, particularly in the digital age, an era where the ‘me generation’ has emerged, creating content that can be stalked online by anyone. With many affairs now being conducted over social media, there is a shift in how human connection can be ignited and sustained, Porter thus examines this in an intriguing manner from a unique deeply symbolic perspective. Creating these characters that form a bond without even actively engaging with one and other. 

Opening with a comparison between the eye of a rabbit, that has been tracked and hunted, to a camera lens, an object that could juxtaposingly, be used in the act of stalking, it therefore questions whether trailing someone, encouraged or not and however innocently, can flourish into love, or if it only facilitates obsession. Set firmly in the present, the piece oozes relevancy, taking this phenomenology of the digital age and cementing it further within the universal themes of loneliness and grief, the powerful performances on top of this making for a deep rooted meaningful delivery. The two universal feelings forming the basis of a set of coincidences causing ‘lovers’ Sophie and Jonah to somewhat-distantly meet. Examining not only death and it’s impact, but more widely on London culture perpetuating a struggle-through-grief attitude, as well as expediting a deafening loneliness due to its fast pace. The ominous echo of the two thematics: (loneliness and grief) is first and foremost excellently manifested by the empty black box space, dressed only with flooring and chairs. The chairs as moveable objects, not only imaginatively and instantaneously create setting, but also convey the increasing proximity of Sophie to Jonah, as one begins to stalk the other. Sophie orchestrating and playing up to the attention received, as Jonah, having watched her through a screen at first, begins to follow her every move, an interesting dynamic, conveyed stupendously well here. The direction formulating a kind of disconnected flirting, the actors beautifully conducting the character’s delight and intrigue towards the audience and not towards each other, with a series of well-timed looks and expressions. This incites almost a comical game of cat and mouse, the tension heightening as they place the chairs closer and closer to each other, but never quite touch, the lack of physical connection demonstrating their refusal to directly converse. The actors hilariously move and dart past each other without even an ounce of acknowledgement, a kind of non-present presence. The superb pacing of these scenes establishes a rush in excitement and fascination much like in a new romance; Jonah becoming more daring and serious even, in his pursuit of Sophie, revelling in the fact she doesn’t know he’s there, (or so he thinks) and Sophie delighting more and more, (an upwards spiral out of grief), in taking them on various excursions, enjoying the sensation of being watched as it seems to give her a new purpose. This scintillating physicalisation of the game of flirting is thoroughly entertaining and cleverly built up, a million miles away from the earlier tender scenes of Jonah watching Sophie on the baby monitor she anonymously gave to him. We see him in awe as he watches Sophie eat an apple, fixated on the screen. Robinson accomplishes direction to highlight Porter’s theme of voyeurism astoundingly, after Jonah intricately describes her every move consumed by what he sees, Georgia Halford, (Sophie) then vividly recreates every move, indicating it is her he is watching in tandem to explaining how it feels to be on camera here. This powerful visual excellently denotes the start of the character’s connection, a moment of poignancy, triggering them doing everything together without truly being together. It is the performance of these delicate moments that creates a genuine feeling of care and tenderness between the two, we see motifs in which the two actor’s physicalities match, they almost mirror each other engendering a sense of companionship, for instance they excitedly shift in their seats and smile in close proximity, simulating watching TV together, showing the two to be content in simply knowing that the other is there. But as always looking outward to their audience to show they are not truly together. A feeling that is built musically throughout with the composition and soundscapes provided by musician Roel Fox, his music is light and delicate, a weaving of tenderness throughout. A sensation echoed throughout with the lighting, beating on and off the actor’s faces often in time to the music and dialogue, a stunning and reactive design. 

Robinson and Assistant Director Natalya Micic, take the visually symbolic nature of Porter’s play and run with it. First and foremost placing the kindled love between the two protagonists in the set and props, visually displaying it. Sophie anecdotally explains at the start of the piece, how her dad cared for her so much that he would fulfil even the most ridiculous request, recalling how he placed her bed on the lawn after a dental operation so she could breath in the fresh air allowing the grogginess to clear. Jonah reminds her of her dad, (with her earlier mentioning their similarity in movement), and thus when Sophie returns home from hospital in their timeline, Jonah copies what she told him her father did and we physically see an enactment of him moving the bed, from it being propped up side of stage and lifted onto the AstroTurf covering the stage space, followed by him making it. This staged act of compassion elegantly symbolises love and human connection, something that by this point is brewing between Jonah and Sophie. It is then the location of which they share their first kiss and begin to get intimate. Similarly we are shown Jonah’s wellies from the farm, as he introduces us to his sheltered life on in Yorkshire as a Quaker. We only see them again when Sophie banishes Jonah back to his flat downstairs, his intensified behaviour and obsession becoming too much for her, she hands the wellies back to him to signify things returning back to the way they were before, just knowing the other is there. 

Ashley Gyngell is wonderful, he unfalteringly captures Jonah’s bewilderment, innocence and naive charm. But is overall unprecedentedly animated and comically gifted. His counterpart Georgia Halford is likewise a powerful and formidable performer, grasping and conveying a semblance of genuine grief and pain. She is a pragmatic and talented storyteller, both also excellently multi-rolling at points. Whilst it is Samantha Robinson’s direction that foments the telling of this story so genuinely and presently. An absorbing and humorous story for our time. 

Writer: Phil Porter 

Director: Samantha Robinson 

Assistant Director: Natalya Micic 

Lighting Designer: Sam Thomas 

Music: Roel Fox 

Producer: Camille Wilhelm 

Sophie: Georgie Halford 

Jonah: Ashley Gyngell