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

The Ginger Wig of the Year Award 2016 and the Top Ten Shows of the Year

It was a tremendous year of theatre for the Ginger Wig in 2016…

We have witnessed some breathtaking productions and performances this year in some of the best theatres in the country, as well as in pubs, hotels, on the side of a cliff, in rundown flats and in the open air. So many shows stand out, but sadly we can only award one Ginger Wig Award.

Now let it be said that it is no easy feat to get on this list as we see a ridiculous amount of theatre each year, as well as comedy, performance art, opera, ballet, musicals, mime, and more, so even to get close to our top ten is an incredible achievement. So without further ado…

10. Lucky Stiff, Ahrens/Flaherty, Drayton Arms Theatre

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Lucky Stiff is a riot of a musical, pulling together a most outrageous story and hilarious song and dance numbers. Put together by MKEC Production it was performed by a tremendous cast of singer actors.

9. BUG, Tracey Letts, Found111

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The susceptibility of these lives is apparent in the first encounter between Agnes and Peter whose non-threatening, non-macho and superficially gentle demeanour immediately finds an emotional, if wary, response, from Agnes. However, unidentified phone calls have already made Agnes anxious about the re-appearance of her aggressive ex-husband who does indeed return to try and assert his possession of Agnes but after a stand-off with Peter takes money off Agnes and leaves.

8. Apocalypse Cruise Ship Love Affair, Beach Comet, Above 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.

7. The Rules of Inflation, Balloons Theatre, Theatre N16

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We loved so much about this show particularly the space in between the chairs, ostensibly creating personal space, but in fact creating isolation and distance between audience members. There was nowhere to hide. Children’s games being subverted by an unstable sociopathic clown – what’s not to love about that? The smell of fabric softener from Blue’s balloon miscarriage, surreptitiously seeped into our nostrils, affecting the one sense so overlooked in theatre.

6. The Queen of Spades, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Opera Holland Park

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An outstanding production of this tragic opera with the main roles taken by Peter Wedd and Natalya Romaniw. Wedd’s Herman had extraordinary presence with both poignancy and obsession combined with great effect in this hero who moves relentlessly towards a terrible end.

5. Ross, Terence Rattigan, Chichester Festival Theatre

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An excellent work that deftly weaves the historical events of the 1916-1918 Arab conflict with the role T E Lawrence played in it. Joseph Fiennes was excellent in the role of Lawrence portraying someone who is profoundly altered by the history he has lived. Paul Freeman as General Allenby was also extremely good and Rattigan presents the two characters as a match for each other in their strategic and incisive capabilities. The unspeakable dreariness of the Air Force base with its rigid discipline is a world away from that in which Lawrence lived and which gave him his appellation, Lawrence of Arabia. It’s a brilliant dramatic juxtaposition.

4. Operation Black Antler, Blast Theory/Hydrocracker, Brighton Festival

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This was a truly remarkable piece of immersive theatre. There was a feeling of tension and excitement throughout this piece, generated from the first moment. Every element of this piece was meticulously planned, form the people briefing us, to the world in the Rose Hill Tavern to the performance of the characters we met within. Without doubt this was the best ‘theatre game’ in which we have participated.

3. Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, Lee Hall, The National

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A phenomenal piece of theatre that combines stunning musical talent, heartbreakingly human portrayals and almost incomprehensibly thick Scottish accents. Our Ladies was full of impressive harmonies, no holds-barred characterisation and was a night that socked the audience in the mouth and left them wanting more.

2. The Encounter, Complicite, The Barbican

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It is very rare in theatre that a really important story is told in such a fantastic way. This is the true essence of great theatre and is exactly what Complicite have created here with The Encounter. A momentous production, questioning all the values that we hold dear, possession, communication, consciousness and time.

And so the Ginger Wig of The Year Award 2016 goes to…

1. A Midsummers Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare, The Globe

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What a real treat this was at the Globe Theatre. If the Bard could come back from the dead, time travel to the present day, have a week to pick up a bit of the cultural context and listen to some of our music, and then come and see Emma Rice’s  production then he would be extremely proud. This was a real joy to watch and experience. This will go down long in the Ginger Wig’s memory.

A Christmas Carol by Menken, Okrent and Ahrens at LOST Theatre

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A Christmas Carol the musical is an all-time favourite Dickensian story, composed and written by the renowned Alan Menken, Mike Okrent and Lynn Ahrens. The trio has adapted a magical score and script, depicting the nasty Scrooge amidst the Christmas cheer of the London inhabitants. In the spirit of the season, the Lost Theatre Company tried their hand at the musical, garnering a cast of over 20 actors with ages ranging from seven to 60.

As with many family productions, quality must be sacrificed in the understanding that most of the children actors are enjoying their first theatre experiences. This production accommodated a wide range of ages and skill levels, and unfortunately this disparity in skill was very obvious to the viewer. Actors onstage demonstrated definite moments of “excited”, “spooky” and “morose”, but unfortunately these moments were forced rather than character-based. I longed to be able to read the back-stories to each character, but I couldn’t see past the obvious neglect the directors had towards character development.

Throughout the musical, outdated and poorly executed projections flashed on the set, putting a stamp of mediocrity on the production. The backing track poorly represented Menken’s vibrant score, and oftentimes it drowned out the actors’ voices onstage. Some of the downtrodden townspeople wore uncharacteristically sparkly makeup, whilst I felt that basic costume details could have been remedied for an altogether more polished outcome, but somehow these elements were overlooked.

That being said, I still had an extremely enjoyable evening. The scenes glistened with the addition of some well-executed choreography and tricks. Some of the actors’ shone through with their harmony lines and stage presence, but this needed to be matched throughout the cast for the production to soar. Like the best of chick-flicks, a bad rating doesn’t correlate to a bad time, so if you’re feeling a bit Bah Humbug this Christmas, visit the Lost Theatre!

2/5 WIGS

By Ranga Liliu

Tickets Under £15

Christmas is coming…

…and what better way to enjoy it than by finding a rare theatrical gem to entertain you this festive season. Here at the Ginger Wig & Strolling Man we like to think we have a special eye for spotting those star quality shows that you don’t have to traipse into central London for and won’t break your bank. Why pay west end prices when you can see equally good performances on the fringe? So, here is our Christmas season selection. We have picked out six cracking shows that are playing right now or very soon, where you can by tickets for under £15! Lots of musicals on offer and, of course, plenty of Christmas treats…

In Theatres Now

The Beggar’s Opera – Jack Studio Theatre £15/12 (until 3rd December)

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John Gay’s 1728 musical comedy is set deep within London’s underbelly, a frantic, dangerous and lascivious world of highwaymen, hangmen and harlots. This uncompromising exposure of moral and financial corruption comes to the stage with an original score and contemporary staging. (Read our review here)

Candide – Bridewell Theatre Concessions on previews and matinees £14.50 (23-26 Nov & 3 Dec)

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Based on Voltaire’s 1759 novella of the same name, Candide is a masterpiece from the greats of musical theatre. The show combines a beautiful score with a fast-paced, witty book in a joyful and hilarious operetta which as been delighting audiences for 60 years.

Coming Soon

2 Become 1 – Kings Head Theatre £10 (3 Dec), £14 (4 Dec) £15 Concessions (6 Dec – 7 Jan)

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Comedy pop-musical following four 90s girls embarking on a wild night of speed dating, meeting Mr Wrongs and Mr Rights along the way. A hilarious non-stop journey through infectious pop anthems and ballads.

Hamlet Part II – Hen and Chickens Theatre £8 (8 – 10 Dec)

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Part of Perry Pontac’s trilogy of Shakespearean parodies ‘Codpieces’, Hamlet, Part II answers a question about Hamlet that has plagued scholars, readers and playgoers for over four hundred years: “What the hell happened next?”.

On The (Yuletide) Horizon

The Snow Queen – Theatre N16 £15/10 (11 – 22 Dec)

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Greta’s brother, Kay, has been acting strange. He’s mean and moody and won’t play games. The Snow Queen must have snatched him, and left an imposter in his place. Funny, magic and full of surprises, this new modern adaptation of The Snow Queen is a perfect family Christmas adventure.

A Christmas Carol – LOST Theatre £15/12 (19 – 31 Dec)

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Charles Dickens’ classic gets the full Broadway treatment by the Broadway team of Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast, Little Mermaid,), Lynn Ahrens (Ragtime, Seussical) and Mike Okrent (Crazy For You, Me and My Girl).

The Beggar’s Opera by John Gay at The Jack Studio Theatre

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Entering the theatre, I’m impressed by the seating in the round, moody lighting and minimalistic set. An actor greets me and directs me to the front row, assuring me that I’ve got the best seat in the house. He struck me with his candid and suave nature and I immediately thought he superseded the plot, that somehow he was above the goings on. Little did I know he was both narrator and protagonist. And his horrid story was about to unfold…

This adaptation of The Beggars Opera craftily morphs the three-act Opera of 1728 into a one-act musical. The story revolves around the thief MacHeath and his arousal and betrayal of many women, with Lucy and Polly at the forefront of his affairs. Initially painted as the loving and trustworthy husband of young Polly, we discover the many layers of MacHeath’s persona, his superficial charm failing to hide his devious nature.

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This adaptation by Lazarus Theatre Company cleverly keeps the intensity of the original opera while modernising it to the delight of audiences. The company of ten works incredibly as a group, with functional yet appealing choreography to heighten the air of eeriness among the viewers. The staging allows company members to slip on and off-stage seamlessly, bolstering the overall feeling of suspicion when needed. The music is pleasing and flows from emotion; it carries the mood of the previous scene and develops it incredibly efficiently, with the following scene taking on the new energy of the song. The company does a fantastic job of blending the scenes together, changing the set with ease while keeping the storyline’s focus.

This could have been the Southwark Playhouse the way the elements were so cleverly and impeccably executed. The casting highlighted the actors’ individual strengths, and the direction pushed the boundaries of the audience’s imagination – it swept me off my feet. I have a feeling Lazarus Theatre Company will surprise and satisfy again and again.

WIGS 5/5

By Ranga Liliu

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

The House Of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe at The Hope Theatre

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Any avid literature fan can be found wondering: can Edgar Allen Poe successfully be elevated from the page? In the new gothic musical thriller, The House of Usher, this possibility is explored by creators Luke Adamson and Dan Bottomley. Their creation draws inspiration from Phantom of the Opera, Rocky Horror Picture Show, modern rock, which together disturb and startle the audience with excellent use of staging and effects.

The cast superbly manages the text, spitting out words with such clarity as the space demands. A black box theatre seating about fifty guests, we sat in the round, hanging on to every word and syllable. The narrator, Richard Lounds is a personable and compassionate character. He guides the audience along as we meet and process the neurotic Roderick Usher and his flighty sister Madeline.

The script juggles the overall spookiness, doses of lightheartedness, a promise of salvation for the Ushers, and a whopping second act that delights and exhilarates. Although there were problems with balance between the different media of live and amplified instruments, sound effects and song, the eerie mood lingered in the atmosphere throughout the theatre.

For a night of spooks that will haunt you for days, go see this musical.

4/5 WIGS

By Ranga Liliu

[Title of Show] by Bowen & Bell at the Waterloo East Theatre

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With blatant self-awareness, declamatory statements, and seemingly stagnant plot, one might put on a sombrero rather than seeing a musical like [Title of Show]. I insist, keep those sombreros in the attic, because this production at Waterloo East is fantastically witty, with major character conflicts emerging in the second act.

The opening number is clearly in D major. Why? Because Jeff the Composer is naming the notes he writes as the song develops into a duo between himself and Hunter the Writer. We continue on as they joke about masterbation, say f*** too many times, and order turkey burger takeouts in their hilarious pursuit of writing a show about writing a show.

A moderate cast of four, the production stands tall and all members do an amazing job of staying focused and keeping the energy throughout the 100-minute show. Lacking scene changes and costume changes, the production visually stimulates with props and staging, plus a few dance numbers a la Jerome Robbins and Bob Fosse. Standout performance from Louie Westwood as Hunter, who blew us away with his talent for humour and outstanding voice.

There are plenty of struggles modern composers, writers and performers face; this one highlights those struggles but still leaves us uplifted, as the best the artists can do is laugh at their tribulations and keep moving forward.

WIGS 3/5

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