Quick Q&A: All Girl Band

Where and when: 13th June, Phoenix Arts Club

What it’s all about… Are you tired of hearing sopranos sing about forbidden love? Yawn. Have you grown weary of altos dying in act two, having been snubbed for said soprano? Yikes! Screw that! Hot Girl Summer’s here, and the cast of All Girl Band is feeling fun, flirty and fabulous. Join us for an evening of celebrating femme fatales, divas, and gals just being pals via musical theatre hits of the last 50 years.

You’ll like it if… You love musical theatre and girl power!

You should see it because… There aren’t enough shows about celebrating female talent and women lifting each other up, so we’re to change that! A night of girls just being girls and us all supporting each other, that’s our kind of feminism!

Where to follow:
Twitter: @catapultldn
Facebook: @catapultldn
Instagram: @catapultldn

Book here: https://phoenixartsclub.com/shows/all-girl-band/

Quick Q&A:  The Poetical Life of Philomena McGuinness

Where and when: Etcetera Theatre, Camden 15th & 16th June

What it’s all about… It’s 1939 and Philomena McGuinness, a reluctant nurse, is on her way from Dublin to London. Newly recruited for the British war effort, she finds herself facing the challenge of a lifetime. But it is not the blood, the bombs, or even the wise-cracking soldiers that make her question her place here. It’s the fact that she is not just a nurse, but a poet too. Can one live a life true to the poetry inside them when they are constantly being defined by their role in the war?

You’ll like it if… you like character-driven one-person shows about heartbreak and self-belief, laced with comedy and action. As the impact of war on everyday life looms heavily once again in our lives, The Poetical Life of Philomena McGuinness is a funny and poignant exploration of our personal response to war, based on the true-stories of Irish nurses during World War Two.

You should see it because… Jasmin Gleeson, an amazing up-and-coming Irish comedian, brings life, emotion and humour to the role of Philomena. Though it is set during wartime, the response Philomena has to the turbulent changes to her selfhood and identity brought about by being thrust into a war, are timeless and relatable even now.

Anything else we should know…: These shows are London previews for our full run at Edinburgh, which you can also get tickets for here – https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/poetical-life-of-philomena-mcguinness In Edinburgh, The Poetical Life of Philomena McGuinness is running from August 5th – 20th (except 14th) at 16.05pm (1hr) at Greenside at Infirmary Street in Mint Studio. Previews run from August 5th – 7th. Media tickets are available for all dates.

Where to follow:
Twitter: @josh_j_king

Book here: https://www.citizenticket.co.uk/events/etcetera-theatre/the-poetical-life-of-philomena-mcguinness/

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Quick Q&A: Misconnections

Where and when: The White Bear Theatre, 138 Kennington Park Road, London SE11 4DJ; 7th-11th June at 7.30pm and 11th June at 2.30pm

What it’s all about… A trio of short plays taking a sideways look at life’s little quirks ….

Double Bubble: In some ways Gina and Lois couldn’t be more different. In other ways they’re very much alike. Gina is a career woman whose company provides ‘high-level digital solutions to meet low-level logistical challenges’, although she may not be entirely sure what this means. Lois, on the other hand, works in a department whose function is to answer the telephone and listen to customers’ complaints, although the main complaint is that no one answers the telephone. Gina and Lois have been friends for years and years, but it’s been months and months since they last had coffee together. The reason? The ‘misunderstanding’ over Bruno.

Gardening Leave: Bob is on ‘gardening leave’ but he’s anxious ‘to get back in the saddle’. Work is Bob’s life. What is life without a job? It has to be the right job, of course, which is why his meeting with Tom in a West End club is so desperately important. Can Tom point Bob in the right direction? Better still, does Tom have any openings in his operation? The problem is … Well, there are lots of problems. Mistaken identity, cross purposes, a surprising revelation and a terrible let-down, for which free theatre tickets – gold dust though they may be – isn’t a sufficient recompense.

Titus Returns: When, after 20 years of marriage, Rob leaves Jen for young Suzy, it’s all moderately civilised. There’s no quarrelling about rubber plants or ormolu candlesticks or suchlike. The problem is Titus, an indoor cat who seems to have gone walkabout. But then Rob and Jen’s old friend, Ian, brings Titus home, and all seems well. Or as well as it can be in the circumstances. They say that when one door closes, another door opens, but it isn’t always the case. When push comes to shove, the door may swing wide open or it may remain tightly shut. Finally everything depends on Titus.

You’ll like it if… you’d like to see three old TV favourites teaming up to tackle a trio of short plays at South London’s White Bear Theatre. Stephen Omer (Downton Abbey), Dee Sadler (Doctor Who, All Creatures Great and Small, No Place Like Home) and Fiona Tong (Silent Witness) are set to star in Misconnections – written by Nicolas Ridley – a witty look at the vagaries and vicissitudes of life, love and longing which will make you laugh out loud.

You should see it because… This is the inaugural production of Pack a Punch Players – a London-based Repertory Company – aiming to offer a witty diversion from price hikes and ‘partygate’. Set in modern day, Double Bubble, Gardening Leave and Titus Returns put the Downing Street shenanigans in the shade with their dark and thought-provoking themes. With love as the main motif – mistrust, cunning and counter-play are never far away – along with a beloved cat called Titus.

Anything else we should know…: Watch out for a cat called Titus and a lucky Buddah’s Head…

Where to follow:
Twitter: @Packapunchplay
Facebook: @Packapunchplayers
Instagram: @PackaPunchPlayers

Book here: https://www.whitebeartheatre.co.uk/whatson/Misconnections-‘A-Trio-of-Short-Plays’

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Quick Q&A: JUMPER

Where and when: Bread & Roses (24th – 28th May)

What it’s all about… It’s 2034, the eve of the General Election, and the air is thick with the familiar feelings of hope and despair. In a TFL staff room, a world-wearied train driver and an ever-optimistic veteran of the industry reflect on how being a tube driver is no walk in the park.

Meanwhile, in 2029, on the eve of the previous election, five people are riding the tube home. When the train unexpectedly stops, the group realises that not only do they not know what’s causing the delay, but that they are also now the only people on board. As the five of them – a disenfranchised twenty-something, a politician’s PA, an expat scientist, a homeless ghost of the last hanged Londoner and a girl who no one knows – try to work out why they are trapped, they are caught up in apocalyptic speculation and new-age conspiracies, and are forced to contemplate how they each fit into this group, into London and into this ever-changing country.

Maybe the tube stopping is the first sign of the end. Or maybe, for some, the end has already begun.

As individual narratives clash with the fundamental changes of a Britain on the brink of climate, economic and societal collapse, those in 2034 and 2029 alike are left wondering the same thing: could everything change tomorrow?

You’ll like it if… you like gritty, realistic theatre with an edge of the comedic and unexpected. It is at once a love-letter and a condemnation to modern London and Britain, so if you feel at all disillusioned with the direction this country seems to be heading, and feel like mixing laughs with a little despair, then come and see JUMPER to revel in the heady mix of hope and hopelessness that pervades Britain today.

You should see it because…  it is very ‘of the moment’. If you want to engage with the feeling of being trapped in today’s world, and experience the relief at seeing how people overcome it, then JUMPER is just for you. The cast, too, is excellent and vibrant and engrossing, and the direction from Christine Mears makes the atmosphere and feeling of the mundane tube carriage enthralling and exciting. It’s a show that you will be thinking about on your train ride home.

Where to follow:
Twitter: @sycamorehp
Instagram: @sycamorehp

Book here: https://www.breadandrosestheatre.co.uk/whats-on.html

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Review: Abigail at The Space and online

Set in Boston shortly after the events of the Salem Witch Trials, Fury Theatre’s piece in development Abigail presents an imagined account of what might have happened to the young accuser Abigail Williams after she left Salem. Still haunted by the knowledge of what she’s done and why she did it, Abigail (Laura Turner) arrives in the city with best friend Mercy (Lucy Sheree Cooper) and takes rooms at a boarding house run by Mrs Constance (Sophie Kamal). But it’s not long before the two find themselves in dire financial straits and are forced to throw themselves on the mercy of charismatic Jack (James Green), a local man whose friendly demeanour and apparent show of support hides dark intentions.

Photo credit: Richard Hall

Touching on themes of misogyny, racism and sexuality, the play explores the plight of women in 17th century Massachusetts, and invites the audience to consider how far we’ve progressed since then – a particularly relevant question in light of recent events in the USA. The witch trials are not a direct part of the narrative, but are referred back to through the frequent appearances of Salem victim Solvi (Sophie Jane Corner), and provide context for Abigail’s motivations and actions – particularly towards other women – as she tries to move on and build a new life.

As Abigail, Laura Turner begins the play with a show of defiance, but this begins to fall away as the story develops – in stark contrast to the wide-eyed innocence of Lucy Sheree Cooper’s Mercy, which comes to an abrupt and horrifying end as Act 1 concludes. Nor are these the only characters to undergo a change; in fact almost none of the women on stage is quite the same by the end of the play. Solvi starts out as a menacing figure – the stereotypical “witch” – but ultimately becomes the voice of reason who guides Abigail to some form of redemption, while barmaid Milly (Sarah Isbell) quickly reveals herself to be much more than “just” a prostitute, even if she doesn’t realise it herself. Even Mrs Constance, at first glance the most straightforward character of all, reveals in the play’s closing moments a hidden rage that goes some way to explaining why she behaves the way she does.

Photo credit: Richard Hall

Writers Laura Turner and Stephen Gillard (who also directs) don’t shy away from difficult subjects, and the play comes with a substantial list of content warnings including racist language, themes of abuse and the explicit depiction of sexual violence. It’s no surprise then that the resulting narrative becomes very intense, with Abigail and Mercy seemingly having arrived in a place that presents every possible kind of threat; Act 1 even has an element of supernatural horror thrown in for good measure. As a result the play can at times feel a little disjointed, leaping from one topic to another and back again while dealing at length with some issues and characters, and only touching very briefly on others. This has the effect of making some themes feel much more urgent than the rest, and the piece could therefore benefit either from greater balance or from trying to address fewer issues in one story.

As a piece still in development, Abigail certainly shows potential and makes for intriguing viewing. While it’s currently perhaps a little over-ambitious, the groundwork is there for a powerful discussion about the experience and treatment of women in the continuing face of violence, bias and discrimination – so it’s definitely one to keep an eye on in the future.

This run of Abigail has now concluded at The Space, but you can visit Fury Theatre’s website to find out more about the play’s future development.