Archive of ‘Reviews You Can Read In One Minute’ category

The Princess Monologues, at The Bread & Roses Theatre

| Reviews You Can Read In One Minute

IMG_4474

Once upon a time, a plucky theatre lover travelled to the magical kingdom of Clapham in search of a top night out…

4345308_origAs soon as I heard about The Princess Monologues my mind immediately turned to the many articles, memes, and quotes deploring Disney princesses as bad role models for little girls, as good role models for little girls, arguments against buying pink toys for young girls, the story of the little boy who goes to nursery dressed as a princess, how princess is a compliment, how it’s a slur, colour, gender, identity. When did princess become such a loaded word?

Director Tessa Hart has seized on the multiple nuances ‘princess’ holds and commissioned a brilliant, blisteringly funny, sometime sad, twisty, twisted, and very prescient collection of monologues. A fantastically engaging sprint of an hour long show you’ll laugh, possibly cry, and certainly think on once the glitter has settled and you’ve left the theatre.

Eleanor Dillon-Reams is a revelatory tour de force, moving seamlessly on stage and in front3902158 of the audience, between the six characters of the six monologues written by the diverse and talented Tilly Lunken, Tina Jay, Claire Booker, Simon Jay, Amy Bethan Evans, Tessa Hart, and Eliza Power. Dillon-Reams’ accent, tone, posture and entire body shifted so fully to inhabit each character it was as if they were there: six different people. A staggering performance, she’s certainly a talent to watch.

Simon Jay’s Home Made Princess squeezed my heart tight with it’s incredible switch. Dillon-Reams expertly making the most of the emotive subject, and causing this audience member to have to blink away tears. Claire Booker’s Princess Frankenstein is a darkly, comic gem: one of the funniest things I’ve seen this year. And Eliza Power’s #Shame, sharp as a knife, effortlessly cuts through multiple meanings and associations of the word princess, of words and names themselves, pulling together Disney, Kim Kardashian, and a depressingly familiar situation too many women find themselves in, in a final punch I didn’t see coming.

The Princess Monologues are strong, tight, multifarious and gleeful inspections of what ‘princess’ means in 2015. This show deserves to go far. I wouldn’t be surprised if it transfers. Catch it if you can. You’ll live happily ever after.

The Princess Monolgues is on at The Bread & Roses Theatre in Clapham until Sunday 22nd November at 7.30pm. And at the The Space on the Isle of Dogs on Sunday 6th December at 6pm.

0 comment

Fuck This Journal: Betterness through Bitterness, by Dale Shaw

| Reviews You Can Read In One Minute

 

51705w9lZfL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Fuck This Journal is an inspired and hilarious swipe at all those think positive books that claim to encourage your creativity. If you see ‘meaningful’ saccharine quotes overlaid on photos of sunsets and roll your eyes: this is the book for you. If you’ve ever read a ‘creatively stimulating’ tome, or sat through a lesson engaged in an arty exercise: this book is for you.

CLtRwihUMAAtF23

At a time when colouring books are marketed at adults, this is a refreshingly droll look at instigating your ‘cre-hate-tivity’. Full of comic drawings and amusingly pointless exercises, such as: ‘Let’s adopt a trick from Ernest Hemingway. He said “when I seek inspiration I write the word ‘inspiration’ over and over again” Hey! Why not give it a try in the space below?’ This is a book that’s sure to raise a laugh and a half.

Managing to introduce a narrative into the collection of witty and dour illustrations and Unknownexercises, Shaw’s bitter alter ego reveals a story of: divorce from Carol, near bankruptcy, and thwarted dreams. I have certainly met this hard done by, chip on the shoulder type in pubs and creative writing classes before, which adds a deliciously satirical layer to the book. Fuck This Journal is a genuinely unique comic work. Buy this as a gift for yourself and all the creatives in your life. That’s Christmas sorted.

Fuck This Journal by Dale Shaw: Fucking buy this 5/5

 

 

0 comment

Edinburgh Fringe Festival Top Picks 2015

| Reviews You Can Read In One Minute

 

ed festEdinburgh Fringe Festival is the largest arts festival in the world. With 47,497 performances last year and more this August spread across this beautiful city it can be overwhelming trying to decide what to see. I can’t say I’ve seen everything (surely no one can?), but here are my suggestions of great shows to catch before the 31st:


Anna Morris: It’s Got To Be Perfect


Comedy

Anna Morris brings her YouTube viral sensation, the acerbic comic creation Georgina the Bride to this triumph of a show. With her increasingly heightened demands and expectations of her perfect day, this Bridezilla’s hilarious show has got to be perfect for hen dos, stag dos, those who are engaged, married, or anyone who has ever been to a wedding. Not to be missed.

★★★★★

The Voodoo Rooms, August 8 – 17, 19 – 30, 3.55pm FREE


An Audience With Jimmy Saville


Theatre

jim

Alastair McGowan delivers an incredible performance as Jimmy Saville, with not only an eerie mimic of the known TV personality, but a spot on portrayal of the emotions within this monster of a man. The subject matter is understandably uncomfortable at times, as well as frightfully enlightening – did you know Saville had been questioned as a possible suspect during the police hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper? A great, if unsettling, must see play.

★★★★

This performance is suitable for those who are 16+.
Assembly George Square Theatre, August 11 – 22, 7.55pm £16.00


Austentatious: An Improvised Jane Austen Novel


Comedy

austentatious-2015

Confession time: I’ve seen Austentatious four times. And each time the quick-witted troupe deliver a side-splittingly funny performance, based on an audience suggested Jane Austen style title. Worth going back again and again, these guys never disappoint.

★★★★★
Underbelly George Square, August 6-17, 19-31, 1.15pm £12.50

 


Marny Godden: Flap ’em On The Gate


Comedy

marny

With her host of surreal characters Marny Godden’s Flap ’em On The Gate is an uproariously bonkers show that had me crying with laughter. A true clowning talent, Godden is one of those gifted performers who can make you laugh just by raising an eyebrow. If you like The Mighty Boosh you’ll love this.

★★★★
Underbelly Cowgate, August 6-7, 19-30, 5.20pm £10.00

 


4×4 Ephemeral Architectures


Dance, physical theatre and circus

jugglers

One of the joys of coming to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is seeing something you wouldn’t normally see. In an unexpected genre blend this show provides jugglers and ballet dancers performing together on stage. With instances of humour, and obvious athletic talent and skill, this show also provided a truly elegant moment of beauty that almost drove this cynical city dweller to tears. Almost. Worth a look.

★★★★
Assembly George Square Theatre, August 5-11, 13-17, 19-24, 26-30, 5.30pm £16.00


Ed Fest Fast Tips


ed1What to wear:

Layers and comfortable shoes. Edinburgh’s a hilly city, and you can end up walking a lot between shows. Much like the weather, the venues vary in temperature: some are hot, some are cold, some are wet! Dress accordingly.

How to navigate:

Download the free Edinburgh Festival Fringe App from Kotikan Ltd, which lists all the shows taking place. It allows you to search by shows, location, nearby shows, reviews etc, as well as book tickets and show venues on a map. A little lifesaver.

What to eat:

Deep friend Mars bars. You won’t regret it. Besides you’ll burn off all the calories climbing those Edinburgh hills.

mars

0 comment

Positive at Park Theatre, by Shaun Kitchener

| Reviews You Can Read In One Minute

Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 22.45.45

Positive tells the story of Benji, a gay Londoner looking to revive his love, sex and social lives one year after testing HIV+. But if Benji’s mantra – If Britney can get through 2007, then I can get through today – doesn’t give you the heads up let me make it clear: this is not a moral depress-fest, but a hilarious nuanced comedy of modern manners. As the writer Kitchener states in the programme introduction: ‘nobody dies’. At one point I laughed so hard my theatre companion had to restrain me from keeling over into Marcio Andrey Santarosa’s clever dual reference giant round pill and plus sign stage, upon which the action is delivered. From the ground up this is a polished, satisfying story: Kitchener expertly teasing at first hilarity and then real emotional depth and punch from his subject matter.pTimothy George’s ‘Benji’ and Sally George’s overbearing mother ‘Margo’ (yes, they are mother and son in real life) give stunning performances, managing to move from an amusing confrontation to genuine tenderness in a devastating second. Yet again I found myself being steadied by my friend, as I attempted and failed to fight back tears. And it is here in the meat of the play that Kitchener’s work really comes into it’s own: this is not a story about HIV, but about life and how we choose to live it. About love and how we choose to give it. Director Harry Burton must be congratulated for bringing the best from his cast, never allowing laughs or sentimentality to get in the way of the real power of the piece.

A special mention for Claire Greenaway’s Health Physician Jennifer, who was the perfect picture of professionalism, concern and genuine care I recognise from my own consultants and carers I see as part of my chronic health condition. Yet again Kitchener’s script shuns the saccharine or obvious, and instead delivers a slice of reality in what is a tightly structured and deftly delivered play. I positively suggest you go and see it.

Positive is on at Park Theatre until the 1st August 2015.

 

1 Comment

The Thirty List, by Eva Woods

| Reviews You Can Read In One Minute

 

517UM8BXNULI love lists. I make lists for everything from shopping lists, to lists of things I want to do in the coming year. They help me remember, clarify and stay focused. Forget the iPhone Generation, when I think of the ‘listicles’ that appear on Buzzfeed I know we’re the List Generation. Which is what is so initially appealing about The Thirty List: a romantic comedy that tells the story of Rachel, newly separated from her husband, who draws up a list of all the things she’d meant to do before turning thirty and sets about ticking them off. We all have that list. The one with the big things on it, our hopes and dreams, but how many of us actually tackle them? Rachel jumps in wholeheartedly, and as they say, hilarity ensues.

Woods deftly weaves the tender pathos of Rachel’s broken marriage and impending divorce, with deep belly laugh inducing jokes at the perils of house hunting in London, trying to find a job, trying to make a living, and the day to day troubles that concern most of us. Structuring the story around Rachel’s list, the reader is soon invested in not only the completing of the tasks but also the reconstruction of Rachel’s life. Forced to move in with a grumpy man named Patrick and his four year old son Alex, Rachel corrals her new landlord into writing his own list and this is where the fun really starts. I snorted with laughter at moments in this book, and kept shouting out bits to my companions: ‘Listen to this bit! So funny!’

But Woods is more than a writer of great jokes, the pace and depth of this warm hearted tale built to a real moment of crisis I did not see coming, and one which moved me to tears. There is love and heartbreak and hope in this book: a perfect summer read. Put reading it at the top of your to-do list.

The Thirty List, by Eva Woods: top of my list 5/5

0 comment

Dirty Special Thing, Platform Theatre

| Reviews You Can Read In One Minute

 

UnknownIn the wake of the recent election results I watched many publically express their concerns about our changing society, and pledged, among other things, to support the arts. With IdeasTap closing in a few weeks, and funding and grants being slashed, there is a fear our cultural landscape is being irrevocably changed. It’s being white washed, narrowed, minimised. The voices we’ll hear, the books we’ll read, the faces we’ll see, will be restricted to those who can financially support them selves through training, developing their craft, and getting their first break. Which is why we must back projects like Generation Arts, who work through theatre making with marginalised members of society. They provide access, support, and help getting into employment for young people who haven’t had the opportunity to achieve academic qualifications. Guys, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is and cough up a tenner for the ticket. (Added bonus: there’s a student bar at the Platform Theatre and it’s cheap!)

But there is another reason to watch this project end show: it’s bloody good. I sat down expecting worthy, and what I got was real. It took a few seconds for my brain to adjust to those that were on stage. There’s no way to say this but bluntly, most of the theatre I see is white. White actors everywhere. Dirty Special Thing’s cast is diverse, and you know what it looked like? It looked like London. It looked like every day reality. Our capital city and Helder Fernandes’ cheeky young taxi driver training for the knowledge provided the Greek chorus and structure of this play. With charm and wit, he led us through at first what seemed like disparate stories of Londoners, marking out on the floor the routes we take, the transport we use, but they became entwined: we are all part of the same story. A perfect visual execution of the idea of community. A twist on the phrase: we’re all in this together.

Moneer Elmasseek’s erudite Big Issue seller was an oracle providing sharp insights into humanity, as it mostly rushed past. The stories that unfolded were touchingly real, routed in a reality that is often missing in plays that try to address society’s ills. Tammi Blake St Louis’ exasperated nurse, finding time in the 15 minutes she’s allotted with each home care patient to tenderly moisturise the dry face of one. A beautiful moment of compassion in the monotonous grind of life. The numerable cast make light work of the stage, delivering intriguing vignettes full of humour, struggle, pain and triumph. This may be a good cause, but Dirty Special Thing was a great show.

Dirty Special Thing is on until Saturday 6th June, get tickets here: http://www.generationarts.org.uk/dirty-special-thing-2/

 

 

0 comment

Twelve Angry Men, by Reginald Rose at Richmond Theatre (& On Tour)

| Reviews You Can Read In One Minute

23857_full

Confession time: I’ve never seen Twelve Angry Men staged, or the movie with Henry Fonda. I know, I know: I just hadn’t got to it yet. But this meant that when I took my seat in the gorgeous Richmond Theatre I didn’t know what was coming.

Set in 1950s Manhattan, in a hot locked room, twelve jurymen must decide if an accused boy is guilty of murder. If found guilty the sixteen-year-old defendant, from the wrong side of the tracks, will be executed by electric chair. Immediately Tom Conti, who plays Juror 8, is marked out by his (at first physical) distance to the others and by his lone vote of not guilty. The only thing standing between the boy and death is Juror 8. And so begins an intense re-examining of the evidence, as in turn each Juror confronts their own doubts, prejudices and beliefs.

This is a fight for survival and justice, the set holding the men in a claustrophobic embrace Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 13.46.49as thunder rolls overhead and it grows dark as the rain comes. The table the men sit around slowly revolves as they debate ever closer to the deadline they’ve imposed: the tables literally turn. The outstanding cast make light work of the humour, the emotion and the high stakes. Andrew Lancel as Juror 3 embodying the repressed anger and pain recognisable in the posturing of many a bar bully. Squaring up to Tom Conti’s considered, thoughtful Juror 8 the two seem destined to forever be opposed. This is a classic play delivered with panache and conviction, which left me on the edge of my seat till the end. A guaranteed good night out.

Twelve Angry Men is on at the Richmond Theatre until Saturday 2nd May, and will then be touring: full details and dates here.

 

You can read about what I will and what I won’t review here.

0 comment

What I Review… And What I Won’t Review

| Reviews You Can Read In One Minute, Uncategorized

 

I read a lot of books, see a lot of plays, and watch a lot of films. It’s my job: you can’t write without studying your craft (well you can be you probably won’t get far), and that includes digesting as much material as possible. The creative process is a hard thing to define and explain, but for me a large part of it is to be stimulated: different genres and different mediums all feed back into my ideas and what I’m working on. A newspaper story, a documentary, a superhero film, a literary novel, a four-minute Youtube sitcom: it all goes into the melting pot. For me it’s all about story: and you find that in every form of expression.

All this creative-crudité-crunching means I come across some amazing things I want to share: plays that made me cry, books that made me laugh out loud, and films that chilled me. It also means I come across things I find not so successful. Creativity is subjective, and even if I find flaws in works I understand that getting a book written and published, producing a play, or getting a movie green lit is a big deal. It’s hard to achieve, and it takes a vast amount of work. We’re talking years of sweat and tears and determination and very possibly near-bankruptcy. I also know the finished article an audience receives has had the input of many others: a book will be shaped by an editor, a film re-written numerous times by multiple writing teams, a play tailored by a theatre. The faults you think you can see in a creative piece don’t necessarily originate from the writer.

photo-17So who am I to blog negatively about someone else’s work? We’re all learning, we’re all growing, we’re all hopefully moving forwards. If I don’t like something I don’t review it. I write about the things I enjoyed or loved*. There are already enough hurdles artists have to overcome, there is already enough rejection to endure: they don’t need a silly little blog giving them a bad review.

 

*If you or your publisher have sent me your book and I have not reviewed it, please do not assume it is because I didn’t like it: sometimes life gets in the way and my to-read pile gets out of control. My apologies.

0 comment

The Liar’s Chair, by Rebecca Whitney

| Reviews You Can Read In One Minute

liar

A year or so ago I was at my favourite writing retreat and met fellow guest Rebecca Whitney, who was working on what would become The Liar’s Chair. Sat in front of the fire clutching a glass of wine, I listened rapt as she read an extract. I remember being consumed by the desire to know what happened next. Now finished and published by Pan Macmillan I have my answer.

The Liar’s Chair is the story of Rachel Teller, a prosperous businesswoman who accidentally kills a man in a hit and run incident. It is a taut, gripping plot, with controlling husband David covering up the accident and insisting Rachel and he pretend nothing has happened. But this one act of violence sends fissures across the meticulously cultivated veneer of Rachel ‘s seemingly perfect life, and arouses her husband’s darker side.

I got in the bath to start reading this book and didn’t get out until I’d finished. Wrinkled like a prune and having emptied the boiler of hot water, I was fascinated by Rachel and her plight. But more than simply a tense page-turner, The Liar’s Chair is a stunning psychological profile of a character. Whitney delves through the shadows of Rachel’s life to bring the reader an extraordinary understanding of the woman we meet on the first page. Rachel is a troubled character and I’ve seen a few reviews sighting her as unlikeable, but I think we should be wary of damning protagonists on their likability. This is not a popularity contest, and all too often the question of likeability is only raised in regards to female writers and female protagonists: so unused are we to seeing real representations of women. Rachel is not a two dimensional portrait, but a complex, augmented, fully-formed person. She is very very real. Something I hope we see more of when it comes to female characters.

If you’re in the mood for a pacey psychological thriller, and don’t mind abandoning your plans for the day, then I’d recommend The Liar’s Chair.

The Liar’s Chair by Rebecca Whitney: dark, startling and compelling 4/5

0 comment

Lampedusa, by Anders Lustgarten at the Soho Theatre

| Reviews You Can Read In One Minute

lust 3

Writer Anders Lustgarten’s biography in the front of the Lampedusa programme and text describes him as a ‘political activist who’s been arrested in four continents’. It should come as no surprise then that Lampedusa – named after the Italian island that marks the southern most point of Europe, and the primary entry point for migrants – is a play that tackles immigration and welfare. Slipping between the words of Stefano, an Italian lifeguard who fishes the bodies of hundreds of drowned migrants from the sea, and those of Denise, a payday lender collector in Leeds. Ferdy Roberts and Louise Mai Newberry give captivating performances in the lead roles in the intimate stripped setting of Soho Upstairs.

Lustgarten’s play is delivered in the timeless tradition of storytelling, the character’s lustgartenmonologues echoing the no doubt countless tales that have travelled round the world and through history to tie us each to our past and our homelands. There’s a touch of humour, heartbreak, and horror here as Stefano and Denise reel you into their lives. The world shrinking to the mesmeric single swaying bulb on the stage, as the language and the performance transport you to the climax of the story. At first I failed to see the link between the two lead characters, and their journey of finding hope in unexpected places, but now I believe the connection is the invisible thread that ties all of humanity together. An absorbingplay that questions how an apparently civilised continent got to this point. How we got to this point.

Lampedusa by Anders Lustgarten is on at the Soho Theatre until 26th April 2015.

n.b. The seating for this performance is benches without backs, but if you need support you can find a small number of lighting pillars that run vertical to the back row. Using my neck pillow I was able to lean against one of these pillars for the duration of the performance. There is a lift up to the studio.

0 comment

1 2

Join My Pen Knife Readers and Writers Club

Sign up for exclusive free writing tips, publishing secrets, reader recommendations, swanky competitions, and all my latest news and gossip.