Archive for February, 2011


March, at the Canal Cafe Theatre

Monday, 28 February, 2011

The Canal Cafe, home to the weekly News Review and a whole lot more

Here’s what’s coming on in March at the Canal Cafe Theatre, in London’s Little Venice, and home (of course) to The News Review.

Tue 1st, 7.30pm
On the first Tuesday two teams of intrepid improvisers battle to the death (…well, till the end of the show) proving their worth through a series of punishing impro games. The prize: their audience’s respect! Who will be victorious? who will fall? This is no joke.
Comedy just got nasty.

Thu 3rd, 7.30pm
After an award-winning, sold-out run at the 2010 Edinburgh Festival, ‘Bad Bread’ bring their fast-paced, original sketch-comedy, to the Canal Cafe Theatre for a new monthly show (the first Thursday of every month). With each show including a different (hilarious) special guest, Bad Bread present an hour of side-spiltting comedy for your entertainment!

Mon 7th, 7.30pm
SPARK London is the capitals first true storytelling night – Sit back and listen to other people’s stories or if you have a story to tell get in touch with us at

Fri 11th, 7.30pm
In this impressive and brilliantly funny show, four of the country’s finest improvisers create an hilarious story in a variety of styles and genres informed simply by the title and ending of a real book.
Created by Humphrey Ker and Carrie Matthews. Featuring: HUMPHREY KER (BBC2’s Fast and Loose, The Penny Dreadfuls) DAVID REED (The PennyDreadfuls) JESS RANSON (BBC1’s The Armstrong and Miller Show) ANDREW PUGSLEY and JUSTIN EDWARDS

Mon 14th, 7.30pm
TIME OUT RECOMMENDED Very friendly comedy night at the Canal Cafe, featuring the best up and coming stand ups on the London circuit. Next show MONDAY 14TH MARCH. Featuring: IAN STONE, GEORGE RYEGOLD, BEN TARGET AND MORE.

Fri 18th, 7.30pm
THE FIX PRESENTS JOHN KEARNS DINNER PARTY John has some news. For friends, loved ones; there is news. Not knowing how to tell you, he invites you all round for dinner. After past Dinner Parties, he is now legally obliged to state there may not actually be any dinner, and if you do die from food poisoning, let that be a lesson to you. Support, as ever, from Patrick Cahill and the stupendous Joel Dommett, he’s been on Skins, is only the bloody star of BBC 2’s Popatron and is really very, very good. Too good actually.
Don’t trust him.

Sat 19th, 7.30pm
Perrier award-winner Scott Capurro has been variously described as “the most fearless and technically perfect stand-up on the circuit”
(The Guardian), “one of the few genuinely challenging acts out there”
(Tim Arthur, Time Out) and “evil” (Daily Mirror). Andrew Doyle has been described as “one of the funniest, sharpest, cruellest comedians out there” (Johann Hari, The Independent), “slick, sharp and confident” ( and apparently writes “excellent one-liners”
(The Times). For this show, they’ve joined forces to present their brand new material. They want you to be their guinea pigs. That’s why it’s so cheap. Get on board, bitches.

Sun 20th, 7pm
Meet a couple of television journalists devastated by their ex-boyfriends successes, a balloon modeller looking for You Tube fame and couple of ‘ootreprenurial’ businesswomen whose product could take the world by storm. Made it big. Made it up. Made it to the Moon and back. Character sketches, songs and 100% silk with female musical comedy duo The Silky Pair. Hope you can make it!

Tue 22nd, 7.30pm
Young comic Raphael Perahia begins his monthly residence at the Canal Cafe presenting a night of Stand up comedy from some of London’s finest comedians. March 22nd: SCOTT CAPURRO, DANE BAPTISTE and SOOZ KEMPNER

Wed 23rd, 7.30pm
Clever Peter: Blood, Sweat & Tears The award winning and Radio 4 Commissioned sketch group Clever Peter bring their 2010 sell out Edinburgh Show to London’s Canal Cafe Theatre. Don’t miss chance to see one of the Top Ten Laughs of 2010 (The Telegraph) ‘A terrific, tightly scripted sketch-show at the Fringe, brimming with fresh-faced invention and lunacy. If they don’t go very far, soon, there’s no such thing as British justice. Clever? Not half.’ – Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph.

Fri 25th, Sat 26th, Sun 27th, 7.30pm
Late Night Gimp Fight begin their 2011 residency at the Canal Cafe Theatre! Last year their run of new monthly shows culminated in a complete sell-out run at the Edinburgh Fringe and a Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award Nomination for Best Newcomer. In 2011 they’re set to build on their position as one of the most exciting and inventive sketch groups in the country with a run of brand new hour-long shows each month. This hour of fast-paced sketch comedy combines song, dance and the occasional gimp with their trademark off-the-wall sketches that’ll leave you feeling violated, but in a good way.

Mon 28th, 7.30pm
London’s new writing just got more exciting! Calling all writers, theatre makers and general creatives – Rogues’ Gallery has expanded.
Rogue Writers is our monthly scratch night, set up to showcase new writing and theatrical talent.

Tue 29th, 7.30pm
Following their 5 Star Edinburgh Fringe show, comedy sketch group The Three Englishmen (TimeOut Critic’s Choice) return to the Canal Cafe Theatre this Autumn to continue their monthly London residency, The Three Englishmen and Friends. Carrying on from the success of their previous twelve-month long, sell-out residency, the Englishmen will be presenting a host of brand new sketches and songs to split your sides, amaze your eyes, and make your heart sing!

Wed 30th, 7.30pm
THE LONDON CHAT SHOW – FEATURING CELEBRITY GUESTS Watch them on TV, listen to their radio interviews and buy the magazines or newspapers they feature in but it is time to get up close and personal with some of the most high-profile names in the UK and hear their real life stories in a live theatre setting. The London Chat Show allows an audience to experience the side of the interview they don’t usually get to see. Famous faces will be sharing their tales in front of an intimate crowd and some may even be happy to answer burning questions from audience members.

Thu 31st, 7.30pm
Planet Ramsden Productions are making their London debut with their new Comedy sketch show ‘THE SMILEY SHOW’. ‘THE SMILEY SHOW’ is a chat show with a difference, from the cheesy and sleazy host Clive Smiley through to the wonderful but deranged characters that appear on the show. Planet Ramsden Productions promise a night of laughter and fun and, having already sold out shows in Wales, hope to have a great run in London before conquering the Edinburgh Fringe Festival later this year.


Judith – A Parting from the Body, by Howard Barker

Thursday, 24 February, 2011

Barker’s Biblical Tale at the Cock Tavern

Barker's take on the Biblical tale of Judith

Judith – A Parting from the Body is a short, sharp and compelling literary composition based on the biblical Book of Judith. It stunningly chronicles the final hour in Judith’s plot to destroy the threat to the Jewish Land by taking the head, and heart, of the opposition’s leading general.

However, Barker’s portrayal of events veers away from the particulars of country or faith and focuses on the source of psychological struggle of the veteran culture: murder. This is a play that should be obligatory to anyone with pro-war tendencies because it exposes the truth of what damage can be done to the person wielding the axe rather than the one receiving it, shining a stark light on the personal ramifications of taking another life.

The piece was set in a barren and diminutive cell, which captured the audience not only in spirit but in space, with barely enough leg-room for a midget, let alone a master of war. The only adornment were three plaster cast heads, suspended on ropes, and a sword strapped up stage centre, ensuring our awareness of the only certainty of war, within its ancient origins, death. The walls were draped with grey cloth that suggested both a military presence, and a bleakness that complemented the lonely bed and chair.

Appropriately, we were initially introduced to a solitary man, the great general himself; an emotionless soul despite the weight of words and content with which Barker had blessed him. This tendency became understandable as the play progressed and the true consequence of leading in the killing-field became apparent; the inability to feel. Liam Smith, playing the late and biblically great Holofernes, filled his shoes with the liquidity of an unerupted volcano; outwardly stoic with a fiery cesspool bubbling inside.

Into the space enters Judith, with what appears to be her maid in tow, and an intriguing yet vague discourse ensues. Barker’s refusal to deal in specifics of the original tale creates an air of universality to this story that extends beyond the confines of time or continent. He also successfully blurs the barriers of class, with the maid, at moments, exhibiting more control than her superior, leading to occasional confusion over whose vendetta is being avenged. Judith, played by Catherine Cusack, appeared almost as twisted as the general himself. She engaged in Holofernes’ intellectualising of what should be an emotional matter with ease and their contorted cerebral compatibility became obvious until the bitter and brutal end.

All actors played their parts perfectly, packaging Barker’s perusal in a deliberate, yet fluid, presentation. Smith was as eerily tragic, as I imagine any appointed mass murderer to be. He reeked of self loathing, through his dialogue, his persona, and his final submissive reckoning at the hands of a woman. Cusack physically encapsulated the gentile nature of a lady and accurately portrayed  the tortured mind that her widowhood, war-weariness and wilder side endured. Barker, and his noble subject Cusack, hinted at a cruelty in women not possible in men, the ability to push life into the world and then viciously pull it out, carelessly destroying the very thing she had made; a beast that eats her offspring after birth.

Emmeline Prior, as the not so subservient maid in waiting, served as our protagonist for the event. She was the coherent voice in a convoluted cacophony of cerebral chaos. Her incredulous and humorous interjections were delivered with the wisdom and cockney-eyed conspiratorial wit comparable with one of Shakespeare’s fools. Prior’s performance was perfectly pitched and beautifully displayed the strength of character oft found in those that live in the fringes of society, as she picked up the pieces of the mess her superiors had made.

Good Night Out’s production is a worthy and well directed telling of Barker’s take on the Judith tale. This company engaged fully, both visually and physically, with the harsh realities of this war-torn world and proved that no one escapes a battle unscathed.

reviewed 15th February 2011

Performers: Catherine Cusack; Emmeline Prior; Liam Smith

Writer – Howard Barker; Director – Robyn Winfield Smith; Lighting – Richard Hillier; Sound – Nick Jones; Costume – Julia Berndt/Marika Gasparova; Movement – Lawrence Carmichael; Asst. Director – Hannah Tottenham; Props – Ami Crabb/Lucy Pace; Set – Robyn Winfield-Smith/Ben Hawkins/Robert Hudson Booth; Graphic Designer – Simon Hilton; Photography – Rocco Redondo; Stage Manager – Sammi Woollard; Asst. Stage Manager: Peter Carrington; Producer – Roxanne Peak-Payne/Adam Spreadbury-Maher

(c) Tracy Keeling 2011


Snake in the Grass, at the Print Room

Thursday, 24 February, 2011

Darker Ayckbourn

Run now extended to 12 March

The Print Room may be a small venue, but its production values certainly aren’t, at least judging solely on the basis of their current production, the rarely seen Snake in the Grass, by Alan Ayckbourn.

Set on a long unused tennis court, the production moves from broad daylight to the dark of night reflecting the twists and turns of a convoluted plot. What exactly those twists and turns entail, is something you should really find out for yourself, but the repercussions from the death of the domineering father of sisters Miriam (Sarah Woodward) and Annabel (Susan Wooldridge) are both alarming and – because Ayckbourn will always be Ayckbourn – nervously funny at the same time.

Designed by William Dudley, that set is magnificent, and the venue being what it is, the audience almost sits on it, and everything that happens happens within touching distance. There are lovely sound effects too, from Neil Alexander. (The very important well does sound very deep indeed, and the random twangs from the wire netting are suitably disturbing).

Both sisters have suffered at the hands of their now deceased father. Miriam has had to bear the brunt of his long and difficult old age. Annabel fled to Australia where her star – as successful businesswoman – has waxed and waned. Now, with the estate left to Annabel, rather than her sister, there is fence-mending to be done and the two women’s difficult past to review.

It is an intense and sometimes harrowing history but played with a lot of poise by the two women and the feisty and down to earth Alice (Mossie Smith), their father’s ex-nurse, sacked for incompetence, but with a darker tale to tell than the sisters want heard.

Ayckbourn’s view was that into the darkest plot must come laughter, and while this isn’t quite in the class of shaken up predilections as Joe Orton, it isn’t far off, and laughter comes with an acute awareness that probably we shouldn’t be quite so amused.

The production now runs until 12th March because of its well deserved success with audiences. For those who don’t know the Print Room it is a very welcoming venue in Westbourne Grove, with a very good pub and restaurant handily opposite!

Cast:  Susan Wooldridge – Annabel; Sarah Woodward – Miriam; Mossie Smith – Alice

Directed by Lucy Bailey; Designed by William Dudley; Lighting Design by Richard Howell; Sound Design by Neil Alexander

reviewed 22 February 2011

(c) michael spring 2011


In ‘The Stage’ This Week…

Friday, 18 February, 2011

Lovely set of photos from the Fringe Report Awards inside the back cover of this week’s ‘The Stage’ magazine.

Photos show Peter Lewis from Battersea Barge, Elina Akhmetova, and Jonathan Hansler receiving their awards for Best Venue, Best Performer – Choreography and Dance, and Best Actor respectively.


Ken Kesey Classic at Theatro Technis in March

Tuesday, 15 February, 2011

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest to be performed by EmpathEyes

A new version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Dale Wasserman, based on the classic novel by Ken Kesey, is coming to Theatro Technis, produced in association with City and Hackney Mind, and performed by EmpathEyes Theatre Company.

The clock ticks, the fog thickens and the Big Nurse twists the dial.

Oregon state asylum is a place of order, run to the strict timing of Nurse Ratched.  That is, until the arrival of Randall McMurphy, the swaggering trickster who refuses to be ‘adjusted to his surroundings’. This ‘devastatingly honest’ interrogation of the boundaries between madness and sanity is brought to life in EmpathEyes’ new production.

EmpathEyes is a young company dedicated to creating politically involving, ‘psychological’ theatre.  Having premiered and sold out at the Arcola Theatre, EmpathEyes Theatre Company return with Cuckoo’s Nest at Theatro Technis.

This production is one of a series concerned with the alienation and injustice of everyday life and includes The Goat (2007) and The Trial (2008).  Cuckoo brings together actors, crew and practitioners from all over London, including Gul Davis whose award-winning novel A Lone Walk details experiences of mental health institutions in the UK.  Cuckoo is proud to be working with Hackney’s Mind on their current project, raising money and awareness for local programmes supporting people with mental health diseases.

“Thoroughly thought-provoking production… inspirational directors” – Leyla Nazli (Executive Director of Arcola)

1st-6th / 9th -12th  March (with additional weekend matinees/no Sun eve) at 7.30pm / 2pm. Ticket price: £15 (£10 conc.)


Ward No 6

Monday, 14 February, 2011

At Camden People’s Theatre until 27th Feb

Chekhov's Ward No 6 by DogOrange

Ward No 6 is based on a Chekhov story. In this dramatisation, it seems to have been heavily influenced by Solzhenitsyn – we could quite easily be in one of those unforgiving Gulags as the play opens to a cheerless space wherein are gathered four huddled figures, sleeping on beds too small for them.

This stark introduction is followed by a fantasy passage marked by its formality and which, we later find, brings the entire production round upon itself in a circle, a conceit for which Chekhov might well have expressed approval.

The company here (DogOrange) is an engaging one. They are not given too much chance to show their skills when gibbering in this mental ward in the depths of Victorian Russia (a little too much archness and volume perhaps?), but later, as each is called upon to play other characters, they come into their own. Even here though, Charlotte Blake has a pleasantly childlike take on her own particular brand of nuttyness.

The plot concerns a doctor, coming to a hospital somewhere in the extensive midst of Russia’s ‘nowhere’, despairing of the intellectual life of the local community and finding, in the inhabitants of the barely inspected ‘Ward 6’, someone with whom he finds more insight and intellectual challenge, despite his ‘madness’. The local burghers are not impressed by this, or the doctor’s increasing predilection to alcohol.

The doctor is overworked, lonely, in a remote outpost of civilisation where humanity seems barely to survive. But is the doctor descending into insanity himself? Or is the inside of Ward 6 the only place where sanity is actually to be found?

So, get beyond the shouting and the slightly arch expressions of madness here and what you have is an engaging cast – directed meticulously – who manage their character shifts with real style, and present us with a drama which has a question of real substance at its core.

This production plays the story as a kind of myth, so it was a little troubling to have some of Chekhov’s rather more social details thrown in here, particularly the outing the doctor takes to Warsaw to recuperate, but the ways in which character and scene changes are managed has an attractive grace which allows a lot to be forgiven. The lumpen burghers are particularly effective too.

This is a slight, but effective production, which despite some ripples in its fabric, has a satisfying edge.

Cast: Charlotte Blake – Marushka, Sergeyevitch, Daryushka; Oliver Lavery – Gromov, Hobotov; Michael Lindsay – Petya, Averyanitch, Nikita; Harry Lobek – Ragin.

Director – Matthew Parker; Producer – Saba Burall; Designer – Suneeda Maruthiyill; Lighting – Allan Ramsay; Stage manager – Tim Berryman; Assistant director – Catherine Gerrard; Assistant designer – Daisy McDonald; Fight direction – Philip d’Orleans; Costume – Suneeda Maruthiyill, Bryan Pilkington; Makeup – Melissa Advani

reviewed Friday, 12 February 2011

(c) Michael Spring 2011


Too much greasepaint, too few crowds

Wednesday, 9 February, 2011

Should we bother about theatre any more?

The first play I bought a ticket for still lives in my mind. I must have been about sixteen. It was a production of Aristophanes’ Frogs, and it was performed at the old Castle Theatre in Farnham, a long-dead repertory theatre that would have held no more than 100 or so people.

As I had been when watching the travelling groups of actors who played pirate tales or Robin Hood in the hall at my primary school, I was utterly transfixed. It even distracted me from the discouraging financial aspects of that evening.

I had bought a ticket for a girl if you really must know. ( I thought it might be the springboard for a further relationship). The money had been borrowed. The fact that she was totally unmoved, except possibly by the fact that my friend Richard, who took us there, had permission to borrow his father’s car, should have alerted me to major difficulties ahead. But as I say, I was distracted.

I couldn’t get over two things in particular: the play was funny (it was written by an Ancient Greek for crying out loud), and despite the ‘set’ consisting of two or three lumps of something, I was there, looking across to the underworld by the Styx, totally taken in, even though no frog in England has ever made a noise like Reck-ek-ek-ex, co-ax, co-ax, co-ax.

Read the rest of this article in Issue 3 of Inkspill magazine. Free download at