THEATRE REVIEW: Guards At The Taj, Bush Theatre

playing until 20 May

As the Bush Theatre reopens its doors after a year-long £4 million redevelopment, Jamie Lloyd relaunches the main house with his European premiere of Rajiv Joseph’s Guards At The Taj, itself toying with the price of a beautiful building. Lloyd’s trademark blend of richness and gore comes to the fore in this intense burst of a story, which places human fragility alongside the majesty of great architecture.

Guards-at-the-Taj 7 (c) Mark Brenner
Darren Kuppan (Babur) and Danny Ashok (Humayun)

The play opens with a conversation between two imperial guards who aren’t allowed to be talking, about one of the most beautiful sights in the world that they aren’t allowed to look at. Read More »

THEATRE REVIEW: Hip, Vault Festival

running until 5 February 

The Vault Festival has returned to its subterranean home under Waterloo station for a fifth year, once again fillings its buzzing spaces with a varied programme. My first taste of this year’s festival was Hip by Kriya Arts, a fascinating hour taking a peek into a stranger’s life, which reveals as much about the creator of the show as its subject.

hip-c-kriya-arts-3As with previous Kriya Arts shows, this is an ‘extra live’ performance, meaning – in a similar way to a relaxed performance – the audience are free to make noise, move around and even take photos. We’re also encouraged to get actively involved in the shaping of the show, choosing which elements to explore and reading extracts of letters or diaries. It makes the whole feel of the show more relaxed and instantly draws the audience together in a united experience; as well as a more accessible kind of theatre, this also suits the show’s subject matter as we are invited into the living room of a squat, making our way into the building after an introduction outside The Vaults front entrance.Read More »

THEATRE REVIEW: Out There On Fried Meat Ridge Road, White Bear Theatre

running until 4 February

Michael Wade, Robert Moloney and Keith Stevenson (c) Gavin Watson
Michael Wade, Robert Moloney and Keith Stevenson (c) Gavin Watson
“Hillbilly comedy” Out On Fried Meat Ridge Road has gained such success at LA’s Pacific Resident Theater that it has spawned two sequels, but it’s perhaps a risk to bring it to London without an audience’s local knowledge of state stereotypes and American references. Yet for every mention of Mountain Dew or prog rock bands, there is a dose of warmth and farce that give this show universal appeal.
Down on his luck, Mitchell (Robert Moloney) finds himself without much choice but to room with J.D. (Keith Stevenson, who also wrote the script) – who may or may not be the son of the son of God. Soon the full absurdity of the living arrangement becomes apparent, as a rag-tag collection of neighbours bring their problems to the ever-patient J.D.’s door. From Marlene the meth addict, to Flip the racist motel owner, to Tommy the gun-toting adulterer – the lovable J.D. can’t help but greet them all with kindness and patience. It’s this mixture of good-heartedness and sheer absurdity that lends this piece such a warm comedic focus, even as the other characters shout, swear and belittle each other.

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THEATRE REVIEW: A Christmas Carol – The Musical, Lost Theatre

running until 31 December

Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens’s musical take on Dickens’s festive classic first premiered in 1994, and was performed annually in Madison Square Gardens until 2003. It’s a popular choice in London this year: while a concert version took place in the West End’s Lyceum Theatre on Monday, the Lost Theatre on Wandsworth Road have also chosen it as their family Christmas show.

Richard Lounds as Marley and Piers Garnham as Scrooge A Christmas Carol Lost Theatre
Richard Lounds as Marley and Piers Garnham as Scrooge

Menken is best known for his work with Disney – AladdinThe Little MermaidBeauty and the Beast to name but a few – so it’s no surprise that the score is a highlight of this almost sung-through piece. The rousing opening number sets the warm, Christmassy London scene, and is the first sign that this production is at its strongest when the whole company perform together with gusto. There are some gorgeous voices amongst the cast, including that of nine-year-old Ella Tidbury who performs with assurance beyond her years. In particular, Joe Brown (Scrooge aged 18) and Natalie Morgan (Emily) show off beautiful vocals that blend well in their brief duet.Read More »

THEATRE REVIEW: 2 Become 1, King’s Head Theatre

running until 7 January

2 Become 1 at the King's Head Theatre

All credit to the cast of 2 Become 1. This show is a fun, party piece that suits an animated crowd up for a good time. On this occasion, the night after most press attended, the cast were faced with technical issues, a delayed start and a small audience. Yet Swipe Right Theatre rose to the occasion, not letting the energy slide and throwing themselves into this tongue-in-cheek musical.

The quartet all inhabit their individual characters, like a Sex and the City-style gang: the heartbroken one (Jess, played by Natasha Granger); the flirt (Charlie, played by Eliza Hewitt-Jones); the comedic hopeless romantic (Amanda, played by Jessica Brady); and the wacky one (Molly, played by Kerrie Thomason). The personalities are a little one-dimensional, but it fits well with the girlband era.Read More »