Review: Suhayla El-Bushra’s Cuckoo at the Unicorn Theatre

Eden Howard (Jenny) Kate Lassman-Long (Nadine). Photo Manuel Harlan

Eden Howard (Jenny) Kate Lassman-Long (Nadine). Photo Manuel Harlan

Suhayla El-Bushra’s Pigeons was one of the more interesting offerings of the weekpy rep season at the Royal Court theatre last summer. A playwright with an honest yet playful voice, she taps into the energy of teenage life knocking against an adult world that has lost its way.

Her play Cuckoo, currently playing at the Unicorn theatre, shows many of the same virtues (and establishes an avian theme, as a friend pointed out). The world of Nadine and Jenny, two fifteen year olds with an unlikely friendship, explodes with energy, pathos, desires, disappointment and unspoken needs. The teenage girls struggle to understand themselves but their inner life is lucid and sparkling with possibilities. By contrast, the adults are either absent (Nadine’s mother never shows up) or absent in spirit (Jenny’s mum is confused and confusing. Her liberal ideas reach as far as Africa but don’t open her eyes to her own world). Continue reading

Review: The Act (created by Thomas Hescott and Matthew Baldwin) at the Ovalhouse theatre

It was only ten days ago ago when I saw a rehearsed reading of a short play based on Peter Wildeblood’s Against The Law. Gay sex as a crime, the decriminilisation of 1967 and people caught in limbo were its themes. The Act, created by Thomas Hescott and Matthew Baldwin, occupies some of the same territory pulling a thread between the then and now in a direct way. Verbatim transcripts, personal anecdotes, imaginative leaps feed into each other to create a world where remaining true to one’s self is as much an act of bravery as it is a lifelong sacrifice. Continue reading

Review: Lily Bevan’s The People of the Town, John Gielgud theatre, RADA

David Dawson as Antoine

David Dawson as Antoine

As we were leaving RADA after seeing Lily Bevan’s The People of the Town, my friend asked me whether I had done exercises like the ones in the play when I was taking acting lessons. The play, an acting workshop under the obsessive eye of a famous avant guard french director, finds its natural home in the RADA building, but it never feels as narrow focused as the description suggests. As I told my friend, I thought everyone had taken acting lessons at one time or another. And if they hadn’t they should. Because the¬† exercises might be silly, but once you commit to them with the seriousness only silliness deserves, new worlds open up. Like with this play. Continue reading

Review: DryWrite’s Fleabag at the Soho Theatre (transfer from the Edinburgh Fringe)

Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Fleabag. Photo Richard Davenport

Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Fleabag. Photo Richard Davenport

“That’s why they put rubbers onto pencils”.

In the two previous occasions I came across writing company DryWrite, the results were fresh, engaging and a little bit subversive. Fleabag, the company’s new offering written and performed¬† by Phoebe Waller-Bridge and directed by Vicky Jones, comes with a spate of awards from the Edinburgh Fringe so the expectations are heightened. And thankfully not squandered.

Fleabag is the monologue of a woman. It’s bookended by a job interview and in between we learn about affairs, casual sex, friendships and guinea pigs. She is very funny, often unlikeable, frequently deluded. The sex is often misjudged but never judgemental. Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s performance is unsparing but compulsively watchable. Pencils have rubbers because people make mistakes, and there is a devastating effect when you realise you can’t put to right all the mistakes you have made. Continue reading

Review: Crookback at the Etcetera theatre

Deciding which productions to see is a balancing act: finite time, finite money and some times the decision is in the details. From the outset, Crookback (at the Etcetera theatre in Camden till July 21st) had two things in its favour: it’s only 70 minutes long and – as the promotional material indicated – it managed to offend the Richard III society. You know the feud is little more than a publicity stunt but it’s intriguing nevertheless. Continue reading