The Secret Keeper | Review

★★☆☆☆  National Theatre Studio,  Ovalhouse

The Secret Keeper promises mystical mystery but only delivers cringy songs and confusing themes.

The Secret Keeper - production image 1 - Angela Clerkin (photo by Sheila Burnett)
Angela Clerkin| Sheila Burnett

In a fairytale village the daughter of the Dollhouse maker has a ‘gift’. She helps her father by keeping his deepest and darkest secret which changes him. He tells everyone to share their most intimate secrets with her to feel better. But what happens when one girl knows all the secrets in the village, including who killed her uncle?

Going into the theatre the atmosphere is eerie and promises a night of gothic and mysterious tales. However, that is only partly the case. The show switches between styles, which is confusing and lowers the quality of the production.

The Secret Keeper - production image 4 - L-R Niall Ashdown _ Angela Clerkin (photo by Sheila Burnett)
Niall Ashdown and Angela Clerkin | Sheila Burnett

It starts out feeling like a fairytale and the audience expects to watch a gothic style play, but then the style suddenly switches to a much more modern tone. This ruins the illusion and rips the viewer out of the story. The constant switches make it difficult to get lost in the play.

Things happen that don’t need to happen as they don’t help to tell the story and move it along, such as spontaneous singing.

The Secret Keeper - production image 6 - L-R Anne Odeke _ Niall Ashdown (photo by Sheila Burnett)
Anne Odeke and Niall Ashdown | Sheila Burnett

The spontaneous songs might be fun in a different, more modern setting, but with the fairtytale-like setting they seem silly and unnecessary.

Parts of the production were confusing, such as the gathering of the secrets. It wasn’t needed for the development of the story as the Good Daughter already showed that she was struggling to keep the secrets in.

Overall, the intentions of the production were good with a great storyline. The premise is intriguing but the execution of the production thoroughly disappoints.

The Secret Keeper runs at Ovalhouse until 21st October

All the Little Lights | Review

★★★★★ Fifth Word, Arcola Theatre

Jane Upton’s ever so important and powerful play is heart-breaking, thought-provoking and cannot be missed.

Esther-Grace Button & Tessie Orange-Turner in ALL THE LITTLE LIGHTS by Jane Upton - credit Robert Day
Esther-Grace Button and Tessie Orange-Turner |Robert Day
In the midst of rubbish, wrappers, empty bottles and fallen autumn leaves just off the railway tracks, three young girls are celebrating a birthday. Joanne and Lisa reunite, while Amy wants to belong. Lisa got out, but now she’s back and their past is haunting her. Where alcohol abuse is celebrated, a life threatening game where entertainment and violence is normal. In a society where the forgotten just want to belong and predators lurk around the corner. When does the victim become the villain?

Tessie Orange-Turner & Sarah Hoare in ALL THE LITTLE LIGHTS by Jane Upton - credit Robert Day
Tessie Orange-Turner and Sarah Hoare | Robert Day
The play makes several important points. No one cares about children without a family, how easy it is to turn villain after being the victim and the horrendous, long-lasting effects of sexual abuse.

In times where you can’t flick on the news without men getting away with saying things like “grab them by the pussy” and making it seem normal, and Harvey Weinstein who uses his powerful position to sexually assault women, this play needs to be seen. It needs to be seen now.

People need to be made to feel uncomfortable, their hearts need to break for the girls and what they’ve had to go through.

Tessie Orange-Turner & Sarah Hoare in ALL THE LITTLE LIGHTS by Jane Upton - credit Robert Day
Tessie Orange-Turner and Sarah Hoare | Robert Day
All three leading ladies, Esther-Grace Button, Sarah Hoare and Tessie Orange-Turner are remarkable. It cannot be easy to convey three forgotten and vulnerable teenage girls, who all have had horrible things happen to them, but Button, Hoare and Orange-Turner take the audience on a dark journey through unimaginable experiences.

Jane Upton’s script, directed by Laura Ford is simple, touching and shocking that will have the audience holding their breaths.

All The Little Lights runs at the Arcola Theatre until 4th November.

Flood | Review

★★★★★ Paper Creatures Theatre, Tristan Bates Theatre

Flood is a flawless debut production for Paper Creature Theatre and another hit for Tom Hartwell.

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Emily Céline Thomson (Jess), Nathan Coenen (Michael), Jon Tozzi (Adam) and Tom Hartwell (Ben) | @HeadshotToby

While his village is flooding, Adam feels like he’s drowning with it. His mother has just died and all his friends have moved away, closer to the capitol. Everyone is moving on with their new lives, millennials leaving the village in search for a better future. Adam  feels abandoned by his friends and sister. When his friends return to the village for the funeral, secrets are uncovered.

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Jon Tozzi (Adam) | @HeadshotToby

Playwright Tom Hartwell creates a wonderfully slick and heartfelt play that flows from scene to scene with characters that feel natural. The comedy drama deals with millennial themes such as how our culture is dominated by viral videos, occupied by the constant use of social media and how it’s made us lazy when it comes to social interactions. As well as all this, the play also touches on how millennials deal with loss and bereavement.

We find ourselves sending condolence messages and birthday wishes over social media which have just as much meaning as poking someone on Facebook. Hartwell seems to be able to tell relatable stories about different aspects and hurdles of millennials’ lives and finds the right tempo and tone with ease, by creating characters that are relatable and real.

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Tom Hartwell (Ben) and Molly McGeachin (Laura) |@HeadshotToby

Adam (Jon Tozzi) and Michael (Nathan Coenen) compliment each other well and have a fun character dynamic. Jess (Emily Céline Thomson) brings a slightly more mature note to the play with her  relationship with Michael that is moving forward and developing through the play. Overall, the chemistry between the actors aids the brilliant direction by Georgie Straight.

From the set that looks like floating furniture in a flooded basement, to the swift and creative scene changes, everything in this play works together perfectly and turns this debut production into a must-see for Paper Creatures Theatre.

Flood runs at the Tristan Bates Theatre as part of the Camden Fringe until 5 August.

Disco Pigs | Review

★★★★☆ Tara Finney Productions, Trafalgar Studios

Enda Walsh’s Disco Pigs comes to London for its 20th anniversary and brings a punch of energy and youthfulness.

(c) Alex Brenner
Colin Campbell (Pig) and Evanna Lynch (Runt)| Alex Brenner

John Haidar directs this upbeat, whirlwind of a story that follows Pig (Colin Campbell) and Runt (Evanna Lynch), who are born on the same day, at the same time. They’ve been inseparable ever since, dancing and drinking. They’ve created a world just for the two of them, in which they speak their own language, slang and only follow their own rules. Their friendship almost has a Bonnie and Clyde-esque feel to it, it’s them against the rest of the world, or at least their hometown of Cork. On their 17th birthday however, something changes. They find themselves growing apart.

The production manages to take the audience on the lively and adventurous journey with Pig and Runt through their life in Cork, their own little world with humorous stories and their hopes for the future.

(c) Alex Brenner
Colin Campbell (Pig) and Evanna Lynch (Runt) | Alex Brenner

Evanna Lynch, who is best known for her role as Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter series, gives such a strong performance as Runt. She shows versatility and skill, switching to other characters in a heartbeat. A shimmer of dreaminess shines through when Runt is dreaming of a different life, away from her home and even her best friend Pig.

Colin Campbell is excellent as the youthful, quite intense Pig. His range of emotion keeps the audience on their toes and surprises them when he shows his true feelings for Runt, something other than just the friendship they clearly have.

(c) Alex Brenner
Colin Campbell (Pig) and Evanna Lynch (Runt) | Alex Brenner

Many things are left to the audience’s imagination. The movements created within the play, with thanks to Naomi Said, plays a big part of the production as it creates the space for the audience to use their own imagination. Wonderfully executed, the lighting is magnificent (Elliot Griggs) and transports the viewer into a 90s disco, with (almost) magical lighting effects.

Disco Pigs runs at Trafalgar Studios until 19 August.

An American and The Cursed Child

London has millions of visitors every year, a fair amount of them see at least one West End show. Here’s what an American Harry Potter fan thought of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

By Lori Gilchrist

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Lori Gilchrist just before she stepped into the Palace Theatre | Sarah Louhichi

To be fair, I’ve read the Harry Potter books twice, seen every film multiple times, own the DVD’s and have joined Pottermore – All hail Ravenclaw and Thunderbird. That being said I was angry when Albus was put into Slytherin House in the book version of the play. So I’ve got some bias, I’ll admit that. But I was excited to see the play, though not sure if I’d really like it. It had a lot to live up to especially after paying premium prices at the theatre for premium seats (row D, seat 9). With this play, the theatre doesn’t allow scalpers (‘second-hand ticket broker’) tickets and if you’re lucky enough to find tickets from ATG or Nimax last minute, you take what you can get, pray for the Friday 40 or go home empty handed. £250 is a lot of money for one play. But was it worth it?

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Lori Gilchrist before the Part 1 | Sarah Louhichi

In a word the play is “Awesome” and definitely worth the money. Being close to the stage I was able to see facial expressions and even Harry’s scar. The staging was inventive and surprising. Today a lot of plays and musicals use a single set and the viewer is expected to use their imagination. Not here, the staging reflected the flavour of the Potterverse. Without giving anything away, there’s definitely magic and love in this production.

I’m not familiar with English stage actors, but had seen Alex Price in Father Brown previously. For Americans, sometimes we have problems with West End productions due to unfamiliarity with the different accents and dialects and therefore lose some of the meaning of the play. I had no issues here; it’s very understandable. And for those lacking in Potter knowledge, the story isn’t hard to follow.

You could tell that the cast was respectful and loved the characters they played. The acting was just right, though sometimes I felt Anthony Boyle (playing Scorpius) was a little over the top, but he won me over by Part II. The actors playing Ginny (Poppy Miller), Hermione (Noma Dumezweni), Harry (Jamie Parker) and Draco (Alex Price) reflected the adult characters perfectly, showing the imperfections of adulthood and the doubt of parenthood. Sam Clemmett (playing young Albus Potter) played the bratty little brother we sometimes wish we didn’t have. Real emotions, rationales and actions were exhibited here. If you took away the magical bits, the basic story would still work.

New York gets the play in 2018 but when it will come to Los Angeles, who knows? So if you’re coming to London and you love a good story, I strongly suggest you book tickets when you’re booking your airfare. I wasn’t disappointed. All Hail Cursed Child.

The Enchanted | Review

★★★☆☆ Pharmacy Theatre, The Bunker

An intense and brave tale of evil, the death penalty and the human inside a monster.

The Enchanted
The cast of The Enchanted | Dina T.

The play based on the novel by Rene Denfeld looks at the person behind a murderer and the death penalty. Waiting for your death on death row is lonely. Arden is mute and as he waits for his day, he listens and watches an investigator trying to save some of the prisoners from their deaths. While doing so, she uncovers the sad and disturbing past of some of the ‘monsters’ in the maximum security prison.

The choreography by movement director Emily Orme, conveys a sense of helplessness and sadness that carries throughout the whole play, with an eerie undertone through the music.

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The Cast of The Enchanted | Dina T.

The stage and background are completely white and chalk is used to draw on it. However sometimes it doesn’t have enough of an impact as the light blue colour of the chalk gets lost easily.

The use of puppetry shows a certain vulnerability each of the characters have, it’s done so delicate and creatively it adds to the aesthetics of the show. However, the puppets are always used during narration, therefore they have to compete for the audiences’ attention with the actor on stage and it looses its impact slightly. It would’ve worked better if they had been on stage by itself.

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Corey Montague-Sholay (Arden) | Dina T.

Corey Montague-Sholay who plays the narrator and Arden, a silent killer is captivating. He captured the essence of his character and the play so well, it’s beguiling and so compelling that it would probably work with just him telling the story of all the other characters.

The Enchanted runs at The Bunker until 17 June.

Alice’s Adventures Underground|review

★★★★★ Les Enfants Terribles, The Vaults

Alice’s Adventures Underground is an unmissable production that has created the most imaginative way of telling a story.

ALICE'S ADVENTURES UNDERGROUND. Richard Holt 'Hatter' and Philippa Hogg 'March Hare'. ©Rah Petherbridge Photography
Alice’s Adventures Underground | Alex Gilbert

Upon arrival, it feels like walking into a different, whimsical world. Before the performance has even started, you find yourself in awe by the creative design and themed (and strong!) cocktails. Once the journey begins, it’s up to you where it will lead. Alice’s Underground Adventure is unlike anything I’ve seen at The Vaults.

Instead of watching the story unfold right in front of you, you’re part of it and not only that, it’s like stepping into it and you decide where the adventure will take you. Depending on what route you choose, either shrink by taking a drink or grow by having a sweet, you steer your journey through Wonderland.

The Queen of Hearts has turned so evil, chopping off people’s heads for anything. An underground group grows and tries to ignite a revolution…Will you be part of the secret revolution? Or will you be on the Queen’s side?

Be wary that if you’ve come with someone you might not end up with them, as groups are split throughout the production. This is done by picking a playing card and depending on the suit you have chosen, you have to complete a different secret mission.

ALICE'S ADVENTURES UNDERGROUND. Philippa Hogg 'Alice'. ©Rah Petherbridge Photography
Alice in Alice’s Adventures Underground | Alex Gilbert

The design and details are the most interesting thing about this immersive production. You could go several times and still find new things and discover details about this incredible underground world that you haven’t seen before. Besides the creative set up, the actors (or interactors) are the other wonderful thing. Not only do they stay in character the whole time, they also interact incredibly well with the audience. They have an off-the-cuff humour and the talent to improvise, which you find endearing.

Another amazing thing is that the cast switches roles, so if you come twice you’re likely to see different people play different characters. Combined with the different story lines, it’s possible to go several times and still experience something completely new.

by Al Overdrive
Alice’s Adventures Underground | Alex Gilbert

The best part about this adventure is that you’ll actually feel like you’re part of it, you’re making a difference in the story. It’s almost heartbreaking leaving the characters and Wonderland behind. The intricate details of the production won’t leave your mind, even after leaving the venue.

Alice’s Adventures Underground runs at The Vaults until 23 September 2017

@AliceUnderLDN

Pluto | Review

★★★★☆ Moonchild Theatre Company| Baron’s Court Theatre

Moonchild Theatre Company stages an impressive first production of a new play that captures many important issues in today’s world, by personifying likeable planets, comets and moons.

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Liam Joseph (Pluto) and Charlotte Price ( Professor Furtham/ Charon) |Moonchild Theatre Company

The New Horizons probe lands on Pluto in 2006 and brings bad news for the planet, who is currently having a party which no one has turned up to, except for his best friend Charon. The probe that arrives bears news from NASA telling PLUTO that he’s no longer a planet. He’s now labelled a ‘Dwarf Planet’ which throws Pluto into total chaos, “I’ve been conned into hosting my own funeral”. He’s confused about his identity and has only Charon (and a stripper she hired), to cheer him up and help him to understand.

“Pluto: The subject of much confusion,” as his friend Charon puts it, is mirroring people in our society who have things decided for them, often by men in power who cannot even begin to understand their situation.

The production touches on a fair amount of social and political issues, maybe too many to completely be sure of its message. The staging is sparse but it works, due to the dark walls of the tiny Baron’s Court Theatre, giving you a feeling of deep space.

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Liam Joseph (Pluto) | Moonchild Theatre Company

Callum O’Brien takes Pluto and turns his story into a perfect metaphor for issues such as labelling others, accepting people for who they are and feeling lonely. His direction is clear, fresh and ideal for millennials who would love to see their first play but are daunted by big Shakespearian productions.

The stripper scene is hilariously awkward. The overall humour of the play manages to cover up many of the issues and problems in today’s society.  Liam Joseph’s Saturn impression is brilliant and draws the audience on his side. He brings Pluto to life and turns him into a character that you like instantly. He’s not just a planet but a man with a heart and soul.

Charon, played by Charlotte Price is extremely gripping and intriguing. You find yourself hanging to every word during her monologue about her friendship to Pluto. She simply leaves you wanting more.

Pluto might not be as smooth sailing as a West End production might be, but as a brand new play, it definitely is a strong first production for the Moonchild Theatre Company who’ve managed to capture the current issues perfectly.

Pluto runs at Baron’s Court Theatre until 23 April and will transfer to the Cockpit Theatre from 14 August until 17 August.

#iheartPLUTO @MoonchildPluto

Chinglish | Review

★★★★☆  Johanson Productions, Park Theatre

David Henry Hwang returns to the Park Theatre with his European premiere of Chinglish. It explores the contemporary issues of doing business between two different cultures, East and West.

Chinglish Production PhotosCredit: The Other Richard
Lobo Chan (Cai Guoliang), Candy Ma (Xi Yan), Windosn Liong (Bing) and Gyuri Sarossy (Daniel) | Richard Davenport for The Other Richard

Andrew Keates directs this laugh-out-loud comedy, that starts with Daniel doing a presentation on poorly translated Chinese signs. “To take notice of safe: The slippery are crafty” and “Fuck the certain price of goods” pull the audience in with laughter in the first few seconds of the play.
Daniel, an American, wants to start a business arrangement with China on the behalf of his company ‘Ohio Signage’. When he meets Peter, an English teacher, he employs him as his business consultant.

Peter has lived in China for over a decade and gives Daniel advise on how to close a deal with the Chinese. The one important thing he says, is taking the time and trouble to build a relationship and understand the customs of the Chinese people in order to be successful.

When Daniel meets Xi Yan, the Vice-Minister for Culture, secrets are uncovered and a forbidden relationship begins.

Chinglish Production PhotosCredit: The Other Richard
Duncan Harte (Peter Timms) | Richard Davenport for The Other Richard

Gyuri Sarossy and Candy Ma are an ideal leading duo who bounce off each other perfectly.

The theme of the play looks at the language barrier between different cultures, as well as how to make business deals. A plethora of funny incidents occur over the duration of the show, which makes it so relatable, we’ve probably all encountered the problem of trying to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak our language. It also goes deeper – as it seems that everyone has something to hide from each other, and it shows the nature of making business decisions.
The staging is incredibly clever, by using a closet-like backdrop with small doors that open in different sizes and ways -transforming the stage into something completely different for each scene.

Chinglish - Candy Ma and Gyuri Sarossy (courtesy Richard Davenport for The Other Richard) 2

Gyuri Sarossy (Daniel) and Candy Ma (Xi Yan) |Richard Davenport for The Other Richard

Chinglish runs at the Park Theatre until 22 April.

@ChinglishUK, @ParkTheatre

A Clockwork Orange| Review

★★★★☆  Action to the Words,  Park Theatre

High energy paired with stunning choreography and Beethoven’s Symphonies. A Clockwork Orange is an intense theatre experience that shouldn’t be missed.

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Luke Baverstock (Georgie) Sebastion Charles (Dim) Jonno Davies (Alex) Tom Whitelock (Pete) |Matt Martin

Written by Anthony Burgess and based on his book from 1962, showing the worst side of humanity, which is scary as it’s still relevant today. The all-male cast hits the Park Theatre with force, style and raw sexuality.

The story follows Alex and his droogs, who commit horrific acts of violence in the underworld of Manchester. Their acts are fuelled by battling boredom. They are warned to stop but don’t listen and end up in prison, where Alex tries everything to be released. Later he becomes a Guinea pig, where scientists are trying to cure him. He’s stripped of his aggressive behaviour and changes from evil to good. Now, he’s merely a vague memory of his former self.

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Tom Whitelock (Pete) | Matt Martin

Jonno Davies as Alex is bold, dynamic and has the audience following his every move and word. He clearly transitions from an ultraviolet Alex to a mere shell of him. Tom Whitelock is a great addition, who plays a seemingly insane Pete, almost animal like. Sebastian Charles as Dim is scary and aggressive, adding another level of intensity to the play.

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Jonno Davies (Alex) | Matt Martin

The direction by Alexandra Spencer-Jones is incredible and turns this play into a masterpiece. She uses the stage surrounded by the audience to her advantage, using different entry points and not only focusing on aiming the action at one side of the stage.

The choreography is one of the highlights of the show, complementing the high energy that has the theatre buzzing and paired with the aesthetics. When two gangs clash, she turns it into a beautiful movement. The play is a piece of art and leaves you wanting more, feeling like the 90-minute play was not enough.

A Clockwork Orange runs at the Park Theatre until 18 March.

@Droogie_Tweets @ParkTheatre