Wednesday 08th July

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Marriage
Photograph by Tim Stubbs Hughes

Marriage @ Jack Studio Theatre

Rating:

Another capacity crowd at the Jack Studio Theatre welcomed a new run of Gogol’s ‘Marriage’. Loaded with wisecracks from the start, the story, such as it is (translator Howard Colyer compares it to ‘Waiting for Godot’) is a grower. Sunny Jeon’s graphic-y design, de-constructed, Surreal, opens-up the space. You almost feel inside the setting whilst simultaneously looking-on. Is the same dichotomy shared by the players?

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Category: Comedy
Darren Beaumont
Darren Beaumont // Photo credit: Tim Stubbs Hughes

Pool @ Jack Studio Theatre

Rating:

Showing until June 7, 2014 // The Write Now Festival

As always, setting the scene is a vital aspect of a visit to The Jack. This time, literally stepping into a Hockney-esque painted ‘pool’ can feel quite disconcerting. The attractive and effective set by David Shields makes full use of Amy Mae Smith’s transcendent lighting; birthing those lovely rippling reflections of sunlight-on-water. Kate Bannister comments that “the designers have done a cracking job…” and likewise the director. The sound-scaping by Mark Webber is exemplary.

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Category: Culture
Flight
David Bromley and Michael Edwards each deep in conversation. Photograph by Jonathan Bradshaw.

The Jack Studio Theatre: Flight

Rating:

Showing until February 1, 2014 // Ballast Theatre

It’s trademark setting-the-scene at the Jack as we part our way through dense smoke that actually smells smoky. A Rodchenko-style motif spills across the floor, the one constant element in this evening of clashing-coercing characters. The “dream-like quality of some of the passages” proves simultaneously startling and intoxicating, autumnal layers unpeeling like onion-skins, the dimly-lit stage remaining mostly dim. No dream but a nightmare fallow by shared truths of ‘humanity’ and serial metaphors of war. ‘Flight’ does, I imagine, accurately present the muddle and mess of conflict and its effect on communities and communal infrastructure. Howard Colyer as translator and adaptor together with director Scott le Crass succeed in sustaining its message.

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Category: Culture
Howard Colyer photographed by Martin Slidel
Howard Colyer photographed by Martin Slidel

Howard Colyer: Taking Flight

Howard Colyer is a South London based playwright who has enjoyed many stagings of his works on the London fringe and notably at the Jack Studio Theatre in Brockley. I caught up with him in advance of his series of Russian translations to be produced throughout the year.

First on the books is the current production of Bulgakov’s ‘Flight’ which as Howard explains benefits from “a fascinating range of characters… fleeing the Red Army… trying to survive; each scene in a different setting and, as described, a dream-like quality of some of the passages.” Does Colyer identify with the cohort? “Khludov’s marvellous: the mad general with the ghost to talk to. Khludov and his ghost I think make the play. The National did it with an actor… I think it’s better with the ghost conjured by the mind of the audience.” Indeed. To allow the audience to ‘play their part’ is an art in itself. Meanwhile, Howard is more than pleased with his long-running association with the Jack. “Kate Bannister and Karl Swinyard have done a very good job to produce a very good theatre.”

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Category: Culture
Leading lady Charlotte Blake as Zoe
Leading lady Charlotte Blake as Zoe

The Jack Studio Theatre: A Scent of Flowers

Rating:

One of the joys of the Fringe is when a jewel is re-polished and set before you. James Saunders’ A Scent of Flowers is one. Brilliant, absurdist theatre sparkling at every angle; a semi-surreal structure within which many realisms crystallise. Why does this production, directed by Matthew Parker, work so well? I feel sorry for analysing it.

The incandescent writing is matched by an exceptional cast. The play not only states but creates questions such as what is the use of craftsmanship in a coffin – or the enquiry of “all the infinite possibilities that never happened.” Bryan Pilkington’s leery Uncle Edgar delivers some wonderfully witty soliloquies, holding the audience in the palm of a carelessly tossing hand. Sam Saunders as stepbrother Godfrey is magnetic in scenes clashingly playful and desperate, echoing every forgotten sense of young love. Jodyanne Fletcher Richardson renders an assured and quietly magnificent performance in stepmother Agnes’ well-heeled shoes.

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Category: Culture
Rocks

The Jack Studio Theatre: Rocks & Hard Places

Rating:

Breaking 30

It’s always worthwhile taking a few stops on the Overground from Canada Water. Just a short and pleasant walk and you’re at the Jack Studio Theatre in Brockley. This terrific fringe venue sits adjacent a smashing pub that will be even better following refurbishment. For now, we have a Pop-Up Bar and the background tinkling of ivories. Excellent!

‘Rocks and Hard Places’ is a cabaret-ish two-hander of non linking ballads and dialogues. It kicks-off with the nervy ‘Blizzard of Lies’. An alternative title could easily be ‘He Done Her Wrong’ whilst an original Dietrich song proves a highlight of the night. Are you getting the picture…?

Lights go-up on a switchboard operator – no gender-stereotype on my behalf – who turns-table on her berated caller. It’s funny, ghastly, in-your-face hysterical. ‘Busy Line’ is just one of a consistently cracking choice of witty ditties. Great to hear the expert delivery of each tune with faultless projection and enunciation. Programme notes nod to Colin Sell no less. Alex James Ellison provides sympathetic musical accompaniment although greater interaction, cranking-up the machismo, would be amusing.

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Category: Comedy