Posts Tagged ‘Finborough’


Papatango Theatre Company and the Finborough Theatre present four world premieres

Tuesday, 1 November, 2011

New Writing Winners staged at the Finborough

Papatango and one of London’s leading new writing venues, the Finborough Theatre, will present the winning entries in the 2011 Papatango Playwriting Competition 2011.

This year’s winning play – Foxfinder by Dawn King – will play for a four week limited season from 29 November (Press Night: Thursday, 1 December 2011 at 8.30pm). Three runners up who will each receive a one week run – Through The Night by Matt Morrison (Press Night: Wednesday, 7 December 2011 at 6.30pm), Rigor Mortis by Carol Vine (Press Night: Wednesday, 14 December 2011 at 6.30pm) and Crush by Rob Young (Press Night: Tuesday, 20 December 2011 at 6.30pm).

Papatango was founded by Matt Roberts, George Turvey and Sam Donovan in 2007. The company’s mission is to find the brightest new talent in the UK with an absolute commitment to bring their work to the stage. Since then, Papatango have produced eight pieces of new writing in such venues as the Tristan Bates Theatre, the Old Red Lion Theatre and the Pleasance London. 2009 saw the launch of their first Papatango New Writing Competition, which each year has gone from strength to strength.

Now in its new home – the multi-award-winning Finborough Theatre – this year’s competition received over 600 entries from all over the UK.



Fen, by Caryl Churchill

Friday, 4 March, 2011

Playing now, at the Finborough Theatre

Featureless, abundant, windswept - the landscape of drama

Fen is a 90 minute drama, first performed in 1983, the first play in a three-month season of plays by women writers at the award-winning Finborough Theatre.

The play is a snapshot of rural life in that slightly strange area of Norfolk south of Kings Lynn, and north of Ely where landmarks are rare and the dark, rich earth – reclaimed from sea and swamp – is extraordinarily productive. But the drama attempts much more than just a snapshot. It links the continually changing and often personally painful circumstances of the area – from the draining of the fens to the problems of making agriculture economically viable in the 20th century – to the world of the 1980’s and to the tragedy of one particular woman, a mother who deserts her children for a lover, and yet finds that she cannot live without them.

All of the actors here are called upon to play multiple – and often very different – roles, moving from, in one instance, Japanese businessman to grandmother for example. It has to be said that in most cases, these are extremely successful. In a few instances though, a character doesn’t have quite enough to sustain it, and there is an element of trickery for trickery’s sake. Nevertheless, there are a lot of strong perfomances. Nicola Harrison for example, moves smoothly from a boy scaring birds to a supremely vindictive step-mother to a born-again Christian in a seamless manner. The same is true for others with less dramatic shifts of character to cope with.

The play is made up from a number of short illustrative scenes – some concerned with agriculture and the particular circumstances of the area, others with individuals and the circumstances that surround their lives, given the limited possibilities that have been open in this peculiar part of the world. The whole thing revolves around the passionate Val (Katherine Burford) whose story is at the heart of the elements of the plot.

Designer James Button has given director Ria Parry an imaginative set to work with and the pace is nicely sustained throughout. Whether the strength of the passion at the heart of the drama is enough to keep the other elements of the plot in perspective is something that will be a personal judgement. Sometimes, there seemed to be slight imbalances between scenes based on what was obviously painstaking research and the need to keep a focus on the central proposition, but this is a very watchable play, albeit with moments that are acutely painful. And what cannot be denied is the overwhelming authenticity of both the voices and their stories, springing from the soil as readily as the abundant crops that have only sporadically sustained them.

Cast: Alex Beckett – Wilson, Frank, Mr Tewson, Geoffrey; Katharine Burford – Val, Ghost; Elicia Daly – Mrs Hasset, Becky, Alice, Ivy; Nicola Harrison – Boy, Angela, Deb, Mrs Finch; Wendy Nottingham – Shirley, Shona, Miss Cade, Margaret; Rosie Thompson – Japanese businessman, Nell, May, Mavis

Director – Ria Parry; Designer – James Button; Lighting – David W Kidd; Sound/composer – Dave Price; Assistant Director – Laura Keefe

reviewed Thursday 3 March

(c) michael spring 2011


The Potting Shed, by Graham Greene

Friday, 7 January, 2011

Questions of belief

The Finborough Theatre,
Playing until 29th Jan 2011

What exactly did happen in the Potting Shed?

It is an unnerving fact that the last time this production was seen (in 1971, at Sadler’s Wells), Cliff Richard played the lead role. Now, a lot of years later, the multi-award-winning Finborough Theatre has bravely revived this 1950’s Graham Greene play, which deals with faith, the lack of it, and the nature of human existence.

If these are issues that concern you, then you may well find this play compelling. It is one of those productions though, where symbolism and underlying questions are at its core, and take precedence over the demands of believability. In cold, clinical terms, psychology and motivation are more gestured at than substantiated.

The play opens with the Callifer family gathering around the death bed of the family patriarch, a crusading atheist. (In today’s terms, someone like Richard Dawkins perhaps?).

Invitations though, have not been extended to everyone. The dying man’s brother, a Catholic priest, is perhaps excluded on understandable terms, but it is only the intervention of the precocious and very literal young daughter of the family, Anne (Zoe Thorne), that brings the estranged Callifer son, James (Paul Cawley) to the household. For many years he has hardly been acknowledged as a part of the family, rarely even visited by his mother and this is all because of  some past misdemeanour, a misdemeanour that happened when he was 14,  in the mysterious potting shed, about which he has no memory at all, (even though enlisting a drug-wielding psychologist to help).

The family is dysfunctional enough that even the son’s former wife Sara (Cate Debenham-Taylor) has – after her divorce – become part of the family circle. The search for motivation here and indeed the reluctance of James’s mother, Mrs Callifer (Eileen Battye) to explain to her son the nature of what exactly did happen, may lead you down blind alleys. Better to sit back, accept what is happening and listen to the debate about the nature of God, the meaning of existence, and how (for Greene) uncertainty over what a God might be is an essential part of being alive.

These are all familiar Greene themes, which here often have a slightly cynical and worldly twist, and bring questions of belief into the heart of a middle-class drawing room, not always with the straightforward conclusions that one might imagine.

This is not a great play but it does have an excellent cast who play it with a lot of energy and style, and it does represent an interesting sidelight on the life and work of Graham Greene, who was both a complex writer and man.

Cast: Eileen Battye – Mrs Callifer; Paul Cawley – James Callifer; Cate Debenham-Taylor – Sara; Corner – Carl Ferguson; Dr Kreutzer – David Gooderson; Mrs Potter – Janet Hargreaves; John Callifer – Malcolm James; Miss Connolly – Lorna Jones; Dr Frederick Baston – Charlie Roe; Anne Callifer – Zoe Thorne; Father William Callifer – Martin Wimbush

Director – Svetlana Dimcovic; Designer – Kate Guinness; Lighting – Jessica Glaisher; Sound – Simon Perkin

Reviewed 6 January 2011

© Michael Spring 2011


Awards Stack Up for the Finborough

Thursday, 18 November, 2010

and downstairs is now an OPEN wine bar

The Finborough Theatre has become the winner of three major recent awards.

In addition to its earlier Empty Space Peter Brook award 2010, the theatre has also received the Writers’ Guild New Writing Encouragement Award 2010 for artistic director Neil McPherson, and Pearson’s Catherine Johnson Award for best play for playwright-in-residence Anders Lustgarten.

Finborough’s Neil McPherson is a past Fringe Report Award winner too.

Perhaps the best news though for patrons of the tiny theatre is that the bar to which this theatre is attached has now re-opened.


The Finborough Theatre Wins This Year’s UK Empty Space Peter Brook Award

Thursday, 4 November, 2010

The set of Saturn Returns at the Finborough

The Finborough Theatre, a tiny theatre above a pub in Earl’s Court, has won this year’s Empty Space Peter Brook Award for work being done in smaller studio theatres in Britain. The award ceremony was held at the National Theatre Studio on November 2nd.

The Finborough won the award from a shortlist that also included the Menier Chocolate Factory (currently represented on Broadway by its transfers of A Little Night Music and La Cage Aux Folles), Battersea Arts Centre, the Union Theatre, the National Theatre’s Watch this Space season, and Bristol Old Vic’s studio.

Currently playing at the Finborough is Saturn Returns, by the American playwright Noah Haidle. Running alongside on Sunday and Monday nights is The Captive, by Ben Ellis.

Regular visitors to the Finborough will be pleased to know that the bar to which the theatre is umbilically linked is once more serving drinks!

PLEASE NOTE: we appear to have been premature in announcing the re-opening of the bar. As of 10 November, it was still shut! Get drinks from the shop round the corner and take them in!


Lingua Franca heads overseas

Wednesday, 27 October, 2010

Chris New and Nathalie Walker in the Finborough production of Lingua Franca

Peter Nichols’s Lingua Franca, last seen at West London’s Finborough Theatre, is heading to New York as a part of the Brits Off Broadway season at 59E59, November 9-28, 2010. Cast at the Finborough included Chris New, Rula Lenska, Charlotte Randle and Nathalie Walker.

Not sure how the Americans will take to this tale of hapless English teachers in Florence during the 50’s. The fact that it is a sequel to Nichols’ successful Privates on Parade might give it a bit of credibility, but the play’s key idea (which seemed to be that the Americans are taking over the world) hasn’t really come true and despite some good performances, it remains a production characterised by energy rather than excellence.

(c) Brent Crude 2010