Review: Hotel Medea

Hotel MedeaWhisked away on a boat to the seemingly isolated Trinity Buoy Wharf at eleven o’clock at night, there’s definitely something adventurous about the prospect of Hotel Medea. As other shows bring their curtains down, Medea’s tale is just warming up and it’s going to be a long night.

Beginning at nearly midnight with the raucous Zero Hero Market and ending in the eerie dawn of 5.30am with a shared breakfast, Hotel Medea is as much about exploring one’s capacity to experience performance in extreme conditions as it is the tragic myth of its namesake. Or at least it should be, puzzlingly this production seems more interested in self-indulgent set ups than placing the audience’s nocturnal experience at the centre of their work. This Medea could be done at anytime making the whole event seem slightly gimmicky.

Continue reading

Review: No Idea

No IdeaWith a pop up hat, waistcoat and knowingly jaunty wink, Lisa Hammond dances around the stage belting out the annoyingly catchy lyrics to “Cheeky Face”.

It’s a Dickensian song and dance number and a direct response to people’s attitudes towards Hammond as a disabled and restricted growth actor. Wacky and at points hilarious, “Cheeky Face” is the perfect marker of a show which explores attitudes towards disability whilst being steeped in Hammond and friend and collaborator Rachel Spence’s dry humour.

With a desire to work together on a show but a drought of inspiration, Hammond and Spence asked the general public what kind of play they would put them in. The answers, here mimicked with magnificent comic flare by the two whilst listening to the actual interviews on iPods, form the basis of No Idea – an exploration of both disability and friendship.

Continue reading

Review: Light Shining In Buckinghamshire

Poster image

In his book State Of The Nation: British Theatre since 1945, Michael Billington mentions a number of plays which, whilst seminal at the time, have not as he gracefully puts it ‘aged well’.

He posits Caryl Churchill’s 1976 play Light Shining In Buckinghamshire as one of the few exceptions to this rule; so why then is it so under produced? Perhaps to right this wrong The Arcola is housing Polly Findlay’s sturdy yet impassioned production that more than highlights the timelessness of Churchill’s text.

Set in Putney in 1647, Light Shining In Buckinghamshire takes a comprehensive look at the debates and tussles for power within the Puritan New Model Army. The ‘Grandees’ Oliver Cromwell and his right hand man Henry Ireton are at logger heads with the Agitators and Levellers, ordinary officers representing their regiments. 

The revelation that nothing is to change for the poor is being brought home with devastating force to the Agitators. Their liberal and (even in this day and age), forward thinking Agreement of the People is refused at every turn as the ‘Silken Independents’, worthily represented by Ireton, refuse to acquiesce to the idea that all men are equal, fearing that to do so would attack the very foundations of a landowner’s right to hold property.

  It is not only the political infighting and squabbling that rings so true in today’s coalition landscape, but also Cromwell’s betrayal of the ideologies he held whilst in opposition. This is something that any modern voter will painfully recognise.

Churchill avoids allowing the text to become nothing more than dry intellectual debate by tempering the theory with a rising amount of emotional and religious fervour. Whilst societal revolution is imploding, a religious revelation shines through as a hippy mania of free love and reclaiming sin grips the increasingly maligned Agitators.

Findlay brings out the desperation of the ordinary men and women at play here with a painfully acute flair and her staging fully encompasses the audience as members of these community meetings. 

Performed with a full-blooded zeal by a stellar cast, including Kobna Holdbrook Smith and Michelle Terry, at moments this production is truly hypnotic; Helen Lymbery’s final ecstatic seduction into religious escapism is an almost Bacchic conversion and one we all feel whipped up in. After all their effort, we are left watching people scrabbling for a saviour; soaked in the sombre realisation that these moments of revolutionary potential, whether they be in 1647, 1997 or 2010, invariably come to nothing.

Runs until 7th August.

Written for Whats On Stage

Review: The Wam Bam Club

The Wam Bam Club

The brain child of gutsy hostess Lady Alex The Wam Bam Club is a mixture of vaudeville, burlesque and fine (well adequate) dining, housed in the eternally glamorous Café de Paris.  

The waiter charmingly asks us for our drinks order and we await our food as the show begins to swirl around us.  For the extra £25 you don’t really get much; although the menu looks fantastic, upon the tasting of it, it’s more school dinners than haute cuisine.

But it is fun to do dinner and a show all at once and soon we are being cheekily teased into the party spirit by the girls of the Cabaret Rouge.  Their fruity winks and feathered twirls are impressively performed with full throttled verve and vigour. 

Continue reading

Don’t stop me now…Icarus turns to the dark side.

Icarus at the Edge of Time - still from the film by Al and Al

Icarus was a precocious boy who flew too close to the sun; a thing so powerful that it would consume even the most brilliant inventor.  In true noughties style Dr Brian Greene (a man far too charming to be a scientist) has updated this classic Greek tale and turned our Icarus into a space traveling boy who dreams of exploring something even more dangerous than the burning star at the centre of our universe; a black hole. 

Continue reading

Review: One-on-One Festival at BAC

The One-on-One Festival is all about you. In every nook and cranny at the Battersea Arts Centre, performances are happening with only you in mind, intimate experiences for an audience of one. It sounds like a daunting prospect, to be the centre of so much artistic attention, but it’s not at all. It’s a warm environment where you are constantly taken care of and cradled (in some cases literally); there’s nothing to be scared of here.

Continue reading

Review: Not By Bread Alone

Not By Bread Alone

“We all have visions and dreams, we do not live by bread alone.” So begins the remarkable Not By Bread Alone by deaf-blind theatre ensemble Nalaga’at. In the time that it takes to bake a loaf of bread (a loaf they invite you to share with them afterwards) the 11 members of this company reveal their desires and frustrations in an event that is tenderly defiant. It is also very funny with some mischievous clowning propelling this confidently performed and stylishly staged piece along. Because although all these performers are deaf-blind, there is nothing to be patronised here. Nalaga’at artistic director Adina Tal and the company have created a production that would impress under ordinary circumstances; as it is this piece is extraordinary.

If theatre is about communication, here we have an ensemble so in tune with one another and operating within a communicative system so complex and subtle to the outside eye as to be positively virtuosic. Taking into account each actor’s needs and abilities, the performers and their interpreters ‘speak’ to each other through a sequence of drum beats, sign language, vibrations and touch to create vibrant and visually dexterous scenes.  It is a testimony to the human potential to work together to achieve the seemingly impossible (a word Tal refuses to acknowledge).

At a centre in Tel Aviv, Nalaga’at houses not just the theatre but two cafés as well: Café Kapish, where you interact with deaf waiters; and a pitch black restaurant where you are served by blind waiters. LIFT artistic director Mark Ball has wisely chosen to transport all of the above to the Artsdepot and it is a vital part of this experience. Having sat, 10 minutes earlier, in the pitch black, fumbling about trying to do the simplest things like eating and drinking, it gives you a palpable sense of the worlds our performers inhabit, albeit in the smallest possible way. There is also something inherently joyful in eating and drinking in these exceptional spaces, with these exceptional people and it is a joy that permeates this inspirational and warm show.

Nalaga’at means ‘do touch’ in Hebrew and as we are invited to go up to share the bread with the performers and translators at the end, a true act of theatrical communion is performed as appreciation is shown not only through clapping, but touch. We are reaching through the boundaries of darkness and light and communicating clearly with one another.

Runs until Thursday 15th July

Originally written for What’s On Stage