Quick Q&A: Vessel

Where and when: Stratford Circus Arts Centre, Theatre Square, London E15 1BX 26, 27 March 7pm

What it’s all about… Vessel is a play about choice, about rebelling and of course about women. I began writing Vessel in 2014 when the idea of Irish women having the right to choice seemed almost impossible. Immediately after the vote on abortion in Ireland I redeveloped it for an Edinburgh run and the ‘Vessel‘ that goes on tour has been redeveloped to not just provoke new conversations or to document that Irish referendum but to ask why we needed a referendum in the first place.

You’ll like it if… Anyone interested in feminist, female led, funny and powerful work, and of course if you like Irish dramas. Vessel is very ‘Irish’ in the sense that it combines humour and drama. The characters are forced to find laughter because their situation is so epic.

You should see it because… Vessel‘s lead character, Maia, starts out on a journey to get abortion after it has been legalised in Ireland but by the end of the play she is forced to ask much more complex questions like why we don’t have equality yet? Who has the power? And who has the right to take it?

Anything else we should know…: I am the great grandniece of soldier and politician Michael Collins, who fought for Ireland’s independence and brokered the peace treaty with the United Kingdom so Ireland and its political structures really inform the show.

I worked with some amazing people on Vessel. Bryony Kimmings who also co-wrote the hit film Last Christmas mentored me with it before the Edinburgh run, the Olivier award winning company Fishamble and award winning playwright Sonya Kelly developed the show with me in the Everyman in Cork.

Where to follow:
Website: www.lwok.co.uk
Twitter: @vesselplay @LauraWOK

Book here: https://stratford-circus.com/event/vessel

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Quick Q&A: Tell It Slant

Where and when: Hope Theatre, 25 Feb-14 Mar, 19.45

What it’s all about… Tell It Slant is a (black) romantic comedy about what happens in a press office when a crisis hits, how people react (or don’t), the choices they make and the stories they choose to tell about what’s gone wrong and why.

With a gender-switch built into the script, as the actors playing the central couple swap roles, changing our sense of the show and how the story unfolds with every performance.

You’ll like it if… If you’ve ever wondered how the news gets made, how a story spirals out of control, or how social media can drive a crisis, Tell It Slant will give you a brand new perspective. If you liked the Thick of It or His Girl Friday, you will like Tell It Slant.

You should see it because… Tell It Slant gives you an insight into every crisis, every news story that’s ever blown-up across your twitter feed, that you won’t get anywhere else. Knowing how the news happens and how people react to it, how stories are framed and told, underpins many of the most complicated problems we all face.

And it’s also fun, funny and a little bit sexy. There’s also that.

Anything else we should know…: Tell It Slant is Maev Mac Coille’s debut production. She has previously been longlisted for the Papatango, Verity Bargate and Bread & Roses playwriting awards, and nominated for the Susan Smith Blackburn Award. She has had short plays performed at Theatre503, the Arcola (Miniaturists), Hackney Showrooms, Camden People’s Theatre, and the White Bear.

Where to follow:
Twitter: @MerrySpinsters (also @maevmac – writer – and @EricaTheatre – producer)
Facebook: @merryspinsters
Instagram: @ merryspinsters

Book here: https://www.thehopetheatre.com/productions/tell-it-slant/

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Quick Q&A: This Queer House

Where and when: VAULT Festival 2020 | 27th Feb – 1st March; 16:30 and 19:45 | Network Theatre

What it’s all about… A young queer and non-binary couple, Leah and Oli, inherit a house and seize at the chance to acquire a dream. A joint renovation project begins. A house gathers strength…

You’ll like it if… you like daring work that blends together music and spoken word and movement, that turns queer theory into chaotic drama, that finds new ways to speak about gender.

You should see it because… it gets weird and wonderful. As the young queer couple try to make a home for themselves, the very house they are in begins to grow restless…

Anything else we should know…: This Queer House is an exciting collaboration between award-winning poet Oakley Flanagan and the multi-disciplinary OPIA Collective, a group of female and LGBTQIA+ artists.

Where to follow:
Twitter: @OpiaCollective
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/429035324672650/ 
Instagram: @opiacollective

Book here: https://vaultfestival.com/whats-on/this-queer-house/

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Quick Q&A: Paper Straws

Where and when: VAULT Festival 21st-23rd February

What it’s all about…Meet Joe, Lou and Martha: three people brought up through the ‘Life Raft’ system, a scheme that re-homes children from places deemed unliveable because of the changing climate. Now as adults, they each have very different relationships to how climate change has shaped their identities. One day they get a calling: it’s time to step up and do something. Part family drama. Part surreal comedy. Full climate crisis.

You’ll like it if… you like the idea of a climate thriller crossed with a choose your adventure covered with a sprinkle of gameshow glitz and a guest appearance from the Lord Almighty.

You should see it because… it’s grappling with the big questions around what we should all be doing about the climate crisis and there is no better time for us all to be having this conversation. Plus it’ll be fun!

Anything else we should know…: It’s a work in progress. So we want to know what you think. We’ll be asking our audience to help us make the show bigger and better. So come chat to us after the show or fill out a feedback form.

Where to follow:
Hashtag: #PAPERSTRAWSplay
Website: www.pearshapedtheatre.co.uk/
Twitter: @pearshapedplays
Facebook: @pearshapedplays
Instagram: @pearshapedplays

Book here: https://vaultfestival.com/whats-on/paper-straws/

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Review: Monolog 3 at Chickenshed

The third outing for Chickenshed’s annual celebration of the theatrical monologue is also the biggest yet. While most evenings during the two-week run will feature only a subset of the pieces selected for inclusion, on press night we were treated to all nine, representing a broad variety of voices from across the Chickenshed community.

This bumper edition, clocking in at close to three hours, proved to be something of a rollercoaster ride, through the likes of bereavement, loneliness, self-loathing, dementia and domestic violence. Looking back over that list of topics, perhaps it goes without saying that laughs are in fairly short supply – though they’re by no means absent altogether; Grace Wolstenholme sees to that in her self-performed piece, Why Can’t You See Me? in which she paints a vivid and very funny picture of her life as a normal teenager, who just happens to have cerebral palsy.

Taken as a collection, the nine plays – selected blind by a panel – demonstrate talent and diversity, as well as the potential impact that a well performed monologue can have, and the many creative ways in which the art form can be interpreted. To pick out a few examples: On the Out by Peter Hastings is a quietly moving piece about a man (Olivier LeClair) who’s just been released from prison. As he waits for his sister to pick him up, he reflects on the life ahead of him – and the one he’s left behind. In Cathy Jansen-Ridings’ Pickled Limes, Marion (Julie Wood) berates her emotionally distant husband for everything and nothing, before poignantly revealing the true reason she’s angry with him.

Navigating the Twilight by Sophie Sparham explores the experience of dementia through the use of blackout poetry; as a mother (Ingrid Cannon) reflects on the birth of her daughter, the same text is repeated with certain words redacted, transforming a story of joy and celebration into something much darker. And in I Am a Shield by Sebastian Ross, a young woman (Sabina Bisset) is forced, finally, to question if she’s really the superior being she always assumed herself to be – or is she just an asshole?

Arguably the strongest piece, both in terms of its emotional impact and its creative use of the form – actor Tom Harvey collaborated with no fewer than four directors, each of whom worked on different content – is Pete Dowse and Alex Bremer’s A:live B:reaved, in which a father tries to process the trauma of losing his young daughter. If I could see any of the pieces from Monolog 3 again, this would be the one I’d choose; it has a depth in its content and style that makes it less instantly accessible than the rest, but simultaneously hints at layers of meaning waiting to be unpicked and explored in greater detail. And from a purely practical point of view, its positioning as the final piece of nine meant that on press night, it perhaps didn’t get the full attention it deserved from a tired audience.

Seeing all nine pieces in one evening is a lot, particularly given some of the weighty topics under discussion. So while audiences attending only a subset on other evenings may miss out in terms of the full range of themes and styles, they will hopefully be able to enjoy and engage with those pieces they do see in greater depth. There’s certainly plenty of excellent material, powerful writing and strong performances there to be experienced.

Monolog 3 is at Chickenshed until 22nd February. Those who do wish to see all nine pieces can do so on the last night.