|BEST OUT THIS WEEK:|
Flee • C'mon C'mon
The Hand of God
Boxing Day • Final Account
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Wednesday, 1 December 2021
Saturday, 27 November 2021
Pricked: Sleeping Beauty Got Woke
by Tim Benzie, Paul Joseph
dir Tim McArthur
music Aaron Clingham
with Grant Cartwright, Joseph Pollard, Lucy Penrose, Chantelle St Clair, Charlie Wood
Royal Vauxhall Tavern • 25.Nov.21-6.Jan.22LAST YEAR'S PRODUCTION felt fresh and absurdly funny, this year's show has a ramshackle charm that holds the attention based more on the sheer energy of the cast than anything else. And for me it had a whiff of deja vu that made it feel even more topical.
The tale of Sleeping Beauty gives the story its structure, although director Tim McArthur crafts it into a wonderfully deranged pub show that's definitely not for kids. Each scene is a performance, almost like an audition, as the characters introduce themselves and chat to the audience before performing a song or two, drawing on a range of musical theatre numbers and pop tunes. Updates for this year include bracingly current references to politicians and popular culture, plus an inspired, deliberately corny Abba reunion sequence.
It's still the story of Princess Aurora (Cartwright), who has been cursed by Maleffluent (Polland) to fall into a deep sleep on her 18th birthday. But Fairy Merryweather (Penrose) and a passing Prince (St Clair) intervene, plotting to rescue Aurora from Maleffluent and her conflicted sidekick Raven (Wood). None of these characters seem to have a clue what's going on around them, played amusingly by a gender-scrambled cast that continually questions the things written for them to do in the script. This includes getting impatient with the dream sequences and flashbacks that distract them along the way to the glorious holiday-themed wedding finale.
With boundless energy and considerable vocal skill, each performer dives into the wackiness, dropping in barbed asides and a continual stream of throwaway gags alongside the expected smut and innuendo. This means that quite a bit of dialog gets muffled in the mayhem, but the atmosphere is so bawdy and enjoyable that it never matters. And with lighter pandemic restrictions this year, the audience can more properly get involved with call-and-response moments, including lots of cheering, booing and singing along with the cast.
Thursday, 25 November 2021
|BEST OUT THIS WEEK:|
Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn
Encanto • House of Gucci
Annette • Rebel Dykes
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Wednesday, 24 November 2021
AKRAM KHAN COMPANY: CARNIVAL OF SHADOWS
Outwitting the Devil
choreographer Akram Khan
dramaturg Ruth Little
writer Jordan Tannahill
dancers Mythili Prakesh, Luke Jessop, Jasper Narvaez, James Vu Anh Pham, Elpida Skourou, Francois Testory
composer Vincenzo Lamagna
Sadler's Wells • 23-27.Nov.21
The scene emerges from the darkness, with figures on an empty black stage surrounded by blocks of various sizes. This creates the sense that we're outside time and space, watching gods and goddesses attempting to make sense of their own identities and responsibilities. As the movements evolve, characters begin to emerge. Some people are clearly in control, driving the action and provoking responses. Others are more passive or nurturing. At the centre is a woman who takes on a Mother Earth presence, and the others cower before her.
Performed at full energy by the talented dancers, the movement is absolutely breathtaking, occasionally resolving into glorious tableaux that look like illustrations from an ancient book. And the soundscape is composed by Vincenzo Lamagna to blend music and voice in ways that cut straight into the gut. Created workshop-style, the piece mirrors the saga of the Sumerian hero Gilgamesh, who rescued a goddess, revolted against an overlord and defeated monstrous giants. Indeed, echoes of these legends are woven into the expressive choreography, which features flares of violence, compassion, lust and curiosity.
Like reading a poem or getting lost in an intricate painting, Outwitting the Devil is a piece that needs to wash over the audience without explanation. It's loaded with primal imagery that taps into the subconscious, revealing elements of humanity in strikingly unusual ways. It's also remarkable because of how difficult it is to describe in any real detail. Just see it if you get the chance.
photos by Jean Louis Fernandez • 24.Nov.21
Landscape With Flying Man
choreographer-composer Magnus Westwell
movement artists Connor Scott, Konrad Plak, Max Cookward
Magnus Westwell plays with images of masculinity in this gripping and seductively sweaty piece, which features three very fit male dancers with bare chests spinning together and apart in various beams of light. They emerge at the start as a single being, perhaps as the body, mind and spirit of a bird-like man with what becomes an astonishing wingspan. Then they separate and regroup in different formations, working both together and against each other in deliberate, physically demanding movements that are beautifully choreographed and performed. And it's their interaction that creates moving moments along the way.
When Life Gives You Melons
choreographer Vidya Patel
dancers Aishani Ghosh, Tulani Kayanı-Skeef, Nandita Shankardass, Chandenie Gobardhan
composer Sarathy Korwar
Taking on a big theme, Vidya Patel uses an introductory film clip to comment on the issue of infanticide in South Asia, where boy babies are preferred over girls. Then four female dancers appear, pantomiming their daily activities to explore the feelings they are experiencing. As the performance continues, this evolves into increasingly complex choreography, emerging as a celebration of feminine energy, with a climactic view of women as goddesses. The narrative arc is vividly well crafted and played, mixing lyrical movement with clever lighting and sound to offer a powerful final kick.
I Wonder If You Know What I’m Talking About
choreographer Olive Hardy
dancers Annie Edwards, James Olivo
composer Samir Kennedy
There's an engaging loose-limbed feel to this piece, which Olive Hardy sets out as an improvised dance for two people with distinct physicalities. They travel around the stage in ways that feel aimless, only interacting tangentially; the kinetic Edwards uses sharp movements while the much taller Olivo remains rubbery. Each is in possession of some sort of cushion, which they wrestle with in a variety of ways, expressing emotion in unexpected places. It's physically impressive, a fascinating and unpredictable display of dancing skill. But thematically it feels rather opaque.
This Is Not a Penguin
concept-creation John-William Watson
performers Beth Emmerson, Heather Birley
Taking inspiration from cinema, John-William Watson maintains a wonderfully witty tone in this piece, which has an offbeat narrative that's set in a research station in Antarctica. There a scientist and her shadow pace in circles around a desk and chair, using clever repetition to establish patterns and then break them. They also drop in amusing dance moves, which are performed with deadpan humour and augmented by some very clever shifts in lighting, including superb moments of shadow play. The soundtrack features a terrific variety of audio clips, including snippets from Werner Herzog's wonderfully unhinged Antarctica documentary Encounters at the End of the World.
photos by Camilla Greenwell • 23.Nov.21
Saturday, 20 November 2021
dir Botis Seva
costumes Ryan Dawson-Laight
lighting Tom Visser
music Torben Lars Sylvest
with Jordan Douglas, Shangomola Edunjobi, Joshua Nash, Ezra Owen, Hayleigh Sellors, Victoria Shulungu, Naima Souhair
Sadler's Wells • 19-20.Nov.21
Emerging from the darkness are seven performers with their heads covered in hoods. They often face upstage, so seem eerily anonymous as they move in ways that look physically taxing, precisely in tune with each other as the choreography cleverly uses echoing and mirroring to force the eye across the stage. Along with a churning score that features snippets of voices, the lighting is integral to this as well, isolating people, cutting them out of the group, using the inky blackness as effectively as a spotlight.
The movement is seriously impressive, simply because it's so complex and difficult, punctuated by the pulsing soundscape and light design. But it's the way the emotions churn up throughout the piece that pulls the audience in deeply. So as the dancers shed pieces of clothing, or emerge with props that are inventive and even witty, we become invested in a depiction of human resilience in times of violence, illness or domestic turmoil. So at the end, when they finally lose their hoods and reveal their faces, we see ourselves on stage with them.
Rehearsal photos by Camilla Greenwell • 19.Nov.21
Wednesday, 17 November 2021
|BEST OUT THIS WEEK:|
The Power of the Dog • The Feast
Petite Maman • C'mon C'mon
Bad Luck Banging or Looney Porn
Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time
Hide and Seek
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Friday, 12 November 2021
Dick Whittington: A New Dick in Town!
by John Bradfield, Martin Hooper
songs John Bradfield
dir Andrew Beckett
with Jonny Peyton-Hill, Matthew Baldwin, Keanu Adolphus Johnson, Nikki Biddington, Bradley Walwyn
Above the Stag, Vauxhall • 2.Nov.21 - 16.Jan.22
It's the tale of hopeful young Dick (Peyton-Hill), who arrives in London not with a cat but a sassy Insta-star Frenchie named Ariana. But his fashion career is cut abruptly short. Then he meets street-smart Alex (Johnson), who is earning a crust selling generic Covid vaccines and believes that he is the Spirit of London. Alex's undertaker father Fitzwarren (Walwyn) is also taken by Dick, which explains why he's ignoring his wife Sarah (the great Baldwin, in his seventh Above the Stag panto). Meanwhile, Queen Rat (Biddington) is determined to be elected London's next mayor, chasing the action to a Mediterranean island where Fitzwarren's much livelier twin brother (also Walwyn) holds the key to everyone's fate.
|Biddington, Johnson, |
Peyton-Hill and Baldwin
Each of the five cast members is on scene-stealing form, although it's Baldwin's impeccable timing and quick-witted improvisational skills that shine the brightest. As the show's dame, he's loveable and outrageously hilarious, constantly injecting deranged rhyming slang amid a wildly colourful parade of costumes. Biddington's villain adeptly channels rock-goddess mayhem as she creates constant chaos. And Walwyn's dual role is hugely amusing even before the brothers have their enormous confrontation, a genius combination of clever direction and sharp-witted acting. Which leaves the endearing Peyton-Hill and Johnson to infuse the show with heart and soul. And even more ribaldry.
|Biddington and Walwyn|
|For details: ABOVE THE STAG|