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

ENERZAYA GUNDALAI reviews the 24 February performances of the seventh ACT II Festival at the Arcola Theatre. A quick online search for the ACT II Festival floats many a promise to the theatre-goer: the largest ever inter-university theatrical collaboration in London, and new plays written by students that were developed under the nurturing wing of professional playwrights, including Sasha Hails and David Farr. Over 100 students and 15 universities were involved, creating 13 shows spread across 4 performances. Hosted at the award-winning, off West End Arcola Theatre, the potential of the fledgling writers, directors and actors seemed immense to me, as I arrived for the first matinee and evening performances. The themes the festival approached were modern and relevant: contemporary plays written by students for students. Certainly, no generation of playwrights before our own had as much to say about identity, gender fluidity and artificial intelligence. If the ACT II…Continue Reading

ACT II

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

THEA RICKARD reviews I’m Woman at Tristan Bates Theatre. Anybody acquainted with the one-woman show aired in Friends will understand my apprehensions before arriving at I’m Woman, written and performed by Ana Daud. Thankfully, my uneasiness about the format was quelled, as this engaging, emotionally effective play was nothing like that. The men in the audience were instructed to sit on the left, with the women on the right, highlighting the play’s exploration of the differences between men and women, and how we perceive one another. Initially the play was a biographical examination of Daud’s parents’ respective addictions and how they influenced her becoming an addict herself. The play asked whether we are responsible for our own actions, or whether our parents or environment are to blame, furthermore implicating God as culpable for her experience, raising the issue of accountability. Daud, through Dmitri Acrish’s direction, directly confronted the audience with this question, breaking the fourth…Continue Reading

I’m Woman

ANNA CHIPPENDALE reviews No Show at Soho Theatre. It all begins with a routine. Five women tumble across the stage, a dynamic landscape of high leg peaks and box splits troughs. Their innate spatial awareness and perfectly pointed toes speak of their expertise, but their faces tell another story. The physical routine is challenging, but its emotional counterpart is harder: the women force clenched smiles, executing shimmies and out-of-place dance moves that seem to belittle the astonishing athleticism demonstrated by the sequin-adorned performers. And that’s the point. In just sixty-five minutes, Ellie Dubois’ No Show efficiently dismantles the circus and highlights the blatant sexism sketching the definitive perimeters that establish a woman’s place within the Big Top. While the acts themselves are mesmerising, it’s the narrative accompanying the show that creates the greatest impact. As Camille Toyer, seemingly effortlessly, glides and twists across the stage on a Cyr wheel, Kate…Continue Reading

No Show

JOE KENELM reviews A Modest Little Man at The Bread and Roses Theatre. Given Clement Attlee’s passion for the sport, it is perhaps cruel that he was actually once likened to a cricket ball: the higher he rose, so it was said, the more elusive he became. This notion of the former PM is typically orthodox: a vision of Attlee as kind, reliable, and bland. Eclipsed by larger government personalities, uninspiring in leadership, and muted in speech-making. Hard-working in cabinet, hard work in conversation. In his brilliant biography Citizen Clem, John Bew argues for quite a different Attlee: ‘passionate, patriotic, ethical, and visionary.’ An MP for Limehouse during the party’s near annihilation in 1931, Attlee was a central figure in its gradual recovery. He was elected leader in 1935, brought the party into a war-time coalition with Churchill in Britain’s darkest hour and, in 1945, won an overwhelming mandate to…Continue Reading

A Modest Little Man

SOPHIE PARKER reviews Blue Departed at the VAULT Festival.  As part of the Vault Festival 2019, emerging playwright Serafina Cusack’s latest work Blue Departed explores the relationship between heroin addiction, lost love and fourteenth century Italian poetry. As the production illustrates, there are more crossovers between the three than may initially be imagined, but the piece also raises the question of where to draw the line between inspiration and adaptation in dramatic works. The play pulls Dante Alighieri (Mark Conway), most famous for his Divine Comedy, six hundred years into the future to our present day and gives him a heroin addiction. The now near-legendary object of Dante’s love, Beatrice (Rebecca Layoo), joins him in the modern world. Following a series of traumatic events, Beatrice is dead on the floor and Dante has retreated into a perpetual high, speaking to the rotting corpse in his kitchen and hearing her speak back. This is where the…Continue Reading

Blue Departed