Regular reviews of new London theatre, from the West End and the National Theatre to the fringe, plus occasional dispatches from around the UK and beyond.

Friday 16 August 2013

Contemplating communication

Dumbstruck, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013

Some believe that finding out how things work takes away their beauty, but when Robin McLoughlin discusses the science behind his monitoring of the whale and the way these huge mammals communicate with each other, the whole thing seems all the more perfect.

Tiny and epic

Missing, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013

This is a world made of gorgeous, visceral images. Two massive treadmills on Rhys Jaman’s surprisingly minimalist set are used throughout, allowing quick shifts in tense and location, ensuring everything is always moving. When they stop, it feels like the whole world has ceased to turn.

Nods to audience

Shitfaced Shakespeare, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013

After pulling a pained expression, for example, Priestley then looked proud of herself, pointed to her face and shouted ‘Acting’. It’s a tiny gesture, but I genuinely wish we’d get these nods to audience more when at the theatre.

Sunday 11 August 2013

The drone is emasculating

Grounded, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013

Lucy Ellinson as the Pilot pretends for a long while that it is she who has the power, portraying confidence and gumption, but right from the off it’s clear this character is not as comfortable as she’d like us to think

Academic performance

Laquearia Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013

This lecture-demonstration is an interesting experiment in form, but you need every area of your brain to be engaged to even begin to follow Victoria Miguel’s academic text.

Inherent fear

Ballad of the Burning Star, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013

On the face of it, Ballad of the Burning Star is a seemingly broad and vulgar presentation of a highly complex subject, but in fact there is a lot more depth here than meets the eye, in this sharp and nuanced critique of a war which forever feels completely unnecessary.

Theatre for trauma

Have I No Mouth?, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013

It’s difficult to know quite how much Have I No Mouth? is about this mother and son helping themselves understand their losses and how much it is about healing in general, but Gary Keegan’s direction manages to create some powerful images regardless.

Must try harder

Anoesis, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013

Anoesis clearly comes from a place of anger and emotion for Junction 25, but as it stands it needs to do a little bit more work in class if it’s to get good feedback at parents’ evening.

Spin tales forever

Specie, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013

Perhaps, it suggests, in a world which seemingly features too much choice, we are forgetting that there are a few things we have absolutely no say over. A gloriously uplifting ending, complete with multi-coloured balls, subverts all this.

Monday 5 August 2013

Beautiful fakery

Long Live the Little Knife, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013

This difficulty in understanding and grasping reality in our current context is highlighted by placing ‘postmodern’ in opposition to ‘genius’ and including the glorious phrasing ‘Metanarrative - get it up ye’ in a way which both utilises and ridicules contemporary discourse about art.

We need to talk about democracy

Fight Night, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013

At this stage, the question which perhaps sums up the fundamental problem with our version of democracy is asked: ‘Do you trust the majority of this audience?’

Saturday 3 August 2013

Huge, throbbing heart-strings

Titanic, Southwark Playhouse, London

A show about the Titanic was always going to be predictable but it would have be nice to have a few surprises along the way; some oddball characters or a few patches of dialogue that didn’t run as smooth as silk

One thing colliding with another

Lauder!, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013

Marcin Bartnikowski and Marcin Bikowski work up a sweat as they span almost sixty years of human history, and perform in a suitably knowing way considering the hypertheatrical style, but their performances lack heart and precision

Sunday 21 July 2013

Between comfort and sorrow

Circle Mirror Transformation, Rose Lipman Building (Royal Court Theatre Local season), London

Staunton could easily have slipped into caricature, as the ex-hippy drama teacher who just wants everyone to be happy – but her performance, though superficially funny, is so rich that one can see the child her character once was, the old lady she will eventually become. Staunton sets the tone of this piece and it is one of strained optimism and pooling panic.

Under your skin

The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable, Temple Studios (National Theatre), London

This is a world that has the potential to send anyone insane – not least the audience (all in masks), desperately trying to keep up with the action. There are not one but two plot threads. Punchdrunk has taken the main plot of Woyzeck and doubled it, executing mirrored stories both inside and outside the movie studio. It is an awful lot to keep up with and a genuine burden.

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