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Why Is the Sky Blue? Abbey Wright on discussing kids & pornography through theatre

In Children's theatre, Features, London theatre, Musicals, Native, Opinion, Plays by Guest BloggersLeave a Comment

Tackroom Theatre, with the help of Barnardo’s, interviewed 10,000 6- to 22-year-olds on what they think love is and the effect of online pornography on their lives. Why is the Sky Blue? (or How to Make Slime), now running at Southwark Playhouse, is the result of these interviews.

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NEWS: Print Room autumn season includes Handspring Puppet Company’s Ubu

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Artistic Director Anda Winters today announces Print Room at the Coronet’s Autumn / Winter 2015 season at its new, permanent home at the Coronet in London’s Notting Hill, with two productions presented in the main auditorium at the iconic listed building and former Victorian playhouse, alongside further programming in the smaller studio space. Commenting on Print Room at the Coronet’s …

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Photos: Final Father post-show panel on Women in the Arts

In Features, London theatre, Photos, Plays by Terri PaddockLeave a Comment

All good things must come to an end. Last night was the third and final post-show panel discussion in the series that I’ve programmed and hosted around Jagged Fence’s new production of The Father, starring Alex Ferns. While I’m sad the series has finished (it was such invigorating fun!), I’m happy to say that we went out on an absolute high. Following the past two weeks, in which we tackled “Feminism Today” and “Parenting Rights”, last night’s discussion subject was titled “Women in the Arts: Is Enough Being Done About Gender Inequality?” 

Director Fiona Laird suggested that the balance be redressed by only allowing only plays by female writers to be produced for the next 300 years

The guests gathered to debate the point were: The Stage editor Alistair Smith, director and feminist campaigner Fiona Laird, actor and Act for Change founding member Stephanie Street and Evening Standard chief arts correspondent Louise Jury (click here for full panelist biographies); and, from The Father, director Abbey Wright, leading lady and producer Emily Dobbs, and cast member June Watson, as well as, on behalf of venue owner the Ambassador Theatre Group, London programmer Charlotte Longstaff.

All good things must come to an end. Last night was the third and final post-show panel discussion in the series that I’ve programmed and hosted around Jagged Fence’s new production of The Father, starring Alex Ferns. While I’m sad the series has finished (it was such invigorating fun!), I’m happy to say that we […]

Photos and podcast: Feminism, Fifty Shades of Grey and The Father

In Audio, Features, Interviews, London theatre, Opinion, Photos, Plays by Terri PaddockLeave a Comment

How far have we come with feminism since August Strindberg was writing in the 1880s? “About halfway,” said Polly Toynbee on Monday night at Trafalgar Studios, in the first of a series of post-show panel discussions I’ve programmed and am hosting around Jagged Fence’s explosive new production of Strindberg’s The Father, starring Alex Ferns and directed […]

The Father – Review

In by Jonathan BazLeave a Comment

Trafalgar Studios, London


Written by August Strindberg
In a new version by Laurie Slade
Directed by Abbey Wright

Alex Ferns

Few go to a Strindberg play looking for an harmonious depiction of the sexes and this co-production between Emily Dobbs’ Jagged Fence and Making Productions, while sharp in its execution, won’t do much to radicalise expectations. 

Written in 1887 by the deeply embittered Swedish playwright, on the brink of marital separation and in a fashion that has triggered many autobiographical interpretations, The Father pitches husband and wife into a dark custody battle that predates paternity tests and equal rights. Laurie Slade’s modern adaptation – requested by his friend, theatre director Joe Harmston for a 2012 production – is driven more by collaborative forces than real-life drama, but it retains the original’s antagonistic bite.

Director Abbey Wright takes the reins for this intimate production with great success. While the Captain’s last-minute attempt to break the fourth wall doesn’t sit well with the play’s largely naturalistic style, Wright’s depiction of conflict – whether that be between husband and wife, mother and daughter, or father and child – is as stylish as it is evocative. As the warring characters face each other in mirror image, Wright clouds the dialogue’s clear oppositions with vivid visual similarities.

Thomas Coombes is a treat as Nöjd, the playful trooper who, if rumour is to believed, has impregnated a member of the Captain’s staff. While Nöjd is unable to deny a certain degree of intimacy, it is beyond his power to prove whether or not the baby is his. Coombes excels at lacing Nöjd’s crude, pastoral expression – “no guarantee that a night in the hay means a bun in the oven” – with a cheeky, modern charm, furnishing Slade’s notion that this is “a modern play, which happens to be set in the C.19th”.

What seems like idle gossip transforms into psychologically taut obsession as the play pulls towards its inevitable conclusion. Just as Nöjd doubts his lover’s fidelity, Alex Ferns’s dazzling Captain ploughs his own memories, as he questions whether young Bertha, who calls him ‘Papa’, is actually his issue or was in fact conceived by wife Laura (excellent on-stage work from Dobbs) during a lovers’ tryst. Ferns is vibrantly volatile and while other characters are equally paired in their disputes, he retains a chilling control over the tempo of the piece. 

While the relationship between the Captain and his wife provides the thrust of this narrative, and the Captain and his Doctor (Barnaby Sax) are splendidly matched as rivals, it is the tender and trusting affinity between Captain and Nurse (June Watson) that brings the strongest emotional clout: “rest your breast on my chin”, the Captain commands his attendant, as a redundant Laura looks on jealously. This gentle, strikingly maternal relationship is complemented by James Turner’s set and Gary Bowman lighting, all stripped-back, monochrome as a Gothic aesthetic gradually melts into warmer reds.

Husband and wife may be “black and white…different species” but there’s a faith in relationships and the power of one gender to sooth and complement another. While this production doesn’t fall far from Strindberg’s tree, it’s a well-designed and interrogative take on an unfashionable play.

Runs until 11th April 2015

Guest reviewer: Amelia Forsbrook

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You’re invited: Join my post-show panel debates at The Father

In Features, Interviews, London theatre, Plays by Terri PaddockLeave a Comment

Updated 1 April: New speakers now added for “Women in the Arts” debate on Tuesday 7 April – London Evening Standard chief arts correspondent Louise Jury and writer-director-feminist Fiona Laird … I just love a good post-show Q&A and, frankly, I miss doing them as often as I used to in my WhatsOnStage days. My firm belief is that a […]