Thursday 08th December

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Eleanor Baggley

Pole Factor - Reena Lalbihari
Pole Factor - Reena Lalbihari

Pole Factor at the VAULT Festival

As I walked down the colourful Leake Street near Waterloo Station, it became fairly obvious that any expectations I had for Pole Factor at The Vaults should just be thrown out of the window (imagine falling down a psychedelic version of Alice’s rabbit hole). Pole Factor is an Angry Bairds production written by Nazish Khan that satirises society’s obsession with media and celebrity in a way that (more often than not) cuts quite close to the bone.

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Category: Festivals
Alix Dunmore and Emily Bowker
Alix Dunmore and Emily Bowker. Photo by Philip Gammon

What The Women Did at the Southwark Playhouse

During the war (imagine me mimicking Uncle Albert from Only Fools and Horses), the range of roles women adopted grew exponentially. They were wives, mothers, munitions workers, land girls, nurses, war widows and so much more. What The Women Did, a triple bill of plays from Two’s Company demonstrates this range of roles to brilliant effect.

This triple bill features Luck of War by Gwen John, Handmaidens of Death by Herbert Tremaine (pseudonym of Maude Deuchar) and The Old Lady Shows Her Medals by J.M. Barrie. The plays have been excellent chosen to include both little known and well known writers, and to cover the various different themes of war. There are munitions girls, miscommunicated deaths, patriotism, and some unlikely friendships.

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Category: Theatre
Lost Boy
Max Panks, Joseph Taylor, Luka Markus and David Scotland. Photo by Scott Rylander.

Lost Boy at the Finborough Theatre

If you have ever thought that blending Peter Pan with the First World War is just plain silly (I am guilty of this), then really, you’re just plain wrong. Lost Boy, written and directed by Phil Willmott does exactly that – it puts Pan and his motley crew of lost boys on the front lines. The result is a thought-provoking and bittersweet musical that tracks the demise of innocence in war through familiar childhood characters.

The action opens with George Llewelyn Davies (one of the boys who inspired JM Barrie in his creation of Peter Pan), comforting a shell shocked soldier in his platoon before slumping into the mud to get some sleep the night before a big push. We are sucked into his dream where he imagines himself as a swaggering Peter Pan, bent on learning how to be a man and searching for the next ‘awfully big adventure’.

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Category: Theatre
Dickens Abridged
The cast of Dickens Abridged. Photo by Hydar Dewachi.

Dickens Abridged at the Arts Theatre

If you have never left a theatre with an aching jaw and tender palms from laughing so hard and clapping so frequently, then you are certainly in for a treat. That is the exact state in which I left the Arts Theatre at the end of Dickens Abridged, a fast-paced comedy showcasing the works of Charles Dickens in only ninety minutes.

Dickens Abridged, a musical comedy, is written and directed by Adam Long, the co-founder of The Reduced Shakespeare Company. Seeing the name Adam Long connected to another production, about Dickens no less, is probably enough to excite any lover of The Complete Works of Shakespeare (abridged). It is also likely to be enough to set those expectations pretty high (it was for me, at least), but it is fair to say that those expectations were matched, if not exceeded.

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Category: Comedy
Kate Tempest
Kate Tempest. Photo by Katherine Leedale.

Kate Tempest on Tour: Brand New Ancients

When I walked out of the Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square after seeing Brand New Ancients performed, I was a little bit speechless and more than a little bit in love with Kate Tempest. Tempest is a hugely talented poet, rapper, storyteller and spoken word artist and this production, Brand New Ancients, showcases her talent brilliantly. Brand New Ancients is a Battersea Arts Centre co-production that will be touring venues in London and around the country from now until April. It will end at the beginning with the final performances taking place in the Battersea Arts Centre.

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Category: Music
Our Ajax
Ajax (Joe Dixon). Photo by Camilla Greenwell.

Our Ajax at the Southwark Playhouse

Our Ajax, which premiers at the Southwark Playhouse this month,  is a new play by award winning playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker (of Our Country’s Good fame). Our Ajax is a retelling (of sorts) of Sophocles’s play Ajax. I say a retelling ‘of sorts’ because it borrows from the original quite freely. It is a play about war, honour, death and the relationships between gods and mortals.

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Category: Theatre
Elizabeth Faulkner

The Curse of Elizabeth Faulkner

Pegged as a rip roaring gothic farce, I was prepared to be amused and slightly unnerved by The Curse of Elizabeth Faulkner. Well, I was half right – I was certainly amused. Whilst the show fell a few paces short of expectations and occasionally fell flat, it definitely is an entertaining way to while away an hour.

The Curse of Elizabeth Faulkner is, as the title suggests, a tale of a curse. A family curse to be exact, that results in it’s victims being unceremoniously and often suspiciously killed off when they turn thirty-three. It is Edwardian style England and Faulkner, the hero of the play, is on the eve of his thirty-third birthday when he desperately enlists the help of bankrupt undertaker, Thorndike (who is also plagued by the curse and on the eve of his thirty-third birthday). The plan is to dig up the evil Elizabeth Faulkner and lift the curse. A misguided and fruitless quest perhaps, but it did tickle me.

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Category: Theatre
Photograph by Johan Persson

Michael Grandage’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

The fourth in Michael Grandage’s series of plays at the Noel Coward Theatre is Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Generally considered to be Shakespeare’s funniest play (I would not contest this), A Midsummer Night’s Dream has everything: fairies, forests, love triangles, weddings, plays within the play and, oh yes, a sneaky death threat. Hermia loves Lysander and Lysander loves Hermia but Demetrius also loves Hermia and is her Father’s choice. Then there is Helena who loves Demetrius but nobody loves Helena. Confused yet? Throw in some meddling fairies and you’ve got yourself a corker of a play.

This production is, in a word, spectacular. Christopher Oram’s set and costume design transports the stage into a dark and wonderful fairyland. The presence of a giant full moon as the backdrop to the forest scenes had an almost hypnotising effect (on me at least) and really added to the mysticism and general confusion of the unfolding events. The overall sparsity of the stage in the forest scenes and the scenes in Athens was excellently planned to allow space for movement and to avoid distracting the audience with over-ambitious trees and foliage.

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Category: Theatre