Review: Blue Door – Ustinov Studio

Original Review for Broadway World UK

blue-door-ustinov-studio.jpg

Poetic, fragmented and poignant reflection on race, forgetfulness, and legacy

‘Will there really be a morning? Is there such a thing as day? Could I see it from the mountains, if I were as tall as they?’ For Lewis, an African American mathematics professor in the throes of an insomnia and amnesia plagued night in the nineties, with his refusal to go to the Million Man March threatening his marriage and his forgetting of past generations’ plights triggering a tense confrontation with them, it feels like a morning will never come.

From the night emerges a poetic, fragmented and poignant reflection on race, forgetfulness, and legacy enlightened by two fine performances in a thoughtfully directed production from Eleanor Rhode as part of the Ustinov Studio’s UK premieres from the Americas.

Tanya Barfield’s beautifully written Blue Door – a symbol descended from the traditional belief that a door of blue would ward off demons and devils – debuted in 2006, but the black narrative it lays bare, from bondage to defamation, is, like the tonal beats of Barfield’s songs, still drumming on our doors. Continue reading “Review: Blue Door – Ustinov Studio”

Feature & Review: Four Minutes Twelve Seconds – Alma Tavern Theatre

4:12. A click, a fuck, a crack; an act, an echo, an attack: that’s all it takes in James Fritz’s provocative play to force the private lives and perspectives of one family into frighteningly acute focus. A revelatory, effective refiguring of classic themes, from reputation to retribution, into a contemporary frame, Four Minutes confronts a mother and father with a terrifying, incriminating act that forces them to face each other as well as the uncomfortable truth. 4:12. That’s all it takes.

Four Minutes Twelve Seconds Alma Tavern Theatre.jpg

Yet, it takes a titanic effort to stage a play as deceptively straight and astute, even in the simplicities of the Alma Tavern Theatre, and first-time director Charlotte Hobbs, in a production produced by the West Acting Workshop, attacks it with strength, detail, and a fervour that sometimes outstrips the striking intimacy of the play’s focus. Talking prior to opening night, Charlotte unpicks the complexities that drew her to Fritz’s play for her first directorial effort: ‘the writing! James Fritz is very good at drip-feeding the audience, and there are layers to every line.’

Thrilling and thought-provoking, it pivots on the shifting perspectives of David and Di as a video of their sheltered son in flagrante delicto is posted online, and as David’s facetious father’s pride sharpens into a suspicious defence, Di’s motherly protection shatters under the three-dimensional and non-consensual evidence. Fritz’s writing is witty, devious, and unpredictable, yet, in wilfully veering away from the predictable, it does feel less provocative, and less productive, in its avowal: Continue reading “Feature & Review: Four Minutes Twelve Seconds – Alma Tavern Theatre”

Review: The Borrowers – Tobacco Factory Theatres

Original review for the Reviews Hub

The Borrowers TFT

Truly T’riffic

With a pitter-patter of petite feet and a-pocketing of confectionery, paper planes, and a crisp packet for a great escape, the Factory Theatre is the magical, mischievous, pocket-sized Clock family’s giant playground this Christmas. With witty, loveably believable writing from Bea Roberts, The Borrowers is a whimsical little wonder to warm all hearts this wintertime.

Under the energetic, gentle direction of Nik Partridge, this playful adaptation of Norton’s novel is as delightfully confident and unapologetically joyful as Jessica Hayles’s tiny courageous teenager, Arietty. With her petrified father Pod (Craig Edwards) and plucky mother Homily (Peta Maurice), brave, acrobatic Arietty and the Clock family are forced to escape from their home – with the heroics of Eddie, the bashful human boy she befriends – when bleach-fanatic Aunty Val and her vacuum move in above the floorboards. It’s a cutesy yet timeless tale of compassion, family, and courage, and its perfectly pitched comic performances, particularly Lucy Tuck’s fantastically fanatical Val, fill its pockets full of mischievous charm.

There’s charm in the magic and mischief too, Continue reading “Review: The Borrowers – Tobacco Factory Theatres”

Review: English National Ballet’s Swan Lake

Original review for Broadway World UK

ENB's Swan Lake

This Tchaikovsky classic is the elegantly forged, glitteringly tragic jewel in the crown

From folktales to fairytales to festive (nut)crackers, Tchaikovsky’s trio of nineteenth-century compositions, originally choreographed by Petipa and Ivanov for the Imperial Russian company, are the crowning glory of the classical canon. Following on from performances of The Sleeping Beauty at the Coliseum and with the festive finale, The Nutcracker, to come at Christmastime, English National Ballet’s Swan Lake is the elegantly forged, glitteringly tragic jewel in the crown.

With Tchaikovsky’s iconic score shimmering in its elegance and shattering in its dramatic crescendos under conductor Gavin Sutherland’s assured leadership of the English National Ballet Philharmonic, the evening is an all-enveloping fight for good against evil. With evil sorcery, seduction, duplicity, and sacrifice, Swan Lake is a tragedy with untold dramatic depth: Odette, cursed to live as a white swan by the villainous von Rothbart – a devilish Junor Souza – waits for a saviour to swear their everlasting love and set her free, but valiant, if naïve, Prince Siegfried, deceived by Rothbart’s daughter Odile disguised as Odette, dooms his love to a life at the lake that only death can defeat.

A deceptively simple premise, the devil in Derek Deane’s production is in the detail: Continue reading “Review: English National Ballet’s Swan Lake”

Feature: Miss Belinda Blurb – The Real McCoy Review

The Real McCoy

A rich treasure trove of etymological humour and history

The old adage – ‘you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover’ – may disagree, but we’ve all felt defeat when we see a striking picture, a fancy font, a famous face, or a well-written pitch on the reverse of our favourite tomes.

Some favour the striking austerity of The Book Thief – ‘You are going to die’ – or the magical mystery of Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, ‘the circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it… it is simply there, when yesterday it was not’. Others prefer the elegiac grace of Kay’s Trumpet, ‘When the love of your life dies, the problem is not that some part of you dies too, which it does, but that some part of you is still alive’, or the temptation of The Crimson Petal and the White’s ‘watch your step. Keep your wits about you; you will need them…’

The imaginary beauty on the back of Gelett Burgess’s book Are You a Bromide?, ‘Miss Belinda Blurb’, birthed this publishing practise and even baptised it the ‘blurb’ – and it’s just one of many etymological mavericks in The Real McCoy.

The Real McCoy - Blurb Continue reading “Feature: Miss Belinda Blurb – The Real McCoy Review”