Tickets £15 and Under – Camden Fringe Special

The Camden Fringe starts this month and it is a great chance to catch some hot new theatre and comedy from London’s freshest creatives. Unbound by the financial burdens of the Edinburgh Fringe, we are expecting the companies at this years fringe to push the boundaries even further as they cement the Camden Fringe as London’s premiere fringe festival. Here we pick out six shows we are most looking forward to at this years Festival.

The Community – The Lion and Unicorn £12-10 (1-5 August)

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The Community is a dystopian comedy about the last survivors on Earth’s struggles to keep going in spite of pessimism, totalitarianism and admin. After a cataclysmic event has reduced the surface to an irradiated wasteland, humanity must live on in a vast underground society where freedom of thought has been eradicated, mandatory euthanasia is a normal part of life and birthday cakes are strictly prohibited.

Evros | The Crossing River – The Monkey House £10 (2-5 August)

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Follow Doaa, a 19 year old Syrian, on her journey of hope. Meet the boy from the local garden centre, where all isn’t quite as it seems. Experience the physical descent of a couple whose grief brings them together and tears them apart. Venture into the everyday of families in extreme conditions and follow the performers as they ask ‘How can we walk in their shoes?’

The Janitor – The Monkey House £8/6 (2-5 August)

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The curtain is down. The dust has settled. All is quiet, which suits the janitor just fine. He’s alone… An exploration of loneliness and lost dreams through unexpected companionship. The Janitor is a clown and movement piece, full of comedy and reminiscence.

Grab ‘Em By The Pussy – The Monkey House £8/6 (9-12 August)

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A sassy surreal comedy musical about grabbing pussy. In a world where women are objectified daily, in places they didn’t even know they had, Maisy is an outcast as she has never been touched. Bless her.

5, 6, 7, 8 – Upstairs at the Gatehouse £12/10 (14-19 August)

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Stomp all night with the premiere of a new musical comedy – featuring the hits of pop giants Steps. Out for drinks after work, four colleagues realise they have something in common: their love lives all suck. So they make a pact to sort themselves out – whether that means asking out a certain someone, cutting ties with Mr Wrong, or learning to fly solo…

Edward II – Tristan Bates £10 Previews (22-23 August) £15 concessions (24-26 August)

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The King is dead. His son, Edward II, is crowned King. His first act: to call home from banishment his lover, Gaveston. Marlowe’s gay epic comes to the stage in this all-new, all-male ensemble production, marking 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales.

Find out more about the Camden Fringe at camdenfringe.com.

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2 Become 1 by Swipe Right Theatre at the Kings Head

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In my other life I put on 70’s and 80’s nights, and up till now I hadn’t seen the appeal of a 90’s night. But I had such a good time at 2 Become 1 by Swipe Right Theatre company that it has now gone right to the top of the list.

You first have to leave any desire for a plot at the door of the King’s Head Theatre. There is the beginning of one but it peters out without you even realising it, as you are having so much fun. Jess (Natasha Granger) has been dumped and left heartbroken by a boyfriend and her three best friends think the solution is to go out speed dating. The next hour follows them in a dating scenario, which basically means they tell us their views on men, sing a lot of songs and do a lot of indecent thrusting and wiggling, I mean dancing.

A big spotlight shines on each one of them in turn as they talk about themselves to the unheard person on the other side of the table – which allows us to find out about the characters of the girls. They are quite stereotypical – for instance, Charlie (Eliza Hewitt-Jones) is sex-mad, Amanda (Jessica Brady) just wants a long-term commitment – but still the characters are done well and they positively reek of the 90’s in their platform wedges and tiny dresses. My personal favourite is Molly (Kerrie Thomason, one of the founding members of Swipe Right Theatre company, along with Granger). She says she’s the dim one but in fact she comes up with some of the truest lines in the whole play. Thomason is very funny and the expressions on her face tell a million stories.

The dating chats are interspersed with some short scenes and some very funny songs which, depending on your age, you might well remember (I sang along to practically every one). Between scenes we also hear a voiceover of some dubious men and their chauvinist opinions about what they are looking for in their perfect woman. This is perfect for getting the audience to scream at the stage, but otherwise I didn’t really understand why all the men were such idiots with such sexist views. Moreover, I wanted our girls to realise they could have a good time without worrying about where to snag a man or what a man might think of them. Maybe heterosexual dating really was like this in 1997.

The absolute highlight is the musical aspect of 2 Become 1. Despite assumptions from the title and the fashion in the marketing of the show, this is not all about the Spice Girls. We do have excerpts from 2 Become 1 and Wannabe, but also the girls perform a whole load of hits from the 90’s which take you right back there and some of them have a whole new spin on them. We hear from girl bands from All Saints to Destiny’s Child, there’s a hilarious imitation of Britney Spears and a couple of hits from Shania Twain (there’s a classic scene where Molly interacts with the audience for That don’t impress me much), along with other massive tunes from Cher, Christina Aguilera and so many more. You have never seen a version of No Scrubs like this one, sat on the loo and singing into toilet brushes, and you will laugh your head off at the Celine Dion take off from Titanic, tin whistle accompaniment and all.

This latter scene is so funny. It involves Amanda and the crush she has only seen on the bus before. She picks on a man in the front row of the theatre who is obviously there with his male partner. They are both such good sports that neither of them mind when Brady sits right on his lap, facing him, and sharing his drink, and when she invites him on stage for the crowning glory of My Heart Will Go On, his boyfriend stands up too to capture the whole thing on his phone. In fact both of them end up on stage for the medley finale!

If you were the ‘right age’ during the 90’s, even if you don’t think you enjoyed the music at the time, 2 Becomes 1 looks back on this period with such gentle comedy that you will find yourself having a lot of fun. The references of Justin and Britney, Cosmo magazine, Blockbusters and Buffy the Vampire Slayer make you realise quite how long ago the 90’s really were. Don’t go and see this for a complicated plot or a deep character analysis, but get a bunch of friends together, and enjoy it for what it is – a feel-good trip back in time to the pop music and dating mores of the 1990’s. And support the King’s Head Theatre while you are at it!

WIGS 4/5

By Hatty Uwanogho

One Was Nude And One Wore Tails by Dario Fo at the Hen and Chickens

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It is rare indeed to see One Was Nude and One Wore Tails performed in London. It is one of Dario Fo’s one act farces, first performed in Italy in 1962. Far from Fo’s Milan, the Theatre of Heaven and Hell, which is currently reviving the play, ‘was created in a living room in Southend on Sea’ and their mission is to bring absurdist theatre to London’s fringe.

As we walk in to take our seats, there is an accordion player playing without much accomplishment on the set strewn with crumpled balls of newspaper. Five cast members enter dressed as roadsweepers in bright high visibility overalls and give us a comic rendition of a song, complete with bicycle horns for percussion. It feels like a vaudeville show from past days; Benny Hill springs to mind. Two of the roadsweepers return to the stage, frustratingly sweeping things around rather than sweeping anything away. One of them (Nicholas Bright) is a bit of a simpleton and the other one (Brian Eastty) gives him a lesson in philosophy and life, which ends up with our first roadsweeper (let’s call him Roadsweeper 1) believing that he is God.

From this deep discussion we end up in the middle of a farce based around Roadsweeper 1’s initial need, to find his bin, and his second need, to find some clothes for the naked man who he finds in his bin.

This main section of the farce is by far the funniest and most successful. Nicholas Bright goes from being a lovable Frank Spencer-esque fool to an endearing character who is not as foolish as he looks. This is an important theme for Fo, which is also reiterated when Roadsweeper 1 swaps clothes with a flower seller who is passing by on a bicycle and who is wearing a dinner suit. It is in fact the man inside the bin who is the ambassador, and he is hiding in there naked having run away from a dalliance with a married woman. People are not always what they seem by their appearance. This play brings out such themes with laughter and satire.

The highlight of the entire piece is the naked ambassador in the bin. Played by Darren Ruston, the Naked Man does some brilliant acting from within that bright yellow bin. There are some great visual gags, some knockabout humour, japes with the bike horn, and general slapstick involving the lid of the bin. Ruston delivers his lines beautifully, whilst being mostly imprisoned within the bin, his bald head (and comedy moustache) the only things visible. The direction by Michael Ward gets this really right. Bright’s performance also works really well with Ruston’s; as Roadsweeper 1 puts on the dinner suit and tails and becomes a make-believe Count he is comically exuberant. The Woman (Elena Clements) is a slight role which helps the action to move along, but it is done well. As she sits on the bench next to our hapless Roadsweeper 1 at the end of the play, a hint of romance in the air between these two simple folk, she reflects it was ‘All because I met a naked ambassador’.

Fo is the Nobel prize-winning playwright who died last year, more famous for his longer form plays The Accidental Death of an Anarchist and Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay! It seems like a good time to see his lesser-known work, particularly if it is going to be of this high calibre.

WIGS 3/5

By Hatty Uwanogho

Blood And Bone by Cicada Studios at The VAULTS Festival

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Blood and Bone is a brand new puppet show from Cicada Studios. On at the Vaults Festival, these four young puppeteers presented a wild and eccentric flora and fauna-themed show.

Following the plight of young fern, Ash, we come across several larger than life shrub-like puppets. There are his two friends in the greenhouse, the sensual Rose from the garden centre, a very grisly Donald Trump root, and then a very sinister spade. In chasing down Rose after a night of horticulture passion (the most explicit plant sex scene ever staged) Ash realises that it is more important to follow his roots.

A slight weakness in narrative is made up for with the incredible puppets and characters, and the clever writing from this team whose script is jam-packed with horticultural-themed jokes. There are also plenty of physical gags too, with the performers diverting from their puppets on occasion to sing and perform outlandish dance routines. The puppet gags on occasion crossed over from puppet on puppet interaction to puppet on puppeteer interaction bringing some of the biggest laughs of the night particularly in the post-coital scene between Ash and Rose. Special character mention to the camp German techno fungi who was hilarious – “We’re just fun guys yaaaaaa”!

Overall this was a very entertaining evening of puppetry from a young group of performers combining a lot of clever writing, inventive puppetry, whilst playing to their budget perfectly. We look forward to the next puppet show from this group

WIGS 3/5

Tickets! £15 and Under!

In life, there is always time for theatre. Especially when reality starts to take a turn for the worse, what better solution than heading along to your local theatre for some theatre treats. Even better when those theatre treats cost less £15! Here we round up our latest bunch of new theatre which you can indulge in for less than fifteen pounds!

Out Now

Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Rd. – The White Bear Theatre £15/12 (17 Jan – 4 Feb)

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Mitchell answers an ad for a roommate and finds himself in a backwoods West Virginia motel with JD, an affable hillbilly of mysterious origins. Soon JD’s neighbours – curmudgeonly Flip, meth-head Marlene, and her hot-headed beau, Tommy – have all but taken over the tiny room. Mitchell finds himself in a hopeless predicament. Hopeless but for the power of dance…?

 

Coming Soon

The Taming Of The Shrew – The Cockpit £10 (23-27 Jan)

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Get Over It Productions all female production is set in 1989 at the height of the rave culture. This promises to be a Shrew like no other….

Fantastic Mr Fox – Hammersmith Lyric £15 (25 Jan – 19 Feb)

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Mr Fox is smart, clever and rather fantastic, but he doesn’t realise how determined the farmers are to get revenge. Can he hatch a plan to save his family and friends? Can they outrun the diggers and outsmart the farmers? And can Rabbit shut up long enough not to give the game away?

Hearing Things – Clapham Omnibus £12/10 (31 Jan – 4 Feb)

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Hearing Things is based on five years of collaboration with both staff and patients in mental health institutions, drawing together the stories, dilemmas and challenges faced by the ‘healthy’ and the ‘ill’ in communities whose voices are seldom heard.

On The Horizon

Blood & Bone – The Vaults £12 (15-19 Feb)

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Part political satire, part pixar movie, Blood & Bone is a dark and cheeky adult puppet show. Combining puppets, puns & poor taste to guarantee you’ll soil yourself. After all: Life’s a prick.

This Is Not Culturally Specific – The Vaults £12 (15-19 Feb)

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This Is Not Culturally Significant is an intense and darkly comic one-man show which unveils the bizarre, compulsive and eccentric nature of humanity. Over ten characters are portrayed; from a pathologically lying classics professor to a despondent American porn star on the brink of her retirement.

Benighted by J. B. Priestley at The Old Red Lion Theatre

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Damien Tracey productions have taken J. B. Priestley’s ‘dark night’s adventure’ and turned it into a stage production, trying to create a Christmas/comedy/horror for all to enjoy at the Old Red Lion Theatre.

Driving through Wales, Mr and Mrs Waverton and their friend Roger Pendelton break down with only a dark house looming on the hill as refuge. Once invited in by the strange doorman, they meet the Femms. Rebecca is the God-fearing sister of Horace. Horace would much rather be drinking gin. They are joined by another couple who are similarly stranded, Sir William Porterhouse, a wealthy fabric businessman and showgirl, Gladys du Cane. Between them they try to wait out the night in the creepy abode, and as the night wears on, learn the tale of the third Femm sibling, locked away in the top of the house…

There was some very fine acting from a strong cast of actors. Harrie Hayes and Tom Machell played the upper crust Wavertons with a perfect manner and decorum. Matt Maltby played a nuanced character, overtly happy but holding in some darker feelings due to his wartime experiences. His conversation with Jessica Bay as Gladys du Cane outside the house was a highlight. Jessica Bay for her part was equally brilliant creating a charcter for whom we felt the most sympathy. Michael Sadler brought a lot of the comedy to this piece, with his strangely silent butler, Morgan, and his vocally excentric, Horace Femm. Ross Forder completed the company, bringing a final dose of humour to the piece in his portrayal of the Femm sister.

We were under the impression we would be in for some kind of Christmas comedy/horror. Sadly all of these elements seemed lacking. Although there were moments of horror and comedy, and it takes place just before Christmas, there did not seem to be a stylistic focus. Instead we got a few couples in a house, chatting, without much happening until the end. There were no big scares and no big laughs. There was almost a nice use of sound effects at the beginning, but imperfect timing diminished their impact. In any case, this complex sequence made an effective execution impossible.

The highlight of the piece was surely Gregor Donnelly’s beautiful set, which promised so much more than the play provided. Dark walls, different floor levels protruding at odd angles and one wall covered in chairs that seemed to be melting into it. Gothic horror it screamed!

Adapting a book into a piece of theatre is no easy feat. An entertaining book can make an entertaining play but it is no small task. This adaptation needed the horror or comedy elements ramped up and the text taken further. As a play J. B. Preistley’s ‘Benighted’ was slightly underwhelming.

WIGS 2/5

By The Ginger Wig

Apocalypse Cruise Ship Love Affair by Theo McCabe at the Arts Theatre

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A trip to Apocalypse Cruise Ship Love Affair is a trip to musical comedy heaven. This show is jam-packed with outstanding jokes, devised by writer/director Theo McCabe, and it keeps the energy flowing from one cleverly directed moment to the next. The characters are extremely distinct, juxtaposing raucously against each other in their individual plights. The Captain pines for his long lost love, his first mate pines for him, while the rest of the cast are the usual suspects you’d find on a cruise: horny elderly folk, a drug convict from New Zealand, and to thicken the plot, a naïve and God-fearing nun. The cast is full of standout performers with perfectly timed comedy and great projection, a combination so difficult to get consistent in today’s Fringe performances. Theo McCabe himself supports the performance from the keys, leading the Hawaiian-shirt clad band. With the help of a few select props including colourful cocktails, flower necklaces, drink umbrellas, and the Holy Bible, we are taken straight to the heart of our cruise ship love affair.

As the story unfolds, our initial destination of the Caribbean is nowhere in sight. Captain Bleufonde follows the storm into the Arctic Ocean in pursuit of his beloved Mandy, who drowned at sea many years ago. The passengers are in disarray both by drink and desire, and the impending apocalypse brings out their lusty natures as they pursue their last hoorah upon the ship.

Will Vera convince Hanks that she’s actually not cripplingly old? Will Hanks convince Evie that he’s a better lover than Jesus? Will Captain Bleufonde finally see Vittles as his true and dedicated partner? Or will the apocalypse collapse any hope for these poor, doomed passengers?

Do not miss this musical, it will enliven your life with laughter while teaching you an age old lesson: most mistakes are made out of love.

5/5 WIGS

By Ranga Liliu

Freud: The Musical by Natasha Sutton-Williams at the Kings Head Theatre

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A force of energy that made you wonder if what she was snorting was actually cocaine, Natasha Sutton-Williams has created a hilarious and disturbing musical account of the life of Sigmund Freud.

Set in his office, we are introduced to Natasha’s eccentric version of the famous Austrian psychologist, a host of his patients and his cat, Oedipussy – who has quite a significant place in Sigmund’s life. He tries to stay in control of his life, forgetting to charge his patients and whizzing through a kilo of the white stuff, while steadily developing the theories that marked him as the father of psychoanalysis, namely his ‘Oedipus complex’.

Natasha Sutton-Williams is an electrifying performer, bringing several different characters to life throughout the production. Her Sigmund was delightful. Responsible for not only performing this farcical Freudian biography, she also composed the music and wrote the show. Singing a range of ridiculous songs, accompanied by pianist, Phil Blandford, she showed that she has a strong and beautiful voice too.

This show was filled with gags, outrage, and lots of cocaine. Sadly it has finished at the Kings Head Theatre, but if it comes back, be sure to check it out!

Highlight of the piece – Sigmund’s psychoanalysis of little Hans, discovering they both want to kill their fathers and make love to their mutters – “Everyone does!” A hysterical and highly likely portrayal of this light bulb moment.

WIGS 4/5

Adventures of Tracey Tracey by Bezoomny Theatre at Camden Comedy Club

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The loveable yet sad Tracey Tracey was the host for our second helping of Camden Fringe theatre. Performed at the Camden Comedy Club, this was another helping of Gaulier trained comedy.

Tracey Tracey is celebrating her birthday, although she has no one to share it with, except her imaginary friends that is, and her audience. She imagines all sorts of scenarios including performing as Beyonce, celebrating a wild birthday party and going on dates, all the while avoiding the fact that she is clearly friendless and lonely.

This was another example of what these particular Gaulier graduates are great at. Presenting an outwardly funny story, that is actually rather sad on the inside. We were chuckling throughout however, at Tracey Tracey’s entire character, her accent and her look. Then there was her interpretation of a makeup tutorial resulting in a face covered with custard… Performed by Nicola Cross, this show was equally funny and heartbreaking and was great entertainment for a Sunday afternoon.

These clowns are at it again. Look out for Bezoomny Theatre in Edinburgh and elsewhere throughout the year. Certainly look out for Tracey Tracey though. She deserves your love. Maybe you would like to take her on a date as well?

Highlight of the show – Tracey Tracey asking us for wine advice…

WIGS 4/5

In The Gut by Les Femmes Ridicule at The Blue Elephant Theatre

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This week we took our first trip to the Blue Elephant Theatre in Camberwell. We were cordially invited by Les Femmes Ridicule to see their new piece, ‘In The Gut’.

This was a crazy and very amusing night of entertainment from RADA-trained trio: Alice Robinson, Siobhan McKiernan and Margot Courtemanche. Leading us on a voyage of discovery about childbirth, but also the painful experience of miscarriage, two chefs Judith Jerry and Marie Chantal du Pape put many questions to the audience about this life-changing issue. What are the questions surrounding becoming a parent? What are the physical and psychological issues which might prevent or assist parenthood?

This was all done in bizarre fashion through many different characters. At points the girls simply donned giant sperm helmets, physicalising the little swimmers. These vignettes all raised a different questions surrounding childbirth, making the audience question their own thoughts about having children. A beautiful pink curtain acted as the backdrop for this piece and doubled as lady-part curtains that were utilised countless times to hysterical effect.

The audience participation was very enjoyable in this piece. Indeed, we were pulled onto stage at one point to help with the difficult task of putting a diaper on Judith, as a baby. This seemed possible with the direction from Marie, however as soon as we begun, baby Judith, flew off into the audience to much laughter as we tried to complete the now impossible challenge through fits of laughter. There were, however,  some parts that felt like they needed to be developed a bit more, for example, the chicken trying to deliver an egg. Whilst the comedy was there, they just needed to go further with it. Maybe this was another opportunity for audience participation.

Overall however, the comedy side of this piece was brilliant. We just felt they could have connected their gags to the issue a bit more. From an entertainment perspective though, this was top notch – ridiculous character comedy exploration from Les Femmes Ridicule. We only wish we could have stayed behind afterwards to find out what the couple with the baby thought…

Highlight of the piece – The curtains, the sperm hats and their clowning.

WIGS 4/5