Archive for August 31st, 2010


2:2, by Dilek Latif

Tuesday, 31 August, 2010

University of the Dark

London Festival Fringe:  The Lost Theatre, 24th-26th August, 19.30 (1.40)

2:2 is a new play by first time writer/director Dilek Latif.

Four close university friends, Kerry (Elizabeth Campbell), Sean (Oliver Hurst), Dee (Lauren-Jean Reeves) and Guy (Tom Squires) go into the law department to get their final degree results together.  They have laughed, cried, partied and lived together for three years, and they set off to meet what they see as a pivotal moment together.  When they are just metres away from their destination, they are diverted by their favourite tutor, Richard (Stephen Malyon), who invites them for a glass of celebratory champagne in his office.  As the mood changes from congenial to strained, the girls try to leave only to find that they are all locked in with an increasingly unstable Richard.  It transpires that one of the four has taken something from Richard and he is intent on eliciting a confession.  In the process he sets the four friends against each other, bringing out their secret longings and jealousies and using them to unsettle the group.  Driven by his own dark past, Richard plays a game that gets more and more frightening.

The student foursome each represent classic ‘types’:  Guy (Tom Squires) is a burly jock who likes the ladies, Sean (Oliver Hurst) is the sensitive boffin, Kerry (Elizabeth Campbell) is the spoilt posh girl while Dee (Lauren-Jean Reeves) is the tom-boy with a secret crush.  Their favourite tutor, Richard (Stephen Malyon) is unrelentingly creepy.

The young team on this project obviously put a lot of enthusiasm into it. The extremely well thought out set and props really do evoke the university world, and director Dilek Latif stages the piece competently within the space.  It is unfortunate that, while there are some promising moments, as a piece it doesn’t really come off.  The concept itself is sound and offers great possibilities that may have been realised in a slicker, more exciting fashion if the show was half the length.  As it is, the characters flounder in a script that labours through the repetition of a few underlying threads towards an ending which is is pretty far-fetched.  While many of the conversations and group scenes  lack dramatic drive, the script gets a real lift whenever there is a monologue.  The actors follow suit and deliver most of their best work at these moments where they show genuine commitment to the thoughts and emotions of the characters and often raise their energy to match.

On the whole, this is a nicely staged piece with some promising moments which is a little too studenty for the demands of the fringe.

Cast Credits (alpha order):  Elizabeth Campbell – Kerry, Oliver Hurst – Sean, Stephen Malyon – Richard, Lauren-Jean Reeves – Dee, Tom Squires – Guy.

Company Credits – Writer/Director – Dilek Latif, Production Photography – Mark Taylor & Nahla Ibrahim, Lighting Designer – Mark Hensler.

(c) Jennifer Skapeti

Reviewed 25 August


Paul Ricketts: Kiss the Badge, Fly the Flag

Tuesday, 31 August, 2010

England, Their England

Edinburgh 2010 – Just The Tonic @ The Caves – 5-29 August­­ 2010 – 22.40 (1:00)

“I hate England”, taunts Paul Ricketts in a thick Jamaican accent at the start of this thoughtful, if occasionally misfiring, stand-up comedy show.  The catch is that the comedian was actually born and brought up in England, where his family have lived ever since his grandfather arrived during the Second World War.  “I Love England”, he adds, setting the scene for the rest of his performance.

Settling into his own, relatively softly-spoken, English accent he skips over a few one-liners before getting to the meat of his show – the complex relationship between ethnic minorities living in England and the kind of patriotism which surrounds major sporting events.  In particular, he addresses attitudes towards the St Georges Cross flag and the English football strip using his own experiences and those of others – including some famous friends and the children he teaches in an inner city London school.  The serious subject is nevertheless punctuated by numerous amusing anecdotes and quips.

Using football as a metaphor for wider patriotism is a clever way to attempt to get to the root of the English psyche – a psyche that he admits attracts the loathing of many different countries, and even a form of self-hatred for those living within its own borders.  Comparisons with US and Scottish nationalism sees the English fall short and, in football terms, become “90 minute patriots” where they are only a game away from throwing down their flags and damning the entire country.  A memory of his first game at Wembley is shocking in its frank honesty – a scared eight-year-old sickeningly targeted by bigots but almost more concerned about a lost hotdog, such is his acceptance of racism as a common part of English life.

A series of interviews with celebrities, including actor Adrian Lester and comedians Richard Blackwood, Stephen K Amos, Shazia Mirza and Junior Simpson, back-up the comedian’s contention that, while there now seems to be little problem with the English football strip, the flag of St George still seems to hold violent connotations for segments of society – links with the BNP and other far-right groups still fresh in the memory.

In a video set-piece we see Paul Ricketts attempting to reclaim the flag by parading around different parts of London wearing a variety of English regalia during St George’s day, with mixed results.  It’s a silly idea, but one which makes a good point in a humourous way.  The younger generations, who point and laugh but never swear and shout, seem to have a far less involved, more positive and healthy relationship with nationality than their parents and grandparents.  It is a heartening moment in a blackly-comic show which threatens to be overcome with hopelessness.

Paul Ricketts clearly has good intentions and is an engaging  raconteur.  But this cannot cover up the fact that he comes to no real conclusions.  A closing segment which sees him dreaming up a series of ‘alternative national anthems’ typifies this and seems to have little substance other than getting cheap laughs.  The show’s denouement, where the performer dons a DIY England football shirt, feels like it should be revelatory but feels like a case of style over substance.

Cast Credits (alpha order): Paul Ricketts.

Company Credits: Writer – Paul Ricketts.

(c) David Hepburn 2010

Reviewed Thursday 26 August


The Rap Guide to Human Nature

Tuesday, 31 August, 2010

Edinburgh 2010 – Gilded Balloon Teviot – 4-30 August­­ 2010 – 15.45 (1:00)

The Rap Guide to Human Nature is a powerful trip through a fascinating array of scientific theorums given extra punch by a number of impeccable raps by Canadian MC Baba Brinkman.

Baba Brinkman

The overarching theme is the way that evolution can, in theory, be credited for many aspects of personality and human nature.  This goes beyond the accepted genetic hand-me-downs of eye-colour and baldness into such controversial areas as homosexuality and racism.  The format of the show quickly settles into a pattern –  a short lecture by Baba Brinkman introducing the science, explaining various terms and statistics, before embarking on a rap covering the topic and drawing out the comedic potential of each densely-packed piece of rhyme.  It’s an eye-opening experience as religion takes on science and conservatism takes on liberalism in a huge musical punch-up, with ever-expanding beats and sonic trickery.

Throughout this marvellous show Baba Brinkman is ably assisted by DJ and producer Mr Simmonds who accompanies the raps on his turntables, even working in ‘peer reviews’ from notable scientists in the field.  At one point the two performers come together in a decidedly awkward love song of sorts, revelling in their musical partnership.  The overall impression is that of a passionate belief in science and a supreme confidence in the complex themes and material.  The performer’s resolutely liberal standpoint even comes under fire at various points as no sacred cow is left unexamined.

The show gets off to a roaring start with material about creationalism and a disastrous gig in Bible belt America.  The rapper, accepting he is preaching to the converted, raps about evolution from a creationalist stance, turning the arguments previously made on their heads, urging people to question everything – even the content of the show.

Racism is disposed of as being part of the behavioural immune system and a simple extention of a fear of disease – equating bugs and viruses with anything unusual or different.  The revelation that pregnant women have been shown to be more xenophobic during their first trimester as part of an impulse to protect their unborn baby is just one of multiple examples ripped from research papers to illustrate the point.  The following rap, knitted into a chorus taken from Ku Klux Klan anthem ‘There Aint No Bugs On Me’, takes all that has gone before and repeatedly subverts belief after believe in a thrilling display of atheistic bravado.

After a brief dalliance and dismissal of spiritualism, human relationships are up next, with distinctly unromantic theories surrounding monogamy and courtship rituals.   Could the belief in monogamy just be the best way of passing on the strongest genes?  Can men tell when a woman is ovulating?  If the answer is no, why do strippers receive 20 per cent more tips when they are ovulating?  Again, these theories, along with a segment about how taking the contraceptive pill when starting a relationship could be the quickest way to the divorce court, are wrapped up in a rap dedicated, to hilarious effect, to a female audience member.

A study of the way that homosexuality can be incorporated into evolutionary biology is perfectly structured to both inform and entertain before the final segment, concerning social constructivism versus biological determinism, fails to really ignite.

It’s the only low point in an hour which will has evolved into an absolute showstopper.

Cast Credits (alpha order): Baba BrinkmanMr Simmonds

Company Credits: Writer – Baba Brinkman.  Music/DJ – Mr Simmonds

(c) David Hepburn 2010

Reviewed Thursday 26 August


The Leftovers

Tuesday, 31 August, 2010

Edinburgh 2010 – Just The Tonic @ The Caves – 7-28 August­­ 2010 – 15.20 (1:00)

The Leftovers is a three-man comedy sketch show which just about manages to pull-off a successful hour of laughs.

The show sees the three members, Simon Eves, Jez Scharf and Neil Waters, perform a number of skits of varying quality.  A continuing narrative involving the three comedians’ bickering and dreaming up ways to fund their visit to the Edinburgh Fringe ties the 60 minutes together in a fairly satisfying manner.

In a quirky opener the trio introduce feckless travel company Goldstar Airlines whose air stewards are under no illusions about the quality of service, or the avarice of their bosses .  Some nice surreal asides, along with a pleasingly high-standard of acting, promise much for the remainder of the show.  It’s a promise which they largely deliver upon.

A nicely-realised Tintin skit, imbuing Herge’s Belgian detective with a disturbingly dark edge, is followed by the introduction of the three actors’ comic personas – Si, Neil and Jez.  They are hoping to get noticed by a talent agent and resolve to deliver “the best show we’ve ever written”.  But it soon becomes apparent that some of their material is perhaps not quite up to scratch and that their ideas about what constitutes “the best show” do not always match up.

Simon Eves’ alter-ego Si is the stereotypical goofball – always getting the wrong end of the stick and winding up his two long-suffering friends with his obsession with dry ice.  But he’s still loveable and ingratiating, the key to any successful comedy idiot.

Neil (Neil Waters) is the highly-strung, slightly pernickety know-all who is left exasperated at every utterance made by Si.  His dreams of superstardom seem to be fading and he continually blames everybody but himself for his failures.

Finally, Jez (Jez Scharf) is the normal everyman of the group whose boy-next-door persona is brought into stark relief by the two caricatures she shares the stage with.  His role is to smooth over any arguments and bring some reality to his friends’ flights of fancy.

All three performers have enviably magnetic personalities and make the most of the material, often ad-libbing to improve on weaker segments.  The group dynamics of the comedy troupe are fully utilised to create tensions which crackle and pop onstage, leading to some of the biggest laughs in the set.  This is never more evident than in a running joke about the way their ‘Schindler’s Lisp’ skit is being performed.

There’s a nice mix of material throughout with plently of puns and off-the-wall humour, but also some nice characterisation and a fine line in finding humour in the confounding of expectations.

No idea ever hangs around too long to get boring but there are several weak links which threaten to bring the whole structure crashing down – in particular an overlong Sherlock Holmes parody and an interminable closing sketch which has seemingly been tacked on to bring the set up to an hour.

There’s more than enough to enjoy though and the performers’ sheer infectious exhuberance just about compensates when the inspired gives way to the prosaic.

Cast Credits: Simon Eves.  Jez Scharf.  Neil Waters.

Company Credits: Writers – Simon Eves.  Jez Scharf.  Neil Waters.

(c) David Hepburn 2010

Reviewed Monday 23 August


The London Awards 2010

Tuesday, 31 August, 2010

The Palm Court at the Waldorf Hilton

London Arts in Focus

The Waldorf Hilton Hotel, Aldwych, London, Thursday 26 August 2010

It’s wet outside, so there’s quite a queue for the cloakroom at the Waldorf Hilton, the venue for Awards Night at the London Festival Fringe 2010. The sensible ones have of course gone inside the strikingly elegant Palm Court room with its white marble décor and have collected a glass of wine before queueing. Those of us who haven’t, stand and fret.

Fortunately, Cheryl Moskowitz, a poet and novelist, is prepared to tell me about the world of poetry and its economics (of lack of them). Despite this, it seems, poetry still survives. Anne-Marie Fyfe, who heads the judging panel of the New Poetry award and later hands over the prize to award-winner Carrie Etter, has a big hand in this, running the famous Troubadour café in London’s Earl’s Court, home of many a poetry reading. The fact that 77 poets were entered for this prize (and to be eligible, a poet had to have published a collection) gives you some idea of the scale of this quiet piece of the London arts scene.

Anne-Marie’s partner is Cahal Dallat, also a writer, musician and poet, and we just have enough time to reminisce a little about old times in Belfast (where we both attended Queens University, round about the time when dinosaurs walked).

Together there are ten awards to be given. They are for (amongst others) jazz, and poetry, for music and art and these Awards have been one of the real successes of the London Festival Fringe, the idea of Greg Tallent and the man who has persuaded and cajoled so many people to do things – sponsoring and judging awards, hosting events, providing venues, publicity and help of all kinds.

One of these is Rachael Dalzell, whose Bedfordbury Gallery in Soho has been the base for the London Festival Fringe Art Award. This award was also amazingly popular, with no less than 87 artists entering and 22 being shortlisted. (The winner was Andrew Hladky).

Above all, Greg has gathered 220 people to help celebrate the winners’ achievements in these grand surroundings, so at least one venue for a London Festival Fringe event is something quite other than ‘Fringe’. Here, award winners rub shoulders with sponsors, award entrants, shortlisted artists and there are performances too, compered elegantly by actor Derval Mellett and directed by Simon Hipkins.

Leanne O’ Loughlin, who, in the short time she has been in London, has become a doughty reviewer of fringe performance, tells me she attended one of the evenings at which judging took place for the music award, and that award winning band, New Cut Gang, are well worth their accolade. David Shepherd, who books bands for the Leicester Square Theatre, and is here tonight, may well take some notes.

The Awards themselves, which award-winning comedian Don Biswas somewhat unkindly (but perhaps appropriately) likens to a chair leg, are handed out a la the Oscars, with much mentioning of friends, supporters, comforters and others. Perhaps the most poignant note is that struck by actor Jane Lesley when accepting the Award for Best Play (on behalf of A Christmas Carol, which she co-wrote with Joe Fredericks). She accepts the Award with a special note to the actor who played Scrooge (Jonathan Battersby) in the original production and who died earlier this year.

But perhaps we should leave the final note to Greg Tallent himself, without whom none of this would have happened:

‘London is the theatre capital of the world. This city has the best playwrights, actors, directors and theatre professionals. It also has a great theatre audience. To celebrate this and to offer recognition to artists and creatives working in the capital we have set up the London Awards.’

No one could doubt the energy and enthusiasm that is in evidence throughout these – now established – Awards. Come forward, next year’s sponsors.

People here include: Charles Wahab, Andy Powell (Artist), Tracy Keeling (Playwright), Leanne O’Loughlin (Writer), Stephen A Brown (Opera singer), Kasia Tallent , Richard Helliwell (Film Special Effects / Alternative Fringe), Michael Tallent , Jane Lesley (Director, MokitaGrit), Jonathan Hansler (Actor), Gillian Best Powell (Artist, Cor Blimey Arts / Core Gallery), Greg Tallent (Director, London Fringe), David Shepherd (Music Director, Leicester Square Theatre), Zoë Powell (Knitwear designer), Stephen Keogh (Global Music Foundation), Tracy Howl (Photographer, London Press Pix), Ewa Jaworski (Actor), Victoria Silverman, Michael Spring (Writer; Director, WildWest), Kenneth Liu (Musician, Grimhilde), Anna Tallent, Jackie Stirling (Actor), Skye Crawford (Editor, Fringe Review), Diana Thomas (Director), Nolia Devlin (Director, Nolia’s Gallery),


The London Awards comprise:  London Art Award, London Jazz Award – Best Vocalist, Best Jazz Instrumentalist, London New Comedy, London New Music, London Photography, London Short Fiction, London Theatre Writing, London 48 Hour Short Film, London Best Play, London Poetry Award.  Details as follows:


London Art Award

‘An award exclusively recognising an Artist whose work pushes the boundaries of art, inspired by the phrase “Quick before we come to our senses’”.’

Visual Arts Organiser:  Gillian Best Powell

Judges on the selection panel:  Jason Brooks, Artist, whose work is included in many of the world’s finest public and private contemporary art collections.  Nick Kaplony, Artist and Freelance curator, Artsquest & Pumphouse Gallery.  Zoe Whitley, Curator Contemporary Collections, Victoria & Albert Museum.

Final shortlist: Ingrid Berthon-Moine: ‘Rouge Pur and Rouge Star’.  Andrew Hladky: ‘It Was Not There’.  Yoonjin Jung:  ‘Seeing the Unseen’.  Paula MacArthur: ‘Deluxe’

Winner:   Andrew Hladky


London Jazz Award – Best Vocalist, Best Jazz Instrumentalist

Jazz Award Organisers:   Stephen Keogh / Ross Dines

Judges: Peter King.  Tina May, Voice.  Guillermo Rozenthuler, Voice (Latin).  Gilad Atzmon, Multi instrumentalist, sax, clarinet, ethnic wind.  Jean Toussaint.  Pete Churchill – Royal Academy of Music.  Mark Hodgson.  Jim Hart.  Barry Green.  Brigitte Beraha.  Asaf Sirkis.  Charles Alexander.  Julian Joseph.  Joe Paice – Jazz Services.  Paul Pace – Ronnie Scott’s.  Ross Dines – Music Director, Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho.  Stephen Keogh – Global Music Foundation.

Best Vocalist joint winners:  Norma Winstone  and  Cleveland Watkiss

Best Jazz Instrumentalist:  John Turville


London New Comedy

Organisers:  Louise Ayling & Imogen Crouch-Hyde

Judges:  Lynne Parker, Director of Funny Women.  Debbie Chazen.  Laurie Lewin

Finalists:  Jeff Leach, Joe Wells, Gemma Beagley.  Commended: Christian Manley.  Runner-up: Katie Lucas

Winner:  Don Biswas


London New Music

Organiser:  Patrick Lyons

Votes were made online and by the audience on the final music night.

Bands in competition: New Cut Gang from the Dublin Castle.  Frisky Holler from the Old Police Station.  Kalakuta from E1ectric

Winner:  New Cut Gang


London Photography

Organiser:  Tracy Howl

Judges on the selection panel: Edmond Terakopian, award-winning photojournalist.  Kate Day, Communities Editor, Daily Telegraph.  James Sparshatt, Photographer, Capital Culture.

Finalists:   Ben Graville, Ben Westwood, Colin Hampden-White, Daisy Meadows, Hady Bayoumi, Jola Mroszezyk, Liz West, Mish Aminoff, Nadjib Lefleurier, Rashida Mangera, Siddhartha Tawadey, Xiaoxiao Sun

Winner::  Daisy Meadows


London Short Fiction

‘Fictional stories, no more than a 1000 words that are inspired by the phrase: “Quick, Before We Come to Our Senses”.  The phrase did not need  to be used as a title, and was intended only as a starting point to work from.’

Judges:  Dr Anna Beer, University Lecturer in Literature, Fellow of Kellogg College, Oxford.  Dr Michael Sayeau, Lecturer in the English Department, University College London.  Dr Tara Stubbs, Stipendiary Lecturer in English, St. Peter’s College, Oxford.

Shortlisted:  Bahar Oona Brunton.  Carolyn Thomas.  Claire Louise Norton.  Eley Williams.  Geraldine Taylor.  Jennifer Thorp.  Kate Kerrow.  Mike Wendling.  Robert Pickles.  Sarah Day.  Scott Morris.  Tara Isabella Burton

Winner:   Jennifer Thorpe; The story: Coming Into Senses


London Theatre Writing

‘This Award gives a platform to the most promising piece of new writing or devised work to have arisen from a writer/s or theatre group.  It is intended for writers/actors to showcase their work to a large audience and to the industry.’

Organiser:  Maude Laflamme (London Playwright’s Collective).  David Bottomley (London Playwright’s Collective).  Kerry Irvine (ScenePool)

Judges:  Ola Animashawun, Associate Director of the Royal Court Theatre, Director Euphoric Ink.  Skye Crawford, General Manager, King’s Head Theatre.  Ria Parry, co-Artistic Director of Iron Shoes/

Finalists:  Aurora – Louise Monaghan.  Drawing the Curtains – Benedict Fogarty.  Snap. Catch.  Slam – Emma Jowet.

Highly Commended: Sultan’s Battery by Kathy Rucker

Winner:  Benedict Fogarty – Drawing The Curtains


London 48 Hour Short Film

‘The competition tested the creative and technical skills of writers, directors, film crew and actors.  The team will be given a title and a genre to work from and have 48 hours to finish the movie.’

Judges:  Phil Wood, Manager & Programmer, Roxy Bar & Screen.  Nathan Theys, Director, Film Creatives.  Enrique Rovira, Director, Producer,  Kathy Hill, Director, Writer, ‘Down and Out in Cannes’.

Entries: (Genre / Title / Team):  Romance – Three Lives – Alma.  Sport – A Woman’s Life – Argentum.  Suspense – The Well of Loneliness – Art is Useless.  Biography – What Maisie New – Avocado.  Fantasy – A Day Off – Spontaneous Skamp.  Crime – Miss Lonelyhearts – Water Rats.  Mystery – She – Yardie Style.

Winner Three Lives – by Team Alma


London Best Play

Organiser:  Kaye Conway

The 3 plays with the most votes are, in alphabetical order:

A Christmas Carol – Joe Fredericks, Jane Lesley

Angela Unbound – Andy McQuade

Alice’s Adventures In The New World – Rebecca Dunn, Sarah Sigal

Winner:  A Christmas Carol – Joe Fredericks, Jane Lesley

(Ellie Collyer-Bristow collects on behalf of Joe Fredericks, with Jane Lesley)


London Poetry Award

Organisers:  Cahal Dalat.  Anne-Marie Fyffe

Judges:  Daljit Nagra, Poetry Tutor in Faber Academy.  Tamar Yoseloff, teaches creative writing with The Poetry School in London.  Adam O’Riordan, the youngest Poet-in-Residence at The Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere.

Shortlisted Poets:  Abi Curtis.  Agnieszka Studzinska.  Carolyn Jess-Cooke.  Carrie Etter.  David Briggs.  Ellen Phethean.  Grace Wells.  Hilary Menos.  Howard Wright.  Katrina Naomi.  Maureen Jivani.  Patrick Brandon.  Sam Willetts.  Tom Chivers.  Eleanor Livingstone.

Winner:  Carrie Etter, who reads from The Tethers


© Brent Crude 26 August 2010


Zelda, by Kelly Burke

Tuesday, 31 August, 2010

Fitzgerald’s Muse

London Fringe.  Leicester Square Theatre, 19th – 31st August, 19:00 (1.00)

The original Zelda

Zelda (Kelly Burke) is already deep in concentration when the audience enter the space.  She sits at a table in a simple and flattering blue chiffon dress surrounded by books, paintings, papers and shoes that are collected in untidy piles on the floor.  She is deeply absorbed in writing something, and it is so interesting to watch that it takes up the next ten minutes until the whole audience is seated easily.  When she speaks, we realize she is doing so from a mental hospital.  It is from this point that Zelda’s story unfolds through soliloquies delivered in ‘the present’ and frequent trips into the past via vivid reveries and excerpts from letters.  The story is that of the creative, outlandish and ultimately unhinged Zelda Sayre and her passionate, tumultuous relationship with the famous American novelist, F Scott Fitzgerald.  We see not only the couple’s glamorous lifestyle but also the struggle of a woman desperate to express herself from the creative shadow of her husband.  It features enough highs, lows and witty anecdotes from the 1920s American party scene to ensure that this one woman show is entertaining as well as touching.

Kelly Burke’s Zelda is immediately likeable with her engaging smile and open, conversational manner.  As the show progresses through it’s thrilling structure of rapidly changing settings, events and moods, she is really able to strut her stuff, giving a performance in which physicality and emotions turn on a sixpence.  The detailed characterization, physical skill and utter commitment of this actress are a pleasure to watch.  With no set changes to help to differentiate between past and present, the clarity of the piece is an achievement for both Writer/Actor Kelly Burke and Director Robert F Gross.

The scene is set simply effectively by the planning of Art Designer Kate Williams and Lighting Designer Sean Salinas and execution of Stage Manager and Lighting Operator Clare Woodruff.  The tone is perfect for a play that aims to showcase a well written story through a skillful performance where the actor’s relationship to the audience is paramount.

Zelda is a really excellent one woman show.  It achieves everything in exactly an hour with no wasted moments, and it feels like time well spent.  Well structured and impeccably executed, this is a thoroughly enjoyable show.

Cast Credits:  Kelly Burke – Zelda

Company Credits:  Writer – Kelly Burke, Director (Edinburgh Fringe 2006) – Robert F Gross, Stage Manager and Lighting Operator – Clare Woodruff, Lighting Designer – Sean Salinas, Art Designer – Kate Williams.

(c) Jennifer Skapeti

Sunday 22nd August


Creekside Artists at the Fringe

Tuesday, 31 August, 2010

Seven Dials Club – 2 Aug to 18 Sept – 26 Aug – 11:00 – 21:00

The exhibition consists of 45 pieces by 14 separate artists.  The works displayed are in three interconnecting rooms, on the walls surrounding the Seven Dials Club in Soho.  Mediums range from oil on canvas, digital illustration and prints, charcoal and ink on paper, and spray paint on canvas among others.  Throughout the dates of the exhibition, the Creekside Artists have teamed up with local musicians and poets, and have even featured a life-drawing event during the showings in order to create a multi-faceted artistic experience.

Necole Schmitz’s ‘Madonna of the Sorrows’ is 54 x 74 cm oil on paper.  It is an inventive re-imagining of Renaissance paintings portraying the Virgin and infant Christ.  In Necole Scmitz’s piece, a haggard and broken woman with sorrowful eyes clutches an expressionless child to her breast.  In contrast to the perpetually glowing images of youth and beauty usually seen in this context, ‘Madonna of the Sorrows’ invokes feelings of pain and uncertainty.

Emma Louise Fenton’s ‘Not Again’ and ‘The Morale of the Story’ show brief insights to lives of modern, city-dwelling children.  Both pieces have been created using digital illustration and are 156 x 110 cm.  In ‘Not Again’, a small boy sits in his bedroom, surrounded by numerous forgotten gadgets, engrossed in a book while his mother scolds him from the doorway.  In ‘The Morale of the Story’, the same boy stands amidst the technological clutter, his arms and legs sprouting branches as he morphs into a tree.  By the window, an abandoned telescope focuses on the world outside, a bleak and grey urban landscape.  They imply an increasing isolation from nature as we simultaneously yearn for it.

Paul Coombs’ ‘Why the Long Mask?’ is 30 x 24cm acrylic on canvas.  It shows the dark visage of an unknown man covered in a white mask.  The piece is both fascinating and very disturbing.  It has the feel of a cold and degenerate sexuality together with mysteriousness, and is deeply unnerving.

Brenda Brown’s ‘Jazz’ is a colour burst of vitality against a dark backdrop.   At 40 x 44 inches and in oil on canvas, red and vibrant yellow pop as the texture creates an interesting focal point.  There is the impression of motion and sound together with a subtle hint of the curvature of a saxophone.

Victoria Trinder’s ‘By a Hairs Breadth’ and ‘JP’ are round, 120cm diameter creations in oil on board.  They are gorgeous, fantasy like glimpses into a brightly vivid dream.  Exotic flowers blend with a myriad of colours to create a stunning and wistful experience.

All of the art featured is the work of members of the Creekside Artists, a not-for-profit co-operative based in Deptford, which provides affordable studio space and a unique, creative community for artists working in all disciplines.  The Creekside Artists hold Open Studio events three times each year, in June, September, and December.

Artists:  Brenda Brown, Paul Coombs, Emma Louise Fenton, Alex Glen, Rachel Hale, Siobhan Keane, Henrietta Loades-Carter, Daryl Mohammed, Sofie Pinkett, Dave Ravenswood, Mat Rochford, Necole Schmitz, Victoria Trinder, Caz Underwood

(C) Megan Hunter 2010


The London Theatre Talks 2010: Banks are More Important to Society than Theatre

Tuesday, 31 August, 2010

London – The Phoenix Artist Club – 24 Aug – 19:00 (0:40)

As a stimulating addition to the London Fringe Festival, the historic Phoenix Artist Club in Soho hosted ‘The London Theatre Talks 2010’.

The talks were a series of panel discussions which featured prominent cultural experts in conversation about issues currently affecting the arts. On Tuesday, August 24th, the topic was: ‘Banks are More Important to Society than Theatre’.

The panel consisted of Nina Caplan, journalist and former Arts Editor of ‘Time Out‘, Shaun Hutchinson, the Editor of ‘New Black Magazine‘, and journalist and actor Ben Holland, who also used to work in the City. The talks were chaired by critic, journalist, and regular chair of the ‘Platform Talks’ at the National Theatre, Aleks Sierz.

In discussing the connection between theatres and banks, the panel paid particular attention to new theatrical works which dealt with the subject of corporate and economic corruption. Lucy Prebbles’ ‘Enron’ was a major point of discussion. Other topics focused on why theatre remains popular, what it should aim to achieve to be classed as successful, which of the two (theatre or banks) had brought society more honour throughout the course of history, and how the current economic crisis would impact the way that each does business going forward.

Thankfully, none of the panellists were biased in their responses and all were, as expected, articulate and well informed. In considering the talk prior to attending, I had feared that the ‘debate’ would in fact be a funding rally in response to the recent governmental cutbacks to the arts. While I obviously disagree with the arts-focused budget cuts, I was interested in hearing a balanced argument for both sides and was pleasantly surprised to find just that. The responses were well rounded and provided interesting insight into how we measure ‘success’ and ‘value’ in modern Britain.

As Shaun Hutchinson said, we go to the theatre to be inspired, entertained, to learn, and to seek answers about ourselves. Nina Caplan added that since the beginning of the financial crisis, the theatre has attempted to provide answers to the questions of what went wrong and why, while the banks have remained largely silent and insular. Likewise, Ben Holland pointed out that the visual medium of the theatre has provided an entertaining way for the general public to gain some understanding of a particularly complicated issue which is considered to be dull and dry. In this way, people have flocked to productions like ’Enron’ for answers, even when they are not specifically related to the topic of the global recession.

However, we have also constructed a society which is wholly reliant upon finance. Major financial institutions regularly back commercial theatrical productions, primarily on the West End, and because of this the relationship between the banks and theatres is incestuous. Still, one of the main differences between the two is their attitude towards profit. While banks are concerned only with their bottom lines, much of the theatre is actually loss-making. As funding cuts continue and with banks less likely to lend financial support to riskier artistic endeavours, the area of the theatre predicted by the panel to suffer the most was the Fringe. The conclusion of an interesting evening was that both financial institutions and artistic outlets are necessary in society. While I agree with that assertion, I know which of the two I prefer.

Panellists: Nina Caplan, Ben Holland, Shaun Hutchinson

Chair: Aleks Sierz

(c) Megan Hunter 2010


Danny and the Deep Blue Sea

Tuesday, 31 August, 2010

Love in the Bronx

London – Phoenix Artist Club – 27-31 July, 10-21 August (excluding 15 and 20)

Two small round wooden tables, surrounded by four wooden chairs, keep each other company on the small stage.  Roberta (Amy Tez) strolls in wearing cream high heels, denim hot pants with a leopard print belt and a chequered blouse with the sleeves rolled up and few buttons done up.  She sits down and flirts with the room and drinks beer from a bottle.

Danny (Andy Jones) then bounds in wearing black jeans, beige suede shoes, a white vest top and a white striped top, kept open.  He has blood all over his face and hands, as if he has just been in a fight, and has a large black eye.  He gets a jug of beer.  He lights a cigarette and puts a piece of material in the beer and cleans his cut hand with it.  The perfect scene has been set.  The intrigue is firmly placed and the anticipation is brimming, all this without any dialogue yet being exchanged.  What follows is an heart-warming, tragic, beautiful and bittersweet tale of love.

Two strangers looking for love, a connection and a missing piece of their lives, find each other.  They bend, twist and struggle their way through opening up their hearts and discovering themselves before they can open up and discover each other.  It is an emotional story.  They reveal difficult past and present times.  They explore a hurried love like children at play.

Roberta and Danny live in the Bronx.  They are used to fighting for everything and standing on their own two feet.  As strong willed as each other, it is hard to let their respective guards down to soften and become a bold and beautiful body as one.  Danny solves everything with his fists but hides a kind heart that needs to be nurtured.  Roberta is a loving mum who projects the image of strength and bravado to all.  However, inside she is as kind and sweet as Danny and also needs nurturing.  They are perfect for each other.

Andy Jones is excellent as Danny.  He maintains a perfect Bronx accent throughout, and is reminiscent of Al Pacino in Taxi Driver.  Andy Jones plays Danny through a series of emotions including being paranoid, loving, and angry.  Danny’s journey unfolds superbly.  Andy Jones has his actions and facial expressions to match absolutely on point.  It is fascinating to watch.  He throws darting paranoid looks around the room, at Roberta and inwards to himself.  He puffs out his chest with confidence and at other times closes in on himself, wanting to be held.

He sits on the chair in an attractive manner, slouched over it, nonchalant yet also very aware of his allure.  He has his forearms exposed, hair tousled up and looks strong and fit.  Andy Jones is skilful on stage.  He acts out a panic attack, cries and fiddles with his hair then lights a cigarette to shrug the whole thing off.  An example of when Andy Jones captures the humour of a moment perfectly is when Roberta says to Danny “Touch me.  Put your hand on me nice and talk to me.”  Andy Jones has such an expression on his face, pauses and then slaps Amy Tez on the arm in a matey kind of way.  It is great.  Andy Jones gives Danny a nervous laugh that he brings out throughout the play at opportune moments.  It gives Danny that tender side.  It is quite cute.  Even the way he swears makes Danny the kind of man that you just want to look after and give him all the love he never had.

Andy Jones seems to know how to use each situation and prop to enhance the action and his character.  He sits in a chair and plays with a doll whilst telling the story of a wedding.  He plays with its hair, he has nervous twitches and plays with his ear, his face and holds his chest.  He crosses his feet over and closes into himself like he needs protecting and plays with his neck.  It is captivating viewing.

Amy Tez is excellent as Roberta and also maintains a perfect Bronx accent throughout.  She is flirtatious and sultry.  Amy Tez holds Danny’s eye well and constantly challenges him verbally or physically.  It is interesting to see how next she will do it, whether it is the way she sits near him or the way she stands and talks to him.  Amy Tez shows her humour when Roberta talks to Danny about the false moon they see and shows him her own moon and wiggles herself at him.  He howls in return as he is howling at the moon.  Such hilarity.

Amy Tez plays the flirt confidently.  She kneels on the bed in his shirt and tells her story with anguish.  She holds the tension in the arguments and holds the tension in the intimate moments.  Amy Tez carries herself in a fearless manner when necessary.  She crumples and cradles herself when there is nowhere aggressive to go to and she needs Danny to rescue her.  She is tender towards Danny and cares for him with kid gloves intuitively.  She also cares for him with boxing gloves at other times when he needs that too.

Both Andy Jones and Amy Tez play the sexual tension between their characters well.  It is easily believable.  They complement each other well as actors and as characters in love.  There is a moment where they both stand up and she slaps him.  Then, there is a skilful series of movements where he grabs her round the neck and pins her up on the wall with his hands and his body.  It has been done carefully and effectively.  It could obviously be quite dangerous if not done properly.

John Patrick Shanley has written a well-rounded piece of work.  The interactions between Danny and Roberta are humorous and touching and the story flows well.  The journey of the couple has a good pace.  There is a funny line where Roberta makes a comment to Danny about him not being so scary: “I seen worse than you crawling round my sink!”  There is another part where Danny howls at Roberta’s moon.  There is a nice mix of humour and serious introspection.  There is one horrible line however where there is an ignorant mention of a phrase used referring to people from another country.  If it were not for this, the play would be faultless.

Dominic Cazenove’s direction is very capable.  Danny and Roberta interact well and move around their world in a unique way. Roberta has a feminine fluid movement.   She sexualises everything, as that is how she can relate to the world.  Danny has a mixture between arrogant and humble.  He has a confident countenance and also an uncertain fidgeting and self-conscious manner.  His world is a constant battle and he is always alert.

The music and lighting by Rock N Roll Theatre complements the whole play.  The lighting is subtle when it needs to be and lights the actors and the set appropriately.   There are some familiar songs such as ‘I Put A Spell On You’ sung by Nina Simone, which sets the scene for the second half.

The play makes you hope for love and smile with the joy of all the good in the world.  You may want to run out and find your own love story straight after if you don not already have one.  The acting is excellent, the direction is excellent, and the play is nearly as good.  If you go and see anything in the future, go and see this first.

Cast Credits:  Andy Jones – Danny.  Amy Tez – Roberta.

Company Credits:  Writer – John Patrick Shanley.  Director – Dominic Cazenove.  Executive Producer – Amy Tez.  Producer – Kay Bridgeman.  Sound Designer – Rock N Roll Theatre.  Lighting Designer – Rock N Roll Theatre.  Art Work – Bradley Kemp.

© Chantal Pierre-Packer 2010

reviewed Monday 16 August


The Secret Diary of Anne Frank

Tuesday, 31 August, 2010

Intensity, history and emotion

Edinburgh 2010 –C too, St.Columba’s by the Castle -30th August. 17.00

The Diary of Anne Frank is set in a secret annex, at the back of a factory, during the Second World War. It’s six rooms become the home of the Frank family and the Van Daan family at the beginning of this play, when the German government is threatening to return Otto Frank’s eldest daughter Margot, to Germany. Her quiet presence is sympathetically played by Louise Busnel. These threatened Jewish families are given this hiding space by businessman Mr. Krugler and his assistant Miep.  It remains their home for the two years covered by the play.

This is a true story based on the found diary of Anne Frank who was unfortunate enough to be growing up in Germany when the Nazis relentless anti-Jewish policies were being rolled out all over Europe. The family sought safety in Holland. The Nazis invaded. They went into hiding.

Thirteen year old Anne grows to fifteen while living deeply hidden. She is well played by Caroline McCaffrey who manages to covey both Anne’s naieve enthusiasm and her frightened distress with equal truthfulness. She is believably very young and irritating, as well as delightful, loving and thoughtful in turns, emanating hope throughout, as do the original diary notes which form the basis from which this work grew. It is an exploration of the effects of extreme stress on ordinary human beings sharing too small a space, unable to go out and confined in silence during the day. At night they can make some sound because they are beyond the hearing of the surrounding Nazi occupied world. They attempt to live peacefully. Seen through the eyes of a teenage girl growing through puberty, the Diary is both factual and personal. Voice Over quotations link the scenes and give a sense of time passing. Two years is telescoped into one hour packed with emotion.

Anne’s father Otto Frank is beautifully played as a kindly gentleman by Jack Greenlees. He is Anne’s ally, a compassionate husband, friend and father, capable of being a quiet hero, keeping the peace under all circumstances. His wife, Edith is caring but dominant as “ the enemy mother “ in Anne’s teenage mind. Edith loves her family and her friends but becomes progressively more and more edgy as the pressures of hunger, fear and lack of trust begin to overwhelm her. She is delicately played by Louise Hemfrey who creates a character for whom great sympathy can be felt, even when her intolerance shows.

The Van Daan Family are Hermann, Petronella and Peter. Peter is slightly older than Anne and initially very embarrassed by Anne’s joking attentions. Michael MacFarlane gives him a strong likeable presence and we understand why Anne grows to love him. His parents are an unhappy pair. His social climbing, fashionable mother Petronella, well embodied by Emily Muldoon, clings to her fur coat as a status symbol and a link to her dead father. His weak father, Hermann, Will Moore, feels unloved by his wife and seems very unloving to everyone. His theft of food in the night causes everyone, including himself, great distress.

They are all joined by a shy anti-social dentist, Mr. Dussell, who reluctantly shares Anne’s bedroom, since it is the only available space on the floor. Felipe Schrieberg plays his enigmatic character with commitment and just enough irritability to convince us  Anne’s nightmares are making his life more than extremely difficult.

The setting, in St.Columba’s by the Castle, in Edinburgh was claustrophobic, oppressive and hot. The space on the small studio theatre stage was crammed with appropriate, necessary old furniture. The production was atmospherically lit.  Both the designer and the director had to make very creative use of the available floor space. It was all mightily appropriate to the content of the play and allowed everyone to share a little  of the unbelievable discomfort experienced by those oppressed families hiding in Amsterdam sixty-eight years ago. We survive, safely distanced from the horror by time and the magic of theatre.

Kate Andrews was a fine friendly Miep and Jamie Gordon a respectful, humane Mr. Krugler, both of them helping build the tension between the outside world and the inner sanctum of the secret hiding place they maintain at great personal risk. The radio they have provided is also giving the hidden ones news of the war throughout. The sense of the reality of the risk taken by Miep and Mr. Krugler when they deliver food or news is strong, though very understated. The music which flits in and out of the production was always appropriate, and occasionally live, beautifully played and sung with pathos by Merlyn Driver.

Patch of Blue Theatre in association with Hartshorn-Hook Productions

Cast: Miep – Kate Andrews, Margot Frank – Louise Busnel, Musician – Merlyn Driver (5th-20th August) Mr Krugler – Jamie Gordon, Otto Frank – Jack Greenlees, Nazi Soldier- Rik Hart, Edith Frank – Louise Hemfrey, Peter Van Daan – Michael MacFarlane, Anne Frank – Caroline McCaffery, Hermann Van Daan – Will Moore, Petronella Van Daan – Emily Muldoon, Nazi soldier- John Nicoll, Mr Dussell – Felipe Schrieberg  Musicians – Ben Wallo and Rob Stephenson (21st-30th August)

Creative Team: Directors- Alex Howarth & Louise Sands, Backstage – Lucy Drysdale & Kiera Liebert, Publicity – Alex Howarth, Sound Engineering – Felipe Shrieberg, Lighting Design and Operator – Louise Sands, Set Construction – Alex Baldwin, All original music written by Merlyn Driver

The Company Patch of Blue Theatre, Director/Founder: Alex Howarth and Louise Sands, Musical Director: Rob Glenny, Producer: Meg Platt , Website Administrator: Christopher Smith

( c )Lilian Kennedy Brzoska 2010

reviewed Friday 14th Aug. 10