*** (3 Stars)
Young Vic, London - Thursday 17 April, 2014
The conflict in Syria is poignantly brought to life at the Young Vic in Amir Nizar Zuabi’s touching play. Performed by German-Syrian actor Corrine Jaber, Oh My Sweet Land draws its inspiration from the stories told by Syrian refugees in Jordan.
Throughout the one-hour piece, Jaber is preparing kubah: a traditional Syrian dish that her grandmother used to cook. Detailed descriptions of making the perfect kubah coupled with the smell of frying onions and spices evoke a strong sense of memory and Juber’s quest of belonging.
This seems to be a motif throughout the play; the upheaval caused by the Syrian conflict has led to a generation of victims disconnected from their home. 2.5 million refugees uprooted from everything they hold close and attempting to find hope in the destruction with only their memories to hold onto. This is the message that stays with you throughout.
Jaber recounts her journey to Syria, where she starts a relationship with Ashraf, a married man she met in Paris. Although this is a fictional framing device, intertwined are stories from the refugees giving the whole piece the authenticity needed to make the audience listen.
Zubai's piece sometimes drops in pace and descriptions can perhaps go on too long, however, Oh My Sweet Land is nevertheless an important piece of theatre that deserves to be seen.
Oh My Sweet Land is playing at the Young Vic until 3 May - http://www.youngvic.org/whats-on/oh-my-sweet-land
1. A person who creates a fake online profile in order to fraudulently seduce someone.
2. A freshwater or marine fish with whisker-like barbels round the mouth.
Online you can be anyone... You meet someone. They’re attractive and funny. They seem to just get you. This could be IT. You talk all the time and it feels like you may have met the one…
In YMT’s new adaptation, Catfish! The Musical the young cast explores the idea of falling in love with someone who never really existed…
But for a moment, look back. Back through the mists of time to the pre-Facebook world… Back to 1998. A simpler time. A year of presidential impeachments, frozen water discovered on the moon and The Enemy of the State feature film…
A sinister agency conspires to track down an unwitting Will Smith for crimes committed against the government. The insidious agents set about tapping phones, planting tracking devices and stealing our protagonist’s blender amongst other things. And no one gets between Will and his morning smoothie.
Of course back in '98 it took a dedicated ten-man task force with access to state-of-the-art equipment to track down and pinch people’s kitchen appliances. But as the Buzzfeed team show us on their YouTube channel, nowadays in order to find someone’s location, personal information and fast food preferences, all you need is a few nerds in a van with a laptop…
A new weapon in the war against the internet fraudsters? A new way to catch your catfish? Maybe. Just be sure to check your back next time you Instagram your lunch, in case someone will soon be lurking behind you with a big net…
The only time YMT recommend you to tweet your location is after you watch Catfish! The Musical at the Lyric Hammersmith this month!
Two performances only!
Saturday 26 April at 4.00pm and 8.00pm.
***** (5 Stars)
Noël Coward Theatre, London - 16 April, 2014
After a short run at the Hampstead theatre, Imelda Staunton gives a stunning performance in David Lindsay-Abaire’s Good People in this must-see West End transfer.
Staunton plays Maggi, a working-class mother in Boston who's just been fired due to lateness (caused by looking after her disabled daughter) and looks to a former schoolmate (and boyfriend) for new employment.
Lindsay-Abaire’s sharp, intelligent script is wonderfully heartfelt without being too sentimental and the crux of class difference is brought to the fore In Jonathan Kent’s finely directed production.
Part of Good People’s success is down to the exploration of themes that are prevalent in today’s society, ie. class and privilege. Furthermore it deals with ideas of ‘choosing your own path’ and whether there is such a thing as luck or fate. Do people choose to be poor? Do people deserve to be poor?
This is a truly fascinating insight into the class war in America and the whole piece is helped by outstanding performances from the cast.
Staunton (Professor Umbridge from the Harry Potter series) is faultless. Her nuanced mannerisms and quick tongue create one of the most moving and emotive performances on stage this year.
There’s also fine support from the rest of the cast – Matthew Barker, Susan Brown, Lorraine Ashbourne, Lloyd Owen and Angel Coulby.
This is truly not to be missed!
Good People is playing at the Noël Coward Theatre until 14 June: http://www.delfontmackintosh.co.uk/Tickets/GoodPeople/GoodPeople.asp
*** (3.5 Stars)
Salisbury Playhouse - Friday 28 March, 2014
The Worst Wedding Ever has the audience in fits from the start. Before even entering the auditorium a live band in the foyer creates a light-humoured atmosphere setting the scene for the evening. It then transpires that the band would be masking the scene changes throughout the performance and the songs cleverly entwined with the plot and on each appearance they would emerge from another area of the stage; even bursting out of the garden shed at one point! They enable the upbeat atmosphere to be maintained throughout the production and meant the audience were constantly entertained.
Chris Chibnall is the highly accredited writer of this production, having also written ITV's hit drama Broadchurch. It is the exquisite script that enables you to feel relaxed and at ease, with no forced jokes having you squirming in your seat.
Chibnall plays on stereotypical family traits, which cause the audience to erupt with laughter because the family often found themselves in dilemmas all-too familiar! Nevertheless, towards the end of the play a more sincere tone is adopted and very current issues began to appear, such as gay marriage and the ever rising costs of marriage. The script has you laughing because of its witty content, yet simultaneously feeling the characters’ pain.
The beautiful naturalistic set is a treat for the eyes and built on the naturalistic family environment the script played on, again successful as it drew the humour closer to our familiar.
It goes without saying that it's the skill in the actor’s delivery of these humorous lines that had you laughing in your seat. Carolyn Pickles who plays Liz, the mother, captures the fussy, interfering nature of her character, whilst Rebecca Oldfield, who plays Alison, has the audience in stitches after her incident in the porterloo! However, some accents are not sustained it is easy to fall into the trap of over-exaggerating your character with comedy and occasionally this is the case, meaning the naturalism is lost, which actually was where the true comedy lay.
Nevertheless, The Worst Wedding Ever is a superb production, with a brilliant cast and beautifully sculpted script.
The Worst Wedding Ever is playing at the Salisbury Playhouse until 19 April 2014. All the info is here: http://salisburyplayhouse.com/page/worst-wedding-ever
**** (4 Stars)
Unicorn Theatre, London - Tuesday 25 March, 2014
Engaging and inspiring, this play keeps the audience captivated from beginning to end, following the journey of ‘the Boy’ and his toy velveteen rabbit. This simply structured storyline keeps not only children in the audience engaged, but adults too. Their relationship is tested and trialled through thick and thin, including when ‘the Boy’ suffers from scarlet fever and also as the velveteen rabbit has doubts over what is real, and what is only child’s play.
The minimal use of dialogue captures the Boy’s ‘Toy Story-esque’ world, allowing the audience to be captivated by the physical theatre used. There are some marvellously magical moments between the two flawless actors, Christian Roe and Syrus Lowe. Roe’s Stanislavski-style rabbit was faultless as he exerts such truth behind his eyes. His Benedict Cumberbatch / Arthur Darvill ‘vibe’ and highly expressive face really made him stand out as an actor to watch for the future.
Wilkie Branson’s choreography is an absolute joy to watch and captures the childish snapshot well. I really savour Purni Morell’s overall direction as I feel his interpretation is stimulating and inventive. The simple props are used imaginatively and are thoroughly believable, as one of the younger audience members demonstrated, as they questioned rather loudly, mid-scene, ‘Is that a real fire?!’
I feel over all, this production is cleverly designed, created and performed and will be appreciated by all ages, as within this elegantly simple piece, there are definitely a variety of relatable levels. Although the start drags on slightly, children will enjoy the visual excitement, whereas adults have a chance to escape back to their childhoods.
So find out for yourself whether the velveteen rabbit is real, or simply just a toy...
The Velveteen Rabbit is playing at the Unicorn Theatre until April 19. All the info is here: https://www.unicorntheatre.com/the-velveteen-rabbit