MONDAY 7 DECEMBER 2020 THISWEEKCULTURE.COM
LIZA VALLANCE: THE PRINCESS AND THE PEA
In the last couple of weeks I've been hearing about lots of pre-Christmas family shows being staged in socially distanced ways and one in particular really jumped out at me. Partly because of its clever approach to staying within COVID restrictions and partly because of its approach to the show's narrative.

'The Princess And The Pea' is being staged at Barking's Eastbury Manor House this week by the brilliant Studio 3 Arts, and I think it sounds fantastic. To find out more about the show, and the company's plans for the future, I spoke to Liza Vallance, Artistic Director and director of the play.

CLICK HERE to read this Caro Meets interview.

'The Princess And The Pea' is on at Eastbury Manor House, Barking, from 10-20 Dec. You can book tickets here.
We have real world shows to tip this week - though COVID rules can shift, so do check each venue's website for the latest information. And we are still tipping the best in digital culture from across the UK too - including online shows from performers and companies we first discovered at the Edinburgh Festival.


THREE FESTIVE SHOWS TO SEE IN PERSON>>

A Perfect Christmas | The Cockpit | 7-13, 23-24 Dec (pictured)
Ho ho ho, it's getting closer to Christmas and I know many of you will be making the most of it - to make up for all the COVID misery - so let's start with some festive shows that you can actually attend in person. And where better to start than with 'A Perfect Christmas'? "How we all long for a perfect Christmas. A festive celebration with those most dear to us and just the right amount of over indulgence! This Christmas revue promises to bring you the magic of a traditional Christmas, with carols, songs, poems and all sorts of holly jolly fun!" More here.

The Elf Who Was Scared Of Christmas | Charing Cross Theatre | 8-23 Dec
And now two festive shows for all the family. "Meet Figgy and Cupcake, two of Santa's Christmas elves. For eleven months of the year, Cupcake is a bright and bubbly bundle of joy. But come December 1st, all that changes - because Cupcake is the elf who was scared of Christmas. Come and join Figgy in an original Christmas story as he tries to help Cupcake overcome her fear of Christmas. Using the power of imagination, and with a little help from you, will he be able to remind her of the importance and magic of Christmas?" A "journey of self discovery" featuring familiar Christmas songs, written and performed by Neil McDermott and Gina Beck. More info here.

Christmas Is Ruined | The Cockpit | 6-26 Dec
And we're back to The Cockpit, where there's loads of stuff going on - quite a few socially distanced shows, but also loads of online on-demand theatrical content, so you should definitely have a look at all that once you've checked out the listing for this, which sounds like a disaster but obviously isn't. "London. Christmas Eve. All the children are tucked up in their beds. Bo has gone to bed in a big huff. He found out tonight that there won't be many presents this year. So obviously this means that Christmas is RUINED! But someone is still awake. An inquisitive, rather smartly dressed Fox is going through the bins, as they do every night. But on this occasion, it's not food they're after". Details here.


THREE FUNNY SHOWS TO SEE IN PERSON>>

Live At The Rose | Rose Theatre | 13 Dec
Okay, more stuff for those of you feeling brave enough to get out there. And in this section we're focusing on some funny stuff, because I am sure many of you are - having recently emerged from winter lockdown and possibly facing the thought of a less-good Chrimbo than you might have hoped - very much in need of a laugh. So we are starting with a socially distanced event featuring a line up of veritable TW favourites of long standing, all of them great, and most of them you probably already know rather well: Phil Wang, Iain Stirling, Sophie Duker and host Jayde Adams. I expect tickets are flying away, so head this way for more.

Ferris & Milnes - Christmas Cracker! | Riverside Studios | 12 Dec
"Expect the unexpected, plus all the seasonal favourites you know and love, in this heart-warming, foot-tapping shindig. They couldn't possibly be planning madcap musical mayhem, merriment and mirth for Riverside Studios ... or could they...?" Critically acclaimed duo Ferris & Milnes present this "fun-packed Christmas variety extravaganza" featuring a combination of comedy, music and vocals, to bubbling audiences in groups of two and four. For more information and to book tickets follow this link here.

The Comeback | Noel Coward Theatre | 8 Dec-3 Jan (pictured)
Well, as you may know - because I said this in another tip in recent weeks - we tend to steer clear of recommending shows that are on in West End theatres, because we prefer to focus on fringier culture. But on at the Noel Coward Theatre for a limited time over the festive period is a play by Ben Ashenden and Alex Owen of TW favourite comedy outfit The Pin, much beloved of our edfringe review team. "Up-and-coming comics Ben and Alex have been booked in the warm-up spot for a beloved but fading double act's comeback tour. Neither duo are delighted to be playing to a sparse crowd in a sleepy, seaside town, but when it's revealed that a Hollywood director is in the audience, both acts glimpse a final chance for their big break". Hurrah! More here.


THREE CHRISTMASSY ONLINE SHOWS>>

A ChristMESS Carol | Open Bar Theatre | 10-22 Dec
And now some stuff for those of you who are looking for some festive entertainment to take in via non-leaving-the-house means. Long term readers will know full well that any production with even the merest sniff of Scrooge about it gets our attention, because we are Christmas and Dickens addicts. Well, one of us is. So, despite the fact that this is a ChristMESS rather than a ChristMASS Carol, our interest was piqued. Especially as this online production from Open Bar Theatre threatens to be a gloriously interactive, audience-involving and chaotic adaptation of the classic tale. For more information and to book tickets see this page here.

Sing-Along Muppet Christmas Carol | Sh!t Theatre / Show And Tell | 13 Dec (pictured)
What's that? Um, yes, we definitely are following up that Scroogey recommendation with another Scroogey recommendation, and no, we are not sorry. Not least because this now-annual 'Muppet Christmas Carol' sing along show is now-annual for the very good reason that it's amazingly good fun and it's basically always back by popular demand. I truly hope it never ends. Though, like so much else, in the light of COVID, it's this year to be performed via a different format. Anyway, join award winning TW faves Sh!t Theatre - aka Louise Mothersole and Rebecca Biscuit - online this week: "They are your new tradition. They are your weird family". Lol, head this way.

Crimes Against Christmas | New Old Friends | 1-24 Dec
I meant to talk about this one last week, but somehow it fell off the list, which is mildly vexing because New Old Friends are releasing these festive thriller episodes a day at a time, so it's a bit like an advent calendar and that means you have some catching up to do. However, I suppose that means you can satisfyingly binge the first few days. It's a comedy audio drama, loosely inspired by Agatha Christie's 'Then There Were None', in which we follow a group of strangers gathered together on an island for a festive celebration. It was originally performed on stage to live audiences, but now it's going out as a podcast, available via all the normal podcast places. See this page here for more info and to "buy a coffee" for the company, and then listen here.


THREE THEATRICAL THINGS TO TAKE IN ONLINE>>

Better In Person | Burn Bright | 14 Dec
Right, onto the non-Christmas section, you'll no doubt be relieved to hear, if you don't celebrate Christmas. If you're one of our regular readers you'll probably remember that a few months back we interviewed Tori Allen Martin and Sarah Henley about Burn Bright, their venture aiming to support fellow women writers in the industry. During the lockdown, they've broadcast a number of collections of short works and the latest event is coming up this week. This particular instalment focuses on the voices of a number of women from the north, who will share their stories and offer a northern perspective: Shannon Barker, Olivia Hannah, Rachel Hogg, Zoe Iqbal and Kat Rose-Martin. It's delivered via Zoom, see this page here to book yourself in at a very reasonable price.

Zoo Motel | Theatre Nation | 10 Dec-31 Jan (pictured)
An interactive one-man play performed live from a bespoke theatre space in South America which promises to be both mysterious and playful. It's the work of Thaddeus Phillips, an artist we have been super impressed with up at the old edfringe in past years, and it's already won lots of acclaim. "This wildly inventive exploration of the possibilities of live virtual theatre and the magic of cinema combines a creative use of Zoom and complex camera choreography to create a play that has the feel of live theatre yet within the framework of a movie". Oh, and apparently you will absolutely need a pack of cards. Read more about it and book yourself in here.

Tales From The Frontline | Talawa Theatre Company
"In the wake of the Windrush Scandal and the global Black Lives Matter movement, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented an additional challenge to black key and front line workers' perceptions of belonging, leading many to demand that a changed society must emerge from it. Exposing the exhaustion of black front line workers, and their glimmering hope for a better future, 'Tales From The Front Line' uses verbatim interviews to explore the historic COVID-19 crisis and its seismic impact on those at the front line of the pandemic". Speaks for itself. Watch the first two 'Tales' here.


THREE MORE THEATRICAL ONLINE THINGS>>

Until The Flood | Traverse Online Festival (pictured)
We've been looking again this week at all the things that you can access as part of the Traverse Online Festival and there's loads of stuff, honestly, you should take a look at all the listings. But this Fringe First winning play, written and performed by Dael Orlandersmith, caught my eye this time: "Missouri, 2014. Michael Brown, a black teenager, is shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a white police officer. A tidal wave of unrest sweeps across the nation, powered by a new activist movement called Black Lives Matter. Its ripples are felt all over the world. Using extensive interviews with Missouri residents following the 2014 shooting, Dael confronts the powerful forces of history, race and politics and embodies the many faces of a community rallying for justice, and a country still yearning for change". Click here.

Myles And Me | The Space | 9-10 Dec
This one is almost in the wrong section, because it's a live performance that you can actually attend at The Space. But you know, in case you're not able to - or in case seats get sold out - you can watch it via livestream on 10 Dec. 'Myles And Me' explores life with an incurable medical condition - in this case, MS - and is performed by disabled actor Ruth Curtis. "Sat in a wheelchair but not bound to it, Vicky has a lot to live up to - her smiles at birth; her surname; Paula Radcliffe; an ex who ran leaving her and their dog behind; and, most of all, the uninvited MonSter who threatens to blight her wedding day". Info and booking for venue performances here, and for the livestream here.

All Of Me | from 23 Nov
Readers who were at the 2019 edfringe might recognise 'All Of Me' as Caroline Horton's award winning, critically acclaimed hit focusing on mental health. The show was to tour the UK in the spring of 2020, but you all know what happened to those plans. The good news is that you can now access adapted versions of the play via two different online means: firstly, it's available as an audio stream, recorded in Norton's living room during lockdown, and secondly it can be accessed as an interactive digital version via Twine. Expect "an intimate, absurd exploration of wanting to live, wanting to die and what can happen if we sit together with the dark". See this page here for the audio and this page here for the Twine.
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