Quick Q&A: Red Peter

Where and when: VAULT Festival / 6 – 8 March at 6 pm/ 8th March at 3 pm

What it’s all about… A stage adaptation of the short story A Report to An Academy by Franz Kafka, is a monologue from a captured West African ape who has “become” European.

An African ape has been captured in the jungles of West Africa and brought back to ‘civilization’ by his European captors. To escape a life of incarceration, he ‘evolves’ into a human being. Red Peter mimics human habits from the crew of the ship upon which he is imprisoned, masters human speech and eventually decides to embrace human society rather than languish in a zoo as an ape. He presents to an academy to give a report about his former life.

You’ll like it if…

  • Audience members with a multicultural background and those who are interested in changing cultural norms in society.
  • Animal lovers and those interested in animal rights.
  • Lovers of physical theatre, Franz Kafka, and original stories.

You should see it because… the audience will be engaged from the moment they sit down not only by the theme of the play but also by its interest in how this humanised ape will appear on stage and what it will say to them.

Anything else we should know…: Critics’ Choice of Best Shows 2019 – London Pub Theatre Magazine
Nominated / Finalist for Off West End Fringe Festival Award
★★★★★ “An outstanding performance” -Broadway World
★★★★★ “A thought provoking piece”, “Barnes is excellent as the gifted ape” -The Upcoming ★★★★ ½ “Superbly acted and directed”, “A well thought out production” -London Pub Theatre Magazine

Where to follow:
Twitter: @chrisyy67
Instagram: @gridtheatre
Facebook: @GridTheatre

Book here: https://vaultfestival.com/whats-on/red-peter/

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Quick Q&A: She Is A Place Called Home

Where and when: 3rd – 8th March, 6.20pm (matinee: 8th March – 3.20pm). VAULT Festival

What it’s all about… The show follows two British Nigerian sisters as they navigate their Dad’s decision to get another wife (as in, in addition to their Mum), and what this means for their faith, family and future. It explores several difficult topics including clashes between culture and faith, the experience of eating disorders by black women and non-physical forms of domestic violence.

You’ll like it if… you’re a fan of afro beats, traditional Nigerian dance and a show with more plot twists than a Nollywood movie.

On a more serious note, sisterhood is at the heart of this show, so if you have a sister or close female friends, it really explores that relationship and how it endures in the face of tragedy.

You should see it because… when was the last time you saw a play about bigamy?

Anything else we should know…: The play was developed as part of the VAULT Festival New Writers Programme 2019, led by award-winning writer Camilla Whitehill (Freeman, Where Do Little Birds Go?), and showcased during VAULT Festival 2019 in a sold-out show. It was also shortlisted for the Untapped Award, a partnership between New Diorama Theatre, Underbelly and Oberon Books.

We’re also partnering with Solace Women’s Aid, an innovative and grass roots charity that supports women and children who have experienced domestic and sexual violence to build safe and strong lives. At the end of each show, we will be collecting both monetary donations and donations of toiletries to support their work.

Where to follow:
Twitter: @sheisaplace
Instagram: @sheisaplaceplay
#sheisaplace

Book here: https://vaultfestival.com/whats-on/she-is-a-place-called-home/

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Review: Meat at Theatre503

A finalist in Theatre503’s International Playwriting Award in 2018, Gillian Greer’s Meat is just as topical, and troubling, two years later. The play follows exes Max (India Mullen) and Ronan (Sean Fox) through one messy, bruising evening at his fancy Dublin restaurant. Successful blogger Max has come to let Ronan know that in her upcoming book, she intends to reveal he once sexually assaulted her at a party. Horrified, he protests his innocence, claiming to have no memory or knowledge of the night in question – while his loyal restaurant manager Jo (Elinor Lawless) wonders why Max has waited until now to talk about such a traumatic event in her life.

Photo credit: Alex Brenner

These are complex issues, and the play explores that complexity in an open, thought-provoking manner, ending both literally and figuratively on an unanswered question. Most importantly, though we never doubt Max’s account, Greer avoids painting a picture of villain and victim; it’s far more nuanced than that. Ronan did “a shit thing”, but that doesn’t automatically make him a monster; Max may well benefit financially from putting the incident in her book, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, or that it didn’t have an effect on her. It’s particularly interesting to note that all three characters begin the evening with a fixed definition of what rape means, and to watch as those clear-cut lines begin to blur and shift.

Though all the action takes place over one evening, the timeline of those few hours is non-linear. This allows us to observe certain events, and in particular Ronan’s behaviour towards both women, in the light of later revelations – though it does also present something of a logistical challenge, given that each scene concludes with a bit more food or drink symbolically smeared across Ronan’s previously pristine walls and floor. It’s testament to the clarity of both Greer’s writing and Lucy Jane Atkinson’s direction that we never find ourselves lost or confused as to where in the story a scene is located.

The building tension within and between the two principal characters is played very convincingly by India Mullen and Sean Fox. As Max, Mullen visibly unravels as the wine flows and Ronan continues to resist giving her the answers she wants, while Fox’s performance swiftly makes it clear that beneath his amiable exterior Ronan was – and perhaps still is – more than capable of doing what Max claims. Meanwhile Elinor Lawless provides some much needed comic relief as the ever watchful Jo, but she also has a much more pivotal role: that of the outside observer, the one who listens to both sides and voices the opinions that always accompany an accusation of sexual violence.

Photo credit: Alex Brenner

The choice of setting is deliberately uncomfortable, setting the balance of power in Ronan’s favour – in more ways than one, as it turns out – from the off. Rachel Stone’s set is visually striking, and in line with the restaurant’s policy (“Vegetarian? Fuck off. Vegan? Fuck off.”) it’s in your face, makes no apology, and should probably come with some kind of trigger warning. Pig carcasses adorn the walls along with artistic renderings of raw meat, while in front of them Ronan cheerfully explains how foie gras is made to a less than enthusiastic Max. In the background, Annie May Fletcher’s sound design maintains a hum of background conversation, reminding us the pair are not alone, but acknowledges the intimacy between them at key moments by drowning out the crowd with the sound of a heartbeat.

It’s taken two years for Greer’s play to make it to the stage, but it’s been more than worth the wait. Meat is an intense and thoughtful play, which doesn’t spoon feed answers to its audience but instead poses a set of questions and leaves us to process them in our own way and within the frame of our own experiences. It may not be a comfortable watch for everyone, but it is a vitally important one.

Meat is at Theatre503 until 14th March.

Quick Q&A: The Pelican

Where and when: Young Actors Theatre, 22nd and 23rd Feb, 19:30

What it’s all about… The Pelican is a merciless study of human nature – with surgical precision cutting deep into the psyche to explore the effects of fostering false illusions.

Written by August Strindberg – one of the major pioneers of modern drama, it deals with issues that are only too contemporary.

You’ll like it if… you like to think. If you like to question not only the world and others around you but first and foremost – yourself – what drives you to act the way you do? If you like to project your experiences onto the characters on stage, to compare and reflect upon the causes and effects.

You should see it because… All of us are trapped in our own minds, within the confines of our worldview that determines how we see the world.

Theatre allows for an opportunity to escape this entrapment – if only for a short while – to see, understand and compare different worldviews, different modes of being – and the results to which they might lead.

The Pelican, in the essence, is about this inability – even more so – an unwillingness to understand how someone else perceives the world and the tragic effects this blindness inevitably leads to.

Anything else we should know…: Director Saulius Kovalskas: “Strindberg, influenced by Swedenborgian philosophy, mercilessly dissected his own personality and experiences, exposing the timeless subconscious processes that govern our daily existence and expressing these invisible forces through concrete forms in this intimate household drama.

The main antagonistic force in this play isn’t any particular character – it’s the weaknesses and flaws that the humanity struggles to overcome on a daily basis: from pleasuring themselves with flattering illusions – to inventing endless justifications that enable the avoidance of responsibility – to falling prey to liberating belief of victimhood and through the self-proclaimed martyrdom becoming the executioners of others.”

Where to follow:
Twitter: @ChalkRootsTC
Facebook: @ChalkRootsTC
Instagram: @chalkrootstheatre
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/574112013172636

Book here: https://yati.corsizio.com

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Review: Flights at Omnibus Theatre

Flights by John O’Donovan, on paper, is a play about three men, who meet as they’ve done for years to mark the anniversary of their friend’s death. But it’s much more than that; this is a story about a time, and a place, and a generation of young Irish men who could have left, but somehow ended up not going anywhere. It’s a story about loss – of life, love, opportunity – but also about friendship and the bonds that can hold people together, for better or worse, against all odds and expectations.

Photo credit: Ste Murray

Liam was seventeen years old when he was killed in a tragic road accident on this night seventeen years ago. His old friends, Barry (Colin Campbell), Pa (Rhys Dunlop) and Cusack (Conor Madden), are disappointed to find they’re the only ones to turn up this year for his anniversary, but nonetheless decide to make the best of it – particularly since Barry is about to leave for London with his long-term girlfriend Roisin, and new dad Cusack is having his first night out in months. As they reminisce, it becomes clear that while the three men’s lives may have gone in different directions, the circles in which they move have changed very little. And though the cast consists of just three actors, and the action never leaves the run-down clubhouse where they meet, O’Donovan’s beautifully written script paints an intricate picture of a whole community that seems frozen in time.

This feeling intensifies all the more as each of the three steps forward at different moments to deliver a monologue in the voice of their dead friend. Through these, we can start to piece together what happened, and why, and feel afresh the tragedy of a young life wasted – but also to understand that it could have been any one of these men who was lost on the road that, or any, night. Back in the present moment, and none of them is completely satisfied with their lot: Barry is full of anxiety at the prospect of leaving town at last; Pa just found himself homeless and unemployed; and even Cusack, who seems to have it all, questions what he could possibly have done to deserve it.

Photo credit: Ste Murray

The play, directed by Thomas Martin, isn’t action-packed or fast-paced, but it doesn’t need to be. Instead it follows the evening almost in real time, allowing the story to unfold through the interactions of the increasingly inebriated friends. Some of these result in unexpectedly tender moments, particularly in Act 2, while others are exactly as you’d expect when three old school friends get together: drinking games, darts, drugs and banter are very much the order of the day. Colin Campbell, Rhys Dunlop and Conor Madden are universally outstanding, utterly compelling and convincing in every detail; their chemistry as an ensemble is spot on, and their individual performances spell-binding. And the production looks stunning, too – Naomi Faughnan’s set, lit by candles and littered with what we assume to be years worth of discarded cans, feels both literally and figuratively like a shrine to Liam’s fading memory.

A poignant and powerful piece of theatre, Flights will resonate most strongly with people – particularly men – who’ve experienced what it was like to grow up in a tight-knit rural community. For the rest of us, the play is an evocative portrayal of that experience, and much like its central character, it won’t soon be forgotten.

Flights is at the Omnibus Theatre until 29th February.