All posts by t h

Review: “The Ministry of Lesbian Affairs” @Soho Theatre

What’s not to like about the Soho Theatre? Its hip, it’s friendly and it’s surrounded by all the bars, cafes, clubs and restaurants that we love to hang out in. There’s a tangible feeling of excitement in the crowd of, mainly, women waiting to see the show tonight (this is the perfect play for lesbian spotting). I have to admit, it is rather thrilling to see a play about us…in mainstream theatre and featured in the Guardian. 

Iman Qureshi‘s engaging and powerful play breaks new ground with its intersectional lesbian narrative. It’s beautifully written and doesn’t flinch when tackling complex issues around identity and validation. It also manages to be funny, joyful and heart-warming.

Ministry of Lesbian affairs is the name of a lesbian choir, who meet once a week to sing together. Each of its members has very different views and life experiences. Led by world weary conductor Connie (Shuna Snow) they gossip, flirt and sing their way onto the main stage at London Pride.

The first half is hilarious, opening with a (filthy) lesbian version of “My Favourite Things” (from “The Sound of Music”) The audience, were practically rolling in the aisles by the interval. I loved the song choices (thanks Nicola T Chang) As the play unfolds, conflicts regarding politics and lifestyle emerge within the group, threatening its harmony. 

Cue hand and breath holding in the rapt audience. 

Lori (Kibong Tanji) “I’m too much of a girl for my colleagues. I’m too much of a boy at church. I’m too black for my customers.” 

Fi: (Kiruna Stamell) “Before we even get a chance to be part of the mainstream, we’re divided and subdivided, marginalised all over again…lesbians are practically invisible.”

Brig (Mariah Louca) “How does my being a woman make you less of a woman? There’s enough room for all of us…if we don’t fight for ourselves, for each other, who will?”

Ellie (Fanta Barrie) “I like to keep it casual. Otherwise you get sucked into that lesbian vortex and next thing you know its been seven years and you cant tell her North Face jacket from yours.

Dina (Lara Sawalha) “I’m here on a visa as his wife. So if I left him, I’d have to leave the country. And I cant exactly be a lesbian in Qatar. And I’d probably lose my children.”

Ana (Claudia Jolly) “Finding out what connects us, revelling in our differences; this is the process that brings us closer, that gives us a world of shared values.”

All of the characters represented by the cast feel authentic, we laugh and cry with them, their stories reflect the rich diversity of our community. They are deftly directed by Hannah Hauer-King.

The play was produced by Damsel, a company who focus on addressing the misrepresentation and lack of representation of women in theatre.

Iman Qureshi’s aim was to write a play with togetherness at its heart…and to create a lesbian Mecca at the Soho Theatre. 

The Ministry of Lesbian Affairs does not disappoint. Don’t miss it.

Soho Theatre Box Office: 0207 478 0100. 

Until Sat 11th June 2022

Review: “The Handmaid’s Tale” @ENO

First, it’s the building. Totally classy and gorgeous…you immediately feel you’re on a special night out. Next. It’s the audience, buzzing and friendly. Then it’s the opera … and what an opera it is.

It dazzles. It entertains. It disturbs! 

The Handmaids Tale is a brilliant musical and theatrical reworking of the 1985 novel by Margaret Atwood, which depicts a fundamentalist dystopian society called Gilead. In this place women are stripped of their rights and freedoms, and institutionalised sex and violence reign supreme.

Life in Gilead is revealed through the experience of one of the handmaidens, Offred, who is a surrogate breeder for the elite class, (who are mainly infertile). It charts her struggle to remember who she was before she was captured and brainwashed.

Composer Poul Ruders score enthrals us from the onset. It’s musical breadth, encompassing contemporary and classical themes, drives the narrative. We are gripped by its emotional intensity. Joana Carneiro conducts with passion and precision.

The set is simple but effective. The stage mostly framed with curtains, behind which we see video projections showing glimpses of Offred’s previous life with her daughter and family. The staged scenes depicting the handmaidens daily routine are both shocking and impressive.

 

Kate Lindsey’s Offred immediately engages, with her beautiful, expressive voice. Her solos are haunting…we want her to escape!

Aunt Lydia the harridan warden played by Emma Bell employs her huge soprano range to good effect in intimidating the handmaidens.

Robert Heyward’s Commandor, who aims to impregnate Offred, almost engages our sympathy with his smooth silky reassuring voice.

It was refreshing to see such brilliant acting from the cast, as well as musicality. Also to see an opera with a mainly female creative team, led by Artistic Director Annilese Miskimmon.

I loved this opera….highly recommend it. Catch it…quick!

Box Office  02078459300 //  www.eno.org  

Until 14th April

REVIEW: Diary Of A Somebody @ Seven Dials Playhouse

The theatre is packed out. We are crammed, hip to hip in this (very hip) tiny theatre, just off Cambridge Circus, perfectly mirroring the atmosphere of the play we’ve to come to see.

Set in a small cramped bedsit in Islington, Circa 1966 (effectively designed by Valentine Gigandet) Written by John Lehar, “Diary Of A Somebody” is based on verbatim excerpts from playwright Joe Orton’s real life diary. It chronicles his life in the year before he was bludgeoned to death by his lover Kenneth Halliwell.

At our point of entry Orton (played with impish charm by George Kemp) was already a ‘Somebody,’ with his plays “Entertaining Mr Sloane” and “Loot”  defining the swinging 60s with their irreverent take on societal norms.

Orton was the working class lad made good, aided and abetted by his older, cultured middle-class lover. The two met at RADA and although initially happy, Halliwell (played with dogged dourness by Toby Osmond) becomes increasingly sidelined and jealous of his protégés’ success. 

Orton relentlessly extolls the virtue of rampant promiscuity. His words, although often amusing, reveal a callous narcissism.  We watch … unable to look away, as their relationship becomes more and more untenable and toxic.

A myriad of characters played by four actors, whirl on and off the set with great alacrity, illuminating the couples personal and professional lives. Jemma Churchill’s characterisations are particularly authentic and often hilarious.

I found the play grimly riveting. Despite having laughs a plenty, it is a poignant record of a, ultimately shocking, demise of a Gay relationship.

Well done to the KU Bar Group for supporting this production. It’s wonderful to see artistic enterprise being nurtured by LGBT+ businesses.

Until April 30th. 

Seven Dials Playhouse // 0203 8416600

Review: “The Chairs” @ Almeida Theatre

This updated adaptation of Ionesco’s 1950s classic at the Almeida Theatre Islington is Theatre of The Absurd at its finest – think, Samuel Becket crossed with Monty Python and Spike Milligan. It’s surreal, often thought provoking, and very often funny.

Real life couple, Katheryn Hunter and Marcello Magni, play the central characters of the ‘old man and woman’ who have been together 75 years. Their onstage connection is simultaneously heart wrenching and hilarious. Hunter, in particular, is mesmerising as the doting, coquettish nonagenarian.

Set (possibly) on a small island. The couple (possibly) reminisce about their lives, and (possibly) invite a group of celebrated strangers into their home to (possibly) reveal ‘A profound message’

This enigmatic play gives no answers, only questions about communicating in an uncertain future. Translated and directed by Omar Elerian who balances subtlety with slapstick. Well served by the ramshackle set design and quirky sound bites.

The audience are quickly drawn into, and invited to participate in, the lives of this mysterious pair. There was much laughter in the auditorium throughout…and not a little surprise.  

It’s an evening like no other.  Don’t miss it.

Until 5th March  Almeida Theatre: 020 7359 4404

Review: “The Glow” @ Royal Court Theatre

It’s spooky. It’s supernatural … it’s totally gripping!

Alistair McDowall’s ambitious new play at the Royal Court Theatre certainly delivers if you’re looking for an evening of mystery and myth.

“The Glow” charts the many lives of ‘The Woman’, an immortal being revered and reviled throughout history because of her ‘light,’ which releases life enhancing or destroying powers. Ria Zmitrowicz’s characterisation of someone who lives within the worlds of mortal and spirit, is sustained and enigmatic.

Three actors play the historical and contemporary personalities who come into the orbit of ‘The Woman.’ Rakie Ayola shines as a cruel exploitative medium and loving retired nurse. The ensemble cast glide effortlessly into different eras and emotional spaces. The audience are drawn into a dark and sometimes sinister place, by Vicky Featherstone’s steely and focussed direction.

The set is minimal, but brooding. The lighting an atmospheric tour de force from Jessica Hung Han Yun. Sounds filter in and out of your consciousness…

A mesmeric theatrical experience. Highly recommended.  

At the Royal Court Theatre until March 5th.