FringeReview UK

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FringeReview UK 2016

A Room With a View

This is about as good as you could reasonably hope for. The latter half is a delight, and should send people back to the theatre for different fare, and to the book.


A View From Islington North

Intermittently thrilling plays from the urgent left, two premieres and a couple of small gems roughened by the tumble of Westminster and the Corporates that really must be seen - unless you’re Gideon.


Acorn

Persephone and Eurydice, embodiers of two Greek myths, find themselves reaching out in the Underworld. Except Persephone’s an overworked bereaved junior doctor with huge attachment issues. She has to deal with a flock of Eurydices: distrait child, disturbed teenager, new mother, someone with mental distress seeking out seven dwarves in a lopped tree trunk. Welcome to the world in an Acorn.


All That Fall

Exhilarating version of an 'unstageable' radio classic of Beckett's triumphs


Amadeus

In the most spectacular production imaginable, the antagonisms between the black-suited and marzipan fight it out in this extraordinary sumptuous and consummately musical production. Far from seeming out of place, Adam Gillen’s Young Ones-style shrilling brat with his technicolour frock-coats seems almost more attuned than Salieri to his milieu. It’s naturally the corresponding gravity this production looks to though: Lucian Msmati’s supremely crafted lead sets off the quicksilver of his rival to an unprecedented extent.


Blue Heart

A major Churchill season is long overdue, and her eightieth in 2018 shouldn’t be the only occasion of it. Orange Tree’s production is as good as it gets in Blue Heart.


Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Character-acting keeps this near-impossible-to-dramatize story a play. Since the film’s different, this charmingly-attempted soufflé of an adaptation might do the best service of all: send people in search of a ninety-page novella, and that’s in large print.


Burning Bridges

Asperger-conditioned Sarah’s reels off her interests: ‘TV, One Direction, Bears, Ghandi, Oral Sex not necessarily in that order.’ This remarkable, necessary play explores the crisis provoked by Sarah’s single atypical act, and how it shows she’s improving - leaving domestic devastation. Shindler beautifully judges the pathos and development in each of her three main protagonists.


Comus

Spectacle costumes and use of machinery are outstanding, even by Wanamaker standards. Granted there’s a lower dramatic threshold in Comus, it doesn’t mask as it were the fact that this is the most outstanding production of Comus we’ll ever see.


Doctor Faustus

The RSC delights in dopplegangers: alternating the main roles of Faustus and Mephistopheles with Sandy Grierson and Oliver Ryan. Grierson’s commanding Mephistopheles does more than ringingly square off against Ryan’s smoky-voiced humanity. Aberg has though allowed the drama space to believe in itself, a darkness to believe in.


First Love

Conor Lovett lightens his pitch Becket’s exploration of lust, sexual disgust and the intolerable consequences of generation.


Guerilla Aspies

This is an absolutely necessary and enagaging show about Aspergers we need to see back. The audience was packed, and exhilarated, Wady making contact with nearly everyone but in a creative and – yes – neutrotypical way.


Here All Night

Sam’s all night shiner, Beckett’s Wake and Cabaret. Haunting, funny, unmissable.


Holes

Holes sashays between naturalism and fable, some predictable some not. Noad and McGann strongly characterise. Roberts and Purchese make something special out of the comically horrifying. Richards has produced a sovereign reading of a troubled, brilliantly unequal question mark.


Hotel Cerise

Ellen Thomas fills the central role with warmth, quixotic generosity, occasional faded grandeurs and a bewitching illusion. Greer has otherwise ingeniously captured the Chekhovian amplitude and capacity for delicacy and tenderness in the face of death, her description of Chekhov. That’s really something.


Imogen: Cymbeline Renamed and Reclaimed

This production sucked in a whole audience and breathed it out with laughter. Its power’s a popular, indeed populist one. And in Maddy Hill’s furious dove we’ve identified an Imogen many can reclaim, or claim for the first time.


Joan, Babs & Sheila Too

A stunning traversal of Joan Littlewood’s life by Gemskii and Conscious Theatre. Without her, there would never have been A Taste of Honey, Oh What a Lovely War, or much of postwar British theatre.


Motherhood: (Un)speakable, (Un)spoken

Moments into this one-woman play, Joanna Rosenfeld - emerging in a poke of fingers from a cagoule of brown paper - over-voices herself giving witness to tens of verbatim experiences we hear. This tells us the baby’s a parasite, sucks all your nutrients, calcium from your teeth for instance, causes injury, often permanent, can kill. This is - literally - epic interior theatre.


Motherhood:(Un)speakable, (Un)spoken

Ninety seconds into this newly-revised one-woman play, Joanna Rosenfeld - emerging in a poke of fingers from a cagoule of brown paper - over-voices herself giving witness to tens of verbatim experiences we hear. This tells us the baby’s a parasite, sucks all your nutrients, calcium from your teeth for instance, causes injury, often permanent, can kill. This is - literally - epic interior theatre.


Platonov

James McArdle’s vibrant, sexy quixotically self-aware Platonov is just the star of this family of actors assembled for the three Chekhov plays at the National, with perfectly judged reactions from each other like a small repertory company. In David Hare’s vivid yet faithful version - compressed by half - it’s no small feat to have finally delivered a definitive sixth masterpiece of Chekhov’s.


Sunny Afternoon

What makes this outstanding is Penhall’s wit and deft charactering of core band and satellites who interact with the complexity of a play, the way the songs move the narrative forward and are given believable geneses. This outstanding musical deserves the awards its original incarnation garnered – and it brings back The Kinks forever sharing the peak of British pop with The Who, The Stones and pre-eminently The Beatles.


The Beckett Trilogy

Conor Lovett stuns in this cut-down stand-up Beckett-novels-for-beginners-and-enders three-hour whistlestop. A tour de force as well as a tour de farce of Beckett’s genius.


The Boys in the Band

Mark Gatiss might be the best-known of the ensemble in The Boys in the Band but delights in being just one of this nine-hander which never falters, never droops and dances words to actions in a small masterpiece that seems poised to remain contemporary forever.


The Clean House

Sarah Ruhl’s The Clean House is paced by director Sam Chittenden with clean elegance, counterpointing the messiness of existence with the neatness of fable, and the human need to straddle, even celebrate both. In a play about the perfect one-liner, we get the joke and far from killing us it offers us a small lesson in loving.


The Dresser

The best revival we’re likely to see in a very long time, with outstanding performances from Stott and Shearsmith, with performances as strong in their way from Cadell and Thorpe, and not a weak link. It’s a masterly play from the inside, and this consummate portrayal of near-disaster ending in a successful one, is as good as it gets.


The End

Conor Lovett rivets with a naturalistic pitch in this cut-down stand-up Beckett diminuendo of an ex-inmate’s prospects. More tour de force in a tour de farce of Beckett’s genius.


The Entertainer

Gawn Granger carries the memory of greatness and it’s this elusive elixir Archie, consummately but seedily played by Branagh, which stands in for those lost ideals Osborne’s first great character Jimmy Porter grasped at. It’s the toppling of Archie Rice’s own inner idol, or failure to do so, that sends this absorbing production out whistling into the dark.


The Flick

Mesmerising exploration of three characters maintaining a failing cinema, heartbreakingly funny, mimetically riveting. One of the Nationals’ very finest new plays under the new regime.


The Merchant of Venice

This outstandingly layered production seethes with Antonio’s and Shylock’s polar hatred. At the end of Judgement they’re both broken. Jonathan Pryce’s Shylock details as much hatred as Antonio (Dominic Mafham exhaling melancholy) and Venetian anti-Semites direct in spittle.


The Plough and the Stars

The plot’s shocking volte-faces, so perfectly realized here streaked with blood and comedy, make this O’Casey’s masterpiece. Stephen Kennedy’s dipsily detailed drunk is the great turn here in a cast where Judith Roddy, Justine Mitchell, Josie Walker, and Grainne Keenan also excel in this flawless production.


The Seagull

Olivia Vinall provides a tremulous foil for Joshua James’ vulnerable volatile Konstanin in a fresh emphasis on youth superbly undermined by Anna Chancellor and Geoffrey Streatfeild. World-class English-speaking Chekhov.


The Shakespeare Revue

A consummate delight in this now rarest of forms; a tight song-and-dance of words. New material sizzles, inserted towards the end, the whole box of Bards from Bernard Levin’s Quoting Shakespeare to McKee’s arrangement of Shakespeare lines for a musical lights-out dances on the edge of hilarity before falling headlong into it.


The Tempest

It’s clear something miraculous and patient is born from this simple but endlessly detailed production, releasing The Tempest into its fullest consciousness for a long time. However many Tempests you might have attended, see this one.


The Tempest

Walter’s is a reading riven with pained clarity – a conflicted anguish visibly traced on her face – sealing the broken majesty of this performance. It’s the pinnacle of the rough magic of a production fresh, streetwise with animated verse deliveries, vocal range and above all the new-minted, brave new world.


The Threepenny Opera

A coming-of-age for Rufus Norris, a wholly credible, cheekily interventionist Threepenny Opera with a few devastating critiques


The Wizard of Oz

It beggars belief that on one tiny stage we can be subjected to so many scene stages so expertly handled, so many backdrops and scenery shifts, not to mention a cast of twenty-two who can all sing. This production is good enough for a larger professional stage. If you get a chance, ask for a ticket or return.


They Drink it in the Congo

Brace’s hugely ambitious piece is whipped along with rapid dissolves and shifts by Longhurst so its stranded complexity never becomes turgid or bewildering. Central character Stef is played with brightness turned up exactly right by Fiona Button.


Unreachable

A profoundly quizzical play about directorial and film-mogul silliness, using one liners and silliness to address these questions.


Whose Sari Now?

This is consummate storytelling, and Moorthy’s narrative variables attest to pitch and speed, a charactering that gifts all it can to the individual and in some cases real tales. There’s much here we cannot forget.