Parliament Square, James Fritz, Bush Theatre, 16 December 2017

Janie got far more out of this one than I did. It’s only fair to say that the critics tended to agree with Janie rather than me.

Here is a link to the Bush Theatre resource on this show.

The story/scenario is an interesting and potentially moving one. But I struggled to put aside the foolishness of the protagonist; the way she went about her protest being destined to fail in so many ways. I even struggled to suspend belief and roll with the plot line.

It was very well acted and the sparse design/setting, performed in the round, suited the piece very well.

This search term should find you reviews and stuff – click here.

Here’s the trailer:

 

They Drink It In The Congo by Adam Brace, Almeida Theatre, 3 September 2016

Our first visit to the theatre for a wee while, as there tends to be less of the stuff we like to see over the summer.

This play looked very interesting in the Almeida leaflet. Unusually, this was the only play we booked at the Almeida this season; they seem to be doing fewer new plays these days.

It was indeed an interesting play. Mostly set in London, where a do-gooder jolly hockey sticks woman is trying to organise an awareness raising Congo Festival with the consent and co-operation of the local Congolese diaspora community. Funny and sinister in equal measure. But the play doesn’t shy away from also showing us a glimpse into the horrors of life in the war-torn DRC.

Michael Longhurst directed this one, as he did Carmen Disruption last spring. We found that play interesting with some excellent scenes, but a little disjointed. I’d suggest that They Drink It In The Congo is similar in that regard. In particular, some of the festival-organising intrigue was a little drawn out and convoluted, but some of the scenes were superb. Interesting set and scene changes. All performances very good indeed.

The Almeida stub with all the details of They Drink It In The Congo is linked here.

Reviews:

In our household, I’m with the “four stars out of five” reviewers (most of those above), while Daisy would be more with Fiona Mountford and the three stars brigade.

We went home with plenty to think/talk about and nibbled at cold compilations rather than our more regular routine; to take away a hot meal.

 

 

Boy by Leo Butler, Almeida Theatre, 16 April 2016

Oh boy, this is a good one.

We’ve enjoyed Leo Butler’s work before, at the Royal Court. We booked this basically on the back of remembering that we like his writing. We didn’t realise that this production also brought back the imaginative team, which brought us Game at the Almeida early last year; Sacha Wares as director and Miriam Buether as designer.

The Almeida’s website has lots of information about the production and also collates the good reviews. As a glance at the review headlines suggests that they have been more or less universally good, this Almeida link should be pretty much definitive. 

We knew that the Almeida had done something funky with the set and seating, because we had a call from the theatre last weekend, asking if we minded that that a rejig of the set and seating meant that there would be an aisle between our front row seats. We could either put up with that or sit together further back.

We politely suggested that it ought to be possible for them to shift people around such that we can still sit together in the front row; we asked the gentleman at least to try. A few minutes later, the nice gentleman called back with the good news that he had achieved our wish.

Just as well, as we observed on entry to the theatre that the aisle in question was more like a chasm than a small gap.

But soon enough we also observed that the characters on the set, who were going around on an industrial conveyor belt like human sushi in one of those sushi bars, were sitting in perfect sitting posture without seats. I worked out that they each must have a support in one of their trouser legs, but the effect was very eye-catching and warmed us up for a short evening of theatre with a difference.

It is hard to do this piece justice in the description. It is 70 minutes of edge-of-your-seat theatre in which nothing much really happens. We are simply following a young 17 year-old lad, Liam, around London on one of his interminable, listless days. Yet all around him (and therefore us) we see glimpses of London life that resonate wonderfully. We are also made all-too aware of the hopeless of such a lad’s circumstances.

In one telling scene, Liam goes to register at the job centre or some such, only to be told that he should return when he is 18 and find himself something useful to do in the meantime. “That’s nearly a year,” Liam yells, despairingly.

The mostly very young cast do a brilliant job, but Frankie Fox as Liam really does stand out. I recognised Wendy Kweh from our recent visit to North Korea as depicted in the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs – the irony of being reminded of North Korean hopelessness while being shown London hopelessness was not wasted on me.

But for us the star performance really is the extraordinary set and direction. The cast have to navigate some tightly choreographed scene changes and movements across the conveyor belt, plus those extraordinary “seats of their pants”, as it were. The wonderful movement elements of the production reminded us a little of Complicite; that’s a complement coming from us.

Lots to think about and talk about after the show, which is what good theatre is all about as far as we are concerned. As only tends to happen after really unusual and excellent pieces, that conversation started with strangers in the audience and some of the Almeida ushers before we’d even left the theatre.

One of the ushers told us that this production has not yet sold out – so if you are reading this fairly soon after the date in the headline, get on to the Almeida and snap up some of those remaining tickets.

This really is a hot ticket.

 

 

 

Carmen Disruption by Simon Stephens, Almeida Theatre, 11 April 2015

“What was that about” said Janie after the show; proof positive that her review would not be 100% positive. “I liked bits of it but it seemed all over the place at times and I’m not really sure what it was trying to say.”

Janie has a point.

Yet it was a very entertaining play/show in many ways.

Centre stage as we walked in was a dying bull, or rather a moving facsimile of same. It remained pretty much centre stage throughout.

Men were dressed a women, women were dressed as men, it was sort of about an opera singer, sort of about a toy boy…

…read the reviews and figure it out for yourself if you wish.

Excellent Almeida resource including links to several full reviews – click here.

The reviews were more or less universally excellent. It certainly deserved the high praise for an extraordinary production.

We are big fans of Simon Stephens writing, so we delight in this play’s success, but I think we prefer it when his writing is a little more direct.

Still, we enjoyed our evening and had bragging rights for having seen this production early on.

Game by Mike Bartlett, Almeida Theatre, 28 February 2015

This was a truly shocking piece. In a good way.

Shocking, as in, it left us feeling really quite shaken and discombobulated.

In a way, this was immersive theatre. The Almeida was reconfigured, such that the audience was divided into sections in sort-of booths, from which you could see some of the action live and the rest on screens. You have to wear headphones to hear everything, which increases the confusion between the real and the virtual.

The conceit of the play is that some people who cannot afford good housing choose to live in an attractive-looking home, but the price is that they are spied upon by sadistic paying customers who are allowed to shoot stun darts at the residents “for fun”.

It is a horrible thought. The story plays out in interesting ways, not all predictable. The experience is disconcerting, because, as an audience member, you feel somewhat complicit in the voyeurism and sadism playing out before your eyes and on the screen. Occasionally some of the action takes place within your booth itself.

It made us think about the housing crisis, the ways that computer games and so-called reality television are encroaching on people’s lives and more besides.

 

Excellent resource on the Almeida site about this play/production, including quotes from many reviews and links to full text for some – sparing me the trouble – click here.

We left the Almeida genuinely feeling in a state of shock and spent much of the remainder of the weekend talking about this play/production.

An Almeida special as far as we were concerned.