FringeReview UK

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FringeReview UK 2017

‘Art’

Tim Key, Paul Ritter and Rufus Sewell dazzle in this Old Vic revival of ‘Art’ directed by Matthew Warchus. Reza joked of her Olivier Comedy award: ‘I’m surprised, I thought I’d written a tragedy’ and this visceral but almost (dare one say, given the subject) cubist probing of the hairline crack between the two both affirms and denies Reza’s claim she’s not a cerebral writer. She asks dangerous questions of just what the ‘art’ of friendship consists of, and why.


a profoundly affectionate, passionate devotion to someone (-noun)

Eighty minutes absorb and assault us. Everything tucker green presents is nothing less, especially with this cast.


All the Little Lights

It’s a stunning indictment of everything outside this little space of waste ground that in so many real places has had these tragedies, abuses and enforced slaveries thrust upon them. Anything Upton writes now will excite the keenest interest.


B

We need more Calderon and more of the Court’s excellent International Playwrights programme. ‘Those who are still laughing’, Brecht claimed grimly, ‘have not heard the terrible news.’ Yet he always laughed and Calderon, in William Gregory’s idiomatic translation ensures this piece is memorable because we laugh, scratch our heads, perhaps look furtively at our bags.


Babette’s Feast

Maxwell’s script of Babette's Feast helps conjure Buckhurst’s cast into conjurers. They’re both dream-inducing and hyper-alert, their timing and balletic movements spellbinding and unforgettable. It’s one of the finest recent productions from a theatre raising the most consistent magic in London.


Bad Roads

Leading Ukraine dramatist Natal’ya Vorozhbit won’t indulge the luxury of exploring just one outstanding tableau in isolation in these six harrowing vignettes. Infinitely more than postcards from the edge of the redacted west, they nudge then kick us back out of our own barbaric comforts.


Barber Shop Chronicles

Barber Shop Chronicles is a breath-taking revelation for those of us who had small inkling of a world in miniature. The act of barbering is more than an exchange of service with fringe benefits: it’s a profound act of human adjustment, including that vital glance in the mirror.


Beginning

Beginning is the kind of play we all know we need: wincingly heartwarming, devastatingly joyous. It’s quite wonderful. Don’t miss it.


Bodies

Franzmann’s intellectual clarity and tropes in this production are crystalline: just like the circular window as a womb showing the surrogate’s womb and embryo. For clarity and suggestive obliquity – language as mis-communicator – it’s an exemplary play ranging beyond the scope of most surrogacy dramas into the dark heart of desires becoming nearly ruthless, and those on both side of the exploitative border of becoming human.


Committee

This edgy new development, faithful to one incident, marks a more than worthwhile variation on such larger works as London Road. It’s more illuminating than the history it sheds music on.


Dear Brutus

The clarity and truth Jonathan O’Boyle and his cast bring to this tricky, infinitely moving and sometimes maddening play, couldn’t be bettered. It’s a magically sad examining of how we limit ourselves, shutting off the forest of possibilities. Quite outstanding.


Escaped Alone

Escaped Alone frames four women chatting in deckchairs in this everyday talk of tea and catastrophe - just as one of them steps into the void to prophesy a smorgasbord of Armageddons. The protean Churchill touches yet another dimension too. Do we have to wait to her eightieth in 2018 to proclaim her our greatest living playwright?


Grimly Handsome

If you want theatre to change your life a little and wonder where our DNA and urges trek to, you could do infinitely worse than shiver here.


Hughie, and The Real Inspector Hound

This is a very fine revival of The Real Inspector Hound, counting on timing as much as the consummate Hughie counts on pauses. Potton is the commanding presence in Stoppard’s farce, whilst Messingham’s Erie is an exceptionally observed teeter to despair and a sudden lurch back. You wonder what he would have made of the 1930s, and how O'Neill might have answered him.


In Memory of Leaves

On a moored barge Natasha Langridge re-enacts her own In Memory of Leaves updated from a run last year to include this year’s tumultuous events. This is a fine, necessary work inevitably in progress. Let it settle in the water a bit more, and glitter.


Knives in Hens

A play easily moving to classic status, this production supremely re-affirms its poetic ambivalence, opening up more than itself, even the play’s medieval setting. It persuades of a world crookedly trekking straight towards us.


Large Trash Print

This very fine 2007 work by Jonathan Brown strikes a blow for tolerance and inclusivity now as it did a decade ago. Brown’s superlative writing and acting is ridiculously confined to this city.


Limehouse

How do you tell if you’re starting afresh or writing a longer suicide note than Labour’s 1983 manifesto? Even if he can’t nail the specifics of the volte-face, Waters comes tantalisingly close to defining such a political moment in this short drama of the founding of the SDP. With acting as superb indeed commanding as this, it’s a privilege to come away watery-eyed from raw leeks.


Low Level Panic

Claire McIntyre’s Low Level Panic might seem a slight play at seventy-five minutes of apparently low-key plotting and vestigial images, but after thirty years it loses nothing in impact. Time’s conferred both an indictment and uneasy classic status to this masterly first sliver of a much-missed dramatist.


Man in a Room & The Ruffian on the Stair

One brave attempt on a recent play cast as it were in the dark; and one really fine stab at another darkness, in Orton’s debut one-act play.


Out of Blixen

Everything in Out of Blixen is realized with a magical economy. Kathryn Hunter’s s in her fluid element here, morphing into twelve-year-old girls and seasoned dowagers to her own directed paces The Europhilic Print Room has transformed the Coronet’s circular space into a consistent vision of theatre.


Poison

This play’s so clear on the failure of closure and reconciling loss that it’s an index of how Poison in fact addresses, even helps us confront them.


Short Play Festival

This puts New Venture Theatre onto a new footing. Six new plays – two by actors taking part - and six directors, all developed by NVT’s nurturing over the past year culminates in this short festival. There’s If it was an annual, even bi-annual event, it would change things in the south east.


So You Say

Dramatist Sam Chittenden asks a profound question: just what we can choose to experience of our experiences? It’s a small gem of inward acrobatics, and makes one eager to see even more ambitious work from this rising dramatist.


The End of Hope

The End of Hope is anything but what its lugubrious poetic title advertises, cackling with jokes and expletives. This superb hour-long play is more than the sum of its hilarities, which is saying something. The heart comes pounding through the mouse suit. Do see it.


The Goat

Ian Rickson more than revives Edward Albee’s 2002 masterpiece The Goat, at the Haymarket. What emerges in one hundred-odd minutes is a deadly tread of Greek tragedy, pitched in a slow build punctuated by the shattering of plates.


The Lottery of Love

Dorothea Myer-Bennett is simply outstanding in her unravelment from uffishness as the heroine Sylvia, to a self-discovering naked passion prepared to offer anything. That’s the essence of a playwright too-little seen who’s provoked the most blissful comedic production this spring affords. Outstanding in nearly every way, it’s another gem from Richmond’s Orange Tree.


The Plague

Neil Bartlett’s adaptation of The Plague plays on the mind as it’s meant to. Ferocious simplicity and pared choices make for an absorbing evening. Shorn of props, video projections or naturalist distractions, we let the piece seep in. Bartlett knows such brutal relevance never needs underlining, as we look at homeless Syrians and those of every ethnicity shivering in an unsuspecting city.


The Suppliant Women

In one of the most radical productions ever mounted of Aeschylus indeed any Greek tragedy we’re literally taken to its roots: as in Greece, a community chorus of fifty, twenty-one of them the suppliant women of the play’s title. In this outstanding production, everything to resurrect this astonishing vision has been invoked.


The Trials of Harvey Matusow

Informative, infuriatingly endearing it’s also Cohen’s first masterpiece, however small-scaled. For that reason too, it holds a particular freshness, a discovery of a remarkable voice. Or two.


The Twilight Zone

I’d like to see a more thorough-going homage to Serling’s work in particular and it’s good he’s at least well-represented here. His acute questioning, exploration of a more human agency and refusal to play too much with inexplicable spectacle marks him out as a more earthy but far more imaginative writer too. His stories are still absolutely contemporary ones: the others have dated as the future often does.


The World of Yesterday

Stefan Zweig lends himself peculiarly to a theatrical dimension. It’s over in a blink. If you’re at all near, you won’t regret the Print Room’s opalescent sliver of magic conjuring the best out of this production.


Ugly Lies the Bone

Lindsey Ferrentino’s 2015 play Ugly Lies the Bone confronts three issues in one. PTSD and military women power many debates, as does virtual reality therapy. The play’s double thread means fruitful collisions in this open-ended approach suggest a scope that can’t be worked out in either. Despite slightly pat consolations, this drama that readily breaks out of those intentions. Fleetwood’s on stage virtually as it were the whole time, overwhelming in her shuddery defiance.


Victory Condition

Jonjo O’Neill and Sharon Duncan-Brewster give performances as fine as this rich if obliquely dramatic material allows. Their alienation, the very tread of words in Thorpe’s syntax, confers a halo of otherness, an unnerving posthumous existence. They’re like ghosts in their own machine. It’s a vision worth absorbing.


Waiting For Curry

Susanne Crosby’s Waiting for Curry – a title suggested by friends as they indeed waited for a takeaway – is a four-hander with a social reckoning, a denouement, and a very unexpected plot point. An excellent play and cast needing wider circulation; the audience was packed.


Wings

Stevenson’s performance mesmerises, appals, thrills and re-asserts her unique straddling of classic and unquiet modernist in a few dizzying months. Poised somewhere between Happy Days and inevitably Peter Pan, here she’s immobilised everywhere she flies, imprisoned far more than Winnie with her vectors of sand and invisibility. There’s no doubt Wings proves its life in the theatre here. It breaks new air.


Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice, Schimmelpfennig’s apparently naturalistic fable is more than timely. As a dead-of-winter warning, it urges us to recalibrate, rewind our imaginations to the point where we might stop the tide of reasonable boundaries tightening into a noose.


Wish List

Erin Doherty gives a quite brilliant portrayal of someone rendered nearly voiceless who on occasion has to find a desperate authority and at other moments, aspire. Rarely have the terrible antimonies of work and benefits system been so precisely notated, and never the combined effect calibrated to crush out young lives so mapped. It’s an essential play that charts the betrayal of a generation.