During the sixties, Orton’s plays such as Loot and Entertaining Mr Sloane showed an hitherto unseen side of British society on the stage and challenged the double standards of the ‘moral guardians’. In his first solo play, The Ruffian On The Stair (which is directed by Paul Clayton) we meet a ‘couple’ who live in a flat in Islington (not unlike Orton’s own abode).
Mates blogger: Michael Davis
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The latest from Michael on MyTheatreMates
How often have you heard: “He’s a bit on the shy side.” “She doesn’t say much does she..?” Directed by Cat Robey, Michael Ross’ The Shy Manifesto looks at the way the world treats people who are quiet and what is really going on in their minds.
Taking a female perspective on racial tensions in modern day Britain, Sara Aniqah Malk’s Salaam takes place during the Muslim fasting season of Ramadan. Mariam (Yasmin Wilde) is a devout Muslim and when she’s not actually fasting, she prays and reads from the Quran.
Everyone loves an Agatha Christie tale. Unlike the films and programmes involving Ms Marple or Poirot that are often repeated on television, Witness For The Prosecution (which is directed by Lucy Bailey) doesn’t have a familiar marquee protagonist at the centre of its narrative.
This summer will mark the 10th anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death. Has it really been that long? On a more positive note, this month marks the 10th anniversary of the Thriller Live musical in the West End.
Written and directed by Ross McGregor, Gentleman Jack looks at the truth behind a woman who was a pioneer in entrepreneurship, mountaineering and in some ways ‘a modern lesbian’.
“Four years since we lost Darren. But a vet doesn’t have to die at war for us to lose them, do you get what I mean?” – The Unreturning
All photos © Tristram Kenton
The Ancient Greeks knew their stuff. While their epic poems dealt with battles such as the fall of Troy, they were equally attentive to war’s aftermath, suffered by women and soldiers alike. For the heroes like Odysseus and Agamemnon, the journey home was where they faced their greatest crises… Similarly, Anna Jordan’s The Unreturning – which is directed by Neil Bettles – focuses on three men who return to their home town of Scarborough and continue to wrestle with their demons.
Taking place over the span of a century, the wars in the play are as idiosyncratic as the men and Britain at that time. There’s George (Jared Garfield) who has served in France during the First World War. There’s also Frankie (Joe Layton) who’s stationed in Afghanistan. Received wisdom says conflicts such as the Second World War, the Falklands or The Troubles would also be contenders. Instead, Jordan has opted for the near future where the division in today’s Britain (possibly as a result of the Brexit referendum) has escalated into civil war. Mirroring Spain from almost a century ago, there’s fighting has between ‘government forces’ and ‘the rebels’. In this scenario, Nat (Jonnie Riordan) makes the hazardous trip to the North East from Norway, where he has spent the past couple of years as a refugee who claimed political asylum. He’ll do anything to track down his younger brother Finn (Kieton Saunders-Browne) – his only remaining family.
The three storylines run concurrently and take place on a revolving cargo container that doubles as a boat, rooms and an assortment of other locales. Bettles – whose background and experience is with the physically innovative Frantic Assembly – deftly choreographs the three narratives into a cohesive whole, contrasting and reiterating the play’s themes.
The play’s prologue succinctly captures the longing for home after years abroad, where belonging and memories are intertwined. But as the characters find out, reality falls short of expectation. More often than not, the experiences of principal characters have changed them and coming home forces them to redefine what makes sense.
Not being able to talk to anyone who could – or wants – to understand is the biggest obstacle for the soldiers – estranging them from their loved ones. For George, his wife’s dismissive preconceptions about shellshock hinder any genuine communication between them. Nor would she want to understand the camaraderie between the British and German soldiers during that fateful Christmas of 1914, which had alarm bells ringing amongst the British ‘top brass’.
Meanwhile for Frankie, his mother is alarmed at the video footage of him, which doesn’t convey the mental and emotional reality of the theatre of war. Nat faces a very different obstacle – his brother Finn has disowned him and joined ‘the rebels’. Counting only his brothers-in-arms as ‘kin’, Finn has no time for anyone who would ‘abandon’ England ‘during her hour of need’…
The impressive central performances are bolstered by the set and video design by Andrzej Goulding, facilitating the fluid, kinetic nature of the show. Jordan makes us care for each of the characters and while we may not have direct experience in the line of fire, the emotions of anger, estrangement, frustration and self-doubt are universally relatable.
© Michael Davis 2019
The Unreturning runs at Theatre Royal Stratford East until 2nd February
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Written by David Greig and directed by Jessica Lazar, Outlying Islands explores the dichotomy between civilisation and nature, celibacy and longing, captivity and freedom…
Known for classic novels about human relationships such as Sons and Lovers, Women In Love and The Rainbow, DH Lawrence also tried his hand at writing plays. The Daughter-In-Law – which was performed and received critical acclaim posthumously – takes place in the familiar region of Nottinghamshire where most of his novels are set.
Written by Liv Warden and directed by Adam Small, Anomaly is informed by recent events and the multifaceted accounts of women.
This week (15 January) marks what would have been Martin Luther King Jr’s 90th birthday. Commemorating this, Christopher Tajah’s solo show Dream Of A King (which is directed by Bernie C. Byrnes) makes its debut at the Playground Theatre in west London.
Anything on the internet stays there forever – or so they say. For the ‘Original Death Rabbit’, being at the wrong place at the wrong time has meant that she’s trapped in the past, like an insect in amber… Written by Rose Heiney and directed by Hannah Joss, Original Death Rabbit is a one-woman about a former internet sensation.
Written by Isley Lynn and devised by Rhum & Clay, War Of The Worlds uses the original broadcast as jumping off point to ask certain questions – particularly in relation to the veracity of news and the ethics of journalism.
Written by Peter Mulligan and directed by Zoey Alexis Boyd, Loop examines different philosophical outlooks one might have and how they ‘help’ (or not) with expectations of life.
Written and directed by Christopher Styles, Illicit Signals Bletchley is an immersive, theatrical experience that places the audience into the heart of wartime operations.
If Orpheus was simply a re-telling of this myth, it would be over very quickly. Instead, music features heavily in the show – some of which are original compositions and some are well-known pieces of classical music.
In Sarah Daniels’ Head-rot Holiday (which is directed by Will Maynard) we’re privy to the goings-on in Penwell Special Hospital (‘Head-rot Hotel’) – a psychiatric prison for women in the early 1990s.
Plays that show a number of perspectives are generally more nuanced, thought-provoking and naturally entertaining. With this in mind, the double bill of plays by Henry Naylor at Arcola Theatre does this in spades. Directed by Louise Skaaning with Michael Cabot, Borders and Games broach the subjects of personal responsibility and using one’s abilities to the fullest.
For those seeking an alternative to pantos and Peter Pan for family entertainment over Christmas, look no further than this enchanting tale: The Box of Delights at Wilton’s Music Hall.
Directed by Gerald Armin, A Christmas Story looks at the festive season through the eyes of Ralphie – a nine-year-old boy in Hohman, Indiana. But as well as the show having a child’s perspective, we have Ralphie’s point of view as an adult which frames the show.
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