MONDAY 16 MAY 2022 THISWEEKCULTURE.COM
FRASER GRACE: BLISS
A new play presented by Cambridge-based Menagerie Theatre Company opens at the Finborough Theatre this week, and it's one which was previously a casualty of the pandemic, having been postponed twice because of the lockdowns. 

Based on 'The River Potudan' by censored Soviet writer Andrey Platonov, it's the work of acclaimed and multi-award winning playwright Fraser Grace, whose previous plays you'll be aware of - the likes of 'Always Orange' and 'Breakfast With Mugabe'. 

It tells a tragic but heartwarming tale, and its characters and setting - survivors dealing with the aftermath of war - have a sadly contemporary relevance.

I spoke to Fraser Grace to find out more about the production and the creatives behind it. 

CLICK HERE to read this Caro Meets interview.

'Bliss' is on at the Finborough Theatre from 17 May-11 Jun, see the venue website here for all the info and to get tickets.



KALEYA BAXE: PATRICIA GETS READY (FOR A DATE WITH THE MAN WHO USED TO HIT HER)
Coming up at Brixton House is the latest run of a show whose development we have been following for a while: we heard about it when it had its first few London dates and it appeared in our Three To See recommendations when it was on in the summer of 2021 in both Edinburgh and London. 

'Patricia Gets Ready (for a date with the man who used to hit her)' by Martha Watson Allpress has won much acclaim, and I was excited to see it back in the capital - and also thought it was about time we found out more about the play and the creative team behind it. 

I put some questions to the show's director Kaleya Baxe ahead of its upcoming dates.

CLICK HERE to read this Caro Meets interview.

'Patricia Gets Ready (for a date with the man that used to hit her)' is on at Brixton House from 17-22 May. For more information and to book your tickets head to the venue website here.
Shows to see in person in London - and online anywhere - including performances from people and companies we first discovered at the Edinburgh Festival.


THREE FUNNY SHOWS>>

Steve Bugeja | Underbelly Festival (Earl's Court) | 20 May
This week I thought we would start with some stuff to make you all laugh a bit, or even a lot, because I feel like laughing would be a great thing to do at the moment. And we are going to start with a show that's on at the begun-again Underbelly Festival, taking place this year in two locations in London, with a venue in Earl's Court and a venue in Cavendish Square. This first pick from the line up is a show by a longstanding TW fave, Steve Bugeja, though in the blurb it says he's a "rising star", so maybe he's been a TW fave for a shorter period of time than I was thinking. Anyway, here he is, performing a show about how he tried to start his own nickname and it sounds like that will be fuel for a fair amount of hilarity. Head to the Underbelly Festival website here to find out more.

Friday Night Funnies GO LARGE | Chickenshed Theatre | 20 May
And now, let's head to Chickenshed Theatre - a venue we are usually more likely to be recommending children's shows at, I think - for another fab comedy experience. This one, as you might have already guessed, is the kind of show that has a line up of lots of acts and they are all ace. I mean, really, they're all very experienced regulars of the comedy scene: the show is MCd by Lateef Lovejoy, and the six quality acts lining up to be MCd by him are Fiona Allen, Darran Griffiths, Zoe Brownstone, Jerry Bakewell, Zahra Barri and Philipp Carl Kostelecky. And as well as enjoying these great comedy performers, you can also avail yourself of a pop up street kitchen at the venue in advance of the show and the venue's bar and late licence after it. Read more and book your tickets here.

Potatohead | Camden People's Theatre | 20-21 May (pictured)
This last one isn't stand-up in the classic sense, like the previous two shows, but it is a solo show, written and performed by Freddie Hayes, which claims to be "gloriously bonkers". It's a (surely loose?) adaptation of 'Doctor Faustus', brought to you via puppetry, physical theatre, film, singing and dancing. It tells the story of a humble potato - Charlotte - who dreams of being a stand-up comedian, and blends surrealist comedy with more traditional theatrical elements. Oh, and it's directed by the excellent TW favourites Sh!t Theatre. I'm entirely drawn to this, not least because of the level of silliness and joy it promises, so I'd recommend you all head this way to find out more, and be drawn to it too.


THREE CHILDREN'S SHOWS>>

I Want My Hat Back Trilogy | Little Angel Theatre | 21 May-31 Jul (pictured)
And now, onto some things that will make your little darling smile and laugh. And who knows, you grown ups might actually enjoy these shows too. This one's based on Jon Klassen's beloved 'Hat' books, and has been created by Ian Nicholson and Sam Wilde, whose hit digital series made a splash during the lockdown. "A bear has lost his hat. What if he never sees it again? WAIT! He has seen his hat. A fish has stolen a hat. And he'll probably get away with it. Probably. Two turtles have found a hat. The hat looks good on both of them. But there are two turtles. And there is only one hat". Find out more here.

The Paper Dolls | Polka Theatre | 20 May-7 Aug
"When a little girl makes a string of paper dolls, she takes them by the hand on a fantastical adventure. Whirling through the home and garden, they fly through the air, until they are confronted with some very sharp scissors..." Another adaptation of a well loved book by well loved creators - in this case 'The Paper Dolls' by kid-book superstar Julia Donaldson, award-winningly illustrated by Rebecca Cobb. The age range on this is three to seven, but there are toddler-friendly performances on selected dates later in the summer, if your small person is just a little tot. Read more about the show and book your tickets right about here.

Get Dressed! | Unicorn Theatre | 13 May-12 Jun
This one started last week, and I meant to mention it in the previous set of tips, but I sadly had to make some cuts and this one was a casualty. It's not the end of the world, though, because you still have lots of time to see it. It's another one for rather small children (it's aimed at those aged two to five) and it's described as an "energetic, warm and playfully physical show" about a little girl who is "obsessed with her very favourite outfits, whatever the weather, despite what her Dad thinks". The production promises to speak equally to grown ups and children as it explores familial relationships and the struggles of family life. Read more and book tickets here.


THREE MUSICAL SHOWS>>

Venus & Adonis and Dido & Aeneas | The Cockpit | 20-29 May (pictured)
And now for some grown up shows. Some very grown up shows. And these ones have the added bonus of having music in them, if music is your thing. It's surely most people's thing to at least an extent, isn't it? Anyway, we've got a slight (though not completely) operatic theme in this section, as we begin with a double bill of baroque beauties, John Blow's 'Venus And Adonis' and Henry Purcell's 'Dido And Aeneas'. Presented by North London opera company HGO, it's a production that "switches between a mythical present and a Baroque vision of classical myth and highlights also the comedy and satire in the texts and music". Head to the venue website here to find out more.

Nick Hart | Stone Nest | 17 May
This is the one of the three here that isn't opera. It's also not musical theatre or comedy with music. It's just pure unadulterated folk music, as it's a performance by award winning singer and instrumentalist Nick Hart, who is winning much acclaim for his take on English folk song. This particular event is an album launch for his latest long player (do they call them that anymore?) 'Nick Hart Sings Ten English Folk Songs', which was recorded during the first lockdown in 2020, and which is described as a bit of a departure from the "stripped back, live approach" of his first two albums. Anyway, I've listened to his stuff a bit and I think he's rather good. Read more about him and book tickets here.

Three Decembers | Wilton's Music Hall | 17-21 May
This last one is more operatic fare for you all, and it's one you may well be less familiar with, it being the UK premiere of 2007 chamber opera 'Three Decembers' by contemporary American composer Jake Heggie, with libretto by Gene Scheer, based on the script of 'Some Christmas Letters' by playwright Terrence McNally. The opera tells the story of a Broadway actress and her two adult children in a narrative that takes place over three decades of the AIDS crisis, set in 1986, 1996 and 2006. It's an acclaimed work, with a great cast, so head to the venue website here to find out more and to get your tickets booked.


THREE THINGS YOU CAN ACCESS ONLINE>>

George | Camden People's Theatre | 23 May-21 Jun (pictured)
Hurray for things you can access online. Accessing things online is great. So let's get to it. First up is 'George', which is available on demand via Camden People's Theatre, and is a thirty minute 'audio experience with songs', focused on the topic of guide dogs and their relationship with their companions. It's inspired by the memories of Tom, who as a young boy witnesses the teamwork between his uncle, who is blind, and his guide dog, and was recorded live in the home of Siobhan Meade, who is registered blind, with her guide dog, Marty, curled up at her feet. For more information on this work, and to download it, head to the venue website here.

This Last Piece Of Sky | The Space | 17-21 May
As is the usual thing with shows on at The Space lately, this is on for in-person audiences too, but you have a chance to watch via livestream on 17 May. It's a play by French writer Kevin Keiss, translated by Charis Ainsley, and it sounds rather intriguing: "Louis is triumphant: he has found the secret of the universe. But the line between genius and mania is thin, and Louis's family struggles to cope with his behaviour. In hospital, as winter sets in, he dreams of a girl called Sarah. Meanwhile, in the intense heat of summer, a family adjusts to living under a military coup. Checkpoints are springing up, neighbours have been arrested, music is banned. Worse still, their daughter's behaviour is attracting attention at school. Her name, as it happens, is Sarah..." Read more here.

Thinking On Sunday: The Suspect - Counterterrorism, Islam And The Security State | Conway Hall | 22 May
"What impact has two decades' worth of policing and counterterrorism had on the state of mind of Muslims in Britain? Rizwaan Sabir draws on his own experiences to take the reader on a journey through British counterterrorism practices and the policing of Muslims. Sabir describes what led to his arrest for suspected terrorism, his time in detention, and the surveillance he was subjected to on release from custody, including stop and search at the roadside, detentions at the border, monitoring by police and government departments, and an attempt by the UK military to recruit him into their psychological warfare unit". Another very interesting sounding talk over at Conway Hall in which Sabir will be speaking about his book 'The Suspect - Counterterrorism, Islam And The Security State'. London types can attend in-person and the rest of you can access it online. Click here.


THREE THEATRICAL THINGS>>

100 Paintings | The Hope Theatre | 17 May-4 Jun (pictured)
And now, theatre, all of it in the flesh and all of it proven and/or promising. First up is '100 Paintings' at The Hope Theatre, which had a successful run at the Bread & Roses Theatre last year and is a tragic comedy set in a dystopian future where a young artist is struggling to survive, living in the crumbling Savoy Hotel. "Battling mountains of unpaid hotel bills, the young artist has three days to produce one-hundred original paintings and deliver them to the new hotel manager or he and his mother face being turned out onto the street. With hilarious distractions coming in full force, he struggles to keep on course to meet the deadline, but help often comes from the most unexpected of places..." Head this way to find out more.

Flight Path | Jack Studio Theatre | 17-28 May
"High above the earth, where hunks of metal soar on invisible winds, the very fabric of reality breaks down... When an unidentified body falls impossibly fast from a plane which never existed, one journalist - determined to make sense of it all - resolves to take up the case. When what he finds goes deeper than a single story could, he quickly finds himself picking battle lines in a fight between reason and madness". This - a surreal comedy about things falling from planes - sounds rather inviting, doesn't it? It's the work of Glasgow based theatre collective Brief Palava, who've done well in the digital space the last couple of years, and now make a return to live in-person performance. See the venue website here for tickets and to book.

We Started To Sing | Arcola Theatre | 19 May-18 Jun
"I wish there could be a day where families came together and just said it all to each other. Because then everyone would know it all, and there'd be nothing left to hurt anyone". Over to Arcola Theatre for 'We Started To Sing', written and directed by acclaimed playwright Barney Norris, which promises to be a touching play exploring universal themes. "Sussex. London. Wiltshire. Northamptonshire. Wales. Over three decades, a family spreads across the country, and the chord they once made together starts to fray. How will the distance growing between them change the music of their lives?" Click here.


THREE MORE GREAT SHOWS>>

Everyday | New Diorama Theatre | 17 May-11 Jun (pictured)
Another three shows, and yes, it's a bit of a mixed bag in genre terms, this section, though it would be fair to say the dance/physical element is a dominant overall. This is theatrical though, and definitely powerful, as this show by the award winning Deafinitely Theatre covers the topic of domestic abuse in the deaf community, drawing on interviews with those exposed to it. "Our people come together to perform a ritual of community and catharsis. Gathering up true stories of deaf women and non-binary people's experiences of surviving abuse, they form a witches' coven like no other - with a cauldron of newt's eyes and butterflies, deep scars and blazing signs". For more information and to book your tickets head to the venue website here.

Duet | Jacksons Lane | 19 May
So, as implied in the first tip, the rest of this week's recommendations involve dance and movement, and the first one is 'Duet' at Jackson's Lane, a performance that was originally set to take place back in March as part of the venue's previously tipped Nordic Exposure season. It's by H2DANCE, aka Hanna Gillgren, who is from Sweden, and Heidi Rustgaard, who is from Norway, and who - after a decade together - feared they were on the verge of a break-up so decided to do couple therapy. The show is an autobiographical work, based on their ongoing examination of their relationship, and looks at the nature of being a twosome, its power struggles and compromises. For more info, see the venue website here.

Grin | Battersea Arts Centre | 18-27 May
Another very interesting performance featuring sound, visuals and choreography that tackles and subverts hyper-sexualised notions of African and Caribbean dance. "'Grin' is a masquerade of dance sculptures where body and costume are accompanied by a pulsating sound score. Conversation around community building, refusals, friendship and support grounds the development of this dynamic dance production, which both holds and is held by a cohort of friends at its core. With a significant focus on black love and other experiences of interiority, this show is essential in considering how we can build empathy and reconstitute networks of solidarity". Click here.
At TW:CULTURE we champion the best in fringe theatre, comedy and culture.

Year round, we pick the best shows happening in London and online each week, providing handy Three To See recommendations and interviewing the people behind those productions.

Plus each summer we also cover the biggest cultural event in the world: The Edinburgh Festival.


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