And Here I Am to tour UK

And Here I Am to tour UK

Following the earliest footsteps of life through a warzone, And Here I Am is a coming-of-age story that witnesses the comedic absurdities of growing up in one of the world’s most troubled conflict zones. A world away from headlines and news bulletins, And Here I Am charts the intimate truths of Ahmed Tobasi’s personal odyssey. From his birth in a Palestinian refugee camp; to unwittingly escaping invading soldiers by playing hide and seek; And Here I Am is a tale of everyday human experiences against a backdrop of inhumane circumstances.

Combining fact and fantasy, tragedy and comedy, spanning both the first and second Palestinian Intifadas, And Here I Am follows Tobasi through his transformation from armed resistance fighter to artist; his journey as a refugee in the West Bank to Norway, and then back again.

In a series of tragicomic episodes vividly brought to life by award winning writer Hassan Abdlrazzak, And Here I Am is directed by Zoe Lafferty, whose directing credits include Queens of Syria (Young Vic/New London Theatre/West Yorkshire Playhouse/Everyman, Liverpool).

 

“A raw yet artful reminder of our common humanity… graceful, painful, unsentimental”

★★★★★ The Times (Queens of Syria)

 

Born in Jenin refugee camp during the first Intifada, Tobasi’s childhood was overshadowed by the Israeli occupation. After joining the armed resistance at the age of 17, Tobasi was shot during the ruthless invasion of his camp that saw friends and family murdered, and his home razed to the ground. After being arrested and incarcerated for four years in an Israeli desert prison, Tobasi eschewed pressure to return to armed resistance.

Instead he opted to continue fighting with art, leading him to political asylum in Norway whilst studying at the prestigious Nordic Black Theatre. In 2013 he returned to Jenin Refugee Camp, and to The Freedom Theatre, contributing to the local artistic movement which focused on using culture as a form of resistance. 

Developing Artists is a registered charity working to support the arts in conflict nations and marginalised communities. The development of the project has been supported by The Shubbak Festival, Nordic Black Theatre, The British Council, Fritt Ord, The Freedom Theatre, Jenin Refugee Camp, Al Qattan Foundation and The Arab Fund For Arts and Culture.

UK TOUR DATES

Tue 27 – Wed 28 June

01242 572573

Cheltenham, The Everyman Theatre                                                                       everymantheatre.org.uk

 

Fri 30 Jun – Sat 1 July

023 8067 1771

Southampton, The Nuffield Theatre       

nstheatres.co.uk

 

Thu 3 – Sat 8 July

020 7503 1646

London, Arcola Theatre (Shubbak Festival)   

arcolatheatre.com

 

Mon 10 – Tue 11 July

0843 208 6000

Salford, The Lowry (Shubbak Festival)          

thelowry.com

 

Wed 12 July

0151 709 4988

Liverpool, The Unity Theatre (Shubbak Festival)     

unitytheatreliverpool.co.uk

 

Fri 14 – Sat 15 July

01392 434169

Exeter, The Bike Shed Theatre (Part of the Boat Shed Festival)   

bikeshedtheatre.co.uk

 

Mon 17 – Tue 18 July

0131 220 4348

Edinburgh, Assembly Rooms     

assemblyroomsedinburgh.co.uk

 

Wed 19 July

01865 319450

Oxford, The North Wall    

thenorthwall.com

 

Thu 20 & Fri 21 July

01223 300085

Cambridge, ADC Theatre    

adctheatre.com

 

Sat 22 July

0300 3033 211

Halesworth, The Cut Arts Centre  

newcut.org

 

Casting announced for Bush Theatre’s Hir

Casting announced for Bush Theatre’s Hir

Casting is announced today for the UK premiere of Hir, written by Taylor Mac (24-Decade History of Popular Music) and directed by Nadia Fall (Disgraced). Arthur Darvill (Doctor Who, Broadchurch, Once) will play Isaac, Griffyn Gilligan (Teddy Ferrara) plays younger sibling Max, Ashley McGuire (Shopping and F***ing, The Suicide) will play their mom Paige and Andy Williams (The 39 Steps, War Horse) plays her husband Arnold.

After winning acclaim in New York, this play from one of America’s most dynamic and distinctive voices comes to London in a new production. Pulitzer Prize finalist Taylor Mac is a multi-award-winning writer and performance artist at the forefront of alternative responses to American culture. Author of seventeen full-length plays, Mac won rave reviews for the extraordinary 24 hour durational concert, A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, which reframed and re-enacted 240 years of US history (an extract was performed at LIFT Festival 2016).  In Hir, Mac tears apart the kitchen sink genre by challenging gender expectations and subverting all notions of the typical American family.

“Stop behaving like a man!” 
“We are men

Isaac gets home from serving in the marines to find war has broken out back home. Fed up with her broken American Dream, mom Paige has stopped washing, cleaning and caring for their ailing father. Once the breadwinner, dad Arnold has suffered a stroke and toppled from the head of the household to a mere puppet in the new regime. Ally to their mother is Isaac’s sibling Max. Only last time Isaac checked, Max was Maxine.

In Central Valley, in a cheap house made of plywood and glue, notions of masculinity and femininity become weapons with which to defeat the old order. But in Taylor Mac’s sly, subversive comedy, annihilating the past doesn’t always free you from it.

Hir is written by Taylor Mac, directed by Nadia Fall and designed by Ben Stones. Lighting design is by Eliott Griggs with sound design by Elena Peña. Fight direction is by Rachel Bown-Williams and Ruth Cooper-Brown of RC-Annie Ltd.

Home – Frozen Lights Oval House Theatre

Home – Frozen Lights Oval House Theatre

I went into Frozen Light’s immersive show for people with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities (PMLD), ‘Home’, determined to do two things: not use the word “inspiring”, and assess the production as a piece of theatre in its own right.

The hour-long interactive show follows two women stranded in a city-destroying dust storm after missing an emergency evacuation. Together, Scarlet and Olive must survive until rescue comes, finally deciding to rebuild their city with other survivors.

Performed in an intimate and well-utilised space, Home is a multi-sensory adventure. The vaguely dystopian staging and design are pleasingly Mad Maxian – but with a disco ball and a bubble machine – complete with layers of beige rags and copious amounts of sand (and gold glitter). The leads act (in spoken English and BSL), sing, dance, play instruments and engage with each audience member in a way that is warm and personal.

I’ve been to a lot of immersive/interactive non-disabled theatre and found myself being called upon to do some weird stuff (shoutout to Arturo Ui) but nothing feels so intimate as someone spraying sweet mist into your mouth or gently adorning you with bubbles. If it felt like that for me, how must it have felt for the PMLD audience members? Well, included, probably. For once. Visible.

I am not going to use the word inspiring. But I realised while watching that treating it as just another piece of theatre is facile and reductive. It works fine as a piece of theatre. It’s deceptively sophisticated. It has a strong narrative, great music, and talented performers with buckets of stage presence. But I am not who this piece was made for. I recently watched something I wrote performed in BSL and it was a light bulb moment regarding how disabled audiences are othered in a traditional mainstream theatre.

Disabled audiences are still too often marginalised in theatre, and none more so than audience members with PMLD. Rather than making theatre inherently for able-bodied audiences and shoehorning in access accommodation (a single performance in a run that has captions, placed at a neck-breaking angle so the “normals” aren’t discombobulated), why not change the paradigm and make work that has accessibility built into its DNA?

This is what Frozen Lights does, and in doing so it creates a powerful and inclusive experience. Home very simply, in a short and straightforward way, explores all manner of complex issues: isolation, connection, separation, compromise, community, survival, and the need for home and what home represents. These are issues that everyone can identify with, regardless of their ability status.

Home ran at the Oval House Theatre 5- 6th May, and will tour nationally until 24th May. http://frozenlighttheatre.com/current-production/home-tour-dates/

Paper Hearts, Upstairs At The Gatehouse

Billed as the new British musical, Paper Hearts is on tour after rave reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2016. The show is now at Upstairs At The Gatehouse, a quaint theatre unsurprisingly above a pub called the Gatehouse in Highgate village, until 20th May 2017. Set almost entirely in a book store, this musical flits between writer Atticus’ real life and the lives of the Russian characters in the novel he is writing.

There were a lot of things to enjoy about this new musical. The use of a small cast- most of which were also very talented band members- was impressive, with seamless role changes and transitions from real world to book world. The choreography is clever, and the way in which the instruments and music dovetailed into the play highlighted they were just as integral to the piece as the script. The set is sparse, as expected in such a space, but the simple props which were chosen were used to good effect. The music was strong from the very beginning and there were a few songs which really demonstrated the cast’s vocal skills perfectly. If you are a bit of a book worm, you will enjoy the many literary references and the ‘book-off.’ There really were lots of very good constituent parts.

It feels a little mean, therefore, to say that where Paper Hearts unfortunately comes up short are the characters themselves. They feel a little two dimensional. Everyone is either good or bad, and where they have done questionable things there is a very good reason for it. Their relationships feel too simple and quite frankly a little cliché.  I just about buy the ‘nerdy writer living life through his characters’ vibe, but cannot empathise with his pathos.  He feels like a bit of a man child. The tension with Lily felt forced and the ending all too easy. I didn’t believe the relationships in the real world. Interestingly, however, the book world appeared much more nuanced and all the characters a bit more flawed and, thus, human. They have agency and motivation, not all of which are good, which drive their actions. They have purpose.

Paper hearts is carried by the music, with a few clear stand outs (It’s You, Not Me, and That Makes A Good Marriage Last! spring immediately to mind). It is at its heart a feel good play, with soaring numbers and a beautiful message; it is greater than the sum of its parts and a good way to spend an evening. It is a little clichéd in places, but then name me a musical that isn’t.

Review by @loxsmith and @amychristel1 Photography by Tim Hall Photography

The Pulverised, Arcola Theatre

The Pulverised, Arcola Theatre

Romanian playwright Alexandra Badea’s The Pulverised (translated by Lucy Phelps from French to English)  is an example of what can be done when monologue linked with monologue to create a concise and interesting narrative. 4 characters we never see the employees, all various cogs in a big wheel that is multinational corporation interact with each other. The Pulverised is far from anti-capitalist propaganda but a look at the impact work has, however high up the chain you are.

Badea has managed to create well-rounded characters despite them being credited by their job title rather than by their name (how many of us introduce ourselves by what we do rather than who we are). These characters struggle with the work-life is all too real for anyone

The first and most important cog is Richard Corgan’s French manager, who lives a life of webcam girls, whisky and sheer denial to get through his international working life, awaking into identikit hotels and only remembering where he is due to the luggage tag.  His character seemed the least developed and his concluding storyline seemed to have little to do with what the audience had witnessed.

The Pulverised - Arcola Theatre - Kate Miles - Photos by Dashti Jahfar.jpgIn contrast, Kate Miles’ Bucharest engineer was totally believable as a working mother who installs CCTV because she doesn’t trust her daughter’s childminder and is a control freak, learning French in her commute so she can impress the Lyon manager. When it fails to go to plan her emerging breakdown at her lack of control is probably the most convincing on the four.

The final two characters take us out of the Western world: A Senegalese call centre team leader (Solomon Isreal) and a Shanghai factory worker (Rebecca Boey); at the bottom of the chain they suffer the biggest consequences and their escape routes seem more quaint than the more senior characters.

Solomon Isreal is one to watch; not only did I believe in his character but in a play with lots of, at times, awkward choreography I felt I could look past that and see A man who had his faith, his job and his dreams and yet knows this isn’t enough. Boey’s character feels too similar and with the exception of her sexual exploitation and lower standing (there is a slight theme that all men are sex-obsessed and all women are there for them to exploit and be obsessed by) her journey is too similar to  Isreal’s character but she seems to hold back her performance, given beautiful vivid descriptions but lacking in his energy. In fact, the whole things flow beautifully but the energy levels never change. 

The Pulverised - Arcola Theatre - Solomon Israel - Photos by Dashti Jahfar 2.jpg

Working life is sluggish but an audience who probably feels very similar to the characters need something to perk them up. The decision to use video projection and electronic music fails to energise this production and maybe a gentler approach should have been taken to avoid the contrast between the work and staging.

The Pulverised is on until 27 May. Tickets from £14 http://www.arcolatheatre.com/event/the-pulverised/

Brimstone and Treacle, The Hope Theatre

Brimstone and Treacle, The Hope Theatre

A guest post by Tanya Jones

Dennis Potter is one of Britain’s most beloved and controversial playwrights, with Brimstone and Treacle being famous for having its television debut postponed by the BBC for nearly a decade, on the word of the then Director General, Alasdair Milne. Brave, then, is the theatre company that takes such a play on, and I went to see whether The Hope Theatre could do it justice.

The company have a small space above the Hope and Anchor pub in Islington, and made extremely effective use of it, seating the 55-strong audience around three sides of the room, leaving almost no space between them and the stage. This claustrophobic setup perfectly suits the lives of Mr and Mrs Bates, who have tried to cope with their daughter suffering a severe brain injury two years ago by caring for her themselves. Mrs Bates, naturally, has taken the bigger share of the caring role, and as a consequence has virtually stopped going outside. The relationship between the two, played with pitch-perfect frustration and sadness by Paul Clayton and Stephanie Beattie, is fraught and close to collapse.

IMG_2620.jpg

 

Enter, then, the puzzling Martin Taylor, played with fiendish energy by the dazzling Fergus Leathem. After convincing her parents that he knew their daughter, Pattie, at college and had, in fact, proposed marriage, Martin talks himself into being trusted as her carer, which is where the real horror starts.

Olivia Beardsley is utterly convincing as poor Pattie Bates, seemingly locked inside her own injured brain and desperately trying to communicate to her father, who is ashamed of her, her fate, and his inability to cope, with his frustration expressing itself in his conviction that only the National Front can make things better. Her mother, worn down by the emotional and physical toll of caring for a profoundly disabled adult, spends the time not taken up by physical demands convincing herself that Pattie is making progress and finding solace in prayer, something Martin exploits in devilish fervour.

IMG_2613.jpg

Martin’s efforts to ingratiate himself with the Bates extends to taking housework away from the exhausted Mrs Bates, encouraging her to leave him with Pattie. It’s a heartbreaking experience to see Mrs Bates beside herself with joy and guilt for simply leaving the house to get her hair done, with Martin manipulating her weaknesses on her return to distract her from Pattie’s disturbed bedclothes. He humours Mr Bates’ racism (the script is unchanged from the original, and the staging deliberately set in 1977), logically expanding the argument to an extent that revolts Mr Bates. You realise that he doesn’t really want mass repatriation; he just wants to go back to before Pattie had her accident, and to deal with his guilt over his actions that night.

The fevered atmosphere created by the cast thrills and disturbs, with Martin’s actions deeply shocking for being right in front of you, but with the black humour in the script still hitting the target, with both giggles and gasps in the audience over the gripping 90 minutes. This production, tightly directed by Matthew Parker, has lost none of the punch of the original play, and could not be more timely. It makes us think deeply about how human weaknesses don’t change, and how we’re open to manipulation just as much as our ancestors. It begs the question of whether good and evil exist, or, even if we’re incapable of committing unspeakable acts, whether we’re capable of letting them take place if they meet our needs. Mr and Mrs Bates, despairing and devastated, are in desperate need of a saviour, but is Martin actually the Devil? This reviewer urges you to go and see it to decide for yourself.

 

Brimstone and Treacle is on until 20 May

Tickets from £12 http://www.thehopetheatre.com/productions/brimstone-and-treacle/

Out There on the Fried Meat Ridge, Trafalgar Studios

Out There on the Fried Meat Ridge, Trafalgar Studios

Emma’s review of the original production can be found here

This is a play that has really grown on me. So much so that I am adding an additional ½ star to my original review. The play hasn’t changed much – though there has been a change in cast, with EastEnders bad boy Alex Ferns coming in as New Jersey gangster/poet Tommy. But it feels tighter than when I saw it on the fringe.

There are still some details I would change. Marlene’s bruises – for example – are too distracting. They don’t add to her character well either – she seems like a fighter, not a victim (and casting an actor most known for a part playing an abuser as her partner, they need to consider playing this down).

But this is quibbling over a show that gave me far more joy than I expected from a repeat viewing and even knowing what is coming, that last punchline is a doozy.

This won’t change your life and it won’t make you question everything. But it’s bloody entertaining.

Out There on the Fried Meat Ridge is on at Trafalgar Studios 2, tickets from £20

www.atgtickets.com › London › West End › Trafalgar Studios