I am rarely left speechless by a piece of theatre, but Isley Lynn’s new play, The Swell, is the sort of play that one makes exceptions for. It tells the story of three queer women, Annie, Bel and Flo, and their lives in youth and middle age, flashing back and forward as we understand how Bel and Flo became so isolated, and the mystery at the heart of their life together. As with any play with a mystery at its soul, it is hard for a review to do it justice; Lynn’s introduction to the playtext eschews talking about the script altogether because there are too many surprises to give away. The best description of the emotional effect of the play lies in the fact that I simply sat in the auditorium for minutes after the show had finished, still crying. Rarely does one come across a play that is not only so affecting, but is written with such heart and honesty.
It is immensely satisfying to see a play where every element comes together so coherently. Director Hannah Hauer-King is perfectly in sync with Lynn’s writing, building, and releasing tension with real skill whilst working with a relatively still text and within a small space. Nicola T Chang’s use of sound throughout is subtle but vital to the play’s success; the use of breath to create tension matches the breaths that we did not realise we were holding. Amy Jane Cook’s set, in the meantime, is a raised platform which allows the still, seated moments of the text to be seen to their full effect, and the waters running deep beneath the platform are also incorporated into the scenes. An ensemble cast of six completes the show with fantastic performances; truly there is not a weak link among them.
The star of the show, however, without a doubt, is Lynn, whose understanding of people is unparalleled, and whose writing is funny, moving and gutting all by degrees. This is a name that will surely be at the forefront of new British theatre for many years; the only thing I can do is urge you to see this play. There are few more powerful around.
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