A black box. A hangman’s noose. The lights go up on our solo actor – Rufus Love, the title character, actor and playwright – speaking from the gallows as he is about to be hanged, whilst we hear the sound of a crowd baying for his blood. Except, as we discover minutes later, he is not about to be hanged. He is merely at Speakers’ Corner, where a public gallows once stood, imagining it.
This is the first in a series of false starts that renders this play, though admirable in its aims, incoherent to watch. Taking aim at too many targets, it struggles to hit just one. As Rufus arrives in the world of Speakers’ Corner, we are drawn into a world of any and all opinions – the only rule is they must be extreme. Rufus initially arrives as the only person who’s not a ‘weirdo’, as he puts it, yet slowly becomes dragged into the mob mentality. It’s an insightful comment on the political landscape we inhabit, yet it lacks focus. A large chunk of the play is devoted to a self-deprecating judgement – complete with wig and gavel – of Love because of his middle-class upbringing. Of course, anyone can be judged in a public forum for anything – and they frequently are – but played for laughs, this feels like low-hanging fruit in a play with much more serious topics just being skirted. A section on online communities built around suicide, for example, promises an interesting extension of the mob concept but simply doesn’t go anywhere. As Rufus gets dragged into the world of the mob, it feels inevitable, but not like anything, in particular, has been revealed to us. Love attempts to deal with too many things in one hour – a sharper focus would help to give the play more bite.
Speakers’ Corner is odd because it seems to advocate against the sort of political hobby-horsing that one might find in Hyde Park, yet is undoubtedly a soapbox piece of theatre. Love makes an occasional joke about his own hypocrisy, but again this is something that might bear further focus.
With that said, Love has a really lovely use of language throughout the script, a knack for using comedy without detracting from the seriousness of the play, and delivers a strong and wordy performance over a no doubt exhausting hour. It’s a work with plenty of potential – it speaks to the current moment, but it still does not quite feel certain of what exactly it wants to talk about.
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, High Tide’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 … More GHOST STORIES BY CANDLELIGHT – REVIEW – SAM WANAMAKER PLAYHOUSE
Drum roll please…(Cue a literal drum rolling across the stage.) The Lyric pantomime is one of traditions with the return of many well-loved jokes and skits. Costumes and sets are all made at the Lyric itself by Good Teeth, with set pieces being reused year on year. This year Cinderella gets the Hammersmith makeover, with some success. The costuming is fun and vibrant, with the ugly stepsisters’ equine pyjamas and hoop-skirted ball gowns giving all the wrong kinds of extra you need for those characters. Cinderella’s on stage dress transformation is magical and really well-timed. The Dame, Lady Jelly-Bottom’s, outfits … More CINDERELLA – REVIEW – LYRIC HAMMERSMITH