Quick Q&A: Ordinary Days

Where and when: 13th-15th May @ The Cockpit Theatre

What it’s all about… Set after the events of 9/11, Ordinary Days encapsulates the breadth and life of New York City in all its art forms; following the path of 4 New Yorkers as they search for fulfilment, acceptance, happiness and escapism. When optimistic Warren finds Deb’s notes for her grad thesis, they unknowingly kickstart a chain of events that not only change their lives, but the lives of fellow New Yorkers Jason and Claire forever.

Ordinary Days is a musical like no other, with complex interconnected songs and a thrilling tale that makes the ordinary lives of us all feel more and more extraordinary by the end of the show.

You’ll like it if… you love nitty gritty acting through song and the hustle and bustle of New York City all wrapped into one! Ordinary Days is known for its complex score and heart wrenching lyrics. Plus every character is relatable in some way, so it places a firm connection with the audience right from the get go! 

You should see it because… Julie Atherton (Director) commented, “It’s beautifully poignant and at times really funny. Adam Gwon’s music has a way of sneaking up on you and tugging at your heart strings. This show holds a special place in my heart after working on the original London production so revisiting as Director is a real privilege.”

Anything else we should know…: Starring West End leading man Noah Thomas to play Warren (Jamie – Everybody’s Talking About Jamie), Jonathan Carlton (Pippin/Kinky Boots) to play Jason, Laura Dawn Pyatt (BBC/Bat Out Of Hell) to play Claire, Hannah Turner (TV: The Chelsea Cowboy) to play Deb, alongside f/m alternates Sarah Drake and Dean Makowski Clayton (Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens). 

This exciting Off-West End revival is directed by Julie Atherton who originated the role of Claire in the original London Production at Trafalgar Studios. Working alongside Atherton is Musical Director and Offies Award Winner Ben Levy (Best Musical Direction for Godspell/ BBC – White Handkerchief), casting by Benjamin Dywer at Blue Elephant Casting, lighting design by Domino Mannheim, sound design by Nim Green, set design by Bob Sterrett and produced by Scatter Productions. The musical is completely sung through, consisting of 21 songs to transport you for an hour of storytelling at its finest.

Where to follow:
#ordinarydayscockpit
Twitter: @ordinarydays22
Instagram: @ordinarydayscockpit

Book here: https://www.thecockpit.org.uk/show/ordinary_days

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Quick Q&A: Muck

Where and when: Come What May Festival, Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, London N4 3JP 12 May 2022 2.30pm; 13 May 7pm; 14 May 2.30pm and 8.30pm (60 mins)

What it’s all about… A play for today with a style that’s pure class as brother and sister confront their past to secure their future.

Against the backdrop of a tough London estate, as a drug dealing former lover prowls and the debt collector is at the door, two siblings come together to clear their cantankerous nan’s council flat following her death. Tensions mount and old wounds that haven’t quite healed open, yet the brother and sister’s obvious affection for each other offers hope for the future.

MUCK is a new play that has been selected to have its London premiere at the first Come What May Festival at Park Theatre, 12-14 May 2022.

Sharing a DNA and style with hard hitting ‘kitchen sink’ 1950s and 60s dramas, this is a gritty, raw production that nevertheless revels in a significant element of dark and dirty humour.

Set in 2011 just as gentrification begins to affect long term residents of the White City Estate, Shepherd’s Bush, MUCK pulls no punches in its exploration of loss, love, redemption, loyalty, suppression, poverty, graft and ultimate survival. The pull of family takes George and Kelly to the last place on earth they really want to be, yet the only place where they can find solutions.

Written and performed by Joseph Connolly and Gabriella Padula, MUCK is their first production as FenCity Players.

Gabriella said, “We met at university and discovered a mutual admiration for gritty working class drama, so decided to write our own. With MUCK we set out to create a play that is relevant to people, something that understands their real lives and to be chosen to perform the London premiere at Come What May Festival is perfect.”

Joseph added, “The siblings have to cope with their own concerns and mixed emotions as they deal with the loss of their nan and issues around the tenancy of the flat, which has also been Kelly’s home – something that will resonate with many in London!”

MUCK previewed at Norwich Arts Centre in January.  

“The performers and writers have created a powerful and moving play that is relevant and personal. It draws you into a complex family relationship that many of us will find familiarity with…MUCK is pure class!”
Julian Swainson – Reviewer, Norwich Eye

See a short trailer here https://vimeo.com/manage/videos/691787021.

MUCK is the creation of FenCity Players, a new London/East of England theatre company committed to making socially significant work. Commissioned by Norwich Arts Centre and produced by LJ Hope Productions, MUCK contains strong language, scenes of drug taking and adult themes throughout so is suitable for over 14s only.

You’ll like it if… You like dark yet funny drama, are interested in class and/or LGBT issues, new writing, cutting edge theatre and issues around housing in London.

You should see it because… It’s the debut from FenCity Players. It reunites actor/writer Joseph Connolly with director Toby Clarke and sound designer Roly Botha, all of whom worked together on the Olivier Award nominated Warheads.

Where to follow:
Facebook: @fencityplayers

Book here: https://parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/muck 

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Quick Q&A: Cell Outs

Where and when: King’s Head Theatre, 3rd-14th May 2022 21:00 (not 8th & 9th), 15:00 matinees on 7th & 14th

What it’s all about… “Don’t you think it’s pretty f***** that a lot of stuff we do in the prison, like if we were to do that in the street we’d get arrested straight off”

CELL OUTS is a dark comedy written and performed by two ex-prison officers, Harriet & Ella. It follows the true experiences of two young women, as they stare down the injustices of the UK prison system, and attempt to unpick the dangerous effects of power and privilege. CELL OUTS is ‘an unflinching look into the pair’s anger and trauma’ (Medium, 5 stars), it uses song, silliness and ‘hilariously biting criticisms’ to explore the brutality of what Prison Officers face, prisoners endure, and the sacrifices we make to survive. (★★★★★ -Medium, ★★★★ – The Reviews Hub, ★★★★ – LondonTheatre1)

GLASSHOUSE THEATRE was founded by Ella and Harriet whilst working as full-time prison officers and studying rehabilitation theory. They’ve also been bringing theatre into prisons, running workshops for prisoners and people with experience of the criminal justice system. They’ve transformed their experiences as frontline officers into art that challenges audiences, re-imagines the criminal justice system and interrogates society’s perceptions on privilege, authority and power.

Supported by Arts Council England & Camden People’s Theatre. 

Suitable for 18+. Contains references to suicide, PTSD, violence, serious self-harm, drug addiction, overdose. Contains depictions of racism, Islamophobia, sexual assault, sexism and the experience of incarceration. Performances include the use of flashing lights & loud noises. All performances are captioned thanks to Digital 4.

You’ll like it if… you like sharp writing, silly songs, dark humour, biting realism, and rhinestoned prison officer uniforms! I mean who doesn’t?  

You should see it because… the show is written and performed by ex-prison officers Ella and Harriet and draws upon on their direct experience and features verbatim audio interviews with those they worked alongside in prison.

Anything else we should know…: it’s got a banging original soundtrack! 

Where to follow:
Twitter: @glasshouseTH
Instagram: @glasshousetheatre

Book here: https://kingsheadtheatre.com/whats-on/cell-outs/book

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Quick Q&A: India Gate

Where and when: The Questors Theatre, 30th April – 7th May

What it’s all about… A world première of a powerful new play, inspired by India’s fight for freedom, marking 75 years of independence.

This passionate and pertinent new play follows the true-life journey of Edwin and Emily Lutyens and their connection with the Indian community in London and Delhi during the construction of the All India War Memorial (India Gate). Their journey is interwoven with that of the Sikh Martyr Udham Singh, whose extraordinary fight for India’s independence from the British Raj began in 1919 in Amritsar.

Developed by Punjabi Theatre Academy in collaboration with The Questors Theatre, these two companies have brought their unique cultural identities to this multi-faceted production, exploring an important chapter of Anglo-Indian history.

“This thought-provoking production is beautifully staged and acted. It’s one of those plays that leaves you wondering and googling long after it’s finished as the events stay with you. Highly recommend.” – Rupa Huq MP (on the workshop production)

“Incredibly insightful and enjoyable perspective on British and Indian History in the period that led up to the independence.” – Seema Malhotra MP (on the workshop production)

Performed in English, with some Punjabi dialogue for native speakers.

Photo credit: Jane Arnold-Forster

You’ll like it if… You have an interest in international stories, or theatre tackling British colonial past, and how it has impacted our understanding of international cultures and histories. The majority of our cast and creative team are of Indian origin – so if you are interested in hearing stories from the authentic perspective of Indian people, who were impacted by colonial rule, then this is the play for you.  

You should see it because… This is a first-time collaboration between Punjabi Theatre Academy and The Questors Theatre, theatre-makers of Indian and English origin, who have brought their respective cultures to this important true-life story. This run will be its world premiere before it sets off to tour around the UK and India – so this will be your first chance to see the production before it reaches national and international audiences.  

Anything else we should know…: Punjabi Theatre Academy is dedicated to promoting, maintaining and improving understanding of Punjabi cultural and historical roots. It aims to educate in the UK through performance and encouragement of the Arts for a younger generation. The academy has written and performed a growing portfolio of plays in the UK and in Amritsar, Patiala, Ludhiana, Bathinda, Chandigarh, Delhi, and Mumbai in collaboration with Punjabi Natak Academy, Mohali-Chandigarh under the chairmanship of Mr. Uttam Singh, a retired Punjab Government adviser. Film production have also been an important part of the Academy’s achievements.

Where to follow:
#IndiaGatePlay
Twitter: @questorstheatre
Instagram: @questors_theatre / @punjabitheatreacademyuk

Book here: http://www.questors.org.uk/event.aspx?id=958

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Review: The Sh*t at Bush Theatre

Written following six months of research and interviews in 2018 and 2019, Kenny Emson’s The Sh*t is a hard-hitting play about the challenging world of youth work. The play allows us access to a series of court-mandated sessions between youth worker Eric (Lladel Bryant) and teenager Daniel (Dillon Scott-Lewis), who’s just been released from juvenile detention. Though initially resistant, Daniel gradually begins to open up in the face of Eric’s gentle persistence, revealing the scared child behind the bravado, and the two develop a mutual respect. But through separate scenes between Eric and his unseen boss Sara (Samantha Béart), we learn about the budget cuts and bureaucracy that tie his hands, and which despite his best intentions, limit the amount of help he’s really able to provide.

Photo credit: Ant Robling

Against Caitlin Mawhinney’s backdrop of discarded plastic chairs (the poignant true significance of which only becomes obvious at the end of the play), and under harsh institutional lighting, the two characters begin as adversaries, each trying to stare the other down in grim silence – and it’s testament to the quality of the performances from Lladel Bryant and Dillon Scott-Lewis that even before either of them says a word, the dynamic between them makes for compelling viewing. Daniel understands better than anyone what he needs – to be removed from a situation that’s guaranteed to drag him back to his old life – and his frustration that that’s the one thing Eric can’t do for him is palpable. On the other side of the room, Eric knows exactly what the young man is going through, but struggles with the knowledge that his involvement can only go so far, and that ultimately Daniel’s progress will be reflected merely as a series of black and white checkboxes. Meanwhile the faceless Sara represents a system that’s holding both of them back – not through choice, but because there simply isn’t enough money to really make much difference.

Emson’s writing is heartfelt and real; language plays a key part in the development of the two characters’ relationship, helping them find common ground where none seemed to exist. Neither of them is quite what they seem at first glance, and it’s both heartwarming and heartbreaking to see the true Daniel begin to emerge as the play progresses – a boy with ambition, humour and intelligence who could have thrived had he grown up in different circumstances. Emson offers us a glimpse of what could be, before slamming the door in a conclusion that feels depressingly inevitable.

Photo credit: Ant Robling

As a piece of theatre, The Sh*t is very good – it’s often funny, with great performances and intelligent writing. But is it enjoyable? Maybe not. It makes the audience uncomfortably aware of our own privilege, and of the difficulties faced by young people all over the UK who are trapped in a life they never wanted through no fault of their own. And it’s infuriating to see the people who desperately want to help prevented from doing so, all because those with the power to provide funding and support consistently not only fail to provide it, but judge and belittle the very people they’re failing. The final scene of the play powerfully captures the conveyor belt nature of Eric’s work, and while it can’t answer the question of what needs to happen to break this never-ending cycle, it at least asks it, and that’s a good start.

The Sh*t runs at Bush Theatre until 23rd April as part of Essex on Stage.