ZANE KAHN reviews The Last Act of Harry Houdini at The Cockpit. The Last Act of Harry Houdini, written by Barry Killerby and directed by Ishwar Maharaj, is a drama that offers the audience an insight into the tormented and troubled interior of the famous illusionist, Harry Houdini. A man who built the foundation of his infamous career through his death-defying stunts, Houdini is shown throughout this exploratory tale as a seeker of truth; searching through the seedy world of mystics, mediums and seances to comprehend the reality and reasoning of mortality. The one-man play is set within the dramatic space of Houdini’s dressing room. An area of intense privacy, the audience begins to understand how the world of Houdini revolves around this same setting. The mere props of a desk with a framed picture of Houdini’s mother, a table and a chair are expertly used by Killerby to illustrate…Continue Reading

The Last Act of Harry Houdini

SOPHIE CUNDALL reviews Christopher Brett Bailey’s This Is How We Die at Ovalhouse. This Is How We Die (and you very nearly do). It is not often you leave a show feeling physically sick. It is even rarer that this can be considered a positive outcome. Christopher Brett Bailey’s This Is How We Die, however, achieves just this. In this piece that is driven entirely by language and voice acting, ’the tongue is a weapon, it is a whip,’you are certainly injured by the time you stumble out of the pitch dark finale. Cathartic is not a strong enough term. Performed by Bailey himself, perched on the edge of the vast hole left by the seminal play We Dig, the show punches you in the face as Bailey spits out words so fast that sometimes you wonder if he’s switched into the post-apocalyptic language of A Clockwork Orange. You laugh,…Continue Reading

This Is How We Die.

ZANE KHAN reviews Mites at Tristan Bates Theatre.  Mites, written by James Mannion and directed by Marcus Marsh, is a play that intends to illustrate the bleak nature of mental health through the lens of an absurdist drama. It is a psychological drama, dealing with issues of loneliness, mental health and emotional abuse under the eyes of two imposing male figures on the heroine of the piece. The play consists of three characters, all within the same dramatic setting of the living room area. Credit must be given to the set and costume designer, Cecilia Trono, for creating a setting that encapsulates the deteriorating nature of the vulnerable within the play. Ruth, played with conviction by Claire Marie Hall, is a lonely woman, abandoned by her husband, who lives with her anthropomorphic cat, Bartholomew.  Richard Henderson’s performance as Bartholomew is wry and witty; excellent in his ability to develop the…Continue Reading


PHYLLIS KOEHLER reviews Shotgun Carousel’s Red Palace at The Vaults. When entering the musty dungeons of the Vaults Theatre, one might easily feel oneself transported into the decadent Vienna of Arthur Schnitzler’s Dream Story. As soon as the spectator sets foot over the threshold into the underbelly of bustling Waterloo station, she is encircled by luring creatures in black and red veils, pressing masks into her hand and leading her to a decadent feast filled with jugglers, jesters, and acrobats. After a few moments of fin de siècle bliss, however, the spectator is bound to travel even further back in history, or, indeed, into the timeless realms of myth and archetype. On a balcony above the demonic minstrels, dangling from aerial silk strings to the tact of Shostakovich’s Valse n. 2, the Drag-King-Evil-Prince of the enchanted kingdom reveals himself, boasting, Bluebeard-like, of his femicidal attainments and sending the audience, his subjects,…Continue Reading

Red Palace

VIVIENNE LEECH reviews Alfred Taylor Gaunt’s Derrière on a G String at Sadler’s Wells.  Performed at Lilian Baylis Studio, Alfred Taylor-Gaunt’s camp extravaganza Derrière on a G String lives up to the ‘very fun, quite silly, and rather naughty’ dance show it is billed to be. Comprising of a series of fast paced sketches that depict the trials of modern day life, framed against a background of classical music, the work effectively brings dance into the modern world, for a new generation. From the panicked state you end up in after realising that you cannot find your plane ticket at the airport, to the exaggerated dance that you try to suppress when in desperate need of the toilet. Derriere on a G String explores mundane aspects of everyday life in a comedic and relatable way. With similarly expressive body language and use of music that exaggerates movement in the style…Continue Reading

Derrière on a G String.

SOPHIE CUNDALL reviews Pandora’s Door’s ‘Zeus on the Loose’ at Fire, Vauxhall. This article contains references to racism, homophobia and ableism. Selling itself as a filthy, queer celebration-box of assorted cabaret acts and pulsing basslines, Zeus on the Loose sounds like a promising romp through the lands of Ancient Greece and the palace of the gods. The reality, however, in a grotty room under the pulsing lights of Fire, a nightclub in Vauxhall, doesn’t quite live up to the hype. There are some undeniably funny moments, and some impressive contortions of both bodies in hoops and of vocal chords, but as whole, the show falls flat. Unfortunately, some aspects stray towards being downright offensive. The performers’ clearly high level of skill, doesn’t quite rescue it from leaving a rather bitter taste by the end. The show and performers’ discipline is perhaps the root of some of the clunkier elements of…Continue Reading

Zeus on the Loose

MADDIE DUNN reviews Lesley Storm’s play Black Chiffon at the Park Theatre. Lesley Storm’s three-act play Black Chiffon has rarely been performed in the UK since its West End debut in 1949. This production, directed by Clive Brill and transferring from Frinton Summer Theatre, sees this engaging, intriguing and emotive script back in London at Park Theatre. Despite risking seeming dated, the production, with its dedicated cast and crew, proves that core values and sentimentalities concerning family life and relations, central to this play, are universal and consistent. The plot follows a respectable, wealthy family in the October of a post-war England. Housewife Abigail, played with precision and truth by Abigail Cruttenden, is the crux of this ‘perfect’ household. This responsibility feels even more pronounced as the wedding of her beloved son Roy (Jack Studden) to the delightful Louise (Jemima Watling) swiftly approaches. However, the façade of their familial purity and…Continue Reading

Black Chiffon

Sophie Parker reviews Cora Bissett’s autobiographical play at Soho Theatre.  Thousands of musicians have nearly made it, only to be forgotten seconds after they crash out of the music industry. Cora Bissett’s ’90’s indie-rock band made it closer than most, but the ending of the band’s story is still the same. Twenty-five years after Darlingheart were dropped by their record label, the lead singer Bissett has recorded her journey from teenage rocker to forty-something mother in this impressive play. Directed by Orla O’Loughlin, and currently at the Soho Theatre before going on to Sydney to wrap up its world tour, the one-act, ninety minute whirlwind elicits both audible laughter and audible sobs from its audience. The cast of four is simply incredible. All responsible for playing the demanding live music required for the show, often in character as members of well-known British bands, they carry off their roles with ease.…Continue Reading

What Girls are Made of

SOPHIE CUNDALL reviews UCL Drama Society’s Romeo and Juliet. From the moment you walk in through the creaking doors of the 19th century gothic church in which UCL drama’s Romeo and Juliet is staged, you know it will be something special, and quite unlike any other version of this canonic play. As you settle into a wooden pew, you’re greeted with the soft sound of sobbing from a mascara-streaked face. The grief element of the play is immediately pronounced, particularly when you realise it’s actually Benvolio on stage, not Juliet or her Romeo. This also nicely introduces another refreshing element to the piece: the casting tosses gender aside, a delightful, and actually quite Shakespearean, twist on the tale that adds to the plethora of modern approaches that make it a fresh and current version.  The performance itself from the actors is incredibly captivating: the pace never drops, and they arguably…Continue Reading

Romeo and Juliet

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


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