Review: Down and Out in Paris and London by New Diorama Theatre / PIT

Down and Out in Paris and London, written and directed by NDT / PIT Artistic Director, David Byrne, fuses two books, written half a century apart. The first by George Orwell, which lends its title to the production, and the second, Hard Work by Polly Toynbee, a journalist and reporter for The Guardian, in which she researches minimum-wage, zero-hours contracts by living for several months as one of those reliant on them to survive.

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Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by the National Theatre

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has been on my must-see list of shows for quite a while, so when I found out it was going on tour, I happily headed out to the New Theatre in Oxford to cross it off the list.

Based on the autobiographical book of the same name by Mark Haddon, the show concerns autistic teenager, Christopher, whose mother died several years previously, and who lives on his own with his Dad. When a neighbour’s dog is murdered with a garden fork, the body left on the front lawn for all to see, Christopher sets out to act detective and find out who committed the heinous crime, becoming more and more determined as the world tries to convince him to leave well alone. What transpires when he finally discovers the perpetrator and motivation for the crime, changes his life forever.

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Review: Push and Citizen Puppet by final year students at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

There isn’t much to link these two pieces, other than that they are showcases for students graduating from Central. Push, directed by Catherine Alexander and Grainne Byrne is a devised piece based on the novel of the same name by Sapphire. Citizen Puppet is also devised, in collaboration with acclaimed puppet company Blind Summit, and is a whimsical piece of (allegedly) verbatim theatre centring around the events of a well-known fairy-tale.

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Review: Joan of Arc by The Faction

I’m a big fan of The Faction, and their production of The Talented Mr. Ripley, with which Joan of Arc is playing in repertoire, is my must-see show this Spring. Sadly, though, Joan of Arc doesn’t meet the same standard.

The Faction are dedicated to producing the works of Schiller, and their previous productions of Mary Stuart, Fiesco and The Robbers have done much to revive the playwright’s reputation as relevant to modern theatre. Unfortunately, Joan of Arc, based on Schiller’s The Maid of Orleans adds nothing to this.

Partly, it’s down to the play. One cannot help but compare it to the George Bernard Shaw masterpiece, and it doesn’t stand up well. Gone is the trial scene, the pivotal dramatic crescendo of the story in which the audience is drawn into a natural empathy for the underdog, borne of outrage at the unfairness of her treatment, and admiration for the way in which she faces it.

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Review: Borges and I by Idle Motion

This is the second time I have seen Borges and I, but it definitely bears seeing twice! The beauty and fluidity of the physical language perfectly enhances the interwoven stories of Spanish poet and writer Jorge Luis Borges, told through the eyes of Alice, and her book-group friend, Sophie, who finds romance just as tragedy strikes.

The parallels of the two lives, both blighted by the onset of blindness are told through narrative and metaphor, and every visual image is created with books. The tiger, which Borges admired above all other animals, and which features again in Sophie’s favourite childhood book, is illustrated with flicking pages. Books become butterflies, cityscapes, aeroplanes and dominoes; pages flutter down like rain, and we literally see the images contained within the words and feel the power of literature in a way that no other play has ever achieved.

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Review: 64 Squares by Rhum and Clay

64-squares2Rhum and Clay have been one of my favourite companies ever since I saw the amazing A Strange Wild Song a year and a half ago. Formed at the world-famous l’Ecole Internationale Jacques LeCoq by three students before they graduated, Rhum and Clay are supremely talented storytellers with a sense of the theatrical which employs any and every device possible to sweep its audience along with the story.

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Review: Reptember by The Faction

ReptemberThis year, The Faction have departed from their usual Spring repertory season of large-scale ensemble plays, to produce an extra series, or rather three series, of short, one-person performances, adapted from original classics. On 16th September, I saw one of those sets: The Man with the Flower in his Mouth by Luigi Pirandello, Medea, adapted by Emily Juniper from Euripedes and Metamorphosis, by Faction-regular Gareth Jandrell, from the original Kafka.

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Review: Blue Remembered Hills by New Rep Theatre

This is the first production I’ve seen by New Rep Theatre, which was founded four years ago by Mari Cameron and Cecilia Colby, and the play itself is a particular favourite of mine, although I have never seen it on the stage, despite being the proud owner of a copy of the original television version. So it was with great interest that I sat expectantly in the audience at the New Diorama, waiting for the show to begin.

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Review: Where the White Stops by Antler Theatre

Antler Theatre is a new, young company, founded only last year (2012) by a group of students who met at East 15, under the mentorship of their tutor, Uri Roodner. In this way, they follow in the fine tradition of companies such as Trestle and Idle Motion, and their work certainly lives up to that legacy.

Where the White Stops, Antler’s latest show, is the story of Crab, a young girl who dares to step outside the boundaries of her village in the far north, and chance the wrath of the Beast who roams ‘the white’, to search for something else. On her way she meets Carpenters and Kings, makes friends and foes, and battles through cold and blizzards to find the elusive place where the white stops.

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Review: Dissolve by Awkward City

DissolveDissolve by Awkward City is a non-narrative glimpse into the world of memory loss. I usually find it difficult to connect with shows which don’t have a strong storyline, but in this case it was entirely appropriate.

Olivia is a young woman who has lost several years of her life and is struggling to reconnect with herself and the world. The show draws the audience into her struggle, by presenting a series of dissociated fragments of her incomplete memory … we strive to connect them, to build up a picture of who this person is, but the ‘now’ of her identity as a fractured mind is more pervasive than the ‘then’ of her personality, built on forgotten experiences.

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