Posts Tagged ‘Lisa Spirling’

Sometimes an avid theatre-goer like me traipses into or across London to see something underwhelming, often overpriced, when there’s quality, fun and value on your doorstep, and so it was with this quirky piece at Theatre 503.

Mathilde Dratwa’s play takes place on US election day 2016. While Clinton and Trump are fighting it out, Vera is in hospital giving birth to her first child. The hospital staff, and her husband, have as much of an eye on the election as they do the birth. Everyone conspires to hide the emerging result from Vera to avoid even more anxiety than the childbirth is creating. When she is discharged, we witness the twin traumas of new motherhood and the new president.

It’s a clever idea turned into a well written and funny piece, with some very surreal moments (possibly writing, possibly staging, probably both) that combined to produce something intelligent about both the trials of motherhood and the birth of a new political order, but above all it’s entertaining theatre. MyAnna Burling is terrific as understandably neurotic Vera and there’s a fine supporting cast. It’s particularly good to see Jenny Galloway again, brilliant as both mother and mother-in-law, plus others. Director Lisa Spirling and designer Mona Camille make great use of the pocket-size stage.

Dratwa seems like an original new playwriting voice to me, and I’d very much like to see more of her work. Great fun.

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I wasn’t planning to see Terry Johnson’s loving, funny & moving homage to his friend Ken Campbell. I wasn’t a Campbell fan (loved the eccentricity, struggled with the self-indulgent excess), so I didn’t think it was for me. On its last day, impulse propelled me to the Bunker Theatre for the matinee and now I feel I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

The last time I was instantly captivated by a design was upstairs at the Menier when I gasped as I walked into What’s It All About?, the Bert Bacharach homage. Tim Shortall has created an immersive carpeted environment with seating on three sides and three levels, populated by settees and chairs, lamps and plants, pouffes and cushions. Johnson himself spends most of the 90 minutes at a lectern telling us about his personal experiences in Campbell’s orbit. Jeremy Stockwell as Campbell turns up all over the place, mostly in the audience, illustrating Johnson’s memoir. A lot of it involves the ten-part 24-hour play The Warp staged in a disused cinema at the Edinburgh fringe almost forty years ago, but we also hear of the misguided disaster that was The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy at the Rainbow Theatre, Campbell’s spectacular prank on the RSC (publicising it’s transformation into the RDC shortly after Nicholas Nickelby) and other shorter stories.

It’s beautifully written and inventively staged by Lisa Spirling and I was enthralled. It left me wanting to to travel back in time and live life all over again, this time as a Ken Campbell fan.

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