Review: Bunnies, New Diorama Theatre, London

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A play about a farmer who feels he must resort to culling whole species in order to save his livelihood could, on the face of it, be no more topical. With much discussion over whether or not to cull the badger population in an effort to stem the spread of bovine tuberculosis, and a proposed (and possibly overdue) ban on the importation of ash trees to try and prevent the spread of a disease to our own native stocks, there are issues worthy of discussion and debate aplenty here.

Kieran Lynn’s Bunnies, currently playing at the New Diorama theatre, is not that sort of play. Instead, it is a curious attempt at political satire that seems to revel in the crudity of its allegory, just as it revels in acts of violence and bad taxidermy. It is set on a farm, and there are animals involved – but Animal Farm this is not.

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Review: Bunnies, New Diorama Theatre, London2Scott Matthewman2012-10-29 08:48:30A play about a farmer who feels he must resort to culling whole species in order to save his livelihood could, on the face of it, be no more topical. …

Julius Caesar, Aylesbury Waterside Theatre

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Battered concrete, broken away to reveal the rusting iron frame within, forms the backdrop to Gregory Doran’s production of Julius Caesar. It’s an apt metaphor for the state of Rome at this point: what ought to be majestic and powerful is fracturing, broken and damaged by war.

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Julius Caesar, Aylesbury Waterside Theatre4Scott Matthewman2012-09-21 17:36:35Battered concrete, broken away to reveal the rusting iron frame within, forms the backdrop to Gregory Doran’s production of Julius Caesar. It’s an apt…

If It Only Even Runs a Minute 2, Landor Theatre

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After my review of the first London edition of cabaret night If It Only Even Runs a Minute, I did wonder how the hosts Oliver Southgate and Lydia Grant would take my comments. Not everyone whose show was described as a “shambolic mess”, and whose delivery was described as “amusingly under-rehearsed”, would necessarily be happy about the reviewer in question.

As it turns out, they were fine with it. So fine that I was invited back by them for Monday’s second edition.

At its core, it hadn’t changed. There’s a fine line between being informally relaxed and being disorganised – a line which If It Only Even Runs‘s hosts display a tendency to use as a skipping rope.

Personally, I find their presentation style charming, especially because the calibre of Monday’s guest performers were so high. I was being comped, though: I do wonder whether, if I’d paid for the tickets out of my own pocket, whether I’d find it quite so endearing.

But to concentrate on that side of the evening is unfair – as I said last time, the quality of the performances (and, in particular, the guest performers) is the real focus of the evening. And in their second London show, the calibre of the guests shot up several notches.

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If It Only Even Runs a Minute 2, Landor Theatre4Scott Matthewman2012-07-12 00:11:19After my review of the first London edition of cabaret night If It Only Even Runs a Minute, I did wonder how the hosts Oliver Southgate and Lydia Gran…

If It Only Even Runs a Minute – London Edition, Landor Theatre

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Regular readers will know that I was a big fan of Above the Stag Theatre’s 2009 summer cabaret, Blink!, which celebrated the joys to be found in songs from shows that did not last particularly long, and to different degrees their 2010 and 2011 shows, Blink! Twice and Blink Again!. There probably won’t be a 2012 version, as Above the Stag’s home of The Stag pub was recently closed as part of the redevelopment of the area around London Victoria station.

A series of concerts on the same theme has been running at New York’s Joe’s Café for a while now. And while each iteration of Blink! was a show that would repeat each night, If It Only Even Runs a Minute promises to be different each time, as befits a series of occasional concerts. The beauty of that format is that it can be as flexible as possible, and allow many guest stars to make a one-night commitment to perform songs from shows that they were in.

Last night saw the first in a hopeful series of UK equivalents at the Landor Theatre. And while it was a bit of a shambolic mess at times, it was at the very least a loveable mess, with some cracking performances.

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If It Only Even Runs a Minute – London Edition, Landor Theatre4Scott Matthewman2012-04-24 19:53:22Regular readers will know that I was a big fan of Above the Stag Theatre’s 2009 summer cabaret, Blink!, which celebrated the joys to be found in songs…

Mary Rose, Riverside Studios

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[media-credit name=”Laura Harling” align=”aligncenter” width=”584″][/media-credit]
Jessie Cave as Mary Rose with Spirits (Sally Preston, Greg Airey, Ariel Harrison, Philippa George, Maya Thomas, Noah Young and Scott Ellis)

As I found out when watching a student production of Dear Brutus last year, there is more to author and playwright J M Barrie than Peter Pan. Even then, the story of The Boy Who Never Grew Up – as originally written, rather than as the Disney version and numerous panto versions have painted – seems to have themes which Barrie’s other plays also share, mixing comic observations of middle class life with supernatural occurrences.

Here the story is centred around the Morland family, whose daughter Mary Rose once disappeared on a family holiday to the Hebrides, reappearing three weeks later with no knowledge that she had even been away. As a dashing young sailor approaches her parents to ask for her hand in marriage, they divulge the mystery that they have kept secret from her. And, several years later, the couple return to the island, Mary still unaware of the episode from her past – when the island starts calling to her again…

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Mary Rose, Riverside Studios3Scott Matthewman2012-04-01 20:45:44[caption id=”attachment_2597″ align=”aligncenter” width=”584″ caption=”Jessie Cave as Mary Rose with Spirits (Sally Preston, Greg Airey, Ariel Harriso…

No Picnic, Tabard Theatre

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If you go down to the woods today, you probably won’t expect a dead clown on your hands and two teddy bears worried they will be charged for his murder. But at least that would constitute what would be, as Henry Hall sang, “a big surprise”.

In Greg Freeman’s allegorical, fantastical comedy, we first meet teddy bears Ludovic (Dan Frost) and Julius (James Sygrove) as they flee the scene of Bobo the Clown’s death. With clowns being the ruling class, they fear capture — not least because teddy bears cannot possibly lie: their motto, Honore veritatum, is “embroidered into our underpants”, says the (admittedly pants-less) Julius.

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No Picnic, Tabard Theatre3Scott Matthewman2012-03-24 18:36:56If you go down to the woods today, you probably won’t expect a dead clown on your hands and two teddy bears worried they will be charged for his murde…

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, LOST Theatre

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Ken Kesey’s novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, about life in a mental institution, was published 50 years ago this year in 1962, with Dale Wasserman’s theatrical adaptation appearing one year later. In this anniversary year, the LOST Theatre’s revival provides an atmospheric retelling that feels contemporary.

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, LOST Theatre3Scott Matthewman2012-03-18 21:51:13Ken Kesey’s novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, about life in a mental institution, was published 50 years ago this year in 1962, with Dale Wasserm…

Song of the Seagull, Menier Gallery

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[media-credit name=”Patrick Dodds” align=”aligncenter” width=”584″]Vera in Song of the Seagull[/media-credit]
Persia Lawson as Vera in Song of the Seagull, Menier Gallery
Any playwright who tries to take on the life of Anton Chekhov must surely be on a hiding to nothing, as their work is most likely going to compare to the Russian dramatist’s own work. Writer/director Linnie Reedman, whose Dorian Gray I enjoyed at the Leicester Square Theatre in 2009, thus has her work cut out.

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Song of the Seagull, Menier Gallery2Scott Matthewman2012-03-16 13:10:50
Persia Lawson as Vera in Song of the Seagull, Menier Gallery
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The Glorious Ones, Landor Theatre

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The Landor Theatre had a big hit last year with Ragtime, Lynna Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s musical adaptation of E L Doctorow’s attempt at the Great American Novel. That show, which featured a cast nearly as big as the Landor’s maximum audience size, won some well-deserved Off West End Awards. And now, the Landor’s creative team has attempted another Ahrens and Flaherty musical, creating the European premiere of The Glorious Ones.

With a much smaller cast, set in Renaissance Italy and based on a novel by Francine Prose, the Glorious Ones are a ragtag band of commedia dell’arte street performers, a group of archetypes who are more or less indistinguishable from the masked roles they play on stage.

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The Glorious Ones, Landor Theatre4Scott Matthewman2012-03-13 18:05:13The Landor Theatre had a big hit last year with Ragtime, Lynna Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s musical adaptation of E L Doctorow’s attempt at the G…

The Colored Museum – Talawa Theatre Company, Victoria and Albert Museum

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Back in March, the Victoria and Albert Museum – home of the theatre and performance galleries which once housed part of their collection in the Theatre Museum, Covent Garden – opened its doors on a Friday evening for a series of theatrically-based events. Some were more successful than others: a “cardboard representation of the West End” turned out to be less the meticulous recreation of some of Theatreland’s most magnificent architecture, more a load of upturned cardboard cubes loosely arranged along walkways that claimed, and failed, to emulate the layout of W1 roads.

One of the definite highlights of that evening, though, was cramming into the museum’s Lydia and Manfred Gorvy Lecture Theatre to hear Timothy West and his son, Samuel, read from an original Shakespeare First Folio book. It was a presentation that clearly asserted the theatre and performance galleries’ determination to be an intrinsic part of the V&A – something that many people, myself included, worried may not happen when the Theatre Museum closed.

One thing that the V&A’s Covent Garden venue allowed but which the South Kensington museum has traditionally not is the possibility of regular live theatrical performances. So the fact that this week the same lecture theatre at the V&A is playing host to a production brings pleasure by sheer virtue of the booking alone. The fact that it’s an unmissable piece of theatre helps too.

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The Colored Museum – Talawa Theatre Company, Victoria and Albert Museum4Scott Matthewman2013-05-14 17:11:29

Back in March, the Victoria and Albert Museum – home of the theatre and performance gallerie…