NICK FERRIS reviews Anna X at VAULT Festival.  Here is a play for the social media age: a frenetic rollercoaster ride of carefully curated Instagram updates, magazines and exhibitions where creative content is merely incidental, and Genesis, the invite-only ‘Tinder for celebrities’. Dextrously squeezed into one hour by exciting up-and-coming director Daniel Raggett, Anna X captures the social milieu of New York’s creative millennial elite, and the desperate young people attempting to break in. Interlaced narratives present Anna, a fearlessly confident new player on the city’s art scene promising to champion new kinds of art and exhibition spaces, alongside Ariel, the founder of Genesis, who meets and falls in love with Anna one night at an absurdly-named ‘immersive nightlife experience’. Both are newly arrived in New York, both intent on disrupting destinies their past lives dictated they should have followed. Ariel was set for life of liberal suburban conformity in San Francisco with…Continue Reading

Anna X

MADDIE DUNN reviews Freak at the Bloomsbury Studio. UCL’s Viva La Vulva is a group consisting primarily of medical students who campaign to raise awareness of issues around women’s health. Could there be a better group (and group name!) than this to perform Anna Jordan’s Freak, a play which thoroughly and frankly questions female identity, sexuality and empowerment in the 21st century? Director Dr Pollyanna Cohen missed no opportunities, utilising the black-box studio to create an intimate setting which instantly alerted the audience to the heightened sexuality of the female image today: lingerie was strewn on the floor, a vibrator was placed conspicuously on the table downstage and, most strikingly, the back wall was plastered with posters of female models. Jordan’s two characters – 15-year-old Leah (Phoebe Garthwaite) and 30-year-old Georgie (Agnes Dromgoole)– were enveloped, both literally and metaphorically, by the societal tendency to place female value on being overtly…Continue Reading

Freak

SOPHIE PARKER reviews UCL Musical Theatre Society’s production of Sweeney Todd at the Bloomsbury Theatre. The character of Sweeney Todd first entered the public consciousness in 1846, in the Victorian penny dreadful serial The String of Pearls. These days, of course, most people come into contact with him through some variation of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s 1979 Broadway musical. The tale’s long history made UCL Musical Theatre Society’s claim that they would be presenting ‘Sweeney as you’ve never seen it before’ particularly bold. The premise of the production overseen by Mabel Moll and Vaishnavi Mohan (director and producer respectively) was to have the events unfold in 1979, the year Sweeney Todd debuted. This concept could have worked incredibly well given the similarities between the social context at the time and the issues explored in the show. The ‘Winter of Discontent’ which started that year saw tens of thousands of…Continue Reading

Sweeney Todd

THEA NOWELL reviews the UCL Societies Showcase Night at the Bloomsbury Theatre. First opening its doors in 1968 as the Central Collegiate Building Auditorium, The Bloomsbury Theatre has supported and showcased the best of UCL’s performing arts since its conception, working together with students and researchers to bring exciting talent and ground-breaking discoveries to the stage. Famous guests include UCL alumnus Ricky Gervais, and Adele. The theatre closed its doors in 2015 for a major renovation project, and now, having reopened last year, fifty years after its first performance, The Bloomsbury Theatre proudly marked its rebirth with a showcase from ten of UCL’s performing arts societies. The showcase celebrated Bloomsbury Theatre’s official relaunch, honouring the relationship between the university and the theatre. Organised and directed by George W.X. Barker and hosted by Rare FM’s Caycee Peskett-Hill and Stage Crew’s Vojta Smekal, the showcase was the perfect opportunity for UCL’s societies…Continue Reading

Societies Showcase Night

CHLOE TYE reviews Phaedra I— at Tristan Bates Theatre. Phaedra, the story of a woman tormented by Aphrodite into desiring and pursuing her step-son, was reimagined in this bold new production written and directed by Avra Sidiropoulou. Reworking Euripides, Seneca and Racine, this one woman show remained loyal to the original story but relayed it in an experimental and artistic performance. Phaedra I— translated the tale onto the modern stage in a way that paid homage to the original while presenting it in a wholly new way, reworking it for a modern audience. Avra Sidiropoulou brought this ancient tale into the realm of multimedia; Phaedra sat centre stage, her movement impeded by a billowing white dress, for the duration of the performance. The dress was constantly either illuminated by various coloured lights or projected onto with moving images. These projections were suggestive in their content but not so literal as to make either…Continue Reading

Phaedra I –

PHOEBE GARTHWAITE reviews Hear Me Howl at VAULT Festival. Lydia Rynne’s Hear Me Howl, directed by Kay Michael, was a one-woman whirlwind of comedy and emotion jam-packed into an hour. Thirty-year-old Jess, played by Alice Pitt-Carter, finds herself unintentionally pregnant and begins to question the life she has and what she wants from the future. The pregnancy news sparks a new zest for life within Jess and she spontaneously joins a post-punk band (‘like punk, but they give even less of a shit’). Her hilarious inner rebellious youth shows itself. Pitt-Carter carried the piece with both vivacious energy and real vulnerability. At the beginning of the show when she finds out about her pregnancy, Jess wittily bats off her reaction to it. Looking for solace in audience laughs, there was a sense that she was performing to herself as well as the crowd, playing at being okay. Rynne’s incredibly relatable…Continue Reading

Hear Me Howl

SARAH SARAJ reviews Cuzco at Theatre503. Cuzco is a city renowned for its beautiful scenery and historic richness. Situated along the Peruvian Andes, it was once the capital of the Inca Empire before it was conquered by the Spaniards in the 16th century. Today, despite its poverty rate of 28.2%, Cuzco is one of the main tourist attractions in Peru and receives 1.5 million tourists a year. Two such tourists are She and He, a Spanish couple embarking on a last-ditch attempt to revitalise the carrion that is their relationship. However, as Cuzco unfolds it becomes clear that we are witnessing their final protracted moments together. Written by Víctor Sánchez Rodríguez and translated fluidly from the original Spanish by William Gregory, it is rare to see non-anglophone productions retain their cultural specificity. The play opens to a fight. She is reluctant to leave the hotel room, fatigued by altitude sickness, a…Continue Reading

Cuzco

SOPHIE PARKER reviews UCL Musical Theatre Society’s production of Edges at the Bloomsbury Studio. Edges, a piece of musical theatre written in 2005, is the earliest work from creators Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who would go on to write music for Dear Evan Hansen and The Greatest Showman, and ‘City of Stars’ for La La Land, for which they won a Best Original Song Academy Award, amongst other accolades. The show explores the trials of growing up at university, and rings true since Pasek and Paul were 19-year-old undergrads at the University of Michigan when they wrote it. The subject matter, along with the minimalist staging, and the cast of just four and two musicians (Louis Shaw on drums and Yutong Zhang on keys, and also the show’s Musical Director), meant the production could very easily have felt like a sixth-form recital. However, the charisma of these cast members (Dan…Continue Reading

Edges

SONIA CHUI reviews Dirty Laundry at Tristan Bates Theatre. The lights dim. A bell chimes. A single woman clothed in all black walks slowly into the room, ritualistically preparing an intimate space. The play begins with a prayer followed by a confession, with a booming voice from beyond the room not encouraging, but forcing the woman to confess her sins. Dirty Laundry, performed and written by Wallis Hamilton Felton, grapples with suffering and forgiveness. Weaving in traditional Irish songs, Hamilton Felton’s protagonist unearths the decades of abuse endured in the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland, otherwise known as Magdalene’s asylums. Operating from the 18th to the late 20th centuries, these were predominantly Roman Catholic religious institutes for ‘fallen women’ who were forced to spend the remainder of their lives repenting. This term was gradually used to encompass not just prostitution but a huge number of perceived ‘sins.’ An estimated 30,000 women…Continue Reading

Dirty Laundry

SOPHIE PARKER reviews Clamour at the Roundhouse. Digital artists Simon Katan and Luke Fraser’s 2018 incarnation of their evolving show Clamour pitched itself as ‘an interactive, mixed media theatre piece’ which ‘wryly and reflexively interrogates how social media mediates and influences our knowledge, relationships and identities.’ This is a bold description, given the many intricacies these social issues entail in our modern world. Considering the production was only 45 minutes long, it perhaps tried to cover too much ground in its attempt to do each issue justice, but that in itself could reflect the shallow and transitory nature of life in the technological age. The production worked through a combination of a web app on audience smartphones, a projector and a vast soundscape. The only person on stage – a man in a black t-shirt typing on a MacBook throughout – dictated the content appearing on the audience’s phones in…Continue Reading

Clamour