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9 Jan

LEXICON – nofitstate
at the Round House ****
a circus without animals
Described as “A World inhabited by misfits. A world of Magic, Music and Laugher, where the impossible becomes possible.”
It all begins with the music. Scattered sounds from the four musicians with, brass and woodwind instruments (compete with a euphonium).
The fifteen performers begin as children sitting at their school desks, where everything is regulated and boring. Gradually someone throws open their desk, and throws torn-up papers everybody enjoys, copies and misbehaves – there is a storm of white paper.

They are full of excitement just as if they are running away to join a circus!
This is truly an ensemble company who trust each other, put their lives in each others’ hands as they climb to the sky and tumble to the ground, just avoiding inevitable death, as they do impossible conjuring tricks on a tightrope, or even on a slack rope like which is even more dangerous.
Imagine, trying to get completely undressed down to your underwear, and then dress yourself in formal DJ atrtire, all whilst riding on a unicycle. The trousers present much difficulty and much hilarity. I had a problem this morning getting into tight jeans, when sitting on a non moving chair.
On of my favourites was, the guy in a kilt who walks on a big green ball and messes about with his clarinet with perfect comedy timing.
Also the man who fools around with fire, accidentally setting light to his own shirt, all his fellow performers and everything else but managing to dowse all the flames until he finishes by juggling with multiple blazing sticks.
The Round House is a perfect venue for them. With its strength and stability It can support high standing towers and suspended metal rings suspended from the ceiling and they make good use of them. Very frightening when one swing on a trapeze right over the head of the audience.
The music and the singing is wonderfully apt and the
whole show is excellently thought out and worked by the direction team along with the performers. There are no stars – only each one of them. All achieving the impossible with humour and incredible good spirits.
If you need to see a circus with Magic, Music and Laughter, this is something special.
Lexicon is a great evening out.

the nativity pantomime

8 Dec

The Nativity Panto *****
Devised by John Savournin and David Eaton
At the Kings Head

Why do we find Mary and Joe up to their knees in snow. Surely Nazareth has a rather warmer temperatiure.
And yet, and yet… Think of Santa Claus and his reindeer, emblems of Christmas. Also remember ‘In the bleak midwinter… snow had fallen, snow on snow’ etc so it must be OK.
And so it is at the Kings Head with the lively companyof the Charles Court Opera performing a story written by John Savournin with music and lyrics by David Eaton
Why should it be surprising that Mary gets pregnant by a Holly Bush?. Rudolph in tears because he can’t, or has forgotten how, to fly.?
That Three Wise Men arrive on the scene because of a rather shaky star on a stick that is held up by somebody behind the set – who probably also operates the elves that occasionally appear peeping over the back wall
Yes, it must be said that this panto is totally daft and is all the better for it.
The concession to what is known nowadays as an Adult Pantomime is protrayed by one of the three Kings, name of Kingkey, who has the dirtiest mind in the world and turns every spoken phrase into something sexual. It is a billiant idea, so that the audience is allowed to appreciate these jokes and at the same time see how stupid they are. Also the dreadful puns are neatly arranged in such a way that it is acceptible to groan at them.
What I am endeavouring to say is that this panto is written by a great wit (and don’t say that too quickly or it might turn out to be an insult Oh dear, the panto season is surely upon all of us.)
John Savournin is a really clever chap. He can take all the professional pantomime bits and pieces on board and make it work as a great piece of comedy theatre, by doing a double take on the kind of pantos we see around.
The show is beautifully cast. Mary is played by Meriel Cunningham singing like an angel and looking looking adorably pretty in her peasant costume – a bit like a dutch doll with braids pinned above her head. Her Joe is played by Matthew Kellett and the two of them do nice duets. The evil villain is Jack Frost played by Jennie Jacobs with Catrine Kirkman as her sidekick Snowflake (see what they did there?) and Emily Cairns is the pathetic Rudolph.
However, in addition to these characters, the cast are expected to play the ‘We Three Kings of OrienTar’ King Size, King Pin and the aforementioned King Key. Jennie Jacobs also portrays Christmas Carol, the fortune teller.
It is astonishing when, at the curtain call, we are suddenly aware that there only five people on stage plus a drummer up on a plinth at the side.
This is the magic of panto and also a feat of mgic by Mia Wallden and Catrin Short Thyrsson who have designed the most wonderful costunes. Not only probably the most georgous cossies on any stage, but so adaptable that five people can manage to play ten without being irritatingly recognised.
The production values of this show are exceptional. Rachel Szmuckler’s set is atmospheric, Christmassy and there is a cunning door in the centre which creates suspense. Will it open? When will it open? I will say no nore. Damien Czarnecki’s choreography is well thought out, making the most of everybody’s best moves, especially Jack Frost in his/her skintight costume who wriggles about like a silver spider with long icicle fingernails
This is an antidote for intelligent people who are a little sick of panto. So Well Done!

Aline at AWtheatricals.


22 Nov

IN Long Lane, ner Borough Tube Station there is the Colab Factory. It is not a factory. Once somebody has opened the door to you and you have climbed up the steps there is a door. You open the door and you are in an unnaturally large room. This was the room donated to the Labour Party under Jim Callaghan back in the seventies.

YOu speak to the young woman at the entrance desk. She asks you where have you come from? And gives you a ticket marked The Home Office. She tells you she is not working for the Party, she is an accountant. OK.

In the back of the room there is a small bar and you are offered a cup of tea. It is supposed to be 1979 but the tea is more like 2019 price.

Yes, we are back in 1979, The Winter of Discontent. The Lorry Drivers have gone on strike. They are represented by the Transport and General workers Union – a tough lot. They are hoping that the rest of the workers will join in the strike. And are bargaining for more money all round.

Apart from the price of tea, the illusion is complete. Try to talk to somebody in twenty first century English and they look at you with amazement and reply in seventies terms.

Of course, the drivers of this immersive theatre company are actors, the rest of the people involved in the work are the audience.

We are asked to take over the decision making etc – everyone has always said they could do it better than the politicians – and here we are being asked to run the country or at least avert a strike that would affect the whole of the country.

The show is the brain child of Tom Black, who also plays David, the organiser of the evening. We are asked to save the country and the actors are there to do our bidding but also to explain what is happening and make suggestions, but we are told it is the audience who make the big decisions.

I was there at the matinee with a rather smaller audience than they are used to, it also meant that I was never able to sit around and watch what was going on. I had to be in it.

The evening concluded with the television of a meeting including some of the audience, which is made on the spot in a small studio just off the main room and relayed live to the company.

The television has a real part to play during the happenings as it is turned on to the actual channel of the day and it generally sets up the atmosphere for us with speeches from Margaret Thatcher, leader of the opposition and episodes from a soap opera. Sadly we had no time to watch this or even to sit down.

Nevertheless, apart from all the talk about money and percentages and stuff I cannot follow, it really turned out to be a load of fun and I quite enjoyed giving important jobs in Callaghan’s new cabinet to annoyed delegates over the old fashioned phones.

The actors joining Tom in the show are Beth Jay, Zoe Flint, angus Woodward, Jaya Baldwin, Christopher Styles and Chloe Mashiter

If you have a taste for politics, you will have a really good time.


THE LESSON by Eugene Ionesco translated by Donald Watson at the Hope Theatre The Hope theatre is host to the most wonderfully ridiculous play by Eugene Ionesco the master of the absurd comedy and violent idiocy. This is a beautifully organised piece of Theatre in this tiny theatre room. The set is a raised platform of black and white tiles with just a table and two chairs. Roger Alborough, a face well known to TV audiences and to theatregoers alike plays The Professor. A man who knows everything and who cannot understand why The Pupil cannot work out what is known by subtraction and yet can by a simple act of memory give the answer to the most complicated arithmetical problems involving Milliions, billions and trillions of numbers He embarks on Philology although warned by his maid that it is dangerous. This character is wonderfully interpreted by Joan Porter and one doesn’t realise at the very beginning of the play when she is cleaning the room to make it fit for the student’s lesson what her function is within Ionisco’s fevered brain. The student is played by Sheetal Kapoor and she gives a perfectly timed performance in her scenes with Alborough. Their timing of the scenes is something that any playwright would die for. Some of the audience become hysterical with laughter, The production is incredibly funny and yet full of violence and horror at the same time.. The lighting by Chris McDonnell and the sound by Simon Arrowsmith help to make this a stunning professional production directed by a man who has been in love with the play ever since he first discovered it at University. Matthew Parker has given us his own flash of brilliance..

30 Sep


3 Aug

Book by Nadim Naaman
Based on the book by Kahlil Gibran
Music and lyrics by Dana Al Fardan and Nadim Naaman

A new and beautiful musical comes to the Haymarket.
The story is an operatic one. Secret love, death, evil clergymen. Not a load of laughs, but it has its own enchantment. The haunting music, written by the authors is simple, but in the Lebanon scenes has an Eastern flavour to contrast with the American style of the New York episodes.
The Broken Wings was an autobiographical story written more than a hundred years ago in Arabic, about tragic love, condemning the antifeminism of the regime in Beirut and criticising the organised religion that allowed it to happen.
Gibran was a poet and early feminist, who spent his early life in Beirut and this is a story about his visit there as a young man. He fell in love with his beautiful cousin Selma who returned his passion but she was given to a nephew of the Bishop and neither she nor her father had any say in the matter. Gibran was distressed to find that a girl could be just given away as if she were a thing to use rather than an intelligent living person.
It broke his heart and it impelled him to write the story which has now been made into a musical play by Nadim Naaman and Dana La Fardan..
Nadim Naaman, who wrote the play, also plays the role of Gibran aged 40 and acts as narrator speaking from his drinks table in New York..
The young Kahlil Gibran (Rob Houchen) arrives in Beirut and is greeted with friendship by his friend Karin (Nadeem Crowe)and his uncle Farris (Adam Linstead) – the father of Selma (Nikita Johal). Of course, the two young people fall in love, but the Bishop (Irvine Iqbal) decides that his worthless nephew Mansour should marry Selma in order to take advantage of his future father in law’s great wealth. The young man just goes along with it happy to have the use of Farris’ money.
The singing is superb throughout but in the Lebanon scenes, the sound is not Western – especially from Nikita Johal when she cries out against the injustice of her life she is almost screaming Soophia Foroughi also as Gibran’s mother sings out with great passion and power
It adds so much to the meaning of the story that these woman could rule the world with very little trouble and yet they are practically slaves.
The designs by Claudio Rosas and Mira Abad are exceptionally creative and innovative and all is brilliantly lit by Nic Farman. The musical Director is Joe Davison and the show is directed by Bronagh Lagan
The names of the cast are difficult to get one’s head round, but it is wonderful to see so many Middle Eastern actors on the London stage.


8 Nov

Mother Courage and her children
By Bertolt Brecht, translated by Tony Kushner
Southwark Playhouse
Josie Lawrence plays the eponymous role heading the cast in this three hour long production of this anti-war epic. Brecht wrote it while in Scandinavia escaping Nazi Germany during the invasion of Poland, and it prophesised the events of the second world war, offering a warning that war doesn’t ever end. Though written before the war it was not produced in Germany until 1949 when Brecht founded the Berliner Ensemble
Set during the thirty years war in seventeenth century Germany, it tells how history repeats itself, This is not so much a play about characters as about issues and the reaction not only the war but also the peace has on people. The chaplain played by David Shelley must eventually abandon his calling to survive, helping Courage in her attempts to save her life and those of her children by any means fair or foul.
Mother Courage is a pedlar selling goods to the army. She travels in a cart pulled along by her two songs Eilif and Swiss Cheese. She has three children all with, different fathers. Her daughter, Kattrin beautifully played by Phoebe Vigor is dumb due to a traumatic experience with a solder when she was a child. The two boys are anxious to become heroes and want to join up much to their mother’s distress.
The music is very suitable and could easily have been written by Kurt Weill – but it was by Duke Special and it is wonderfully evocative as the songs are sung, groaned, or screamed appropriately by the actors.
Laura Checkley as the prostitute Yvette has a wonderful voice with much power and is a true audience pleaser. Ben Fox enjoys himself and is very funny as the predatory cook. But it is Josie Lawrence who dominates every aspect of this production with her passion and indomitable humour. She has enormous energy resonance and sensibility and gives a haunting performance. Never asking for our sympathy, but doing what she must do to survive the war – and the peace – with her enormous strength of character and ability to adapt to any situation.
However, despite the work of the well-chosen cast, this is not a completely successful production. The costumes display a kind of confusion about the century they are supposed to be in. (In some cases, the nineteen fifties?). The sound is in no way perfect, quite a lot of the dialogue is muffled and for some reason there are several important scenes played up high on a balcony behind half of the audience. So, the whole audience on the left-hand side either have to twist themselves round and stretch their necks to look upwards – very painful – or like most of them, give up and wait for the next scene on the conventional playing area.
This is such a shame as Lawrence’s performance deserves something better.


8 Nov

At The Playground Theatre.
At the brand-new theatre in Latimer Road there is a character assassination going on. Senor Picasso is surrounded by three of his women who all behave like idiots crazily in love with him. He fell in love easily and left them just as easily. He would nowadays be considered a Love Rat.
The play was written by the late Terry D’Alfonso who said that if she met Picasso, she might have succumbed to his charm. The play was brought to the theatre by Peter Tate who is one of the two artistic directors of the place and who plays the central role. The other artistic director is Anthony Biggs who was previously at Jermyn Street. This production is directed by Michael Hunt.
The new theatre is spectacular with a huge screen backing a circular stage filled with sand so the actors – in this production anyway – work in their bare feet. All around and under the circular stage are lights that change colour constantly to suit the mood of the play. There is a good audience rake giving excellent sight lines.
This is the year of the sex rat. Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacy and others have been vilified for their interest in under age women and boys or for using their power to blackmail workers into sex slaves. So many people have said ‘Boycott Weinstein movies, and Spacey productions’. I thought this was just silly being unable to separate the personal life of the man from his artistic achievements, until I saw the Picasso play and wanted to tear down all the Picasso prints in my room.
There are only three ladies in the play – they begin as models, turn into lovers, and end up as cast offs. There were many more. I knew some of them when I lived in Chelsea in the old days, there were several ladies hanging around the Chelsea boites, all of them proclaiming they modelled for Picasso. True or not, most of them were a little more intelligent than those in the play.
The production starts very effectively with a meld of his real women and his paintings of them portrayed on the screen. During the evening many episodes of his life are on film with Milena Vukotic, Margot Sikabonyl and Sandra Collodel appearing. On stage there are Adele Oni as Genevieve who comes to interview him; Claire Bowman as Marie-Therese as his first teenage mistress and Alejandra Costa as Jacqueline Roque the woman he married late in life and who tended him when he died.
The play originated as a trial of Picasso after his death, and the accusations of the women in his life. – then it was decided to feature Picasso as a central character. Oddly enough this brought him to life and made him more despicable because he was no longer a figure from the past – like Leonardo or Michael Angelo. He was there in the flesh asking to be punched in the face.
I realise this had a nasty effect on me. Maybe others will find it less unpleasant.
Still it is a lovely new theatre space and I am looking forward to seeing something a little less controversial.