Theatre round-up: 10 Aug 2015

Although I just had one theatre trip this week, you may recall I’ve been to a couple of Edinburgh previews over the past couple of weeks. And unlike some national publications that I won’t name, I honour requests to keep quiet until opening night. (I also don’t use grainy photos taken on a hidden camera phone, but that’s a whole other story.)

Anyway, since the Fringe is now well and truly underway, my reviews have been published, so I feel comfortable talking about them here. Beginning with:

To She or Not To She

I was excited to see how this one-woman show, written and performed by Emma Bentley of Joue le Genre, had turned out, after getting a brief glimpse at the Morley College scratch night a few months ago. And I wasn’t disappointed – what began as a research project into female actors playing Shakespearean characters has turned out to be a very funny yet deeply thought-provoking piece about the very current topic of sexism in the acting industry. Emma Bentley is enthusiastic and likeable, and at the same time clearly very passionate about her message; the show is evidently a labour of love and one that I feel privileged to have seen in its early stages. With plenty of in-jokes for the actors and the women in the audience, it’s a very inclusive show – and there’s a fair bit of Shakespeare fangirling too, which is never a bad thing.

To She or Not To She review for LondonTheatre1

A Fine line

The second preview was also a one-woman show, but couldn’t have been more different. Ronnie Dorsey’s new work, about the six-decade relationship between two best friends, is a moving and incredibly powerful piece. In just an hour, the story of Rita and Angie takes us on an emotional journey that covers puberty, sex, babies, infidelity, love and loss. Judith Paris gives an intimate performance as she shares one elderly lady’s rambling memories; at times it feels like the audience is intruding on a very private moment as she addresses her monologue to her absent friend. Ultimately, the play reveals itself to be much more than just an assortment of memories; it invites us to consider the different kinds of love, and the fine line between expressing our true desires and conforming to society’s expectations.

A Fine Line review for LondonTheatre1

These shows are currently being performed in Edinburgh, and I’d recommend them both if you’re lucky enough to be there.

As for my one ‘official’ theatre trip of last week…

Dirty Dancing

If the two Edinburgh previews were thought-provoking, Dirty Dancing is anything but… and that’s why we love it. Any fans of the movie will also be fans of the stage show, which I saw at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury, because they’re essentially the same, bar a few really minor changes. The music, costumes, props – including that watermelon – and the script are all pretty much identical, and there’s something quite relaxing about going to see a show you know so well you can quote the lines along with the actors. And yes, I’ll admit I’m still daydreaming about Lewis Kirk, who plays Johnny (with or without his shirt). It’s a feel-good show; the cast look like they’re having a great time, and it sends you away with a smile on your face… and you can’t really ask for more than that.

Dirty Dancing review

Theatre round-up

This week’s theatre

Blood Wedding (Dreamcatcher Theatre), The Bread and Roses Theatre

The Backward Fall (Penny Productions), Hen and Chickens

Consolation (Theatre Voliere), Bridewell Theatre

The Two Gentlemen of Verona / Hay Fever (Changeling Theatre), Boughton Monchelsea

Theatre round-up: 3 August 2015

Bit later than usual, but here’s this week’s theatre round-up, and what an interesting week it was. It also included another Edinburgh preview, so more on that next week.


Escapology, mind-reading, card tricks and sleight of hand. Women get cut in half and cars disappear. Members of the audience are invited to lie on a bed of nails, and a bald man fires a crossbow at his wife. It’s all in a day’s work for the eight illusionists who make up the cast of Impossible, a magical extravaganza directed by BAFTA winner Anthony Owen at the Noel Coward Theatre. It’s full of jaw-dropping moments – I figured out one tiny bit of one trick and I was really proud of myself. As for the rest, I’ve no idea.

Sure, it’s all a bit macho, and it would have been nice to see a man get cut in half for a change. And we know how all the tricks are going to end, but that doesn’t stop them being amazing. This is a genuinely incredible show and really good fun (and only mildly terrifying at times).

Impossible review for

American idiot

Ah, finally a jukebox musical based on a band from my generation… American Idiot is a show based on the 2004 Green Day concept album, and telling the story of three childhood friends in the wake of 9/11. It’s not for the faint-hearted or easily offended, with scenes of drug use, violence and explicit language, but then again, was anyone really expecting anything different? It’s not your typical jukebox musical, but personally, I’m not a massive fan of them anyway, so that’s okay. The show is fast, furious and full of energy, and I loved it.

And it’s got me back listening to Green Day again, so that can’t be a bad thing.

American Idiot review for

Secret theatre

Well, what can I say? Not much, actually, because it’s a secret. It’s not like me to go and see a play without knowing what it is, so I was feeling a bit anxious about my trip to the Secret Theatre last night. But I needn’t have worried, because not only did the play turn out to be a story I knew and loved, it was also really fun. A totally immersive theatre experience, from the moment you arrive you’re part of the show; be prepared to interact with the cast, and to do a lot of walking from location to location.

Though the second act could probably have done with being a bit shorter, I loved both the experience and the play, and might even consider trying secret theatre again some time. Which, considering I don’t do surprises, is quite a compliment.

Secret Theatre review for Carn’s Theatre Passion

This week's theatre

This week’s theatre:

Dirty Dancing, Marlowe Theatre

Theatre round-up: 26 July 2015

Not a lot to talk about this week, as I just had two theatre trips and one I’m not really allowed to talk about yet, as it was a preview – so I’ll include that in a future round-up. But one I can talk about is…

A Land Without People

A new play by Brian Rotman and staged by Palindrome Productions, A Land Without People charts events between 1939 and 1945 leading to the creation of the independent state of Israel. It doesn’t try to suggest any answers, instead focusing its attention on a factual retelling of history. The production, at the Courtyard Theatre, contains some truly haunting moments, and the closing scenes leave a lasting impression, reminding us that this conflict is far from over, nearly 70 years later.

The play’s cast of five take on a range of characters – almost all of them real people – to explain the origins of the conflict from a variety of perspectives. While 85 minutes is hardly long enough to make sense of something so complicated, Rotman’s script successfully pulls out both the main facts and the primary players to produce something that is at once moving, powerful and informative.

A Land Without People review for Carn’s Theatre Passion

A Land Without People (Palindrome Productions)


Impossible, Noel Coward Theatre

American Idiot the Musical, The Arts Theatre

A Fine Line, New Diorama Theatre

Theatre round-up: 19 July 2015

Just the two trips this week…

Shakespeare’s R&J

A unique take on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, in which four students at a strict boys’ boarding school read extracts from the play to each other after class. What starts out as a bit of fun soon turns more serious as story and real life merge, and the boys are forced to confront their feelings of love, jealousy and friendship. The result is funny, moving and at times violent, and though the words may be familiar, this is unlike any adaptation of Romeo and Juliet I’ve ever seen.

The play itself, by Joe Calarco, was written almost twenty years ago, and has been performed all over the world, including the West End. This production by the Chapel Lane Theatre Company features an impressive young cast, and will be at the Tabard Theatre until 8th August.

Shakespeare’s R&J review for

The Gathered Leaves

A family drama written by Andrew Keatley and directed by Antony Eden, The Gathered Leaves explores the complex relationships between three generations of the Pennington family. For the first time in seventeen years, the whole family are all together for the long Easter weekend, trying to put the past behind them in the face of an uncertain future.

An excellent cast is led by Jane Asher and Clive Francis as William and Olivia Pennington, along with Asher’s real-life daughter Katie Scarfe, and father-son duo Alexander and Tom Hanson. But for me, the star of the show is Nick Sampson, who’s delightful as the Penningtons’ autistic son, Samuel. The Gathered Leaves is a story of one family on the brink of significant change, but is also a more general reflection on what family really means. It’s on at Park Theatre until 15th August.

The Gathered Leaves review for

The Gathered Leaves and Shakespeare's R&J

Next week’s theatre

A Land Without People (Palindrome Productions), The Courtyard

To She Or Not To She (Joue le Genre), Morley College


Theatre round-up: 12 July 2015

Four very different theatre experiences this week, beginning with…

Dead Simple

A thriller based on the novel by crime writer Peter James, at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury. It’s the story of a man buried alive on his stag night, only for all his friends to die in a horrible accident and leave him there. (Not good if you suffer from claustrophobia.) A very complex plot condensed into two hours means there are obviously going to be a few plot gaps, but it’s suitably chilling and good entertainment.

Dead Simple review


Acclaimed choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella is a different take on a well-known story. There’s no fairy godmother, no pumpkins – not even a glass slipper. But even though it’s based on the Brothers Grimm version of the story, this ballet is still just as magical, romantic and funny as the fairy tale we all know and love. It was also my first go at reviewing ballet, which was a fun challenge 😉

Cinderella review for


Having heard some great things about Constellations, which began life at the Royal Court Theatre in 2012, I was excited by the opportunity to see it at Trafalgar Studios this week. A romantic drama with added physics, it makes you laugh and cry, while considering the multiple possible paths life can take. With stunning performances from Louise Brealey and Joe Armstrong, this is a must-see.

Constellations review for London Theatre Direct – link to follow

The Diver

A one-woman show from Helen Foster of Craft Theatre, this is not a ‘sit in the dark and say nothing’ theatre experience. Everyone in the audience is expected to play their part in the story – but luckily it’s so much fun that you really don’t mind getting involved. It’s a show about knowing what you want from life and having the courage to pursue it. And it’s completely bonkers, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

The Diver review for Carn’s Theatre Passion

This week's theatre

Next week’s theatre

Shakespeare’s R and J (Chapel Lane Theatre Company) at Tabard Theatre

The Gathered Leaves (Dead Letter Perfect) at Park Theatre