Frankie Thompson and Liv Ello have captured the zeitgeist with this kaleidoscopic, burnt-plastic-fantastic pageant of deconstructed brilliance.
Barbenheimer, meme culture, and body image are put under a flaming microscope, with this year’s frenzy for repackaged visions of gendered beauty standards being presented through a disjointed, edgy performance style that links it to 2023’s other cultural obsession: self-destruction.
They are the ultimate Barbie and Ken, frozen atop a singed, synthetic wedding cake that opens out to reveal screens projecting a slew of TV segments and vintage commercials. Against this, they perform fragments on a theme, playing with elements of disembodied Lynchian wasteland alongside lip-synced audio tracks of Bakeoff, the Traitors and Come Dine With Me.
They are at once themselves and a host of caricatures, embodying accents and heightened physicalities with gleeful abandon. Thompson’s Barbie spins through all the colours of wonder, confusion, and breakdown, whilst Ello’s Action Man bursts onto the stage with the most in-your-face brand of Andrew Tate’s toxic masculinity. These are smartly political enactments of the extremities of gender, laying bare the dark impact these can have on people’s bodies.
The piece argues that this is where the battle lines of capitalism are drawn, with the pressures and stresses of a thousand impossible expectations playing out through us and manifesting in myriad harmful ways. They describe theatre as a place to hold all of the damage wreaked on us by our culture. So many of the anxieties, pains, and preoccupations of the current climate are acknowledged here, with the interruption of Thompson’s lived experience of being failed by the healthcare system being deployed to devastating effect.
It’s a piece for our age of constantly shifting attention spans, of reeling from the falseness of commercialised beauty and the cartoonification of life. Pop culture melts into surreal interior darkness, keeping the laughs while pushing the limits of narrative. There’s not an ounce of wasted breath, and it winds a complicated set of ideas around a performance style that is so aware of what it’s doing that it cries out to be watched.
If you like strange, political, and cutting-edge theatre, this is a must-see show. If you don’t, you should try it, for it will surely stand out as one of this year’s defining shows.
Since its Broadway premiere in 1976, Pacific Overtures has become a surprising addition to the musical theatre canon. Telling the story of Japan’s isolationist foreign policy transformed in 1853 by the arrival of American forces was and is not traditional musical theatre fare. Nor is the manner of telling; writers Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman, coupled with original director Hal Prince, sought to tell this as a Japanese story with techniques borrowed from kabuki and with music structured around fourths, rather than Western triads. Although relatively little known within Sondheim’s body of work, it is one of his most ambitious … More PACIFIC OVERTURES – REVIEW – MENIER CHOCOLATE FACTORY
Following on from a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe, this boy band Christmas music has made its way to the Seven Dials Playhouse. With an obvious influence from Dickens’ classic Christmas story, Chris Kirkpatrick is visited by an Angel – Marky Mark and is allowed to make a wish. What follows is an hour of boy band fun. Yes, this plot might sound crazy… but it ain’t no lie. The plot is rather thin on the ground, and whilst at times the production really leans into the weird and hilarious, so much about it could be made bigger. The … More CHRISKIRKPATRICKMAS – REVIEW – SEVEN DIALS PLAYHOUSE
The infamous Sh!t Faced Showtime are back in London with a festive edition, they have taken Dickens’ classic and put a drunken spin on it. The formula is the same as other iterations of the Shi!t Faced shows, one member of the cast has been boozing, and this time it is John Milton who plays Scrooge. Before the show, half a bottle of Jim Beam, some wine, and beer have been consumed in the previous 4 hours. The rest of the cast, try to keep the show on track, also aided by James Murfitt as the compere, Charles Dickens. The … More A PISSEDMAS CAROL – REVIEW – LEICESTER SQUARE
Spine-tingling yet heart-warming, Mark Gatiss’s retelling of A Christmas Carol truly encapsulates the haunting atmosphere of a Victorian ghost story, balanced out with enough humour so as to capture the festive season. Led by Keith Allen as Scrooge, with Peter Forbes as Marley, this show is perfect for Christmas viewing. The set design by Paul Wills is instantly captivating, containing stacks of metal cabinets towering over the theatre, moveable by the cast to allow space for other central props like doors, beds and tables. In addition to this, the puppetry design by Matthew Forbes is incredibly clever, adding creepy elements to the show such … More A CHRISTMAS CAROL – REVIEW – ALEXANDRA PALACE
The title of this winner of Theatre 503’s 2023 International Playwriting Award by Roxy Cook may seem like the set-up to a joke, but the narrative that unspools is instead an affectionate, gently barbed and at base quite sobering portrait of three ordinary souls (and one restless feline) adrift in modern Moscow. There is much affable, satirical back-and-forth commentary on the accepted myths & stereotypes of the Russian spirit & soul. Beset by the indignities of age, opportunism, graft, fatigue, the characters orbit one another, doomed to play out their roles in an unjust, predatory and saturnine universe. The play opens … More A WOMAN WALKS INTO A BANK – REVIEW – THEATRE503