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: 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: 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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Review: Fiesco by The Faction

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The Faction produce a heady mix of classic, text-based, physical theatre which is a joy to witness.  They are dedicated to producing the complete works of Schiller, but also include other classics in their repertoire, such as Chekov, Lorca, Shakespeare and Strindberg, to name but a few.  But it was Schiller who drew me to the New Diorama Theatre on a cold January evening.  Last year I was privileged to see The Faction’s Mary Stuart, and I had high expectations of this latest production.  I was not disappointed.

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Vision and passion

I am consistently amazed at the meteoric rise of the New Diorama Theatre.  The building opened just over a year ago and has already made a name for itself as THE place in London to see exciting new work.  Much of this is down to the vision and ambition of its team, led by Artistic and Executive Director David Byrne.  It also helps if you have a brand new venue in the heart of Euston, just two minutes walk from seven different tube lines.  Nevertheless, there are plenty of fringe venues in London with a good location which haven’t achieved in decades what the New Diorama has achieved in less than two years.

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Living and Dying

Having worked with a range of arts organisations, and despite being committed to ensuring the resilience and survival of the cultural sector, I can never forget the provocation papers published by John Knell for Mission Models Money, entitled The Art of Dying (2005)  and The Art of Living (2007).  The Art of Dying, in particular, shocked me at the time – I found it so difficult to accept the concept of euthanasia of an arts organisation.  Years later, and with a lot more experience in the field, I have learned that the survival of an organisation is dependent on a number of factors, both internal and external, and that sometimes it is better that the artists move on to create great art elsewhere than get dragged down with a company that cannot survive.  By far the best option, though, is that they are given the tools to create a ‘better contract with the future’, refresh and renew their vision and take themselves and their organisations forward, grow and thrive.

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