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

Tis the season to transfer: Curious Incident and This House pack their bags for bigger venues

Luke Treadaway as Christopher. Photo by Manuel Harlan

The National Theatre has had a bumper year in its Cottesloe venue, with both This House and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time being sold out at the back of excellent word of mouth and reviews. (I can confirm all good things you heard are true). That kind of success, especially in a small venue like the Cottesloe, is often followed by news of a transfer to a bigger venue and that seems to be the case for both of the above productions: National Theatre has officially announced This House will transfer to the 1,000-plus seater Olivier from February 2013 and now word is the Curious Incident will transfer to the Apollo at the West End from March 2013. None of these is a surprise: by the time most people hear about a good play performed at the Cottesloe, all tickets are gone. In that sense, the transfers are welcome (and in a personal note, I would definitely like to see both plays again) but there are some reservations. Continue reading

Review: Three plays by Nick Payne, Duncan Macmillan, Penelope Skinner at the Roundabout

Maya Alexander and Andrew Sheridan in One Day When We Were Young. Photo: Elyse Marks

After a few weeks where my theatre consisted of Shakespeare, Ibsen, a revival of an eighties play and a Chekhov that didn’t look like Chekhov, it was great pleasure to go back to new writing. With a packed schedule and within twenty four hours, I saw four plays from four young playwrights (you are getting old when the playwrights start looking younger): first it was This House by James Graham at the National Theatre, and the next day, the Roundabout season, three plays in a single afternoon, produced by Paines Plough and Sheffield Theatres and performed at the Shoreditch Town Hall.

Three playwrights, all under 35, three different visions all performed in the same intimate, almost inescapable, space:

One Day When We Were Young by Nick Payne: My favourite piece of the day, especially the second act, tenderly performed by Andrew Sheridan and Maya Alexander. Nick Payne is currently riding an immense high, with Constellations at the Royal Court being a huge success (and transferring to the West End) and his play “If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet” playing in New York. “One Day When We Were Young” is a story of an unlikely and brief love affair that marks two people in different ways for the next sixty years. Payne’s writing probes difficult places of loneliness and heartbreak, and the actors, especially Andrew Sheridan (who has the rare ability of drawing you in so effectively and with so little fanfare that takes you by surprise) make the play justice. Continue reading

Review: Fear at the Bush Theatre (with a touch of True Love at BBC1)

Dominic Savage has been everywhere this past week: True Love on BBC1, Fear starting at the Bush theatre. It was fascinating to see these two pieces of work having parallel lives. True Love, while not perfect, achieved an intimacy and tenderness that was hard to dismiss or shake. Fear, more visceral and in your face, failed for me to capture its world or illuminate the characters’ lives.

Fear examines the intersecting moment in the lives of two Londoners from contrasting worlds. It wants to say things about modern values, aspirations, the moral complexities of having too much money, and examine the similarities of people who, in theory, have nothing in common. But it feels skin deep and it stumbles on storyline and characters too vague: I don’t care for exposition. I don’t have to have everything spelled out. But the details need to be there. Continue reading

Posh at the Duke of York’s theatre – Review

Posh, written by Laura Wade and directed by Lindsey Turner, was one of my theatre highlights in 2010. It tells the story of ten overprivileged young men spending one evening in the  private dining room of an Oxford pub, where they try to capture past glories of wild nights and map their future (which, they see, as the future of the country). Things don’t go according to plan. Or do they? Having seen the original production at the Royal Court twice, I have good news to report: the production, now transferred to the Duke of York’s, has not lost its spirit or its freshness. Continue reading