Review: Pig by Silent Uproar

PigSilent Uproar are a Hull-based, New Diorama Emerging Company and, as such, presented their latest production Pig at the London venue in September 2015.

Pig is a clever title for a clever production. It’s a show about cops and robbers: Ted and Coral are jobbing cops, beat-bobbies who want to rise through the ranks and know all too well the downside of policing in the UK in the twenty-first century. Gaz is a likeable career criminal, who names his pet pigeon in hommage to the way in which the young hero of the Ken Loach film names his pet kestrel, hence the title of the piece.

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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: 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: The Talented Mr. Ripley by The Faction

The Talented Mr. Ripley is something of a departure for The Faction, being more modern than their usual source material, and also an adaptation, by Faction Artistic Director Mark Leipacher, of a novel by Patricia Highsmith. But the choice of subject is not the only departure for this New Diorama Associate Company. One is used to seeing The Faction perform on a bare stage, but in this production the space is dominated by a raised square platform, painted white and filling the black box space, with only a small corridor around the outside and a square pit in the centre. Gone, too, is The Faction’s fluid, shifting ensemble – the whole weight of this production rests heavily on the shoulders of Christopher Hughes, who plays the creepily obsessive Ripley.

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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: He Had Hairy Hands by Kill The Beast

He Had Hairy Hands is billed as ‘a brand new tale of supernatural slaughter’ and the show is a manic whirlwind of fast-paced physical comedy, hilarious one-liners and stunning animations. It takes as its setting the sleepy village of Hemlock-Under-Lye, whose legend of a benign werewolf suddenly takes a turn for the macabre when the bodies of well-loved residents are found, disembowelled and mutilated, resulting in a storm of hommages to Victorian melodrama, Hammer horror and classic detective films, raining down upon the audience at a furious pace.

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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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An open letter to all non-NPOs: sometimes it pays not to be funded

David Byrne of the New Diorama Theatre, wrote an open letter in response to the latest NPO funding round. It’s one of the most positive, refreshing and exciting letters I have ever seen about arts funding, and I think it’s worth preserving for posterity. The letter was published in The Guardian, but here is the text in full:


Watching the Arts Council’s funding announcements, celebrations and commiserations fizz on my Twitter timeline last week, I was reminded of a panel I sat on just a year ago. I was next to an artistic director of a very well-subsidised London theatre who said the line that I’d heard many times before: “If our NPO grant, our Arts Council subsidy, gets cut, salami sliced any further, we will no longer be able to afford to take risks.”

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