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Review: Tragedia Jana (Festiwal Retroperspektywy, Łódź)

After being sufficiently upset by Akty immediately before, I wasn’t quite sure I was up for a “tragedy”. What’s more, I wasn’t sure I was up for a biblical one. Tragedia Jana, translating as “The Tragedy of John”, is the tale of John the Baptist. But, if anyone was going to do something better than just a so-so Salome, it would be Chorea and Warsaw Scenic Society.


Scene from ‘Tragedia Jana’. Photograph: courtesy of Rami Shaya.

Tekst / Writing

Although taking its narrative from the bible, Chorea, working with Warsaw Scenic Society, stage what is actually a very old Polish play; Jakub Gawatobic’s 1619, “Tragedy or Images of the Death of Saint John the Baptist God’s Messenger” (I’m not even going to attempt typing or pronouncing the original Polish).

But how do you make a work that’s half a millennium old interesting, modern, and exciting?

Well, it’s all down to this theatrical partnership’s brilliant work with direction and physical theatre.

Tragedia Jana is a superlative example of how to make an ancient text resonate as if it were a modern one. Director Waldemar Raźniak, working closely alongside choreographer Liwia Bargieł, give the play a striking sense of daring chic and divine spark.

Where the text clunks and stumbles with its antiquated metre and obtuse disappeared dialects, Raźniak and Bargieł’s use physical theatre to makes Tragedia Jana’s 75-minute run-time feel like 7 seconds in heaven.

It’s the physical theatre that keeps the pace going, pushing the age and awkwardness of the text itself into the wings, giving visual strong visual storytelling the central spotlight. This makes sure that the performance and experience of watching Tragedia Jana is lively and limber rather than dull and doddering.


Scene from ‘Tragedia Jana’. Photograph: courtesy of Rami Shaya.

Reżyseria / Direction

As for how Raźniak approaches the text, there are some wonderful subversions on the theme of faith. One example is Gawatobic’s demons, who goad and usher John on to his fate, being depicted here as Suffi dancers. It turns holy and sacred into profane, including setting the stage for some really arresting moments. Specifically, the intoxicating spinning they do at sheer crescendos in the play’s narrative.

There’s also a general feel that John’s demise was far from a divine revelation, touching on issues such as fundamentalism and how piety does not always contribute to the greater good. 

Elsewhere, Raźniak and Bargieł take plenty of opportunities to create some spellbinding moments. The baptism scene involves the company spitting water over John. It’s quite an image to see Tomasz Rodowicz crouched down on the floor with a dozen people circling and spraying him with liquid and spit that they discharge high into the air, sparking in the spotlighting.

One particular pinnacle of the show for me was Salome’s dance in an attempt to seduce John. After the frenzied erotic movements erupting and fidgeting all around the performance area directly before it, Salome takes centre stage, downlit and dancing hypnotically along to Tomasz Krzyżanowski astonishing religious white noise. It completely consumes your attention.

As Salome’s gyrating reaches an arousing climax, John stumbles towards her, covers her barely clothed body in his shawl, and collapses at her feet.

I have very rarely been so hooked in a moment that it left my mouth so agape and feeling utterly astounded. Yet, Raźniak and Bargieł better even this incredible moment with an absolutely knockout finale.


Scene from ‘Tragedia Jana’. Photograph: Courtesy of Rami Shaya.

Producja / Production

While I have already mentioned Krzyżanowski treatment of Salome’s dance scene, it must be mentioned that the rest of his music and sound design is as equally as spellbinding. Most notably, the use of stereo, placing sound and music both in front, behind, and to the sides of you, is so amazingly disorientating that “immersive” doesn’t even start to cover it.

Lighting is also crucial to the show. Moments when shafts of light, spot, or downlighting are played around with, especially with what the company does in the darkness these create, augmenting the striking imagery of the show’s unapologetic verve.

Emil Wysocki’s costumes add that final layer of gloss on this fantastic production. The modern costumes really help to make this 500-year-old play feel modern. From Herod’s leopard-skin dressing gown, and his wife in skin-tight tight shimmering black clothes and large Hollywood sunglasses, to John’s humble grey hoodie and jeans, makes you forget the age of the play. This is contrasted against the chorus’ wool-rag wardrobe and the demon’s beige and floating Suffi skirts, creating a stark contrast.


Scene from ‘Tragedia Jana’. Photograph: courtesy of Rami Shaya.

Występ / Performance

One of the most irritating things about seeing such an ensemble like this is that it’s insanely difficult to pick out any specific performances.

In Tragedia Jana, they are pretty much a single indomitable entity.

Everything that happens in the performance feels like it’s owned and is equally the work of every member of the company. Given the sheer physical energy and acrobatics they’re all involved in, it’s not surprising that the camaraderie and collaboration are firmly imprinted in everything they do.


Scene from ‘Tragedia Jana’. Photograph: Courtesy of Rami Shaya.

Ostatni Słowa / Final Words

Never before has a bible story been so alive, and so gobsmackingly sensuous and sensory. Sex, saints, and rock ‘n’ roll make for a rollickingly visionary piece of physical theatre. Hallelujah!

Tragedia Jana is currently touring PolandFor more dates, location, and more information  about performances, as well as information about “Festiwal Restroperspektywy” and “Teatr Chorea”, please visit

Theatre Review: The Collective Project (Camden People’s Theatre, London)

the_pensive_federation_cup1Rating: ****

In A Nutshell

The Pensive Federation’s pressure-cooker remit brings out a breadth of variety and ingenuity.


The Pensive Federation has tasked eight writers to team up with eight directors and twelve actors to create twelve minute pieces inspired by a collective noun and explore power and gender. The result is a really interesting collection of new writing. In Artistic Directors Neil J. Byden and Serena Haywood’s own words,

“…we believe that the time pressure has a an unlocking effect on peoples’ creativity.”

Whilst it certainly has done that, the most interesting element is not so much tapping into a latent talent within each writer, but the clear evidence of each collaboration within each piece, especially with the actors. Across the pieces, you start to see each actor playing similar roles: almost type-casting themselves. But in doing so, both the writing and performance are well delivered and feel effortless when this happens. The same can be said for the direction in certain pieces, where the collaboration has brought out an expert directional vision too.

Whilst only a handful of pieces have managed to create something truly surprising, given the race against the clock, all works are of a solid quality.

Squad, by Martin Malcolm
Dir: Eduard Lewis
Rating: ***

Certainly the most current of the piece, set in a shopping mall during a Black Friday sales. It starts off as a growing and brutal look at small-minded authority, where power corrupts abhorrently. Yet, just as things start to get really dramatic, Malcolm pips in with comic relief that destroys any tension and gravitas, feeling like things are hurriedly tied-up as the twelve minute gong approaches. Malcolm doesn’t quite capitalise on the subject’s potential perhaps because of this imposed brevity, and is something that might be more powerful if it were a longer and more paced piece.

Faculty, by Sherhan Lingham
Dir: Neil J. Byden
Rating: *****

Teacher dramas are nothing new, but none the less Lingham has managed to find a fresh narrative through embracing The Pensive Federation’s remit. Here, she really plays with ideas of separate characteristics, personality clashes, and collectivism, whilst cleverly drawing parallels between bullying among children and adults. Lingham manages to create a story from start to finish that doesn’t feel squeezed into it’s twelve minute window, and remains organic throughout.

The entire cast here also embrace their characters here incredibly well. John Rayment gives a commanding performance as the smug and conniving headmaster. Jared Rodgers, as the member of staff on the fringes of the clique upon who’s actions everything hinges upon, takes the pace to a wonderful apex of suspense.

Chapter, by Alan Flannigan
Dir: Madeline Moore
Rating: *****

Perhaps my favourite piece of the evening. Flannigan, like Lingham, has really embraced the remit to create something that’s clever and intelligent as well as pacey. Particularly, the exploration of a sense of togetherness despite the fact that the characters and dialogue are isolated and fractured from each other. It starts off incredibly enigmatic leaving you wondering what the narrative is, until it all starts to slowly piece together with different perspectives from all angles. As the picture slowly unveils itself, a gripping drama unfolds.

This is also a piece where the direction is just as inspired as the writing. Moore isn’t scared of silences to build drama and tension, and manages to keep a sense of pace and activity despite the fact that for the majority of the piece everything is static. Yet, there is one slow crescendo of movement pointing towards the climax, and it’s engrossing.

Bouquet, by Dan Nixon
Dir: Laura Attridge
Rating: ****

A mob family, a partner kept in the lurch, and a black sheep-cum-florist. Nixon subverts the concept of a group by focusing on the outcast of an otherwise tight-knit throng. It’s an incredibly interesting idea, and Nixon’s setting of this among a family of East End gangsters is one that offers drama and intrigue. Yet, as clever and as engaging to watch as it is, you get the feeling that there’s a bigger piece behind the snapshot here. When the twelve minutes are up you really want to see it go further, especially given the relationship you build with the central long-suffering character.

The collaboration between writer and director is also really strong here. There’s a flurry of action that goes on around the central character, for which they’re very much stuck powerless in the background for. Yet Nixon and Attridge write and direct in a manner that mean’s they’re not lost or forgotten about, even if everything that goes on around them doesn’t at all involve them. It’s incredibly meticulous and well executed, with just the right amount of interjections to remind you that the main character is still there, whilst directionally making sure the character is visible and central, though dis-attached, to the action at all times.

Rodgers, again, proves his ability for playing a withdrawing character, this time with a real tenderness and charm that strikes a rapport and an empathy with the audience without really trying.

It’s just a shame the piece feels more like an extract than a microcosm. More of this, please!

Audience, by Isla Gray
Dir: Jessica Radcliffe
Rating: ***

Game shows are ridiculous, and this is something that Gray really brings out. A group of contestants must work as a team against each other. Gray’s rainbow of characters and ridicule of trash TV certainly brings out some great observational jokes. Yet overall, this piece doesn’t seem to say too much or go very far with regards to plot progression. In fact, the build-up to the crux seems to be padded out: one of the pieces where it feels like twelve minutes is a little too long instead of being too short. An amusing diversion, but one that has the least amount of impact in exploring the themes of “collection”, especially when compared to the others. Whilst there would otherwise be some great fodder for character exploration, all personas involved feel a little too shallow to really amount to much other than a few laughs and a flash-in-the-pan comedy.

Bench, by Guleraana Mir
Dir: Neil Sheppeck
Rating: ****

This is a sweet little piece, looking at a bunch of misfits who go to play football every weekend, although invariably mostly ending up on the bench watching their team lose. There’s certainly some charming interactions between the cacophony of characters here, bringing out a homely humanity between them. Even if the narrative doesn’t really go anywhere in the twelve minutes, it’s still a satisfying still-life of how and why six people who couldn’t be more opposite find solace in coming together, even if it never goes the way they expect it to. A great little piece of character comedy.

Murmuration, by Kate Webster
Dir: Rhiannon Robertson
Rating: ***

Another piece that’s very current, looking at homelessness at Christmas. Two volunteers have set out to host a Christmas party for those who have been displaced; one a regular volunteer, and the other there out of circumstance rather than of charity. Webster’s exploration of the different types of people and personalities that make up both the homeless and the volunteers is refreshing and doesn’t linger or labour on any easy stereotypes. Their characters are fully realised and all are believable and interesting people.

Yet, although a nice exploration how group dynamics can bring out different things in different people, it doesn’t offer anything overly surprising, despite one of the characters’ back-stories. What’s more, towards the end the catalysts start to come too quick and too obviously, feeling less than organic. Again, a sense that it’s trying to rush through its epiphanies and tie everything up before time runs out. Otherwise, there’s potential for a something deep and meaningful if it had a bit more space to breathe and develop.

Host, by Camilla Whitehill

Dir: Chloe Mashiter
Rating: ****

Whitehill has created a wonderfully comic titbit despite the stringent remit. She creates a situation and a cast of characters that naturally finds the funny rather than trying to force something through. However, Whitehill still manages to keep it within the essence of the showcase. Playing wonderfully with the title, Host, Whitehill toys with both the singular and the collective meaning of the noun: a strong leader among the group of friends, trying to support one of their own via an intervention.Only one or two of the jokes are over-laboured a little, but otherwise, it’s a strong piece of comedy. It’s tight, it’s funny, and it’s all you can really ask for to round off the evening.

Again, this is another example of where the actors and writer have worked well together to create a piece that capitalises on their talents and personalities. Katherine Rodden is fantastic as the down and out misanthrope; Neil J. Byrden brings out some great visual moments as the fool of the piece, and Helen Jessica Liggat is steadfast as the mastermind and head of the group of friends. A strong piece that really embraces and excels in what the evening has set out to do.


Everything showcased here is certainly solid and an achievement given the remit. But some writers have certainly thrived better than others. But even then, whilst some might not have prospered in the twelve day, twelve minute window given, they’ve still come up with potential for developing their ideas into longer works. An intriguing evening of intelligence and ingenuity.

The Collective Project took place at the Camden People’s Theatre, London, NW1 2PY from 17-20 December 2014. For more information about The Pensive Federation, visit

Playwrights open submission brief – Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents..Desire

Submissions are open for “Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents…”! I heartily encourage all writers out there to submit. A really interesting concept for a new writing evening. 🙂

Whoop 'n' Wail

What is Represents…?

With brand new plays from both male and female writers, Represents… is a showcase with a difference.

Whoop ‘n’ Wail have committed to achieving gender equality on the UK stage by creating a night of entertaining, engaging theatre with all plays having significant roles for women.

Consisting of six fifteen-minute shorts, each piece of writing must pass the Bechdel Test –

they must include at least two named female characters who, at some stage, talk to each other about something other than a man. Inspired by Alison Bechdel’s 1987 comic strip, The Rules, the Bechdel Test has become the benchmark for gauging fair representation on stage and screen.

The sold-out launch of Represents… in Nov 2014 featured work by both established and emerging playwrights and directors invited by the curators to kick off the inaugural event. For future nights, each will have an overarching theme, with…

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Theatre Review: Loaded (Jack Studio Theatre, London)

An intense relationship. Gemma Paget (left) and Andrew Murton (right). Photograph: Courtesy of Ruth Anthony.

An intense relationship. Gemma Paget (left) and Andrew Murton (right). Photograph: Courtesy of Ruth Anthony.

Rating: ****

In A Nutshell

Electric writing and a stirring cast, but a narrative that fails to follow through.


Pete owns a garage, with his employees Mick and Hud. His staff are planning a heist to bring in some much needed extra cash, whilst Pete struggles with his failing and dysfunctional relationship with wayward alcoholic Carol. But what will give way first? The two idiots botching a robbery, or the couple who’s love and obsessions verge on violent hatred?


David Bown’s writing is astonishing. His style and vigour is like Harold Pinter snorting crack off a copy of Nuts magazine: frantic, filthy, and sensational. It’s an unstoppable force of veiled fractured sentences, circular conversations, and maddening repetitions that not only adds pace and thrills, but also creates a dangerous enigma around both plot and characters. Bown also juxtaposes this against an attention to detail that verges on the perverted, exalting his writing to being beyond pedestrian. For example, Pete’s monologues are a wonder unto themselves, perfectly capturing his intense fascinations as he spurts torrents of minutia as naturally and as humdrum as taking a piss.

Mick and Hud are also a wonderful written pair of  comic mechanic mechanicals. There’s a brilliant synchronism in the two characters, even if their personalities might be at odds, making them an engrossing pair to watch bumble by. But they embody something more than comic relief, and cross over to and play complex catalysts to Pete and Carol’s story at various points. It’s an excellent execution of plot depth and intrigue.

However, even thought the play’s crescendo is hectic and deafening, what really lets Loaded down is that after the two story arcs apex with literal bangs, it just doesn’t seem to have amounted to anything. You’re hooked from the beginning with Bown’s intense writing style, having to sit through some brutal and uncomfortable moments of misogyny and sexual violence, to only be left deflated: feeling that you’ve not achieved any satisfaction. Bown’s text even acknowledges that the resolve is, at best, bewildering. But this moment of self-awareness doesn’t make up for the fact that there’s no real pay-off to the narrative.

It could be that this is some sort of metaphysical point that Bown is trying to make, and that there’s some higher abstract that I’ve simply failed to grasp. That doesn’t necessarily make this a terrible ending to Loaded, but it certainly doesn’t meet the expectations that Bown so tremendously creates at the start.

Christopher Ward (left) and Nick Rogers (right). Photograph: Courtesy of Ruth Anthony.

Christopher Ward (left) and Nick Rogers (right). Photograph: Courtesy of Ruth Anthony.

Direction & Production

Sean McGarth’s production embodies the level of details that Bown writes. If you hadn’t had ventured to the Jack Studio Theatre before, you could swear that it was an actual car mechanic’s outfit in a life past. But as well as the set being painstakingly realistic, McGarth adds some nice directional details too. The scenes changes, particularly, add a nice sense of continuity between moments, even if you just about see what’s going on in the dim of the dirty fluorescent tube lighting. It gives a sense of that other reality that Bown so craftily keeps almost hidden through his writing, until you’re thrust back into the actual story with a loud crunch of metal against metal and a blinding light change. There are also nice little touches with the choice of music to accompany these scene changes, either complimenting or mocking the action of the scene that’s just been played out.

But ultimately, McGarth ensures that the pace never drops, and that it grips tightly around the gullet until the final (if somewhat limp) release of the climax, even if that means keeping the cast screeching through their patter-clad back and forth with almost inhuman haste. But he also makes sure that time is taken in the less break-neck paced moments, to revel in a different sort of intensity: particularly in the moments between Pete and Carol. He lets these more measured interactions, where characters teeter on the cusp of calamity, sink in with painstaking space and speed, resulting in a devious contrast.


McGarth’s cast is as intense and dexterous as Bown’s writing. Christopher Ward and Nick Rogers and Mick and Hud respectively have a wonderful comic rapport between them that really lifts their characters’ shenanigans beyond patterful banter. But at the same time, they exude hints of more down to earth realities behind their larger than life exploits that adds a sense of interesting vulnerability to them.

But leads Gemma Paget as Carol and Andrew Murton as Pete really command the entire scene. The chemistry between them on stage is so twisted and spiteful it’s actually difficult to imagine them getting on well with each other after the show. Paget, in particular, is domineering as a human being on a disastrous nose-dive, with a frightening devil-may-care attitude and resilience against her bullying lover, Pete. She’s tragically terrifying to watch, even if she is a character that is difficult to like.


Pull up for some of the most explosive writing, pristine production, and exhilarating cast on the fringe. But you might not want to leave the meter running if you’re expecting the pay-off that the show really could do with.


Loaded plays at the Jack Studio Theatre, London, SE4 2DH until 22 November. Tickets are £14 (concessions available). To book, visit

Tips: The Boy Who Climbed Out Of His Face (The Jetty, London)

Shunt artwork - A5 RGB 72dpiShunt’s new show, The Boy Who Climbed Out of His Face is wildly inventive, and something that I found to be quite brilliant. However, I’m completely aware that this is the type of theatre that is going to be quite divisive when it comes to opinion, already demonstrated in The Stage’s luke-warm review, and the comments on Time Out’s review of the show. This is because it’s as far away from the traditional type of theatre, and far more unhinged and off-the-wall than other promenade experiences that have happened in London such as The Drowned Man and In The Beginning Was The End.

So if you’re a little undecided about whether to go or not, or simply want to know how to make the best of your visit then here are some tips from myself.

Getting There

The walk from North Greenwich Underground station is quite straight forward, but it will take around 10 minutes minimum! So make sure you leave plenty of time to get there. However, don’t panic if you’re running a little late. Audience members for a booked time will be let in at several intervals within that half-hour. But still try to make it there on time as the last thing the show needs is people bottlenecking towards the end of each half hour slot: it’ll probably frustrate you a little too.

Dress the Part

1. Wrap up and keep dry.

Although the show takes place inside shipping containers, it’s not entirely inside them. Also, the pop-up food and bar area is uncovered which is where you’ll be held until you’re summoned into Shunt’s intense microcosm. So, as September draws on, remember that things can get a bit wet and chilly.

2. Wear small shoes.

You WILL be required to take off your shoes and socks to enter – no exceptions – and you’ll then be carrying them around with you in a shoe box. Therefore, I wouldn’t recommend boots, high heels, or platforms (!?) because it’s likely you’ll end up carrying two shoe boxes around with you (one per shoe) like I noticed some people did on the night I went. You don’t want to be distracted by cumbersome luggage as this may take away from your enjoyment.

It’s also an easy, but not short walk from North Greenwich station. So probably best to wear something comfortable so you don’t tire out those poor feet before even getting there.

3. Be clean.

You’re barefoot. For the comfort of other audience members, please ensure that you have clean odour-free feet.

Make a Night Of It

1. Try pie. Try.

The venue is not just about the show. It also has its own pop-up bar and food area. The food is certainly worth staying for. It’s reasonably priced with decent sized portions and is more than a little delicious! With the bar and food are open from 5pm – a full hour before the performances kick off – and after the last lot have been in, there’s no reason why you can’t catch a tasty bite.

Highly recommended is the pulled pork: spicy, sweet and succulent, it’s delicious but quite distinct from pulled pork you may have otherwise tasted. Also, be sure to try their homemade rum & raisin ice cream, laced with Kraken Rum. :Q_

2. Stay for the Entertainment

Whilst the show is obviously the main draw, The Jetty will also be putting on a programme of live music and other entertainment in their bar area throughout the duration of the run (schedule tba). So why not plan your evening to take in some of the other things they have to offer.

Remember, the O2 is also a short walk away, so if you could easy take in a film before or after, or even a gig if you time things properly.


The Boy Who Climbed out Of His Face: Official Trailer.

Enjoying the Show – Dos and Don’ts

1. DON’T expect a narrative. DO open yourself to the experience.

As mentioned in my review, whilst there is a definite sequence of events, there isn’t a narrative as such. So don’t expect to try and find one. Instead, open yourself to being whisked through areas of amazing detail and design, and don’t be afraid to get yourself emotionally stuck in this intense and multi-sensory journey. Try to think of it more like a piece of walk-through art. It might not make complete sense, but it’s a spectacle none the less.

This is not a traditional theatre experience. If you don’t like anything outside of traditional theatre experiences, stick to traditional theatre experiences. However, I would encourage everyone to expand their theatrical horizons should they have the time to, even if you end up hating this.

2. DON’T go if you’re scared of dark confined spaces, suffer from photo-sensitive epilepsy, have access needs, or are offended by male nudity.

You’re going to be inside shipping containers for 45 minutes, and some parts of it are quite dark and a little cramped. Several parts of the show also include total black outs. There are also some flashing lights, at points – although never strobe – so those who suffer from photo-sensitive epilepsy should seriously be aware that this could trigger their condition.

Unfortuantely, given the nature of the show and the fact that it’s inside shipping containers, it is completely inaccessible for theatre goers who use a wheelchair. For those who require assistance to get around, do be aware that it is not level and there are steps and obstacles throughout that you’ll be required to move through at a good speed.

As for male nudity, that’s your problem. Not Shunt’s.

3. DON’T be afraid to be afraid. But DO be brave and participate.

As I and Time Out have mentioned, there are parts of the show that are actually terrifying. So expect to be at least a little unnerved. But even so, there are points where you as an individual and/or as a group are singled out and/or left to your own devices. So go with a “can do” attitude and a willingness to put yourself out there, even if it is a little petrifying.

4. DO go with friends.

Relating to the point above, going with friends is actually a good idea here. Whilst for shows like The Drowned Man and In The Beginning Was the End audience members were encouraged to go off individually to explore and have an individual experience, there’s not really much scope to do that here. Therefore, find strength in numbers by a coercing a loved one or a couple of mates come along with you, especially if you want to go but feel you might get a little too scared to go solo.

However, do be prepared for the possibility that a member of your group might be split off from the rest at various points. But don’t worry, nothing horrifying will happen to you or them should that happen: this isn’t Sweeny Todd’s!

5. DO make use of the bar. DON’T turn up drunk.

You’re probably going to need a drink afterwards, but I’d also recommend you have one before. Dutch Courage would certainly help some of the more nervous patrons, but it’ll also hopefully loosen you up a bit a really get yourself stuck into the show and open your mind a little.

That said, I can’t imagine anything worse than going through the show intoxicated, or worse, arriving under the influence of narcotics. This is a supremely surreal, scary, and intense show that’s enough of a crazy trip as it is when sober. Arriving off-your-face will most likely make you freak out, not to mention become a pain and spoil the experience for the rest of the audience.

6. DO hang around at the last scene.

Even though the last scene is a bit of a let down compared to how much you’re built up before it, it’s pretty striking and beautiful. The loop for this scene is also around 15-minutes and is actually really relaxing and subdued as well as visually arresting. It’s a nice wind-down even if you could have done with a bit more of the main show itself.


The Boy Who Climbed Out Of His Face will run at The Jetty, London, SE10 0FL, from 14 August – 28 September 2014. Tickets are £10. To book, visit For more information about Shunt and the production, visit

2014: The Eight (And Last) Generation of Console Gaming?

Edinburgh Preview: Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer (LOST Theatre, London)

Chap-Hop Hooray! Jim Burke as Mr. B. Photograph: Courtesy of the artist.

Chap-Hop Hooray! Jim Burke as Mr. B. Photograph: Courtesy of the artist.

Rating: *****

Forget Kanye West, Jay Z, and most certainly Chris Brown, Chap-Hop is where it’s at. Bringing a spot of much needed class and traditional status-quo to rap, Mr. B is set to bedazzle us with upper class lyrical genius. Not only does he raise an eyebrow to the thug life, he surgically elevates them. With an immense amount of wit, observation, and poetic prowess, this show is deliriously spiffing.

The formula is simple. Take an old school aristocrat chap decked in tweed and sporting a rather dashing moustache, and make him a Hip-Hop obsessive with a penchant for turning misogyny and gun violence into bumps and grinds about gin and cricket. Creator Jim Burke has Mr. B’s character down to a T, putting just as much thought into personality as he has into this wry clashing of cultural phenomena, creating a marvellous evening of winsome satire and juxtaposition. Burke is also joined on stage by Adele Bates, who blasts us with an operatic take on N.W.A, and Mr. B’s faithful manservant, Carshalton, who also manages to surreptitiously slide in his own little number with the grace and panache you’d expect from a gentleman’s gentleman. Both are wonderful little editions to the evening’s proceedings. As an act, this trio certainly give Jeeves and Worcester a run for their bling.

Although covers of popular classics are certainly on the agenda, Mr. B, isn’t a one trick pony. Burke doesn’t just do cover as if he were the lovechild of 50 Cent and George Formby, he also sends up other genres such as the Factory Records back catalogue and pens his own original pieces in this mad fusion style. Each track is golden and side-splittingly hilarious. For example, you simply haven’t lived, or laughed, until you’ve heard Reel 2 Real, James, or the Beastie Boys performed on a banjolele.

If there are any issues with the show, it’s always going to be a local one. Reeling off devilishly tricky rocked rhymes at break-neck speed, balancing these against his amped instrument and boombastic backing track is always going to pose a challenge for any seasoned sound engineer. It also takes a little bit of time to adjust to his thunderous non-stop lyrical lilting, especially if the balance between treble and bass isn’t quite there to begin with. The only other possible criticism is that you do have to be of a certain age or an enthusiast of late 80s and early 90s music to actually get the gags and appreciate just how inventive and clever the send-ups are.

But otherwise Mr. B is the perfect anecdote to banality of popular music. A master craftsman of character comedy and original cabaret, the show is rapturous and rollicking. Verily, Mr. B is quite the shizzle.

Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer played at the LOST Theatre, London SW8 2JU, on 10 July 2013. He will be playing his show Can’t Stop, Shan’t Stop at the Voodoo Rooms, between 13 – 25 August 2013. Tickets are £8. To book, visit

For more information about Mr. B visit

Please note, as this is a preview show ahead of the Edinburgh Festival, some of the content may be adjusted ahead of the festival residency.

Theatre Review: Mile High – The Musical (Lost Theatre, London)

The cast of Mile High: The Musical. Photograph: Courtesy of the production.

The cast of Mile High: The Musical. Photograph: Courtesy of the production.

[Note: This is another review that I was sent to but alas never got published. So I’m putting it up very late past press night despite the fact I was there because why let such uninspired dross go un-criticised? This show is still on until the weekend…I don’t know why I mention that because it’s awful.]

Rating: **

We’re promised ‘sun, sea, and laughs’ in this musical about two Mediterranean-serving airlines and their sparing ambitious air stewards. However, the result is about as invigorating and uncomfortable to pallet as a Ryanair sarnie.

Writer Terry Newman, despite previous television and stage works behind him, just can’t seem to make this musical fly. There is no sheen, little substance, and few laughs in a subject that has otherwise proven a gold mine of comic material from Pam Ann to Come Fly With Me.

Whilst never promising to be anything highbrow or ground-breaking at least there was the titillation of something kitsch and outrageous. But it even failed to deliver on that front too plumping for measured middle-of-the-road comedy rather than an overtly over the top affair. The music is utterly forgettable, the innuendos dull and obvious, the characters boringly pastiche, and the story shallow. Any potential this show had must have been left on the baggage carousel at Gatwick.

Whilst it is generally disingenuous to bemoan a fringe production for its lack of production values, here they really mar the show. The decision to have the entire cast share a single hand-held microphone seems inexplicable. Getting a sound balance between some amplified and some unamplified cast members was pretty much impossible as they sing to a backing track whilst passing the mic around, not to mention making the entire production looking and sounding like a cheap Costa del Sol karaoke bar. Then there are the sloppily executed lighting cues, shonky props, and crude set.

The only saving graces are a couple of genuine laughs, some energetic choreography from Thomas Michael Voss, and a charm from a talented cast who are clearly trying their best to prevent the show from nose-diving.

My advice? Take a theatrical staycation.

Mile High: The Musical runs at Lost Theatre, London, SW8 2JU, until 24th March 2013. Tickets are £10-£22. To book visit