Miriam Gillinson: co-editor, theatre

December 2013

The ghost of a L’Oreal advert

Scenes that should feel dangerous come across as funny or even harmless. This isn’t to take away from Hiddleston. He is a hugely talented actor, who can imprison the audience with just one confessional glace. But I never felt him roar. This is largely down to the still atmosphere that ‘engulfs’ Coriolanus.

Theatre

The splendid and fearful isolation of youth

Eli (Rebecca Benson, in a mature and beautifully balanced performance), the vampire girl who is central to our blood-red romance, hovers between reality and fantasy. She looks fairly normal but sounds weirdly airy. It is as if her voice has no heat in it. She has an elastic way of moving – shimmering up and scaling climbing frames and trees - that gives her a feral and magical quality.

Theatre

A king who holds his sceptre like a doll

There is a modest beauty to this classy production that forces us to take Richard seriously. This allows Tennant to push his interpretation as far as it will go and make his Richard as silly and petty and small as he dares.

Theatre

Get married!

If I’m being generous, I could say it’s charming that these shops agreed to take part. But it is also rather odd to be paraded around shops throughout the production, just at the height of the Christmas shopping season. Commercialism and theatricality nestle side by side in an uncomfortable fashion. 

Theatre

The head boy is vanquished

There’s a vague weariness that clings to this show. It feels like Grandage is falling back on his greatest tricks so as to avoid offending this new, larger and richer, audience. Christopher Oram’s set encapsulates this elegant poise, which is just a whisker away from stagnancy. The

Theatre

She screams at the strawberry

That forced quirkiness also impacts almost all the linking episodes, which hold the show together. There are weird explosions of sound and colour between some scenes, when a drink is spilled, lights flash, sirens blare and the cast stalks about the dining room, screaming ‘Spiiiiiiiill!’

Theatre

Sadie directs dead people to dance

There’s a mesmerising and hazy quality to this production, which is as soothing as it is unsettling. Sadie Jones (a translucent Stephanie Greer) describes her situation with a childlike simplicity: ‘The tall thin people surround Sadie Jones’.

Theatre
October 2013

An endless, oddly glinting daydream

There’s a touch of the Wizard of Oz to this show, both in design and plot. An exceptional girl, Sunny (Katie Leung), sets off from the countryside to the city, in search of factory work. She meets friends and foes along the way but is ultimately dumped back into reality with one hell of a thud.

A fierce, snatched hug

There’s something a touch forced about this piece, right down to Paul Wills’ attractive but overly translatable set. Simon Godwin’s production feels important and the characters, authentic - but the play is a little too calculated and concertinaed for my taste.

Theatre
September 2013

A devastating descent

By the end of the play, Gorge Mastromas has been eaten up by evil. He is a crust of a man. But the journey up to this point is taken with small, tiptoe steps. We watch Gorge become possessed by his own desire. It is frightening believable everything is – how reachable and logical every step Gorge takes is, despite the horror he enacts.

Theatre

Not at the cost of a classic play

The aesthetic feels familiar; all strip lights, big white screens and colourful, defiantly incongruous props (Watermelon is used a lot and I have no idea why).  Everything – the props, the acting style, the music – feels odd and jolting yet weirdly measured. There is a faintly mechanised yet unbalanced air to proceedings; as if the production is being controlled by a shoddily wired robot, on the verge of self-destruction.

Theatre
August 2013

Huge, throbbing heart-strings

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

Theatre
July 2013

Between comfort and sorrow

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.

Theatre

Under your skin

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.

Theatre

Mouthpieces

The actors don’t seem convinced by the comedy and there’s a faintly apologetic air to the whole night. It feels like we’re watching a soon-to-be-cancelled sitcom; even the audience’s laughter sound canned.

Theatre
June 2013

An offence to the senses

And then there are the smells, which consistently undermine the action. Laura Donnelly, as the worn out mother, mentions a burnt birthday cake. The smell of burnt toast duly wafts through the venue.

Theatre

A heart so exposed you can practically see it beating

No one could have directed this piece better than Conor McPherson. He holds back way more than anyone else would dare. This is acting that doesn’t feel like acting, a play that doesn’t feel put on.

Theatre

Beneath his skin

That surreal shine permeates Race - in the tidy plot, sharply angled characters and ice-pick edgy dialogue. But the dialogue is so fierce and the emotions generated so intense that these exposed machinations do not matter. This is a top notch New York law firm, after all. If you can’t get a bit of grand-standing theatrics in this place, then you might as well head to the blooming theatre

Theatre

When America ran out of West

It is so useful to see America’s history boiled down to this simple journey with a tangible end point. It renders the complex bleedingly obvious. Of course America was going to hit a dead end – it’s written down in the map of the world! America’s arrested development was never a question of if – only when.

April 2013

From bragging boys to haggard men

Conor McPherson writes plays that feel simple but are tied together with such skill, the themes as delicate as silk, lightly binding everything together but never squeezing too tight.

Theatre

Gleeful, distilled creativity

The show pulses with the kind of knowing naivete that is now Little Bulb’s trademark. Everything – even the hugely sophisticated and high-end stuff – is performed with a great big twinkle in the eye.

Theatre

Every twitch, moan and flicker of the eyes

There are no tangible divisions or barriers in Christopher’s world. When he walks about the streets, trying to track down the murderer of the neighbour’s dog, the houses have no walls. Christopher’s world is a without boundaries – or, at least, without divisions that he can easily recognise or understand.

Theatre

Bloody exposing

But for much of the time, we’re simply badgered and bullied by a number of aggressive types, the threat of execution held – ridiculously – over our heads. It feels silly. It also feels completely out of synch with Kafka’s novel, which doesn’t look death in the eye until the very final moment.

Theatre
March 2013

Fill in the gaps

The classic Kneehigh touches - the karaoke sessions, a moon that doubles up as a clock and the spooky cold music that trembles beneath every scene - only make the dialogue sound weaker still. While these kooky visual and aural touches scream out ‘THEATRE’, the dialogue whispers ‘television’.

Theatre

Gruesome and abstract

This disorientating disconnect between sound and reality lies at the heart of this show. At first, we resist the obvious inconsistencies between what we hear and what we know to be possible. But the 3D soundscape, which is so convincing and so overwhelming, gradually wears us down

Theatre
February 2013

No need to shout

Everything becomes grindingly over-explicit, as the ‘austerity’ measures are picked apart by an angry throng. There are a few gems of economic insight in here but it’s really tough to stay engaged.

Theatre

Brilliantly complex perspectives

When Odysseus and Penelope are finally reunited, the stark black and white set is suddenly flooded with colour. It feels like nothing less than the beginning of a new and better world.

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A museum of oddities

Suddenly we expect to be led; for the show to have a beginning, middle and end and for our questions to be answered. Expectations are raised and disappointed. 

Theatre
November 2012

Dazzling and laughter

Yes, it’s there in the central love story between ‘Katherine’ and ‘Petruchio’ but this musical isn’t really about the love between a man and a woman. It’s about Cole’s love for theatre. As the two gangsters find their groove, their eyes light up. And, when the applause comes, they take endless encores.

Theatre

The impression of love?

There’s a glorious and typically pertinent scene, when the two escape to a nearby loony asylum. It’s no coincidence that it is here – in this abandoned mad house – that the two patients fall in love. As every good writer will tell us, the line between love and insanity is an absurdly fine one.

Theatre

A tiny crumb of comfort

It all sounds horribly miserable – but that’s the thing about Beckett, he piles up the despair with such care and such a twinkle that rich humour always glistens between those packed layers of sadness.

Theatre

Symbols and signifiers

The younger characters feel less textured and more self-conscious. All the boxes are carefully ticked; there’s the posh and self-entitled chap, the sensitive lad and the savvy girl. But when the three banter together it feels too clinical, the manufactured punchlines landing rather heavily.

Theatre
October 2012

Cruel anticipation

We begin in a cozy log cabin, where Dominic West’s ‘Man’ is holed up with Miranda Raison’s ‘Woman’. The atmosphere feels odd but that’s mainly down to a strange lack of chemistry. It’s as if these two lovers have just had sex in a fridge.

Theatre

Man’s futile quest for permanence

The stage hums with meaning, so clear and so urgent you almost want to reach out and shake the characters silly; ‘Look, here you are anew! Here you are in our room and you’re exactly the same! What do you make of your wafty philosophising now, old chum?!’

Theatre
September 2012

A horse-drawn carriage?

The actors seem completely out of sorts. On film, Binoche positively bleeds with soul; she’s a subtle, quietly alluring and deeply engaging performer. In this production, she’s experimenting with emotions rather than genuinely channelling them.

Theatre

Exquisite nuance and boiling, burning impact

Hedda’s journey from a trapped and fiendishly bored wife to a vicious fiend with her claws exposed can be tracked simply through Smith’s smiles. There’s a rainbow of repression in those stretched grins.

Theatre

Disjunctive, cruel and inconclusive theatre

It’s brilliant to see younger actors read Stephens’ sparse dialogue. Often the apparent sparseness of Stephens’ scripts prompts actors to amp up the emptiness and you’re simply left with nothing. Here, the actors pour their heart and soul into every line, buoyantly happy with one word and hideously depressed the next.

Theatre
July 2012

A Nora of extraordinary hidden reserves

When Nora eventually turns against her husband, it’s as if all Morahan’s carefully placed character clues are finally strewn about the stage. All those clever little glimpses into Nora’s soul, laid down by both Morahan and her director Carrie Cracknell, suddenly shine with incredible force.

Theatre

Pained but resilient

The most effective scenes are the seemingly slight ones – the simple scenes that, almost incidentally, throb with immediate meaning. There are a number of wrenching songs that say far more about Tunisia and its trapped citizens than the rest of the show put together.

Theatre
June 2012

‘Horrible, horrible!’

For all the innovations here and some gorgeous, enveloping visuals this is essentially a cerebral experience; a show that gets you thinking but never really wriggles right into your heart. Still, there are some very smart touches, which make Shakespeare’s language fizz in exciting new ways.

Theatre
May 2012

One tiny movement

‘This is me,’ he says as he stands, stiff and frightened, at the side of the stage. At the beginning, he crouches whilst he talks. As he grows up – this is coming of age story at heart – he stands upright and speaks strongly.

Theatre

Money’s impossible grip

McNair kicks of with an impressively lucid narrative on the history of money and the emergence of currency. With a few deft strokes, McNair describes the transition from stone age transactions (‘Who wants this ‘ere carcass?’), to the first discovery of gold and the eventual adoption of paper money.

Theatre

Their own beautiful mess

Don’t look at the front of the stage, they seem to be screaming silently. Don’t look for the obvious. Maybe, just maybe, if you look beyond the surface, you might get a little closer to understanding us and discovering the truth.

Theatre

More bewildered than bedazzled

The actor’s painful catharsis feels too much, though, and a gap opens between the audience and the action. This gap widens, as the warped music envelops us and the actors crack up completely, storming around with strange props, including a massive penis, attached to their flailing bodies.

Theatre

A foghorn of despair

Mandarin is quite a hard-hitting language – packed with monosyllabic words – and the cast’s delivery sounds a little monotonous. It’s hard to make out those elegant swoops, dips and swerves in Shakespeare’s text.

Theatre
April 2012

Wispy and blank

It all feels frustratingly and wilfully dry. Bond’s desire to write a highly stylised and starkly symbolic piece has ripped the guts out of his writing. ‘The Under Room’ never throbs with the kind of thick danger that wraps its way around his other, better and meatier plays.

Theatre

The thumping excitement only theatre can muster

Rain pours from the ceiling. Odd little crucifixes flash up, initially comforting but quickly threatening. Thunder rumbles, lightning flashes and music, outside of Magill’s control, envelops everything. The effects grow bigger, madder and wilder, as Magill loses his grip on his story and his sanity.

Theatre

Dead inside and deeply frustrated

Many reviews of this show have included the slippy caveat: ‘This is not an easy viewing experience’. This phrase is often slipped in as an afterthought, following a careful exploration of all the cerebral pleasures, to be mined from said misery fest. And yet, what this phrase really means is: most of the audience will not enjoy this.

Theatre

Permanent psychological damage

Cate Blanchett is an incredible force on stage and the production would be so much less without her. She manages to make her character, Lotte (wearing pastel pink, Alice in Wonderland-themed costumes), both bafflingly innocent and wearingly knowing.

Theatre

‘There have been fights in here’

Canham prowls, thoughtfully, around the stage, placing scraps of masking tape on the floor and across the walls, as stolen conversations rumble around him. A blueprint of the theatre gradually emerges, breaking up the space into three distinct areas. Now all that is needed, is to colour in between those white lines: that’s where the dancing comes in.

Theatre

A pathetic little word

Tassos Stevens is a storyteller and, as he narrates the tale of Jimmy wandering across the earth and wondering about human feeling, he uses every opportunity he can to crack open the concept of love and examine its individual parts.

Theatre

A saggy miracle

The trio - Brian Logan, Alex Murdoch and Neil Haigh - also makes clever, comical use of their own limitations. Often, the most pathetic, ant-climatic lines are the funniest. It is the pause, as an actor attempts to summon up a sharp quip and finds himself wanting, that creates the biggest laughs

Theatre

An air of premeditation

Eve Best is the one free spirit in this over-marshalled production. She enters in a celestial glow of light but, once released from this formal introduction, is utterly her own creation. Spirited and strikingly ‘normal’, her Duchess of Malfi would make sense in any production.

Theatre
March 2012

Less anger, more power

This might sound horrifically cheesy, but Charlie’s decision to save Sammy a Penguin bar says much more about the sacrifices that lovers make for each other, than any of those drug-fuelled face-offs.

Theatre

London town in all its technicolour gore and glory

The complexity and stretch of Sondheim’s score is breathtaking. Not a second, or a voice or a single utterance is left to float free from the music. Instead, every ‘yum’, as Mrs Lovett’s customers dig into their fleshy pies, is thread into the music. Every swoon is a note. Every scream becomes a chord.

TheatreMusic

A thundering noise and a jolt of light

Olivia Poulet, as royally messed up mother Lyn, is incredibly hostile but occasionally tender. She might snap her son’s pencils but she also ruffles his hair, affectionately, when he carries on regardless. Simon Lenagan digs even deeper with his role, even if does initially appear a solid and straightforward father.

Theatre

Private revelries

There’s no doubt this audience-focused approach allows for some overwhelmingly effective moments - particularly when one longs, with such a fierce terror, for the darkness to end. Nevertheless, this focus on the spectators’ senses also creates a slightly selfish and adrift audience.

Theatre

Hanging out with the lads

Ishy Din is not your usual Royal Court Programme playwright and has, in his time, worked in video shops and restaurants and driven mini cabs. This unusual background shows. Although Ishy Din’s straightforward plotting might lack the tricksy ambition of a more polished writer, this is a playwright with a natural ear for dialogue, alternately comic and touching, and an instinctive feel for emotional arcs.

Theatre
February 2012

‘What would you say defines Essex?’

While the arrival of Shelley and Tom does provoke important debate, with ex Captain of Industry Ken growling at delicate, writer Tom – ‘Why do you think we’re apathetic?’ - it is bare and blatant discussion. The play becomes a platform rather than a stage.

Theatre

Absurdly amusing kisses

Tovey and Winstone’s characters look like they long to be elsewhere. Tovey’s eyes dart about anxiously, constantly searching for something or someone else. Grace’s screeching laughter is far from a thing of a joy. And, even when the two kiss, it feels like they’re grappling about for a connection they cannot find.

Theatre

A deliciously grotesque musical medley

A puppet with a penis for a head lurches, lazily, towards Punch. It’s an absurd image, like a Dali painting that’s learned to walk, but it is affecting and frightening too. Puppets might not have souls but, by God, do some of them look evil.

Theatre

Landmines for the brain

Bubbling away in this cauldron of emotion and ideas, is the theme of homosexuality and exclusion.  I have never before extracted such a concrete idea from one of Ridley’s plays, but this theme is impossible to ignore in Edward Dick’s clear-headed but head-spinning production.

Theatre
January 2012

Lost in a deluge of action

Harris throws in just enough sinister hints about this new nanny, and her oddly intimate knowledge of Hazel’s family,  to keep these early encounters fizzing nicely. But despite these Ortonesque overtones, the atmosphere gradually flattens and the over-defined characters, with little room to develop, hit a dead end.

Theatre

Young again

It isn’t only the transformation of this couple’s physical appearance that causes the breath to catch in one’s throat. This switch from sprightly to stumbling is painful enough – but it is the change in the way these two communicate that really impresses.

Theatre

Naked execution

The world behind these frames is exhilaratingly fluid; tiny body parts flutter through the frames, heads jilt about independent of their bodies, clouds sink and feet jiggle. It’s like going to a Magritte exhibition, whilst hideously drunk, and it’s damn good fun.

Theatre
December 2011

Firmly on thin air

At one point, Thierrée brings a grey, paper-thin man to life simply by placing her own arm in his sleeve. ‘They’ talk, grope and dance together. And then, with one slip of her arm, this almost-nothing man is dead again. It’s a strange little scene and and quite frightening too; one lad was crying for his mummy, the night I watched.

Theatre

Thrillingly nutty

Henry’s infectious incredulity – those massive eyes that role with such relish – emphasises the frantic, unfurling chaos around him. He also takes the edge off what can sometimes seem a cruel play. There’s a flurry of beatings here, as each Antipholus grows increasingly exasperated, but Henry’s fights never sting.

Theatre
November 2011

This tiny moment

This camp, Northern son could have turned into a ‘type’ but Billy continually surprises. His love for Dolly Parton, instead of being used as a vehicle for cheap gags, feels earnest and heart-felt: ‘They will look down on Dolly. People do!’

Theatre

Stuttering and humble

The level of detail just isn’t here and grating inconsistencies emerge. A strong adaptation should bring new meaning to worn-out lines, but Rickson’s show actually renders many lines ridiculous. ‘The Royal bed’, ‘the kingdom contracted in woe’, ‘the war-like state’; all these references point to the awkwardness of the adaptation and, as we flinch, distance us from the production.

Theatre
October 2011

Unnatural endings

Shadows loom and smoke swirls, as Bartlett’s chaotic, dystopian vision comes to life. It is more than a little bit frightening. Just what haunts these characters at night? Why do they keep jolting weirdly? And why is a booming voice, which sounds like the Milk Tray lady turned bitter, warning us of sleepless nights?

Theatre

‘Let off’

When Tamsin Greig’s Hilary and Doon Mackichan’s Frances share the stage – two fifty-year-old friends moaning about their miserable, mid-life crises - we’re treated to a masterclass on two contrasting comic acting styles.

Theatre

‘Conflict is amaaaazing’

Amala whispers her words to her companion, who in turns translates. Sadhbh then questions Amala ‘directly’, but her words, again, must be translated by Mathilde. The layers of removal pile up on each other and we begin to understand the supreme effort required to break through these obstructions to communication and discover and disseminate the truth. 

Theatre

Accidents happen

Tiny incidents take on magnificent consequences, acting as a vessel for all that unspoken anger and despair.  A lost Radio Times stimulates a blazing row. An ironed shirt takes on an almost divine, diverting importance. A snapped stocking seems like the end of the world.

Theatre

Short of match fitness

Sport, and football in particular, is becoming a holy-grail for theatre makers. It’s been repeatedly observed that the two have heaps in common; the ritual, the rules, the crowd interaction, the emotional highs and lows. Damn, even the ticket prices. It seems the two are a match made in heaven and yet, time and again, they play poorly together.

Theatre

Kane without rage

Kane’s plays often have depression buried deep in their core, but this doesn’t call for empty, glazed over-acting. Instead, it requires the type of achingly strained performance that throbs with absence. The best Kane performances pulse with a desire for something more – but Shaw’s Hippolytus seems to welcome the abyss that engulfs him.

Theatre

Ghosts are replaced with gunfire

A distinctly Chekovian plot seeps through the cracks of this old, 19th century house. The proprietor, Lady Lambroke, has resolved to marry off her daughter, Hannah, and thus save the family from financial ruin. Only, in McPherson’s play, the ghosts and regrets that haunt Chekov’s characters are alive and kicking – or, at least, screaming spookily through the walls.

Theatre
September 2011

Naked naivety

Robert Sheehan, with a chest free of hair and a body that seems to big for him, reminds one of Bambi, constantly skidding across ice. He has as little control over his body as he does over his character, which the locals re-model with relish.

Theatre

A childlike glee

It is the collective wit of this company that sets their show apart - both from other, rather straight-faced experimental shows, and from their own, previous ventures. Humour sparkles everywhere.

Theatre

Busy and bruising

The play never settles and although the central ‘dream’ scene allows for some more serene reflection, it’s no surprise to learn this segment was interpolated much later on. There are some beautiful whispers of poetry here, as chef Peter urges his mechanised colleagues to think for themselves, but it strains rather than thickens the play proper.

Theatre

Rock hard gems of truth

Sometimes the families, each confronting unthinkable tragedies, sing in harmony. Often, they clash, with one lonely family member struggling to be heard against her babbling and frightened relations. The timbre of Tucker Green’s dialogue is so expressive that one imagines, were the words to be removed completely, the meaning would remain.

Theatre

Disappointingly grounded

Sure, he flies about a lot but the strings are always on display. Ariel’s songs are delivered in a strange falsetto and the effect is not spooky but embarrassing. It is a bit like watching a kitten sing.

TheatreMusic
August 2011

All about excess

As Johnny surveys the mess he has created, he comments with characteristic understatement, ‘This is getting awkward.’ It is when the show undermines the epic scale of Mozart’s piece that it actually feels strongest. Other undercutting works less well. So, as Blake merges in his R&B and dubstep beats, the cast is left to valiantly fly Mozart’s flag above this stream of sound.

TheatreMusicOpera

‘You learn not to say anything’

This idea of the duplicitous life a successful woman must lead is exacerbated by Churchill’s extensive use of doubling. Most actresses play three roles and, as the actors make their relentless transformations, we recognise this is the same ‘performance’ most women undertake every day.

Theatre

A spooky gloss

Terry Doe is a real and exciting talent, who could not be generic if he tried. Yet there is a risk of ‘sameness’ in this production as a whole, which is often impressive but occasionally crude. For a piece that examines all manner of racism, it’s a little too black and white.

TheatreMusic
July 2011

The executioner’s morbid machine

The fact the script is in Arabic places a particular pressure on the actors’ rhythms and expressions. Hlehel is more musician than actor, spitting out some sections in fierce staccato and savouring other moments with a smoother and lazier delivery. He should be hideous but his loyal respect for the machine makes him hard to hate.

Theatre

The toad is (damp) toast

Sure, they speak like humans but they’re not, well, human. Why couldn’t Toad do a little more hopping? Why didn’t Mole burrow a few measly holes? Why didn’t Ratty twitch his nose even once?

Theatre

Glints of darkness and swamping sound

‘Mistreated? I don’t want to hear about it!’ Burt’s otherwise velvety voice takes on a flinty edge and his impatience for human frailty flares up. The crushing impact of a life of one-sided dialogue occasionally escapes this piece and these slips are ugly, interesting moments.

Theatre
June 2011

Man-size cats, toilet threesomes and talking washing machines

At the end of Realism, protagonist Stuart’s girlfriend asks: ‘And what did you do today?’ ‘Fuck all,’ replies Stuart. Well, these pictures, scribbled frantically in the dark, tell a different story…

Between the real and unreal

Stanley Kubrick was inspired by this infidelity fantasia, originally a novella, to make his film Eyes Wide Shut. This story, though - obsessed with the fine divide between unconscious desires and conscious action, dreams and reality – seems made for theatre.

Theatre

Hallucinatory rats, roaming lights and crumbling walls

Julian Barratt, as the corrupt Mayor thrown into chaos by the imminent arrival of the Government Inspector, is not a richly textured actor. He doesn’t feel particularly solid on stage. But what Barratt does do brilliantly is to calmly absorb the increasingly bonkers action on stage – a skill he probably picked up working on the equally mental Mighty Boosh.

Theatre

Outdoors and beyond

Dominic Cooke is brilliantly tuned to the pressure points in this play and he pitches this wordless fight perfectly. The aching silence which stretches out between this eye-rolling wife and eyes-down husband expresses their irreconcilable differences even more starkly than the crackling confrontation that follows.

Theatre

Some loopholes are bound to emerge

As each actor watches his or her grandparent ‘perform’, it is moving to witness the old and new remembering together. The pleasure here is in the obscure details these stories unearth; the significance of the tiny things in life, despite the urgent political context in which these recollections unfurl.

Theatre

Abandoned imaginings

As his audience files into a room in the Arlington restaurant, he meekly insists ‘the show hasn’t started yet’. It has. As he empties the contents of his pockets, Thorpe glibly states, ‘This is just stuff.’ It isn’t.

Theatre

A little bit of tweaking, a little less streaking

The backdrop is really just a massive ream of paper but the joy is in the freeness of invention, the personal flair of their strange imaginings. It is telling that the screened segments are some of the show’s best moments and perhaps suggests these brave but bonkers performers could be destined for TV sketch comedy.

Theatre

Theatre more real and technology less fake

Outside the theatre, an alarming array of machines is presented to the audience of one. Some severe-looking goggles are clamped to your face, headphones plonked on your head. It feels odd and disconcerting. Yet, in a matter of minutes, you will forget these objects are there. You will forget where you are completely.

Theatre

Increasingly inebriated

Despite her contentious concept, which will no doubt frustrate some more sober-minded artistes, Kimmings is actually a charmingly naïve performer. There is something childlike about her unchecked curiosity and slightly slapdash performance style.

Theatre
May 2011

A touch too small

The chorus is initially composed entirely of women, who sing Arabic music as they process through the streets. They are mournful, emotional and strong. They suggest a world in which, if only women could sing in harmony more often, their voices might be heard.

Theatre

Slapdash but rigorous

This might be a simple story but the storytelling is sophisticated and unusual. Summers disappear and friendships are forged in chaotic but fluid montages: the careful rearrangement of chairs, a few choice chords and some speedy costume changes gleefully sketch out the passing of time

Theatre

Shaking precariously under the weight

No doubt Wallace’s play, which looks at two imprisoned women in 1950s America, reveals some important facts about an unjust justice system. It is also a touch formulaic, however, with characters that feel overdone, and symbolism so thick you could reach out and touch it.

Theatre

Nature’s variable and awesome power

In those rare moments when The Other jumps off the boat and attempts to moor the raft, his rough interaction with nature – his splashing, tugging and floundering – feels hopeful. It feels like living; dangerous, unpredictable but deeply satisfying and solid.

Theatre

Culture Wars was included in creativetourists’ Top 25 UK Arts & Culture Blogs 2009.