Michelle Brasier is an average bear. Or rather, a woman with bear ears and no pants. (The Australian meaning, not the British.) Or, a musical theatre singer doing a one-woman show about… Nostalgia? Suffering? Herself? Or, simply all of the above.
In the cabaret-style Soho Downstairs, Brasier bares her soul, through a mix of Disney-esque self-written songs on the subjects of fancying Aladdin, condolence lasagne, and being asked if the stool next to her is free. She can sing — oh boy, can she sing! She’s got a great vibe as a self-aware MT brat and doesn’t hold back on letting the annoying and over-dramatic stereotypes of the genre infuse her work.
It’s a wild patchwork performance, with lots of storytelling, a bit of character comedy, songs, and interaction with her partner — who’s playing the guitar with her onstage. There’s a great deal of tender pathos in the exploration of death and grief. She really goes there, and as a character, she is incredibly charismatic — a watchable, fun, and witty point of view. But the bear shtick doesn’t add much, thankfully only opening and closing the set, and conceals with a gesture towards high concept the possibility of a clear theme. If the core of this show could be found and the various stories woven around it, a much greater clarity could emerge.
There’s an interesting thread here about nostalgia and being trapped in a state of naïveté — of wanting to hold onto the simple hopes and joys of a childhood movie. Is it about growing up? Because even childhood movies can have depth. There was something just a little bit surface about it, not for lack of emotion but for lack of a clear direction. The sad bits were genuinely sad — I appreciated the honesty a great deal and it was tender and very personal. But how did it fit into the whole?
What worked most were the bits where she was playing herself as a character. The small-town, pop-soaked, trashy-but-heartfelt, burning-for-more Aussie energy was true, fun, and vibrant. But did it respond to its context of being here in the UK? It felt like this was the same show she’d perform at Adelaide Fringe — the same that would be anywhere. There’s a lack of responsiveness to the crowd that leaves out any room for the live dynamic between a performer and audience to emerge. As a result, some vital intimacy gets lost, and it feels like it never quite gets out of her world to give us something we can fully relate to.
It’s a strange show, as the bits that are great fly — the command of her voice and body are brilliant, and the vocal loops in particular wrap the comedy in a sweet and musically rich experience that’s just lovely. It’s just not quite a whole show — lacking in structure and unsure of which genre it’s sat in. Definitely not average, but not stand out either. I’m left questioning: why the bear?
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
Peter Pan Goes Wrong first premiered in London at the Pleasance Theatre in 2013, and earlier this year the show made its Broadway debut. Now the production is back in the West End for the Christmas season. Following on from The Play That Goes Wrong, in this production, J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is staged by the fictitious Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society and goes awry, disastrously so. The meta-comedy is filled with slapstick comedy, sometimes the humour may be predictable and silly, but it’s universally funny throughout – there is something for everyone here, and the laughs come thick and fast … More PETER PAN GOES WRONG – REVIEW – LYRIC THEATRE
Drawing heavily from the classic canon of the British supernatural, HighTide’s trio of contemporary Gothic narratives uses traditional storytelling formats to address contemporary themes. Directed by Elayce Ismail, reverent musical interludes accompany tales of apparitions and nighttime conjurings that speak of women from the East of England. Unfortunately, the effect is less chilling and more lightweight, with conventional structures, predictable plot twists and an over-reliance on external forces to drive narrative shoring up some of the less relatable aspects of the genre. Nicola Werenowska’s The Beach House, perhaps the cleanest of the three tales, tells of a mother and daughter’s … More GHOST STORIES BY CANDLELIGHT – REVIEW – SAM WANAMAKER PLAYHOUSE