#150 - "gloriously, beautifully, involvingly naturalistc" - theatre review, The Humans 11/09/2018

Brrrr. I can’t recall a creepier evening in the theatre since Conor McPherson’s The Weir. On one level, Stephen Karam’s award-winning play – presented here by its masterful American cast – is a study of a just-about-managing American family, frayed by internal tensions and external economic pressures. But Joe Mantello’s production also carries a looming sense of dread, and the hint of a supernatural agency stronger than the professed Catholicism of Reed Birney’s paterfamilias, Erik. The threat never takes concrete form, but it undercuts every character’s plan or professed hope. The acting remains gloriously, beautifully, involvingly naturalistic, and it is this, juxtaposed with the spooky atmosphere, that makes the play such a memorable piece of theatre.

#149 - "The score is subtler than the action" - theatre review, Love's Labour's Lost 30/08/18

Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

What desperate extremes director Nick Bagnall goes to in his attempt to make this lesser Shakespeare funny. Part commedia, part panto, part slapstick, his production has plenty of energy and some merits but the humour is largely hollow and unanchored to this tale of courtly love. The acting honours are stolen by Kirsty Woodward’s dry princess, the limelight by Paul Stocker’s grossly caricatured Navarre. Ostensible leads Rosaline and Berowne play muted second fiddle. The eight-strong company is accompanied by three musicians, who provide a score that is intrusive, but also more subtle than the stage action, and which provides a moment of transcendent beauty at the wished-for end.

#148 - "As richly evocative as its source material" - theatre review, Toast 27/08/18

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh Fringe

This adaptation of Nigel Slater’s memoir of the food and the family strife that turned him into a cook is as richly evocative as the original. Director Jonnie Riordan is also a choreographer, and it shows.  He whisks us fluidly through a childhood idyll punctuated by cakes and sweets but brought to an abrupt close by the premature death of Slater’s beloved mother, and his brusque father’s remarriage to the hated “Auntie Joanie”. Sam Newton deftly evokes Nigel’s childhood truculence and later his emerging sexuality, but above all the wonder of cooking and the sheer pleasure of eating – something in which the audience rather wonderfully gets to share.

#147 - "Stark, striking images of oppression" - theatre review, Silence 27/08/18

Pleasance at EICC, Edinburgh Fringe

“Polish nutters on stilts breathing fire,” is how I recalled Teatr Biuro Podrozy’s gobsmacking Carmen Funebre from the Fringe 23 years ago. And that pretty much sums up their new show, Silence. The company deals in stark, striking images of oppression in their outdoor spectacles – here adults and dummy children from a city of “ten million people,” harassed and murdered by soldiers and giants wielding flaming wheelsand gas canisters. The obvious parallel is Aleppo and though TBP aren’t subtle their imagery is undeniably powerful, not least the final picture of paper refugee boats washed away by an indifferent jobsworth nonchalantly deploying a power hose.

#146 - "A flimsy delight" - theatre review, Little Shop of Horrors 14/08/18

Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

Well, this is a flimsy delight. Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s musical adds sly wit and pleasing music but precious little substance to Roger Corman’s cheap horror flick about a man-eating plant. But what it lacks in substance it makes up for in sheer joyful exuberance. Maria Aberg’s production enlivens a grey NY skid row with splashes of sci-fi green as innocent shop boy Seymour (Marc Antolin) is sucked over to the dark side by carnivorous shrub Audrey (ebullient drag queen Vicky Vox). There ‘s a nice turn from Matt Willis as the sadistic dentist, but the real star here is the music and Tom Scutt’s wild herbaceous designs.

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