Independent theatremakers grasp THE KNOT!

This is your last call to sign up for the fascinating events in The Knot. Applications close at midnight tomorrow (25th May).

The Knot is a festival of ideas and conversations that creatives need to have. One year since theatres reopened, independent artists face many daunting questions – some seemingly unanswerable.

New Diorama Theatre (NDT) Broadgate, who work with many independent artists, know that these big, knotty questions aren’t being asked out in the open. They have created a one-week festival called The Knot which dares us all to leave the WhatsApp group, get out of the DMs, save our subtweets to draft, and engage together in the big conversations. However nervous we are.

For a week in June, freelance artists & independent companies are setting an audacious agenda, with bigger funded organisations attending on their terms. A bold programme of big-thinking panel discussions, game-changing workshops and mind-expanding speakers – plus theatre’s spiciest pub quiz.

Saturday 18 – Friday 24 June, the events are hosted at NDT Broadgate and online.

Sign up here

The Knot is a partnership between New Diorama Theatre, Bunny, Uproot and Culture Mile. All kindly supported by National Lottery funding awarded by Arts Council England.


Breach Theatre’s IT’S TRUE, IT’S TRUE, IT’S TRUE

ITS TRUE, ITS TRUE, ITS TRUE is an award-winning show from the company Breach which was highly praised at the 2018 Edinburgh Festival, where it won a Scotsman Fringe First Award and The Stage Award for Acting Excellence. The show was due to play at the Barbican from March 31st to April 9th before performances were suspended. The streaming is available until May 17th.

This gripping dramatisation of a 1612 rape trial brought by the gifted painter Artemisia Gentileschi roars down the ages centuries after it shocked Renaissance Rome.

When Agostino Tassi, the pope’s favourite artist, was accused of raping 15-year-old Gentileschi, the ensuing seven-month case was widely publicised. IT’S TRUE, IT’S TRUE, IT’S TRUE interweaves jaw-dropping court transcripts with history, myth, contemporary insight and moments of satire to ask: how much has really changed?

Filled with ire and using modern language, the devised show shines a spotlight on a remarkable woman who went on to triumph through her art.

If you watch and enjoy the production, please consider making a donation to Breach Theatre. All donations go directly to Breach Theatre.

This new film version, shot on location in a former chapel, was specially staged for TV and originally shown on BBC4. The film is produced by Artemisia Films and Breach and was commissioned by The Space for BBC Arts.

The show runs 75 mins and is suggested for audiences aged 14+
Please be aware that the show contains: strobe lighting, nudity, strong language, violence and sexual violence.

To learn more about Breach, visit their website here.

VIEWING PERIOD ENDED

Winners of the OFFIES Awards 2020

At a ceremony at Battersea Arts Centre on Sunday 8 March, the winners of the 2020 OFFIES were announced.

In the list below, you can read my reviews of the shows by clicking on the show name.

Best Company Ensemble was rightly won by OPERATION MINCEMEAT for their run at the New Diorama Theatre.

Bill Buckhurst won Best Director of a Musical for the splendid GHOST QUARTET at the Boulevard Theatre, another well-deserved win.

In the Best Choreography/ Movement award, Oti Mabuse won for AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ which ran last year at Southwark Playhouse.

I was very pleased to see that Jordan Li-Smith, so good in Dave Malloy’s PRELUDES, won Best Musical Director for QUEEN OF THE MIST at the Jack Studio Theatre/ later transferred to the Charing Cross Theatre.

In the category Best Female Performance in a Play, Gemma Barnett won for her work in A HUNDRED WORDS FOR SNOW which played at Trafalgar Studios 2.

In the Most Promising New Playwright Award I was disappointed that Zia Ahmed did not win for the haunting I WANNA BE YOURS which ran at the Bush Theatre.

Also, In the Best New Play Award, I was similarly disappointed that Rose Lewenstein did not win for her extraordinary COUGAR at Richmond’s Orange Tree Theatre.

Congratulations to all the winners and nominees alike!


Review: JOAN OF LEEDS

IN BRIEF History hijacked in funny and enjoyably racy alt-Xmas show.

Its Christmas and what better expression of the festive holiday than enjoying a show about…rampant lesbian nuns.

Breach company have chosen the recently discovered true story of Joan of Leeds to present through their alter-egos the Yorkshire Medieval Players; they are a slightly ragged group of “professional enthusiasts” more used to presenting the mystery plays, who have been asked to come up with a Christmas show.

In 14th century Yorkshire, Joan was a lusty young woman assigned to a nunnery where she caused all kinds of disturbances, finally faking her own death and going “on the run”.

Cue lots of bickering and noises off as the troupe clamber through this story which plays enjoyably fast and loose with the story outline and particularly the (historically unknown) ending, as the cast revolt and present a high-energy musical finale with a positive, liberation theme.

The five-strong actor/musician cast all work hard and effectively, with great singing voices, and the script by Ellice Stevens and Billy Barrett (who also directs) doesn’t waste any time.

Bryony Davies is memorable as young, lustful Joan, her deadpan look and attitude are a joy to behold. Alex Roberts is never more memorable than as the grass snake/devil in a terrifying lime green one legged catsuit and a seventies handlebar moustache. Laurie Jamieson’s buttocks appear with alarming regularity but he gets the most out of some of the less colourful characters. Rachel Barnes has an impressive vocal range and quality, despite her best moment being up a ladder. And Olivia Hirst is delightfully stick-dry as the schoolmistressy type leader (“This is what they’ve come to see” she mutters, ousting another from centre-stage).

The show is a tight squeeze onto the Diorama’s stage, but its makeshift look is part of its charm.

The audience hooted and howled, stamped and cheered, and generally we all had a great time.

Prehaps Breach might have started an alternative panto trend? I do hope so.

JOAN OF LEEDS runs at the New Diorama, London until 21st December. Details and tickets here


Review: TOKYO ROSE

IN BRIEF Strongly-voiced musical retelling about the woman framed as an anti-US propagandist focuses on the injustice.

Inspired by a true story of the rare case of an American citizen tried for treason in 1949, TOKYO ROSE is a musical interpretation of the story of US-born Iva Toguri. Young and somewhat impressionable, Iva was repeatedly caught in a web of circumstances, persecuted and imprisoned for 6 years for broadcasting wartime anti-American propaganda.

Although born in the US, even in her own country, Iva is portrayed as an outsider- fellow university students assume she is from elsewhere simply because of the way she looks. Kind and somewhat naïve, she journeys to Japan to care for a sick aunt. When Pearl Harbour changes everything, and unable to go home, Iva is at first cajoled and then commanded into becoming one of 14 female broadcasters spreading fake news to the US troops. The war’s end brings further misery as she is tricked into a newspaper interview and subsequently tried and jailed for 6 years, the prosecution case later proved to be riddled with lies and intimidation.

The talented trio of Maya Britto (as Iva), Lucy Park (as the Aunt) and Yuki Sutton (as Mother) all impress with their voices, with Britto having the best numbers and in the quieter moments allowing the audience to empathise with Iva’s situation.

The rest of the characters felt sketchily drawn and were played in a broad range of styles.

The music is interestingly scored and often good to listen to (although the rap style stuff didn’t work for me). For the majority of the time we are listening to song after song belted out which although impressive at the start, loses its impact after a while, and the quieter “Letters Home” pieces come as a welcome relief, as well as allowing the performers to use a different vocal range.

It is vital that real stories about people facing injustice are told through the power of theatre. Although showcasing three voices that I am very glad to have heard, at times I really wanted more of the story rather than having to make each piece of the story a musical number accompanied by (sometimes an overabundance of) choreography. Therefore I wondered whether the musical form was the best vehicle for the interpretation of this story.

The natural outrage about the many injustices meted out to Iva is clear in the show’s approach. I did feel that at a few moments the anger risked becoming uncontrolled and getting in the way of the story rather than supporting it.

Nevertheless, I was glad to have finally seen the show, and the three very interesting central performers too.