Reviews & features: Theatre, Issue 686

78 reviews

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Simon Callow in Tuesday at Tescos

8 Aug 20114 stars

Transgender monologue that’s dressed to kill

Anything performed by Simon Callow comes with a certain guarantee: that you’ll be entertained, impressed by the Shakespearean actor’s masterly skill, and perhaps moved to laughter and/or tears. Almost all of which Tuesday at Tescos achieves. Emmanuel…

Death Song

8 Aug 20114 stars

Intense story of loss and secrets

Focusing on a bereaved father and daughter in the 1980s, Death Song is engaging and impeccably performed. Juan, a single father following the death of his wife, is a Mexican immigrant in America struggling to get work and keep his daughter safe, when a…

It’s Uniformation Day

8 Aug 20112 stars

2001: A Space Odyssey got weird

Surreal from start to finish, It’s Uniformation Day aims to analyse ideas of happiness, human frailty and relationships in modern life. Other than that, it’s hard to say what happened. The three actors are our representatives on a strange rocket mission…

Scary Gorgeous

8 Aug 20113 stars

Girls gone wild

2010 Fringe First winners RashDash ask why girls allow themselves to be defined by their sexual prowess in the mess that is modern femininity. Two classic ‘frenemies’ and bandmates, Helen and Abbi, demonstrate the difficulty of being a ‘normal’ young…

Robert Burns: Not in my Name

8 Aug 20112 stars

Tracing the final years of the Bard

Political activist, prolific blogger and former Rebel Inc proprietor Kevin Williamson traces the last few years of Burns’ life via the poems that were considered too dangerous for the Bard to claim as his own. A blend of multimedia and spoken word…

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One Night Stan

8 Aug 20114 stars

Excellent one-man show based on life of Stan Laurel

This excellent one-man show written and performed by Miles Gallant dramatises the life of Stanley Jefferson aka Stan Laurel of Laurel and Hardy fame. With his partner taken ill on the penultimate week of their 1954 UK tour, Stan looks back on his…

Slavery to Star Trek

8 Aug 20113 stars

Autobiographical show taking in Martin Luther King and Malcolm X

Andreea Kindryd has lived a fascinating life. She knew Martin Luther King, was friends with Malcolm X and worked on the original Star Trek series. She’s an engaging storyteller whose tale starts in the days of her great grandparents and slavery…

Generation 9/11: So Far / So Close

8 Aug 20114 stars

Captivating and quietly profound one-man show

Don’t let the subject put you off. This is a captivating and quietly profound one-man show by San Franciscan Chris Wolfe that refracts 9/11 through the memories of ordinary people, right up to the present day. He’s a charismatic performer, and his…

Roar

8 Aug 20114 stars

Stylish, sexy romp is frequently hilarious but not without emotion

If you want your ‘sexy romp’ boxes ticked, this is the place to do it. Dumbshow’s Roar is a stylish, exuberant tale of gin-soaked 17th-century wenches led by a ‘Moll Cutpurse’ channelling Beyoncé in full-on she-lion mode. Bawdy, slick and…

The Oh Fuck Moment

8 Aug 20114 stars

Uneasily entertaining afternoon of reflection on human frailty

We’re ushered into a boardroom where two performers join us in discussing horrifying human errors, from the embarrassingly rude, through the sexually ill-fated, and on to the physically terminal. This is an uneasily entertaining afternoon of reflection…

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Alice in Wonderland and Other Adventures With Lewis Carroll

8 Aug 20111 star

Badly sung songs, ill-fitting costumes and stilted delivery

Actor Richard Smithies looks ‘surprisingly like’ Lewis Carroll says the Fringe catalogue – unfortunately, this is where the positives end. The songs are badly sung to midi backing tracks, the costume ill-fitting, the delivery stilted and crucial…

At The Sans Hotel

8 Aug 20113 stars

A sophisticated exploration of the form/content dichotomy

Being invited to ‘come feel from the front’ of the stage is indicative of a bohemian love-in, but At The Sans Hotel is instead a sophisticated exploration of the form/content dichotomy. The play balances large ideas of perceived reality with humour and…

One Under

8 Aug 20113 stars

Energetic piece of devised theatre based on London Underground

Inspired by interviews conducted on the London Underground, this energetic piece of devised theatre looks beneath the sweat and stress of the cramped carriages to unearth the inner lives of people travelling on the tube. Their stories are variously…

Sideshow

8 Aug 20112 stars

Freakshow-themed one-man show lacks pay-off

Surrounded by the paraphernalia of the freakshow, Robert Ingham (Lewis Davidson) reminisces on his life as an oddity and the world behind the velvet curtain. Switching between biography and sideshow acts, Davidson’s one-man show plays out like the pitch…

The Magical Faraway Tree

8 Aug 20113 stars

Multi-character comedy not really based on Enid Blyton tale

If you’re looking for a family-friendly rendering of an Enid Blyton tale, beware – this isn’t it. Instead, the supremely silly boys of Sleeping Trees Theatre have concocted a multi-character comedy with only the slenderest of roots lodged in Blytonian…

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Belt Up’s The Boy James

8 Aug 20113 stars

Well-executed drama based on JM Barrie's childhood

The Boy James, loosely based on the childhood of JM Barrie, begins with childish enthusiasm but gradually moves into more sinister ground, and ends with no firm resolution. Although the acting and script occasionally falter, the overall effect is one of…

Nobody’s Home: A Modern Odyssey

8 Aug 20113 stars

Powerful portrayal of mental illness

Confined to his bathroom (and his own mind), returning soldier Grant battles war-born demons, which parallel the perils faced by Ulysses, tussling with wife Penny (who doubles as Homer’s monsters) for firm mental ground. Excellently devised and…

Radio Deluxembourg

8 Aug 20111 star

Parodic retro-kitsch with utterly unfunny script and weary cast

A parodic retro-kitsch adventure in which a twee sibling pop duo are kidnapped by an evil alien overlord and forced to perform radio plays on his intergalactic frequency could work, but here it doesn’t. More foot in mouth than tongue in cheek, the cast…

The Seagull Effect

8 Aug 20112 stars

Enthusiasm and visual techniques let down by overdone score and direction

It’s raining on the way to Idle Motion’s The Seagull Effect, setting the audience up nicely to appreciate a play about small but consequential events in the world and the weather. Unfortunately the performance is similarly damp with overly literal…

Remembering Annabel

8 Aug 20112 stars

Edgar Allan Poe adaptation feels messy despite flashes of humour

Riding high on the critical success of their 2010 show Pale Moon, the young members of Cathartic Connections chose to adapt Edgar Allan Poe’s Annabel Lee as their follow-up. While there are clever flashes of humour, much of the plotting feels messy and…

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Shhh: The Musical

8 Aug 20112 stars

Enthusiasm let down by unoriginal script and forgettable songs

There is little doubting the enthusiasm of this young cast, as they do their best with a ‘romcom’ script about finding love in a bookshop. Sadly their energy is largely wasted on a script lacking in originality and punch. The characters are roundly…

The Dipper

8 Aug 20111 star

Utter nonsense misses the mark completely

What should have been the sting in The Dipper’s tail is inexplicably revealed in one of the very first moves anyone makes in this show, rendering the next 40 minutes pointless. A convoluted set-up results in a well to-do housewife cum jewel thief…

Dr Apple’s Last Lecture

8 Aug 20112 stars

Energetic acting, but ultimately without a point

Depicting a drug trip live on stage was always going to be challenge. But in this tale of an uptight psychology professor deciding to expand his consciousness, the end result is self-indulgent rather than revelatory. Many of the play’s images are…

Terezin: Children of the Holocaust

8 Aug 20111 star

Fictionalised account of a concert fails to convey emotional weight

Writer Anna Smulowitz, who lost relatives in the Holocaust, presents a fictionalised account of a concert performed at the Czech concentration camp Terezin. Using a revolving cast of youngsters to portray the daily suffering of camp internees the piece…

Minute After Midday

8 Aug 20114 stars

Pared-down performance based on Omagh bombing

Pared-down performances resonate here as three very different stories are told, in overlapping monologues, from the day the Omagh bombing devastated Ireland. A young survivor, a widow, and the driver who left the car bomb on Lower Market Street, relive…