Posts

The Burnt City ★★★★ 1 Cartridge Place | Until September 24, 2023

Image
In its latest venture, the UK's leading immersive theatre company, Punchdrunk, has transformed over 100,000 square feet of space into an exploration experience that is loosely based around the story of the last days of Troy before it falls to the Greeks. Audiences are invited to wander through a series of strange panoramas that involve dance, mime and references to the classic story. Agamemnon's sacrifice of his daughter in order to get good winds to sail to Troy, and the revenge of his wife Clytemnestra are referenced, but these are only a starting point for the audience's journey. People are encouraged to wander freely from place to place and can either weave their own narrative or simply experience a wild variety of strange scenes that exist behind obscure doors. The backstreets of Troy are reimagined as a series of tableaux that for us recalled the murky atmosphere of a film noir . The goings-on have a wonderfully sleazy and sinister feel, and an ahistorical reality is

The Cher Show ★★★ New Wimbledon Theatre | Jan 31 - Feb 4, 2023

Image
Can you have too many Chers? This show has three different actresses portraying the superstar at different stages of her career. Millie O'Connell is Babe who at sixteen meets Sonny and becomes a musical hippy phenomenon. Danielle Steers plays Lady who is the Las Vegas incarnation of the redoubtable diva and Debbie Kurup embodies the Star. All three quite amazingly capture the essence of a particular phase of the amazing career that goes from insecure teenager to confidently consummate performer, but this particular format does invite invidious comparisons of the three presentations. Suffice to say, that while carving of the role into three parts works in many ways, it can also be a distraction. Similarly, the decision to present Cher's story in a rather mechanical chronological manner may give us the highs and lows of her career, the peaks and valleys of her relationships and the arc of her growth as a person and performer, however it can also seem rather rushed and a bit squee

2:22 A Ghost Story ★★★★ Lyric Theatre | Until April 23, 2023

Image
Who doesn't love a good ghost story? Jenny has just spent a few days alone with her baby in a new house where something strange seems to be going on. When her skeptical, know-it-all husband, Sam, returns from his trip, he discounts her fears. Similarly, at a dinner party, when his old school chum, Lauren, and her latest boyfriend, Ben, sympathise with his wife's concerns he thoroughly disparages any notions of the supernatural. The show has the audience guessing from beginning to end, and keeps everyone vacillating in the battle between the rationalist and the possible believers. Cheryl, who has taken on the role of Jenny, demonstrates considerable acting chops and puts in a good performance as the terrified wife. Her irritation with her husband's dismissive and condescending attitude and her own anxiety ring completely true. Louise Ford as the psychiatrist, Lauren, and Jake Wood as her working class boyfriend who have both previously had paranormal experiences do fine jobs

Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons ★★★★ Harold Pinter Theatre | Jan 18 - Mar 18, 2023

Image
For reasons that are never quite clear, the government decides to impose a law that limits individuals to using 140 words a day. Playwright, Sam Steiner, uses this Twitter premise to consider governmental suppression of speech and the role of communication in relationships. Over the arc of their love affair, Bernadette, played by Doctor Who star Jenna Coleman, and Oliver, portrayed by Poldark heartthrob, Aidan Turner spar about, and explore, the use of language in the personal and political spheres. She is a lawyer, insecure about her class origins and not terribly concerned about the new law, despite the fact that her business is words. In contrast, he is a musician from an upper class background who is actively engaged in protesting the new restrictions. As a musician his preferred medium of communication might be sound, but ironically he is the one distressed about the curtailment of speech. Their interaction and commentary on the new law is interesting but inconclusive, mirroring

Welcome Home ★★★★ Soho Theatre | Jan 26 - Feb 11, 2023

Image
First, Willy had the stress of coming out to his Christian charismatic family, and now he has to deal with the challenge of moving home after a breakup with his boyfriend! This autobiographical show written by, and starring, Willy Hudson is as much performance art as it is traditional theatre. It includes an improvisational quality that doesn't always work, and there are sequences of sing-along and some offbeat audience participation. The show also has lots of pop culture references that clearly resonated with the audience on the night we attended, as did Hudson's renditions of Robbie Williams' songs. It's all a mishmash of elements that surprisingly does come together and does form a coherent whole. Two factors that contribute to this success, and distinguish the piece from some currently popular one-person-does-it-all trauma turns, is the show's sense of irony and the nuanced presentation of Willy's victimhood. While the church and its strictures may have indu

We'll Always Have Paris ★★★★ The Mill at Sonning | Jan 19 - Mar 11, 2023

Image
Great food and delightful entertainment! A get-away to Paris? Or even easier, a visit to The Mill at Sonning to see the dinner-theatre's latest offering. We'll Always Have Paris recounts the meeting of three school friends who are reinventing themselves. Nancy has retired from being a school headmistress, Anna is recently widowed after years of being a caregiver, and Raquel is on the verge of losing her latest toy boy. All three are in Paris, the city which may, or may not, offer them a new lease on life. This heartwarming show is engagingly humorous and unobtrusively thought provoking. Elizabeth Elvin is quite perfect as the sensible former educator who knows who she is, and Debbie Arnold is hilarious as the dizzy Raquel who defines herself by the man she is with. Between these two poles is Anna who has been trapped by an abusive relationship and who must now chart a new path. Natalie Ogle succeeds in subtly creating this transformation and while the play teases the audience

Picasso ★★ The Playground Theatre | Jan 25 - Feb 4, 2023

Image
How do we react to an artist whose creativity is undeniable but whose behaviour or views might be objectionable? Can we separate a person's life from their work? These are questions that frequently arise and are certainly present when one looks at the life of Pablo Picasso, whose treatment of women was problematic to say the least. Picasso , the play, refers to this compelling conundrum, but it fails to really address the issue. There is a suggestion that some of the artist's motivations might be traced to his relationship with his mother, but the insight seems to end there. This is a show that chronicles Picasso's relationships, but it does not really question or analyse them. Peter Tate presents the artist as a bombastic, egocentric individual who displays little insight into himself and even less sensitivity or vulnerability. It is a rather monochromatic portrait. What is essentially a summary and recitation of Picasso's various liaisons is punctuated by characterisa

Two Billion Beats ★★★★ Orange Tree Theatre | Jan 20 - Feb 4, 2023

Image
Two billion beats refers to the number of times a heart beats over a lifetime, and this story deals with two sisters who learn life lessons both in school and in the schoolyard. Asha is determined to succeed, but even as she strives to be the top of her class her definition of success is changing. It turns out that her role models from teacher, Mrs L and her mother to Gandhi and Emmeline Pankhurst may all prove to have clay feet. On the other hand, the aspirations of her younger sister, Bettina, are somewhat more mundane. The latter simply wants to buy a hamster and to end the bullying she suffers from classmates on the bus. At first, Asha ignores her sibling's plight, but when she becomes involved her view of the problem and her stratagem for dealing with it prove equally problematic. Like Emmeline Pankhurst's response to her pacifist daughter, Sylvia, or Gandhi's behaviour when dealing with B. R. Ambedkar and the Dalits, Asha fails to see the real scope of the issue. And

Jason ★★★ The Vaults | January 24 - 29, 2023

Image
Shirley Clarke's 1967 documentary film, Portrait of Jason , focuses on a character who, as the result of a traumatic childhood, has been robbed of a coherent sense of self. He then tries to piece together a persona from old films and self-invention, and he sustains this fragile construct through self-medication with alcohol and drugs. Jason , the play, is a verbatim staging of the filming experience re-embodying the lost individual who survives through ruses, cons and role-playing while simultaneously showing the film of the real Jason. By creating this meta-version of the film, it seems to be the show's intention to reflect on the relationship of art and reality and to reinforce the fact that documentary film is a creative endeavour, thus shaping and falsifying the experience it chronicles. The fact that the filmmakers have complex, mixed motives when they film their subject only highlights this truth. However, what seemed shocking and revolutionary about the interviewee's

Noises Off ★★★★ Phoenix Theatre | Jan 19 - Mar 11, 2023

Image
Just in time to help us through the winter doldrums, Michael Frayn's comic masterpiece returns to the Phoenix Theatre. Noises Off which takes the audience behind the scenes of a farce to reveal the comedy that is real life is definitely a great tonic for a gloomy grey day, and this production is designed to lift everyone's spirits. In a farce, timing is everything and this show gets the frenetic pacing quite perfect. Just as we begin to savour one moment of madness another distracting disaster crops up. Director, Lindsay Posner, does an amazing job of keeping it all moving and unlike his harried counterpart, Alexander Hanson, who plays the exasperated director, Lloyd Dallas, Posner maintains amazing control of the mayhem. In contrast, we thoroughly enjoyed Hanson's seething as he gradually loses all power over the gaggle of acting stereotypes with whom he is faced. Felicity Kendal does a fine job as the forgetful Dotty and Tracy-Ann Oberman is a delight as the gossipy Be

London Living Large

The City Life Magazine | Reviews & Ratings