MONDAY 21 FEBRUARY 2022 THISWEEKCULTURE.COM
ZENA FORSTER: AFTER BIRTH
As a mother - but also just a human being - I was very interested when I heard about 'After Birth', a play about postpartum mental health by playwright Zena Forster.

It is one of a number of productions originally due to be on as part of the cancelled Vault Festival which are instead being hosted by the Omnibus Theatre.

It sounds like an intriguing piece, not least because it takes us inside the mind of its central character rather than observing from a distance, but also because of the mental health focus and its darkly comical nature.

I spoke to Zena ahead of the upcoming run to find out more about the play and the creative force behind it.

CLICK HERE to read this Caro Meets interview.

'After Birth' is on at the Omnibus Theatre from 22-26 Feb, read more and book tickets here. The show then tours to NorwichGravesendWolverhampton and Lyme Regis.
Shows to see in person in London - and online anywhere - including performances from people and companies we first discovered at the Edinburgh Festival.


THREE CHILDREN'S SHOWS>>

The Gingerbread Man | Polka Theatre | 23-27 Feb (pictured)
I thought we'd start with some kids stuff, even though it's not half term any more in London (though I think it actually might be half term this week in some places). Anyway, why should going to the theatre be something you only do at half term? Let's start with 'The Gingerbread Man' at Polka Theatre, which promises puppetry, live-action, music and humour in this staging of a classic tale suitable for those aged three and up. "Imagine being born in an oven and the first person you meet wants to dunk you in his tea! Come and see the adventure of the deliciously-smelling Gingerbread Man and meet the bravest biscuit of all time!" Click here.

The Singing Mermaid | Little Angel Theatre | 25 Feb-4 Apr
Right, let's head over to the Little Angel Theatre for 'The Singing Mermaid', which begins a longish run at the venue this week, and which keepers of small children may well recognise as an adaptation of a book by Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks. The play involves puppetry and music by the brilliant Barb Jungr, and is aimed at audiences aged three to eight. "Did you ever go to Silversands, On a sunny summer's day? Then perhaps you saw the mermaid, Who sang in the deep blue bay". For more info see the venue website here.

Handa's Surprise | Little Angel Theatre | until 16 Apr
"Travel to Kenya and follow in Handa's footsteps as she journeys to see her best friend Akeyo, in the next village. Handa is taking seven delicious fruits as a surprise - but seven different animals have seven very different ideas…" This is another show on at Little Angel Theatre, and it's a show that's been on at this and other London venues before, but it's lovely to see it back because it's a lovely adaptation of a lovely book that was much loved by my daughter and her contemporaries once upon a time. And yes, the run has already begun, and I did mean to mention it last week, but it somehow fell off the list. Read more about it here.


THREE THEATRE SHOWS OPENING THIS WEEK>>

Mugabe, My Dad & Me | Brixton House | 24 Feb-1 Apr (pictured)
Yay, some theatre for the grown ups! And it's at shiny new venue Brixton House (formerly Ovalhouse) which is poised to open its doors to the public for the first time this week. The inaugural production is 'Mugabe, My Dad & Me', by Tonderai Munyevu, shortlisted for the Alfred Fagon Award in 2019. As you might expect from the title, the play charts the rise and fall of the controversial politician named in the title, told through the writer's personal story and relationship with his father. Munyevu performs in the piece alongside Millie Chapanda. For more info and to book see this page here.

Bloody Difficult Women | Riverside Studios | 24 Feb-26 Mar
And over to Riverside Studios for 'Bloody Difficult Women', which is an interesting looking play from Tim Walker about Brexit related events pertaining to the power struggle between the 'women' referenced in the title - Gina Miller and Theresa May. Directed by Stephen Unwin, and starring Amara Karan and Jessica Turner, the piece promises to be an "intensely human account of the court case Mrs Miller brought against Mrs May" which "makes for a revealing and often very funny drama, but ultimately it's a tragedy, where there are no winners, only losers". Read more here.

The Woods | Southwark Playhouse | 24 Feb-26 Mar
"Nick and Ruth are spending the weekend at a remote cabin in the woods. Their sweet escape from the city descends into a night of stories and fights, pushing their relationship to breaking point. As the sun rises, their need for one another is palpable but will a final reconciliation be threatened by the violent core simmering beneath?" A revival - the first in the UK for 25 years - of David Mamet's 1977 play 'The Woods', which examines dynamics at play between a heterosexual couple, and why such a relationship might struggle because of different priorities. For more information, and to book, see this page here.


THREE SHORTER THEATRE RUNS>>

Work.Txt | Soho Theatre | 28 Feb-12 Mar (pictured)
More theatre for you now, but these three have shorter runs than the previous three, so you do need to get your skates on a bit if you want to see them. Well, this one you have a bit more time, the other two are very short. Anyway, here we are, at Soho Theatre, ready to take in the rather good 'Work.Txt'. Here's the gen: "This is a show about work. But the worker isn't here, so it's down to you. You'll clock in at the beginning. You'll get short breaks at regular intervals. You'll work in a team, and under your own initiative. You will be your own boss. You will be free. 'Work.txt' is a show performed entirely by the audience about the gig economy, financial instability and bullshit jobs". Click here.

Please Do Not Touch | Pleasance Theatre | 22-26 Feb
There are quite a few shows on in London this month that ought to have been on at the sadly cancelled Vault Festival, and this show (and the next one, actually) is one of those. This is the work of Casey Bailey, Birmingham Poet Laureate 2020-2022. "Mason is currently spending his days at HMYOI Brins Heath, having stolen a century old afro comb from a National Trust house, realising that it was stolen. Mason has started writing poetry to process how he's feeling about the hypocrisy of 'Please Do Not Touch' signs being placed on items that were touched and taken from somewhere else in the world…" Read more about it here.

Lavender | Omnibus Theatre | 25-26 Feb
Omnibus Theatre has quite a few of the aforementioned should-have-been-Vault shows, including 'Afterbirth', which is the subject of our Q&A with writer Zena Forster this week; 'Who Murdered My Cat' from award winning storyteller Roann McCloskey; and 'About 500', which is about fertility and the lack of it. But the one I chose to feature here from among that selection is 'Lavender', a fast paced play that "reimagines the protection of LGBTQ+ histories both personal and political", and offers a "crude and chaotic history lesson in the lives of two young queer women". See this page here.


THREE FUNNY SHOWS>>

Tall Tales And Cocktails | Drayton Arms Theatre | 26 Feb
Ok, on to some funny stuff. This isn't all stand up - in fact, I can't even guarantee it's all massively hilarious, some of it might be wryly amusing or gently humorous. But broadly speaking, I'd expect a degree of levity to be involved. And because this first event is a storytelling show, I'd rather expect to see a bit of all of that, to be honest. 'Tall Tales And Cocktails' is a new comedy night inspired by Comedy Central's 'This Is Not Happening', which will see stand-ups telling true life stories with a comedic spin. As the blurb points out, the subject matter could get a bit 'mature' - with topics "from childhood trauma to absurd sexual experiences", so be warned. But book yourself in here.

Nabil Abdulrashid: N.A.B.I.L | Soho Theatre | 28 Feb-5 Mar (pictured)
Aaand from Nabil Abdulrashid I would definitely expect a hefty level of laughter provoking material - I mean, he's been on 'Live At The Apollo', 'Britain's Got Talent' and 'House Of Games' - albeit infused with sometimes sad and difficult stuff: "From growing up under military rule in northern Nigeria to falling into legal trouble as a teenager in south London, join Nabil as he recollects the remarkable, chaotic and sometimes tragic (but always hilarious) story of his life so far". Head this way to book.

God Of Carnage | OSO Arts Centre | 22-26 Feb
This one's a play (an award winning play in fact, when first staged), but a black comedy, so I would expect it to raise at least a few titters, even though the subject is a bit fraught. "What happens when two sets of parents meet up to deal with the unruly behaviour of their children? A calm and rational debate between grown-ups about the need to teach kids how to behave properly? Or a hysterical night of name-calling, tantrums and tears before bedtime? Boys will be boys, but the adults are usually worse - much worse". Sort out your tickets here.


THREE MORE GREAT EVENTS>>

Soldier Tales | The Space | 27 Feb
Three more events that didn't make it into any of the other categories - and for different reasons. One of the elements two of these things have in common, though, is that they're things you can take in at home, which is great, especially if it's still blooming windy. 'Soldier Tales' is one of those, though it's also absolutely a live in person performance if you'd prefer to be at the venue. It's a mini-festival of new writing, featuring short military-themed pieces written by military veterans or their loved ones, which were selected via a competition run by the Soldiers' Arts Academy. Read more and book right here.

Phantoms - A Triple Bill | Wilton's Music Hall | 24 Feb-5 Mar (pictured)
This one's for all you lovers of dance and physical theatre type stuff, a triple bill of "cinematic dance theatre" courtesy of the award winning Mark Bruce Company. The line up comprises 'Green Apples', a piece choreographed to music by The White Stripes, which sees two dancers performing within the confines of a rope circle; 'Folk Tales', which focuses on mythical characters and features music by Martin Simpson; and 'Phantoms', the title piece, a "tale of love, tragedy and revenge in a land where our phantoms roam free". Head this way to sort out tickets and for more info.

The Generation Myth - Why When You're Born Matters Less Than You Think | Conway Hall | 28 Feb
Finally, let's head to Conway Hall for another one of their rather interesting talks. And I reckon this will definitely be of interest to many, given how focused so many people seem to be on which generation they belong to. Bobby Duffy - author of 'Generations - Does When You Are Born Shape Who You Are' - argues that "we need to drop the stereotypes and focus on more rigorous generational analysis - one of our most powerful tools for understanding how individuals and societies change, and something which is even more important in light of the COVID-19 crisis, a truly generation-shaping event". This is also available online as well as in person, so you have two ways to consider attending. Head to this page here for more.
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