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Living in a Shattered Society: ‘The Caretaker’ at Bristol Old Vic

What does it mean to offer help to someone in need? Once the warm glow’s over, what’s taken root in your life, or theirs? Bristol Old Vic’s new production brings Harold Pinter’s breakthrough play The Caretaker into the twenty-first century, looking at the anxious relationship between those in need in our society, and those with more material possessions but their own inner demons. The Caretaker begins with Aston (Jonathan Livingstone) inviting Davies (Patrice Naiambana) to stay in the cluttered flat where he lives. Davies has been sleeping...

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‘Knives in Hens’ at the Donmar Warehouse: A Modern Scottish Classic on the London Stage

“Every thing I see or know is put in my head by God. Every thing he created is there every day, sunrise to sundown, earth to sky. It cannot be touched or held the same way I touch a table or hold the reins of a horse. It cannot be sold or cooked. His world is there, in front of my eyes. All I must do is push names into what is there the same as when I push my knife into the stomach of a hen.” Yäel Farber, following a mixed reception to her Salomé at the National Theatre earlier this year (about which you can read culturised’s...

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From the West End to the Fringe: In Conversation with Stephen Whitson

Billed as “a story about what we do to protect those around us and how we fuck them up in the process”[1] You Forgot the Mince, the latest production from theatre company and charity Imagine If, is a very human tale of the road to an abusive relationship. A recent hit at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, the production will now tour the UK through the autumn, beginning at The Courtyard Theatre in London from 26th September (further information can be found here). You Forgot the Mince is directed by Stephen Whitson, who is also...

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Harold Pinter’s ‘Betrayal’ at the Salisbury Playhouse: “that old itch”

Nobody likes pauses. Especially pauses in conversation where, staring into the dregs of a drink for inspiration, all remnants of stimulating or even mundane conversation seem to flee irretrievably into a mental void. An understated yet effective production of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal at the Salisbury Playhouse opens with just one such awkward moment, and tests us increasingly as the first scene goes on. If we sit naively in the audience expecting comfortable, constant action and narrative flow, we are just as betrayed as the men and women who...

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Reasons to be Cheerful: In Conversation with Graeae’s John Kelly

John Kelly is the lead vocalist for the band in Graeae’s latest production, Reasons to be Cheerful, and has been in the show’s cast since its conception seven years ago. Taking the form of a musical constructed around the songbook of Ian Dury and The Blockheads, Reasons to be Cheerful first toured the UK in 2010, and two years later Kelly and other members of Graeae performed the controversial Ian Dury song, “Spasticus Autisticus” at London’s Paralympic opening ceremony, receiving rave reviews[1] (you can watch the performance here). The show...

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‘The Duke’ at the Edinburgh Fringe: The Life Aquatic with Hugh Hughes

If Wes Anderson were ever to try his hand at staging a Fringe production, it would look something like this. Part comedy, part one-man sound desk, and part good old-fashioned storytelling, Edinburgh regular and double Fringe First award-winning performer Hugh Hughes (aka Shôn Dale-Jones) sets a warm, friendly tone from the moment he greets you with a handshake at the door. Hughes comes across as an effortlessly cool teacher in charge of a hundred cheeky kids, amenable to some light heckling, short detours and minor derailments, but with a...

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‘Girl From the North Country’ at the Old Vic: Dylan with a Difference

If you’re travelin’ in the north country fair Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline Remember me to one who lives there She once was a true love of mine Following Bob Dylan being controversially awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature earlier this year, both the literary and musical worlds have been thrown into a state of debate surrounding the relation of lyrics to Literature. Literature has a rich oral tradition of storytelling and the snobbery of some scholars to classify lyrics as poetry has left a huge gap for...

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‘Brexit the Musical’: The Rise of Political Musical Theatre

In among the delights of Buzz: A New Musical, (Fat Rascal Theatre), Trump’d (Two Thirds Comedy) and 2016 the Musical (Evolution Theatre), Brexit: The Musical is a member of the not-uncommon satirical-political-musical species at the Edinburgh Fringe 2017. Perhaps gentle political protesters of the creative sort are discovering the power of wrapping up their thoughts on the state of the world into rhyming couplets and delivering them through jazz-spread hands. Perhaps the wide-spread appeal of these musicals to the left-of-centre Fringe crowd...

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“I am not my reproductive system”: ‘Yerma’ at the Young Vic

“Regret – not now, maybe later”, says the unnamed Her (Billie Piper). She thinks it might be a good idea to try for children because… because they’ve got three floors in their newly-purchased house, because she’s thrity-two, because why not? This is only chapter one, and we’ve got a lot of regret to go. Yerma (meaning barren) was originally a 1934 play by Spanish writer Ferderico Garcia Lorca. It’s about a woman unable to conceive in a particular culture at a particular time. It’s also a personal tragedy, rendered timelessly relevant and...

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Gender, Shakespeare, and Dance: ‘Rosalind’ at the Edinburgh Fringe

The James Cousins Company presents a retelling of Shakespeare’s As You Like it for The Place’s dance showcase at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Taking its origins from the play’s female protagonist, Rosalind was produced in collaboration with South Korean artists in Seoul, where the play premiered in 2016. The dance traces Shakespeare’s story of Rosalind who, after falling for the aristocrat Orlando, is exiled with her love to the Forest of Arden where she resides disguised as a shepherd named Ganymede. Originally commissioned as part...

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‘This Really Is Too Much’: Exploring the Absurdity of Gender Norms

At this year’s Edinburgh Fringe I watched a man loudly brush his teeth and gulp down a huge amount of foaming toothpaste on stage, so the competition for most gross show was fierce. However, I feel the winner has to go to the vibrant This Really Is Too Much, for covering the stage with water, face cream, cleaning product and lettuce, and then smearing it on their bikini clad bodies while pleasant, supermarket music plays, in a grotesque parody of commercial sex appeal. This Really Is Too Much was chosen for the Edinburgh Fringe as part of...

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Paula Varjack’s ‘Show Me The Money’: Finance and the Fringe

As anyone who has been to the Edinburgh Fringe knows, if you walk up the Royal Mile in August you will be bombarded by flyers for a plethora of shows. What those without seats to fill may not have considered, is the true cost of bringing a performance up to Edinburgh. All of those flyers you looked at for a millisecond before throwing away add up, using frequently meagre budgets production companies hope to get back in ticket sales. It gets harder each year to make money from the Fringe,[1] due to an increase in the commercialisation of...

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Joan Clevillé Dance’s ‘The North’: Surreal Northern Plights at the Fringe

If you’re fresh off the train/plane/automobile and eager to fit at least one “quintessentially Fringe” production into your schedule, look no further than Joan Clevillé Dance’s The North. For a rough idea of just how fringey this piece gets, here is a non-exhaustive list of items that feature in the hour of combined dance, drama and physical theatre: gold trousers, reindeer antlers, a self-constructing tent, toy cars, an unreliable (possibly magical) miniature radio, and a tiny Christmas tree. “Rather than describing a realistic environment,”...

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‘A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad)’: The Complexities of Exploring Depression on Stage

One of the main advantages of Fringe theatre is the element of difference. Not having to comply with mainstream preferences, new combinations can be created without as much of a risk for investors or venues. Interestingly, this does mean that you sometimes see a few Fringe shows exploring similar borderline “non mainstream” topics – in this case depression. A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad) is a musical about Sally, a girl we meet at sixteen and follow through the next ten years of her life and her journey with mental...

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‘The Shape of the Pain’: Staging Chronic Suffering

It’s almost impossible to comprehend what pain feels like when you’re not currently experiencing it, and it is especially hard to understand what someone other than yourself physically feels. This demonstrates a limit to the empathy others are able to give to those who live with pain every day, and forms the basis of The Shape of the Pain. In this one woman performance the audience is taken through the everyday life of a person with chronic pain, which has no injury or source. This pain comes from the mind exclusively, and during...

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‘Border Tales’: Humanity for Humanity’s Sake

Going back through reviews of Border Tales from its initial March 2014 run is fascinating — it almost beggars belief to see that one begins with “Is multiculturalism still a sensitive issue?”[1] All of them connect this hybrid of live music, dance and spoken word to an ominous backdrop of increasing hostility towards immigrants. Three years later, with some new cast members and an avalanche of very real threats towards free international movement, the arrival of physical theatre choreographer Luca Silvestrini’s Border Tales at the Edinburgh...

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‘How To Win Against History’: Bizarre Aristocrats and Musical Metatheatricality

How To Win Against History Assembly George Square Until Aug 27 at 19:25 Box Office Adults £13 / Concessions £12   How to Win Against History started thirty minutes late at the Assembly Square George Gardens during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. This happens frequently during the Fringe, so is kind of part of the territory, but it does make the audience apprehensive going in: will this be worth the wait? Luckily, How to Win Against History is so fantastic that the accidental delay was quickly forgotten. How to Win Against History is a new...

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‘Gone Off’ at the Camden Fringe: Exploring the Erosion of Queer Club Culture

Gone Off is a show dedicated to the history and vibrancy of the LGBTQ social scene. In the last half a decade there has been a gradual disintegration of iconic queer spaces and within the confines and aspirations of the show, the company behind the show, TOBYLikesMILK, seeks both to celebrate these spaces and also to highlight their historical significance and their resolute importance decades on from their naissance. Hosted at The Cockpit in London, it was always going too be interesting to see how the company would link this studio theatre...

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From Stage to Page: Rosie Wilby’s ‘Is Monogamy Dead’

For a number of years now, Rosie Wilby has made her name on the comedy circuit for bringing warmth and personality to her shows, as well as being truly thought-provoking. She is a firm believer in tackling difficult issues through the medium of comedy, and now she has used the same approach in her first non-fiction book. We here at culturised talked to her about the experience of becoming both performer and author and why she chose to textualise the ideas expressed in her stage show. Is Monogamy Dead? places itself among a trilogy of Wilby’s...

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Rosie Wilby’s ‘The Conscious Uncoupling’: Breakups in the Digital Age

Whether you are living through them or critiquing a show about them, relationships are tricky to navigate. The material is so intensely personal, so tailored to the individual storyteller, that it almost eschews comments from a detached third party — almost. Over the course of an hour, standup comedian and singer-songwriter Rosie Wilby alternates between reading emails from early 2011, capturing the moment a major three-year relationship came to a sudden halt, and reciting monologues that lay out the full context around it. In a similar vein...

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Examining Anxiety Through Performance: In Conversation with Idiot Child

Susie Riddell and Anna Harpin are the Co-Directors for Idiot Child, a Bristol-based theatre company that push the boundaries of play and the peculiar. Susie Riddell is most well known for her role as Tracey Horrobin in BBC radio drama The Archers as well as appearing on screen in shows such as Gavin and Stacey and Emmerdale. Anna is a lecturer at the University of Warwick alongside her directing commitments conjoining her academic career with active theatre making. Idiot Child are bringing What If the Plane Falls Out of the Sky?, which they...

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‘Secret Life of Humans’: Philosophy, Anthropology, and Theatre

Secret Life of Humans Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33) Until Aug 27 at 16:30 Box Office Adults £11.50 / Concessions £10.00 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari’s bestselling non-fiction book which everyone and their dad read on holiday in 2011 has been adapted, not into a television series or documentary as one might expect, but into a theatrical stage production. Taking a non-fiction history book which chronicles the trials and tribulations of our species and adapting it into Secret Life of Humans, a play with a plot,...

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The Science of Comedy: In Conversation with Samantha Baines

Samantha Baines is one of comedy’s rising stars, boasting sell out runs across the Edinburgh Fringe for multiple years. Alongside her stand up career Samantha has made her way onto screen most recently appearing in the critically acclaimed series The Crown as well as Call the Midwife. Samantha is also a regular on BBC Radio 4 and has written for The Guardian and the Huffington Post. Her witty scientific humour combined with a killer fashion sense and infectious laugh makes Samantha Baines one to watch on the comedy circuit. Her latest...

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‘Flood’ by Paper Creatures Theatre: Artistry in a Floating World

Billed as “a complex and humane portrayal of a group of friends struggling to define themselves beyond the confines of their small town”,[1] Flood, directed by Tristan Bates Theatre regular, Georgie Straight, finds its comedy in the literal and its drama in the symbolic. The literal flood in question overwhelms a small, unidentified town in the West Country, soaking basements, sweeping away centuries-old bridges, and putting cemeteries underwater. For protagonist Adam (Jon Tozzi) and his older sister Jess (Emily Céline Thomson), this deluge...

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‘Origins’: Staging Humanity’s First Murder

Origins Zoo (Venue 124) Aug 11-25 at 12:30 Box Office Adults £10 / Concessions £8 How does a child of the only humans to have known pure Edenic peace become “the world’s first murderer”? As “a psychological thriller that plunges into the heart of darkness where sound, movement and rhythm fuse to create a physically pulsating stage adventure”,[1] Animikii Theatre’s Origins is ostensibly less interested in the “how” than in the “why” — or at least in how the “why” came to be. Given how much time the Bible devotes to the narrative of Adam...

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‘An Injury’ at the Ovalhouse: Consumerism and Complicity

Anyone who has spent any length of time on the internet in the past few years is highly likely to have come across the phrase “there is no ethical consumption under capitalism”. This is usually accompanied by some terrifying graphic which show dozens of smaller brands that are all in fact subsidiaries of some behemoth like Nestlé or Coca Cola. The idea is that essentially, no matter how much you try to avoid the big bad wolves of consumerism – those companies pouring oil into the ocean or ripping out the rainforest – you end up lining their...

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‘Fridge’ at Festival 47: The Problem of Staging Mental Illness

Fringe theatre is inherently tricky — how does one package a complex, endlessly nuanced issue such as millennial mental health, into a single hour? More to the point, how can it be done meaningfully and authentically? The age of the internet is also becoming the age of the mind, with a proliferation of digital platforms from which all sorts of people can lay bare their experiences and extend a virtual hand of solidarity to others in the same rocky boat. Mental health is everyone’s issue, but with the internet acting as the ultimate stock...

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A Night Out On Stage: In Conversation with Eggs Collective

Eggs Collective consists of Sara Cocker, Lowri Evans, and Léonie Higgins. Based in Manchester they are delivering punchy performances with a distinct political edge. Their latest production, Eggs Collective Get A Round invites you to join the girls on a night out. Tipped as one of the nations’ upcoming theatre companies these girls are taking their latest production, following its successful tour, up to the Edinburgh Fringe. However if you cannot make it to Scotland’s capital this summer Eggs Collective Get A Round is also being...

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‘The Marriage of Kim K’: Reality Opera

The Marriage of Kim K C Venues, C (Venue 43) Until Aug 28 at 21:50 Box Office Adults £12.50 / Concessions £10.50 Mozart’s latest opera (with extensive additional musical material by Stephen Hyde, and libretto by Leo Mercer), The Marriage of Kim K, closed its week long run last night at the Arcola Theatre as part of “Grimeborn” Festival – but fear not, its next stop is the Edinburgh Fringe throughout August at C Venue. The opera tells three stories simultaneously, brought together creatively through the central protagonists, Amelia (Amelia...

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Pick of the Fringe: Edinburgh Fringe at 70

With more shows that you will ever be able to see maximising your time at the Edinburgh Fringe is crucial. Whether you are descending on the festival city for the entire three weeks or just a couple of days we have taken the hard work away and selected the shows we think you shouldn’t miss. From comedy to circus, musicals to mime the Fringe has it all and here at culturised we have taken the hard work out and selected our must sees of the Festival. Comedy   1 Woman, a High-Flyer and a Flat Bottom: Samantha Baines  This is set to be a...

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‘10000 Gestures’ at the Manchester International Festival: Moving Through Life

10000 Gestures originates from a simple premise, which is that it consists of entirely unique movements, there are no repeats in the performance, and we watch 10000 distinct gestures on the stage. Performed in Mayfield, an abandoned warehouse, the cavernous space is filled with an explosion of dance so intense you will leave the experience out of breath. Boris Charmatz worked with his ensemble of twenty-five dancers to develop a performance which explores a truly asymmetrical approach to the human body, and dance as a medium. To understand...

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Mental Health and Theatre: In Conversation with Isabelle Kabban

A new award has been introduced  for the Edinburgh Fringe this year, celebrating work that explores mental health.[1] The Mental Health Fringe Award[2] (which will be run by the Mental Health Foundation with the support of the Tron Theatre in Glasgow and the Scotsman newspaper) is open to shows of all styles and genres that explore issues around mental health. In recent years the topic has been a prominent theme of many notable and critically acclaimed shows at the such as Bryony Kimmings and Timothy Grayburns, Fake It ’Til You Make It and...

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Stand-up Politics: In Conversation with Ahir Shah

Ahir Shah is an example of what it would be like if your politics professor was also a quick-witted stand-up comedian. In recent years he has been making a name for himself not just through his jokes, but also for the way in which he uses them to explore the political landscape and comment on the social issues facing us today. In 2014 Shah won the award for Best Show at the Leicester Comedy Festival, and since then his career has been rapidly progressing: touring to both Australia and Canada last year before returning to the Edinburgh Fringe...

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Edinburgh Fringe at 70: The Venues

The Edinburgh Fringe remains firmly the world’s largest arts festival, with every nook and cranny in the city colonised by weird (sometimes very weird) and wonderful shows every August. Last year saw Scotland’s Capital city host 50,266 performances of 3,269 different shows across the festival with an estimated 2,475,143 tickets sold. [1] Here is culturised‘s summary of the different venues and our top picks on the best spots for those heading to the Fringe this year. Assembly With one of the widest programmes of the festival...

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‘Common’ at the National Theatre: Crushing Collectivism

Centring around the theme of enclosure – the transition of land from public to private ownership – D C Moore’s Common depicts a tale of betrayal and a class: a tale of citizens not content to see their way of life destroyed in the early 1800s. Despite the date that Common is set, the pivotal questions of common land and rights to ownership prevail today, whether it is reclaiming the empty Holloway Prison[1] or disputes over ramblers on farmland.[2] Protagonist Mary (Anne Marie Duff) is a liar, a thief, and a rogue. After being cast out by the...

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‘Fatherland’ in Manchester: The Role of Verbatim Theatre in Uncertain Times

The Exchange Theatre in Manchester is arranged in the round, there is a loud drumbeat all around you, and lights flash in your face from all angles. In the centre, a man on a wire is being swept up and around the stage, flying to the edge of the audience and pronouncing “This is my son!” It’s a spectacular moment, and for me was one of the highlights of Fatherland, a new production by Frantic Assembly’s Scott Graham, Karl Hyde from electronic group Underworld, and playwright Simon Stephens (Writer of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the...

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‘What The Ladybird Heard’ at the Lyric Theatre: Children’s Literature on the London Stage

The West End and other mainstream theatres are opening up to younger and younger audiences driven by a wave of adaptation of classic children’s books. Whether it’s the likes of Gangsta Granny, The Gruffalo, or The Tiger Who Came To Tea, children are being brought into the country’s top theatres in droves, and intelligent adaptations of favourite children’s books seems to be the key. In this vein, this summer the Lyric Theatre at the heart of London’s West End is hosting a production of Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monk’s bestseller...

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Talking Cheek by Jowl: In Conversation with Declan Donnellan

In 1981 Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod founded Cheek by Jowl, a company that has since grown into one of the most well-known names in theatre production, a feat achieved through an unwavering commitment to staging innovative productions in a variety of languages all over the world. The pair’s successes on the stage were recognised earlier this year when both Donnellan and Ormerod received OBEs in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, a welcome sight for any lovers of the arts. Most recently in the UK, Cheek by Jowl staged their new production of...

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Screening ‘Julius Caesar’: In Conversation with Phyllida Lloyd

Phyllida Lloyd has recently conducted a revolutionary experiment with Shakespeare. Billed as the “Shakespeare Trilogy”, Lloyd has taken Julius Caesar, Henry IV, and The Tempest and spun them with a diverse, all-female cast (starring Harriet Walter) in a bid to address issues relating to the representation of women in the theatre. More than this, in these productions the cast assume the roles of female prisoners staging the plays within the walls of an institution; Lloyd uses this added layer in order to explore wider structural societal...

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Shit-faced Showtime: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Spinning off from the same company that brought you Shit-faced Shakespeare (on which you can find culturised’s thoughts here) Shit-faced Showtime: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz takes the journey down the yellow brick road to all new heights. The premise remains the same: one classically trained musical theatre actor gets classically drunk and the group of actors try to stage the play as best they can around this inebriated inconvenience. We were informed that, prior to this particular evening’s show, our drunken actor (Alan McHale) had consumed...

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Caesar on Parole: in Conversation with Jackie Clune

Jackie Clune plays the title role in Phyllida Lloyd’s latest production of Julius Caesar, originally performed at the Donmar in late 2016 and now being released in cinemas. Building on a distinguished stage career, Clune was enticed by Phyllida’s groundbreaking all-female Shakespeare trilogy that also includes Henry IV and The Tempest. While not the first production of Lloyd’s Julius Caesar (the original production having been staged in 2012) or Henry IV (2014), the play’s new home in the Donmar’s pop-up theatre by Kings Cross gave new focus...

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‘The Venus Papers’: Contemporary Feminism and Classical Art

The Venus Papers is a narrative poetic interrogation of what would happen should the goddess Venus wash up on the shores of twenty-first century Britain. Produced by Renaissance One,[1] Lydia Towsey’s free-wheeling poetic monologue sees Botticelli’s Venus encounters border control, pub culture, the tabloids, and Barbie. Towsey’s production interweaves the story of Venus with her own life experience as a twenty-first century woman. Her personal stories encompass tales of her childhood, experiences as an artist’s model, and the joys and woes of...

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‘My Country: A Work in Progress’

One year on from Brexit and the question still remains: exactly whose country is this? The chants of taking back control demand action, but the vague notions of from whom we are taking control back, and to whom we are giving it when we do, make the direction that action should take quite unclear. The crucial choice in naming this play My Country rather than Our Country speaks volumes about a divided Britain that is still trying to come together. Everyone has a personal stake in this country and it is this personal “My” that that the National...

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Satire as it should be: Blowfish Theatre’s “Boris – The Musical!”

“In these upsetting times, it’s important to have something to laugh about. Welcome, friends, to Boris – The Musical!, the satirical Brexit tale of Britain’s finest politiclown.”[1] There are many musicals that, on paper, just categorically should not work: Romeo and Juliet set in late 1950s New York City between dancing street gangs (West Side Story); an unstoppably carnivorous plant who croons between bites of limbs (Little Shop of Horrors); a hip-hopera about the least well known Founding Father and his uphill struggle to establish...

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In Focus: The Manchester International Festival

Having just recently received a giant lift in terms of upcoming funding, the Manchester International Festival is getting bigger and more diverse every year firmly rooting Manchester on the international arts circuit. Running from the 29th June – 16th July 2017 is ready to pack a real punch and here at culturised we’ve picked out the highlights. Theatre   Fatherland Simon Stephens’ (Punk Rock, Pornography) has teamed up with Karl Hyde (Underworld) and Scott Graham to create a deeply personal portrait of 21st Century England in what has been...

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‘Holy Crap’: Religiosity and Pornography

The phenomenon of “God TV” has come to the UK in the Heather Brothers’ Holy Crap. In an attempt to bring the first pay-to-view religious TV channel to the UK, Vinnie Ginelli (Nuno Queimado) took a big risk. However, investing the mafia family’s drug money in the hope of getting a squeaky clean output has turned out to be an unwise decision as the station makes huge losses. It turns out that “these Godless Brits don’t want to be saved” (or rather they don’t want pay for the privilege of being saved). Partnered with the morally bankrupt Bible...

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‘Purged’: Staging a Mental Health Crisis

This is the reason fringe theatre exists: to stimulate, to educate, and to challenge its audience. Purged is a bold and daring piece about the very real challenges of communication in the midst of a mental health crisis. Written by Chris Polites, directed by Justin Murray, and performed by Orla Sanders, it delicately and powerfully explores the internal and external struggles that so many people face daily. No-one can claim they know all there is to know about mental health. Helping and supporting those who are in need is a difficult task...

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‘The Performance’ by Iain Gibbons

The Performance, by Iain Gibbons and staged at The Warren for the Brighton Fringe, is something rather special. It is a one man/clown show that pokes fun at all the times you’ve sat by an insufferable audience member or struggled through a play that isn’t going quite as expected. Iain Gibbons here is the audience. He is the staff of the theatre. He is the performance itself. Indeed The Performance is a wonderfully absurd and hilarious creation with Iain Gibbons opening up his inner-child to deliver a performance of which Rowan Atkinson would...

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Dancing While Black: In Conversation with Pauline Mayers

For most of her life, dancer, choreographer, and theatre-maker Pauline Mayers has had to battle prejudiced notions of her artistic abilities based on her race, gender, and status. Her innate and fierce determination has seen off these assumptions at every turn even when wider society lagged far behind in its attitude to such issues. Now, in her new show, What If I Told You, she combines her love of both dance and theatre. Mayers sets out her life story, while drawing parallels with that of controversial nineteenth-century gynaecologist James...

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While We’re Here at the Salisbury Playhouse

“Would people recycle more, if there were bears?” Carol (Tessa Peake- Jones) asks her ex-lover Eddie (Andrew French). This flippant-sounding question contained within the opening scenes of Barney Norris’ nifty two-hander, While We’re Here comes in response to Eddie’s proposed plan of getting involved in “rewilding”: putting bears and wolves back into Scotland, or, in his words, pressing on all the havoc human nature has wreaked on the planet. Carol knows, and we soon suspect, that Eddie hasn’t seriously thought through how he might achieve...

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‘Thirty-Three’ at the Leicester Square Theatre

If you’ve ever been to a party that started quiet and chilled – nice wine, some jazzy music – and ended with raucous singing, table dancing, and far too many shots then there’s a chance you’ll connect on some level with Thirty Three. This Australian play from writers Micheal Booth and Alister Powning is making its UK debut at the Leicester Square Theatre, and the duo are also currently fundraising for a film adaptation of the play. Thirty Three examines one evening with a group of Aussie friends and the complicated events of one of their...

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Headspace: ‘Barber Shop Chronicles’ at the National Theatre

Inua Ellams’s Barber Shop Chronicles is fairly self-explanatory: it chronicles the lives of barber shop clients, whose lives vary greatly but intersect in quietly revelatory ways. What gives these stories their momentum is the central, enriching discussion about the dynamics of black masculinity within and outside of barber shops. In the opening scene, a young man relentlessly pounds a chair on the stage to mimic a rattling locked door. It is 6am, way outside normal working hours. But after a few rounds of desperate knocking, the barber...

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‘La Strada’ at The Other Palace: Staging a Cinematic Classic

Fellini’s La Strada (The Road) transformed the landscape of Italian cinema following its release in 1954.The original neo-realist film delved deep into the human condition and this year is being re-released in selected cinemas.[1] Originally starring Fellini’s wife, Giulietta Masina as the simple-minded Gelsomina the film was released against the backdrop of post-war austerity, mass migration in search of the means to make a living. Now taking to the stage at The Other Place[2] in a very different era of austerity and conflict is an equally...

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At the Brighton Festival: ‘No Dogs, No Indians’

No Dogs, No Indians, written by Siddharta Bose, is an ambitious trio of tales that dares to stare the legacy of British imperialism in the face. It centres around the idea that colonialisation invades not only land but also people’s concept of themselves and how they relate to their own past. It is a story of identity crisis, a battle for meaning and an aching question that needs to be answered:  what to remember and what to forget.  Staged at The Spire, an old church in the outskirts of Brighton, No Dogs, No Indians presents...

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Going Underground: Good One Theatre’s ‘Contactless’ at the Hen & Chickens

Londoners have a love-hate relationship with the tube. Not merely a means of getting from A to B the London Underground is an iconic part of the city’s culture and forms a large part of many city-dwellers lives. Contactless, a new comedy sketch show from Tom Hartwell, delves deep underground in order to explore how the numerous strands of society in London come together on the tube’s many lines, and how this network of tracks and tunnels shapes the everyday lives of the residents of the nation’s capital. Sketch comedy has been dipping in and...

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Among Les Enfants Terribles: In Conversation with Oliver Lansley

Oliver Lansley is the Artistic Director of Les Enfants Terribles, a company he founded in 2001 and with which has been pushing the boundaries of inventive storytelling ever since. Their 2015 show, Alice’s Adventures Underground, saw Les Enfants venture into immersive theatre for the first time and they have subsequently continued to bring their own unique style to the genre with productions such as The Game’s Afoot (2016): an immersive Sherlock Holmes theatrical experience staged in Madame Tussauds. Given the success of these shows, Les...

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At the Brighton Festival: ‘Songs for the End of the World’

Lit by a solitary halogen bulb, a crazed genius has somehow created an entertainment experience by crossbreeding dystopian science fiction with prog rock and then raised it solely by beating it round the head with the UKIP manifesto. We have been granted access to the resulting creation. Part gig, part play, mostly apocalypse; this is Songs for the End of the World. It is a production for the Brighton Festival commissioned by Battersea Arts Centre with support from Kneehigh, Tobacco Factory Theatres, and the West Yorkshire Playhouse. It was...

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The Shires and the Nationalist Paradoxes of British Country Music

Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes make up The Shires, a country duo who have found moderate success in the radio space left in-between Lady Antebellum albums. Their first full-length release, Brave (2015), was well-received commercially, and their second, My Universe (2016), followed suit. Which would all be relatively uninteresting – aside from the fact that they’re British. In fact, they’re the first British band to be signed to a major Nashville label, one of the markers of country music authenticity if ever there was one, even if...

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Spoken Word vs Fake News: In Conversation with Francesca Beard

Francesca Beard has returned to the stage with her first full-length show after a ten-year absence. How to Survive a Post-Truth Apocalypse combines storytelling, verse, spoken word, benign audience interaction, and a game of “Whose Lie is it Anyway” to contemplate lies, lying, and liars. The show explores make-believe in its many guises from political spin, lies told out of kindness, and bold-faced whoppers. In other words, it’s a show about what it means to be human. Since 1999, Beard has been an innovative promoter and performer of live...

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Clowning and Comedy: In Conversation with Luke Rollason

Despite the recent craze of so called “killer clowns” and the terror of Stephen King’s It (1986), clowning as a theatrical practice is becoming more popular than ever. During his recent run of debut show Planet Earth III, culturised caught up with Luke Rollason. Luke studied at the University of Oxford and has most recently worked as an associate director of Justice in Motion, a physical theatre company that strive to combine art and campaigns for social justice.[1] Having recently debuted his first individual clowning show we wanted to find...

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Jazz Plus Presents Glowrogues: Bringing Something Different to London Nightlife

With a 24-hour weekend tube service stretching to Zone 6, London can now rival New York’s claim to be “The City That Never Sleeps”. However, having the potential to deliver new and exciting nightlife experiences doesn’t necessarily guarantee their delivery, and – with independent spaces disappearing at an alarming rate and documents like Form 696[1] throttling elements of youth culture – some are even claiming that the city is travelling backwards. Still, on Saturday night in an oft-maligned corner of West London, something special and...

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“Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes”: Marxism and the Cosmos in Brecht’s ‘Life of Galileo’

The Young Vic’s current production of Life of Galileo sees politics and science combined on the London stage. Brecht’s play about a garrulous scientist who bloodies the nose of the doctrinaire establishment while theorising about class struggle, has been given a sumptuous treatment by Joe Wright and his team. Feted as the latest in a long line of innovative productions by the Young Vic, [1] Life of Galileo does not disappoint: the show involves everything from puppetry to a lightshow of the planets. But this show is more than a grand night...

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‘MAY UTANG’ by Jules Orcullo: A Contextualised Exploration of Self

Over the next two years Chris O’Connell’s theatre project, Are We Where We Are?, will see nine new works for the stage – spanning a variety of mediums – performed at Coventry’s Shop Front Theatre and directed by Julia Negus. Each of these pieces will respond in a unique way to the question posed by this title, and the first piece to do so was MAY UTANG, a piece written and performed by Jules Orcullo, and staged earlier this month. MAY UTANG translates from Filipino to English roughly as “with debt.” The piece Orcullo has created is a...

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Yäel Farber’s ‘Salomé’: A Provocative Reimagining of an Ancient Myth

Yäel Farber is no stranger to controversy and mixed reaction. In her latest endeavour, Salomé at the National Theatre, the audience are pushed to the limit in a radical retelling of the ancient myth. The biblical tale depicting Salomé as the alluring femme fatale who danced naked for Judean King Herod has reverberated across time and become entrenched in the minds of many. Farber attempts to reclaim the narrative in a piece characterised by dramatic set pieces but frustratingly with little substance in between them. In pushing against the...

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Emma Donoghue’s ‘Room’ on the London Stage: A Welcome Theatrical Adaptation

Emma Donoghue’s novel Room won the Booker Prize in 2010. Seven years later, the compelling story of five-year-old Jack and Ma who live in a single room with only objects and their own imaginations for company is going from strength to strength. A hugely successful film in 2015 starring Jacob Tremblay and Brie Larson is now matched by a breath-taking stage production, currently showing at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, which takes the psychological intimacy of the novel and runs another mile with it. Room is based on the horrific story of...

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‘A Womb of One’s Own’: Staging the Psychology of Abortion

Before even wandering into the theatre room of The Old Stock Pub and Theatre, I was optimistic as to what I was about the see unfold. I mean, who doesn’t love a good old Virginia Woolf pun? Produced by newly founded company Wonderbox, which is comprised of an all-female group of actors from the National Youth Theatre, A Womb of One’s Own looks represents the internal struggles of a young woman deciding to have an abortion when at university. The newly written script, devised by Claire Rammelkamp, is both darkly comic and thought provoking: A...

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In Conversation with Frozen Light: Accessible Theatre for Audiences with Learning Disabilities

Frozen Light Theatre was founded in 2013 with the aim of producing multi-sensory theatre specifically for people with profound and multiple learning disabilities. Co-founders Lucy Garland and Amber Onat Gregory aim not only to increase the amount of accessible theatre on offer in the UK, but also to ensure that more accessible shows are produced in theatres, rather than travelling to their audiences by going into care homes or schools. We at culturised caught up with Lucy Garland to talk both about the work that Frozen Light have been doing...

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Obscure Absurdism: ‘Old Joe’s Fish ‘n’ Chill’

In a brave undertaking be•wilder have taken their newly devised piece Old Joe’s Fish ‘n’ Chill to the London stage. What has resulted is an original play, written by Stephanie Degreas and Raphael Ruiz, that tackles absurdist themes with mixed results. A newly established company of international postgraduates from RADA, be•wilder have brought together a group of actors with various cultural backgrounds to create an unusual and at points impenetrable piece of theatre. Set in the confines of “Old Joe’s”, this play is simultaneously rooted in...

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Not as Tragedy but as Farce: ‘The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui’ at the Donmar Warehouse

Bertolt Brecht did not like America. After the Nazi consolidation of power in 1933 Brecht and many of his contemporaries went into exile, hopping from one European country to another before settling in the United States. However, for many German émigrés and refugees the transition from European to American culture proved difficult and alienating. The six years that Brecht spent in America saw him virtually penniless, intellectually isolated and dealing with his resounding failure to break into Broadway.[1] His complaints ranged from his...

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“They come to look at the horror”: ‘All is Well’ by Vanessa Oakes

All is Well is a title juxtaposed against the plot of this new play by Vanessa Oakes. Set in the years after the Chernobyl disaster of 1986, the worst nuclear power accident in history, All is Well addresses the lives of four individuals affected by the catastrophe’s aftermath. Yet no title could better summarise the raw feeling that the play explores. It is a play which, at its heart, tackles the striking complexity of living in the moment after a disaster – balancing the looming presence of the past as it exists alongside imagined visions...

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“Pirates can happen to anyone”: ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead’ at the Old Vic

In 1988 Tom Stoppard told the Paris Review: “if I had an ideal spectator it would be someone more sharp-witted and attentive than the average theatregoer.”[1] Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966), the play that catapulted a twenty-something Stoppard to fame, is written with such an audience in mind. Hamlet, existential philosophy, mathematical probability, and the nature of the theatre (and, by extension, of life) are combined in a play that has become essential viewing for audiences who want theatre to challenge their minds as much...

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Jazz Plus Presents Laark and Jackson: Several More Than Three Chords

As explained in their interview previously featured on culturised, Jazz Plus Productions seek to push people’s conception of jazz beyond what they consider to be a stale and generic misinterpretation. That is to say, many listeners perceive jazz as background music for cocktails in classy, low-lit bars as opposed to music which gets you moving. To this end, apart from running their own record label, they also put on various gigs to highlight artists which epitomise aspects of what they believe the genre should be. One such gig took place...

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‘Alice’s Adventures Underground’ in The Vaults: Immersive Nonsense

  “When I used to read fairy-tales, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one”   This quote comes from Alice’s musings in the fourth chapter of Alice in Wonderland. It also finds a home on the opening page of the programme for Les Enfants Terribles’ current production of Alice’s Adventures Underground at London’s Vaults Theatre, and for good reason. Produced by ebp, Emma Brunjes Productions, this show has been revised and refined since its sell-out run in 2015 and continues to push the boundaries of...

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More Ale Than Cakes: ‘Twelfth Night’ at the Blue Elephant Theatre

“Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?” (Twelfth Night II.3.115-16) Twelfth Night is certainly a play that needs no real introduction and has certainly been a talking point nationally with some high-profile productions this year Original Impact have vamped up this classic tale with a thoroughly modern, and musical, twist under the direction of Sam Dunstan. Currently running at the Blue Elephant Theatre in Camberwell this production works contemporary music into the narrative of Twelfth Night to give...

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In Focus: Our Pick of The Brighton Fringe

The Brighton Fringe (not to be confused with the Brighton Festival) is England’s biggest arts festival, and one of the largest in the world. This year it runs from 4th May to the 4th June encompassing two bank holiday weekends and the May half term holiday. The Festival provides a platform for creativity across the arts from theatre to comedy, dance to opera, and showcases talent from all over the world. Unlike many other worldwide fringe festivals as it has expanded it has still retained the charm and inclusivity that has made it a calling...

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Pushing Boundaries: in Conversation with Jazz Plus Productions

Founded in 2015, Jazz Plus Productions have an explicit “desire to uproot the UK jazz scene”.[1] To pursue this ambition, and in the process get a whole new younger generation experiencing and enjoying jazz music, Jazz Plus Productions both organise live gigs in London, and have their own record label – onto which they look to sign promising bands and thus distribute their music to a wider audience. In order to find out more about this young enterprise, culturised caught up with the two founders of Jazz Plus Productions, Charles Price and...

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Nuclear Tensions and Writing Plays: In Conversation with Vanessa Oakes

We here at culturised caught up with playwright Vanessa Oakes to discuss her latest project All is Well and her journey into becoming a professional playwright. All is Well examines the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster and tells the story of Aleks, Stefan, and Nina as they try to reconnect in the aftermath and lingering fear of radiation. Vanessa has been a full-time playwright since 2007 and her works have been performed in theatres, art galleries and museums, community spaces, coal vaults, beneath a ring road, and in an award-winning...

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DAMN son, where’d you find this? – Thoughts on Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar released his fourth studio album last week, entitled simply, DAMN. Like previous releases, DAMN has garnered rave reviews, and constant praise for Kendrick is impossible to miss for anyone remotely interested in rap. With that being said, nobody’s perfect and I’d like to draw a line between Kendrick the artist, and Kendrick the messiah. In a genre made for placing its heroes (among other things) on pedestals, Kendrick Lamar stands out as the current central figure. While Kanye West’s streak of seminal creativity has been...

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‘Half a Sixpence’ at the Noël Coward Theatre

Half a Sixpence is in many ways the ultimate throwback to the Golden Age of the quaint British musical. Driven by strong accents, songs about the rain, and its plucky-underdog-against-society narrative, this is a musical cuts to the heart of the British tradition. Producer Cameron Mackintosh has teamed up with writer Julian Fellowes to rejuvenate this classic show, which launched the career of Tommy Steele in the 1960s. Fellowes (fresh from writing Downton Abbey) has adapted H. G. Well’s original classic Kipps: The Story of a Simple Soul...

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Gowld a Gowpens: the 50th Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering

Have you ever been to a muckle fligarishon? Or had some gowld a gowpens? Well, this weekend at the fiftieth Northumbrian Gathering in Morpeth, Northumberland you can lowp till ye cowp (or at least find out what that means). The whole town will be taking part in the muckle fligarishon (big party) as dancers, writers, musicians, performers, artists and storytellers gather to celebrate the richness of Northumberland’s traditions and their gowld a gowpens (overflowing gold riches). Since its inception fifty years ago, the festival has aimed to...

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‘Shit-Faced Shakespeare: Much Ado About Nothing’

One of the most wonderfully volatile fringe theatre productions of recent years has set up shop in London’s Leicester Square Theatre: this is Shakespeare, but not as you know it. Established in 2010, and self-described as the “deeply highbrow fusion of an entirely serious Shakespeare play with an entirely shit-faced cast member”,[1] “Shit-Faced Shakespeare” attempt to perform a heavily condensed version of one of the Bard’s classics whilst having to contend with the unexpected outbursts of one heavily inebriated cast member. What results is a...

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The Evolution of The York Mystery Plays’ Crucifixion: New Perspectives on Christ’s Sacrifice

As part of the traditional Corpus Christi Feast, The York Mystery Plays were a city and guild-wide collaborative performance that presented some of the most popular and meaningful aspects of biblical tales in an unusual and extraordinarily inclusive way. Play 35, or the “Crucifixio Christi”,[1] is the explicitly violent climax of the section referred to as “The Passion”: detailing the Soldiers efforts to “secur[e] Christ to the cross and rais[e] it into place”.[2] Since the banning of the Corpus Christi Feast during the Reformation in 1548,...

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Cheek by Jowl: ‘The Winter’s Tale’

Cheek by Jowl are a theatre company that pride themselves on being innovative and offering something a little different. With an emphasis on producing theatre in a variety of different languages (namely English, French, and Russian), they have also to date delivered the British premieres of ten European classics.[1] The foundation of their repertoire, however, has always been Shakespeare, and so it is a welcome sight to see them back on the London stage with their current production of The Winter’s Tale. This production (in English),...

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Androgynous Heresy: ‘JOAN’ at the Ovalhouse

JOAN: Milk Presents, in association with Derby Theatre Underbelly, Cowgate (Venue 61) Aug 21-25, 27 at 19:20 Box Office Adults £11.50 / Concessions £10.50 “I am Joan. The Joan. My body deliciously confusing. And I will speak. I will fight.” Joan of Arc has been represented and re-represented almost continually on the English stage since the time of Shakespeare (for more information, see here), but she remains an enigma that baffles historians and intrigues creatives. Concurrently with this production of Lucy Skilbeck’s JOAN touring for the...

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Brave New Word – ‘Legacy: What We Leave Behind’

Self-described as a “Nomadic showcase of London’s new writing talent”,[1] Brave New Word provides a performance space for newly written pieces of all genres, setting them alongside each other in order to explore a particular theme. Established in 2015, previous themes explored by Brave New Word include Instantmatch: Love in the Age of Tinder and Breakup Britain: Out of the Ashes of Brexit, and last week saw the coming together of fifteen new pieces of writing to examine the theme, Legacy: What We Leave Behind. In a time where...

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Le Gateau Chocolat: ‘Black’

The advertising for this production of Le Gateau Chocolat: Black features prominently a quote from Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”. This piece of wisdom from Angelou can often be found superimposed over photographs of dramatic sunsets to be shared on social media, but it makes perfect sense to attach it to Black. This is a show in which Le Gateau Chocolat really does birth an untold story and offers an often heart-breaking, but also regularly humorous...

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Morality and the Law: ‘Consent’ at the National Theatre

“Of course it’s ‘them’. We’re not them. Which is why we’re paid to represent them. Because they can’t string two words together.” Nina Raine’s new play, Consent, at the Dorfman is brought to us by Out of Joint, a company who pride themselves on taking productions out of London. This, though, is a London play and the National is the right place for it. Consent follows a group of high-powered barristers defending/prosecuting rapists in the daytime and retiring in the evenings for vodka or red wine to each other’s...

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Physical Sound: Gabriele Reuter and Mattef Kuhlmey’s ‘The Amplitude’

Sound and movement are not as distinctly separate as you might think. Through The Amplitude – an amalgam of an informative lecture and contemporary dance performance –  Gabriele Reuter and Mattef Kuhlmey take their audience on a journey in order to broaden our understanding of how sound moves through the world we inhabit. On Reuter’s website it says, “By tuning into the simple idea of the acoustic wave, The Amplitude reveals relationship between sound and movement and remixes their channels of perception”.[1] This show is an interesting...

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Fighting Against the Tide: ‘Sea Fret’ At the Old Red Lion Theatre

 “A ‘clean up’, that’s what they’re calling this, they’ll clean us up along with it, this’ll be the beginning. They’ve got no qualms taking away the actual history of a place.”[1] The Old Red Lion Theatre, one of London’s finest fringe theatre venues, is currently playing host to the debut of Tallulah Brown’s Sea Fret. Described on the back of the published edition of the script as “a paean to her native Suffolk coastline”,[2] Sea Fret sees Brown explore the damage being wrought by coastal erosion on local history and communities on England’s...

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Seeking Refuge in the Ancient World: The Suppliant Women at the Manchester Royal Exchange

The drama of the ancient world resonates in the present day in the new production of Aeschylus’ The Suppliant Women, currently being staged by the Actors Touring Company at Manchester’s Royal Exchange theatre. Based on a little-known legend, the play tells the story of the fifty daughters of Danaos, who flee Egypt to escape forced marriage to their cousins, the sons of King Aegyptos. They seek refuge in the Greek city of Argos, where they enter the temple of Zeus, seeking protection from the god on the grounds that they are descended from...

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Getting Down and Dirty: ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at the Young Vic

The Young Vic’s current production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is not the whimsical comedy about naïve lovers and pesky fairies that one may expect. It is an earthy (literally) exploration of the dark side of human relationships, and the role of theatre in society. Director Joe Hill-Gibbons said in an interview with The Guardian that Shakespeare’s Dream is “really quite a deep and dark play about how difficult it is to sustain relationships, and the way people manipulate and hurt each other, even torture each other, intentionally or...

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Rounds: Humanising Junior Doctors

“It’s like I’m on this treadmill… and somebody else is choosing the gears” Our current unending media frenzy about healthcare has made the figure of “the doctor” a somewhat dehumanised entity. The real people who work to keep the NHS functioning are subsumed into the larger political entity of the profession as a whole: pieces on a chessboard whose lives are subject to various “efficiency savings”.  Rounds is a show that delves beneath the headlines and the politics of the current crisis in the NHS to examine the human aspect of being a...

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‘More Life’ by Drake and ‘HNDRXX’ by Future: New Approaches

Frequent collaborators Drake and Future make for interesting musical bedfellows, though it is easy to see how these opposites attract. Drake’s meteoric rise to global superstardom has frequently been marred by claims from those in the wider hip-hop community that his pop appeal, sensitive persona, and middle-class Canadian upbringing prevent him from aspiring to the “realness” which is the cornerstone of so many rappers’ personalities. The same cannot be said for Atlanta born trap-balladeer and strip club enthusiast Future. For Future, who...

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Antigone in Derry: Performance, Resistance, and the “colonized Irish son”

It is well known amongst literary critics that Irish literature, both in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland, has a long-running relationship with ancient Greek drama.  As W. H. Auden stated, “Each nation […] fashion[s] a classical Greece in its own image”.[1]  One of the clearest and best-known examples of this is Tom Paulin’s 1984 drama The Riot Act: A Version of Antigone by Sophocles, written for performance by the Field Day Theatre Company in Derry, Northern Ireland.  The play is one of four re-workings of the Antigone myth to...

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‘Undermined’ in Conversation: Miners and Flyers

Undermined is a play inspired by the accounts of miners who lived through the era defining UK miners’ strike of 1984-85. Originally called Shafted, the play depicts a year where friendships were strengthened and communities came together through their shared experience of incredibly difficult conditions. Young miner Dale takes the audience through his own touching story recounting the events of that particularly troubling year. Undermined explores the personal cost of the miner’s strike, but also endeavours to find some vestiges of humour...

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A Rare Opportunity: ‘One Was Nude & One Wore Tails’ at The Hen & Chickens Theatre

“And all because I met a naked ambas­sador…” Theatre of Heaven & Hell are a company who describe themselves as an ensemble “dedicated to producing absurdist plays and reviving forgotten gems”.[1] This is an admirable ambition, especially given the state of the world right now, and their current production of Dario Fo’s One Was Nude & One Wore Tails is a great example of the value in bringing often forgotten plays back to life on the stage. The intimate Hen & Chickens Theatre is also a perfect fit for the show as it keeps the...

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“I have nothing | Of woman in me”: Renaissance Tragic Women and the Performance of Gender

It is tempting to see something masculine in the powerful women of Renaissance tragedy, to hold apart those who break the norm of submissive femininity in their refusal to be passive victims. Yet this view is hindered by its assumptions of masculine and feminine behaviour, in which the men are the figures of authority and power and women the silent, disenfranchised sufferers, and femininity is defined primarily as being “Other”. Obvious problems arise with this categorisation when the source of power – the rulers and monarchs – are women, as...

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Brody Dalle: Punk Queen

2003 shaped my life. I finally reached double digits (plus the lofty heights of Year 6 to boot) and, perhaps more importantly, School of Rock was released. After being brought up on the Beatles, 70s guitar music and being a total goody two-shoes, this was my jam. One scene in particular sticks in my mind: Jack Black’s character poring over an intricate spider-diagram of “Rock History” on the chalk board. I made it a conscious mission to explore every genre that a (fictional) rocker had deemed it necessary for (fictional) downtrodden children...

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Joan of Arc on the English Stage: From Shakespeare to Shaw

Joan of Arc has been a dominant figure in both medieval studies and in culture more generally, especially following her late canonisation in the early twentieth century. The daughter of peasants, Joan of Arc managed to go from the fields of Domrémy to the court of the Dauphin Charles VII in a life that lasted only nineteen years. She first appears on history’s radar when she arrived at the siege of Orléans claiming that the voices she heard had instructed her to lift the siege and have the Valois Prince crowned on the French Throne, usurping...

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A Promising Start to a National Tour: ‘Oyster Boy’ at The Blue Elephant Theatre

Oyster Boy: Haste Theatre Assembly George Square Theatre (Venue 8) Aug 3-16, 19-28 at 12:40 Box Office Adults £9 / Concessions £8 Haste Theatre – an all female company that focuses on incorporating physical expression, clown, and live music into storytelling – have revived their award-winning show Oyster Boy for a UK tour that lasts until the 14th of May. The play is inspired by Tim Burton’s poem, The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy,[1] but it is much lighter and more optimistic than its source material. Whereas the poem is a story of...

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A Play that Holds Its Own: Ugly Lies the Bone at the National Theatre

“Beauty is but skin deep, ugly lies the bone. Beauty dies and fades away, but ugly holds its own.” This anonymous quote inspired the title of Lindsey Ferrentino’s newly written one-act play, showing at the National Theatre until the 6th of June. This is quite a debut from Ferrentino: Ugly Lies the Bone is an important and gripping exploration of what it’s like for a person to return home after unimaginable trauma, but it is also an assertion of the value to be found in life, even one that seems monotonous and uninspiring. Taking inspiration...

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Theatre Outside the Box: ‘All of Me’ at the Vault Festival

Gareth is a man with a problem. Battling a gambling addiction, when his job at Prime Travel Agency is “taken from him” things begin to spiral out of control. All of Me is an exploration of the inner workings of Gareth’s mind, and tells the story of how his inner turmoil sparks greater problems. This newly written play from young company Anything Other is undertaking a run at London’s Vault Festival following an incredibly successful run at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe. Written by Martin Brett and under the artistic direction of Liz...

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Improv vs Ageism: ‘Lost Without Words’ at the National Theatre

Next month, the National Theatre will play host to Improbable’s “theatrical experiment”[1] Lost Without Words. Having not come across the company before, I delved into Improbable’s website to discover that they are a company seeking a change, in the broadest of terms: yearning for difference in community, society, and the world. Scrolling past an emotion-fuelled statement on the power of creativity, there is a small but significant focus on Improbable’s use of improvisation in both rehearsal and performance. Describing their performance mode...

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Freedom of Movement: ‘The End of Dance’ at the Vault Festival

Dance is now illegal. Under the restrictive mobility act, movement as a form of expression has been completely banned. It has fallen to three unlikely heroes to save dance for all: a trio of dancing MPs are fighting back. The End of Dance at the Vault Festival highlights the continued importance of fringe theatre in political satire with an experimental and provocative performance. Colin (Yann Allsopp), Nigella, (Rebecca Kenny), and Liz (Sophie Winter) deliver a fighting performance as we are forced to realise just how easily our own rights...

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More Than Gender Trouble: ‘Twelfth Night’ at the National Theatre

In the National Theatre’s current production of Twelfth Night, showing until the 13th of May, Tamsin Greig takes to the stage as Malvolia: an act of gender inversion unusual even to a play in which the plot revolves around gender misidentification. This may be the most eye-catching aspect of this production, and indeed has been the bedrock of the advertising campaign for the show, but it is by no means the play’s only notable quality. Under the direction of Simon Godwin, this cast creates a brilliantly funny spectacle and also brings to life...

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Longing for More: The Glass Menagerie at Duke of York’s Theatre

Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie is ostensibly the story of two women and two men in 1940s America, but really it’s a story about people – all people. It’s the story of anyone who’s ever dreamed of something they couldn’t have, or felt trapped by their socio-economic/psychological situation, or been hugely exasperated by their mother. Much like his contemporary Arthur Miller, Williams has a way of making drama out of the everyday, and telling wonderful stories through depictions of ordinary life. For a West End theatre, this is risky...

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A Rush and a Push and the Land is Ours: Digital Innovation and the Music Industry

How Soon is Now? Music, as a form of expression, has changed very little in human history; what has changed massively is the way it is produced, distributed and consumed. This is especially true since the advent of digital technology, with all forms of media becoming more ubiquitous and readily available. The shift from analogue to digital has had an unprecedented impact on those involved in the music industry. The way that artists, consumers and all the agents between them interact has become ever more fluid and ill-defined as the industry...

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‘Hedda Gabler’ at the National Theatre: An Existential Exploration

“There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.” These words from Albert Camus’ essay The Myth of Sisyphus (1942)[1], although penned in mid-twentieth century France, are as relevant to Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler (1891) as they are to French existentialism. Often regarded as “the female Hamlet”, Hedda Gabler is a powerful exploration of what it truly means to be alive. Hedda ponders the choice of actions with which she is faced now the myriad opportunities of her youth have faded away; becoming more and more...

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“You Think I Give a F—k About a Grammy?”: Outlandish Expectations of Outdated Awards

“You think I give a fuck about a Grammy? Half of you critics can’t even stomach me, let alone stand me” (Eminem, “Real Slim Shady”, 2000) In recent memory there has been no shortage of voices decrying the Grammy Awards. Year[1] after year[2] (after year[3]) the ceremony faces a backlash against its picks for various high profile awards, frequently in perceived snubs towards artists of colour in favour of white performers. 2017 was no different; in fact the trouble started unusually early this year with a number of artists claiming in advance...

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Challenging Ableism in Theatre: The House of Bernarda Alba at the Manchester Royal Exchange

The House of Bernarda Alba is considered to be Spanish dramatist Gabriel Garcia Lorca’s masterpiece both because it is a great tragedy of women’s frustrated lives, and because the playwright’s own life was cut short before he could produce a play to rival it. Lorca completed the play in 1936, two months before he was executed by General Franco’s rebellious forces for his sexuality and opposition to Fascism. The surviving play is a powerful testimony to the footprint of despotism within a family and a nation. This new staging of The House of...

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The Vault Festival: Cicada Studios’ ‘Blood & Bone’ and Puppetry for Grown-ups

A plant puppet ejaculated onto my leg during an incredibly prickly sex scene with a Spanish rose that had recently undergone plastic surgery. Oddly enough this wasn’t actually the strangest part of my evening. Cicada’s sell-out production of Blood & Bone at the Vault Festival is an example of everything that is great about fringe theatre. Centred around four (rather rude) plant puppets, the actors deliver a clever and witty political satire that borders on the hallucinogenic and leaves you wondering exactly what it was you just saw....

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Modern Art and Old Friends: Yasmin Reza’s ‘Art’ at the Old Vic

What would you do if an old friend, who may be financially well-off but is no multi-millionaire, spent one hundred thousand euros on a painting? And what if that painting consisted of nothing more than some diagonal white lines imprinted on a white canvas? This is the scenario that Yasmina Reza’s one-act play, Art, explores with both humour and poignant drama. Originally written in French, the first English translation of the play opened in London in 1996. To mark the twentieth anniversary of the show making it across the Channel, Christopher...

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Down in the Vaults: Our Pick of London’s Vault Festival

25th January – 5th March, The Vaults, Waterloo, London. In what has been dubbed “London’s answer to the Edinburgh Fringe”[1] The Vaults in London are bringing an action packed six weeks to Waterloo. Deep underground hundreds of brand new shows will be previewing across the next month. Some will be weird, some will be extraordinary, all will be fun.  Last year saw record audience numbers and this year has seen record production applications and so in 2017 there are some new venues expanding around the Waterloo area as well as the...

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Sondheim’s Rhymes: Pointing Sense

Rhyme is a device to which Stephen Sondheim pays meticulously precise care and attention; he opens Finishing the Hat, the first volume of his 2010 autobiography, with an essay entitled Rhyme and its Reasons. Alexander Pope wrote in 1711 of the power of “sure returns of still expected rhymes”[1] to bore the reader/listener to the point of “sleep”. Sondheim uses rhyme selectively both to keep his lyrics from the monotony of such “sure returns” and as a means of characterization. Particularly with characters trying to maintain control of their...

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Ed Sheeran and the Romance of Class

In December 2015 Ed Sheeran announced a break from his phone, emails, and social media. Explaining his reasoning on Instagram, Sheeran blamed “miss[ing]” things in the real world because of technology’s reliance on “seeing the world through a screen”[1]. The idea is not groundbreaking. Even in a society hanging on every technological advancement, there exists a widespread anxiety over the stifling impact smartphones have on our personal lives—and Sheeran is hardly the first celebrity to express this sort of displeasure. Exactly one year after...

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2017: A Year In Theatre

Looking ahead to this year’s theatre offerings 2017 is set to be a year of highs (and perhaps some tremendous lows). Here at culturised we have been busy preparing our picks of this years upcoming theatre, as well as our top tips on how to get tickets.

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Pilot Theatre: Made In India

Satinder Chohan’s Made in India will debut at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry on January 24. Presented by London-based company Tamasha, in association with York-based Pilot Theatre, the play will explore birth and motherhood against the back drop of India. Village girl Aditi has come to a surrogacy clinic to offer her services, hoping to find her way out of poverty. Londoner Eva has travelled thousands of miles for her last chance at becoming a mother. Dr Gupta is there to run a clinic and offer just another “transaction”[1]. The play comes...

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Movement in Translation in The Cherry Orchard and The Storm

Movement is as central in conveying meaning from the stage to the audience as any script. I came to realise this during my work as a Movement Director for the production of three Russian plays performed at the University of East Anglia in December 2016, including both The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov and The Storm by Aleksandr Ostrovsky. The Cherry Orchard tells the story of an aristocratic family whose wealth is under threat, as they are torn between their attachment to the past and the irresistible pull of the future. The Storm follows...

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The Tempest: CGI at the RSC

As part of the celebrations surrounding the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) has partnered with Intel and Imaginarium Studios to incorporate a revolutionary new ingredient into live theatre: CGI and performance capture technology. This production of The Tempest is currently being performed at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon until the end of January, resuming again at the Barbican Theatre, London later this summer. The technologically enhanced production will particularly...

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