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Tag Archive | "Soho Theatre"

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Review: The Husbands, Soho Theatre

Posted on 17 March 2014 by Hannah Tookey

The Husbands

Kali Theatre has flipped polygamy on its head with an insightful new production that delves into life in a fictional society where the fairer sex rule. In a world where polygamy is widely accepted and even encouraged – if you are a man – Sharmila Chauhan presents a different possibility: a futuristic rural community in India where polyandry is actively encouraged, where women own more land than men, and where it is common for females to hold prominent positions of power.

In the intimate setting of Soho Theatre’s Upstairs space, the gated and self-sufficient community of Shaktipur is brought vividly to life. The pungent aroma of cardamom and cinnamon fills the room, and brightly coloured bunting hangs overhead. It’s a simple set, but evocative of a world deep-rooted in, and loyal to, ancient Indian traditions.

Whilst for the most part the dialogue is light and witty, elements of Chauhan’s script tug at similar strings to that of the award-winning play Nirbhaya. References made to the treatment of women outside Shaktipur serve as a searing reminder of the reality of life in India today for some women.

The Husbands is honest and fresh throughout, from the genuine love and fondness that can be felt between Aya and her husbands, to the jealousy that (naturally?) arises from such an arrangement. The tensions wrought from a fear of outsiders and the threat they pose to this stable and insular society are evident, though, and in this snug space we are forced to acknowledge them.

Syreeta Kumar is strong as the firm and forthright Aya, who is busy preparing for her third wedding, this time to a wealthy landowner in Mumbai, without a whisper of dissent from the society she rules over. She faces contention though from worried husband Omar (Mark Theodore) who isn’t keen to share Aya, whilst her other husband Sem (Rhik Samadder) has accepted her decision, choosing instead to prioritise the development of their society. However it is the unannounced arrival of British lover Jerome (Phillip Edgerley) that reveals the cracks in their system as he ostensibly undermines the progressive façade of their way of life in Shaktipur.

Ultimately, whilst women have the edge on hierarchy, ownership of land, and power in this community, significant worth is still placed on their bodies – Aya’s third marriage is a means for her to expand the advanced agricultural teachings of Shaktipur, and to hopefully extend their spirit and values throughout India; it is essentially a trade of woman for land. Fundamentally this blurs Chauhan’s message somewhat, and whilst direction by Janet Steel is simple, a more nuanced second half might have made this clearer.

The Husbands is playing at Soho Theatre until 23 March. For more information and tickets, see the Soho Theatre website.

Hannah Tookey

Hannah Tookey

Hannah is a freelance theatre and film producer with a slightly worrying addiction to coffee and travel. A graduate of Warwick University, she's worked with the RSC, NYT, and Many Rivers Productions, amongst others.

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Feature: Straight from the director’s mouth – 27 mins with Gbolahan Obisasan

Posted on 08 March 2014 by Rachel St John

Jackie Sibblies Drury’s cleverly titled play We are proud to present a presentation about the Herero of Namibia, formerly known as South-West Africa, from the German SudWest Afrika, between the years 1884 and 1915, took the US by storm, becoming part of a growing trend of exploring Africa, its past and its culture. The show has now been brought to London’s Bush Theatre, where actor turned writer/director Gbolahan Obisesan is taking charge of the show.

“I actually found out about the show whilst researching another play,” Obisesan says. “I had been receiving newsletters from Jackie’s agent and I saw the name of the play in one of them and found it intriguing. I eventually read the play and was moved; it was funny, challenging but very tragic.”

Drury’s play is about six young actors in their 20s, three black and three white, who are doing a presentation about the first genocide of the twentieth century. With themes such as race, identity, belonging and culture within the performance, it’s no wonder Obisesan jumped at the chance to get involved. Not many plays bring up the eye-opening reality of such a historic tragedy in a modern day context.

“I really wanted to put the play in front of a British audience and see how they’d respond to it,” Obisesan continues. “In the same way that Jackie Drury intended to engage the audience in the script, I wished to do the same with the production over here – making it poignant and relevant to the audience on a high level. I was excited to get into the rehearsal process with the actors, unlocking and unpicking the play so that it would work theatrically. The play explores an obscure historical event that deals with a lot of issues which the well-intended characters deal with. They become challenged, battered and broken on the legacy of what happened as they look into their human sense of identity.”

Obisesan, a London-based director, originally started out as a member of the National Youth Theatre wanting to be an actor. I asked how he transitioned into writing and directing so successfully. The National Youth theatre started up a programme called Short Nights where it challenged members to write a play. As a result, Obisesan wrote his first play, Roadside, about a young man dealing with addiction and mental illness. “People responded positively to it and I also directed it. It was then I wanted to learn more about what I could offer actors, but I also had more stories within me that I wanted to explore and share through the medium of theatre.” From there, he began looking for outlets to further explore this creative side – and became part of the Soho and Royal Court writers’ groups whilst undertaking an introduction to directing course at the Young Vic. “I was keen to find out which I felt a stronger pull towards without limiting my potential by focusing on just one.”

Which does he prefer, I wonder? Cue another chuckle: “In a way, I think they go hand in hand. Part of my motivation is to remain visible and to not feel limited. I’ve been lucky enough for people to acknowledge me as a writer and a director. As a director, you need to communicate the play to actors and decipher the message. With writing, it’s about sculpting characters, the narrative, and elements of the drama and its structure which may be helpful for the director. So to me, both are valued and they feed off one another. If a writing job comes up, I’ll take it. If a directing job comes up and it’s a play I really want to do I’ll probably take it as well.” He went on to describe himself as a “hired gun”, going where the money is. “You don’t want to be struggling or on benefits and there’s an integrity about making a living whilst having freedom, so the balance of writing and directing for me depends on where the work is coming from.”

Although he had a busy press day ahead, I took time to ask what advice he would offer to directors and theatre makers who are just starting out: “One of the biggest challenges for directors starting out is breaking into the industry, so just jump in with both feet and immerse yourself, rather than half exploring it. Take every opportunity you can and ensure that you’re being creatively challenged whilst learning about the things you’re lacking. If you have a sense of what you want to achieve and where you want to go, you’re more likely to find yourself gaining momentum and not stagnating.” Because from there, he continued, you can find opportunities to match your dreams.

All this is easier if you live in or close to London – but what if you don’t? “Remain visible,” he advises. “Get involved with your local theatre the best way you can – even if it means writing a letter with regards to what you’re interested in. They might be able to lead you in the right direction or support you by making the theatre more open to you. When it comes to being taken seriously, how you present yourself on a professional level is very important. So make adjustments if you need to. It could be your sense of style, how you communicate or your attitude in how you relate to things. As long as you can present strong ideas and back them up there’s no reason they won’t take you seriously.”

We are proud to present a presentation about the Herero of Namibia, formerly known as South-West Africa, from the German SudWest Afrika, between the years 1884 and 1915 is at the Bush Theatre until 12 April. For more information and tickets, visit the Bush’s website

 

Rachel St John

Rachel St John

Rachel is an aspiring playwright and theatre enthusiast who graduated from Kingston University in 2012. She currently works as a freelance writer and part-time babysitter, and is a regular volunteer at the New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth.

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Ticket Offer: £10 tickets to How To Be Immortal at Soho Theatre

Posted on 04 March 2014 by A Younger Theatre

How To Be ImmortalHow To Be Immortal
Soho Theatre,
Tue 4 – Sat 8 Mar 9.30pm, Sun 9 Mar 7.30pm

Intimate, bold and funny.’ ★★★★ The Gay UK

What do we leave behind us when we die? Memories, music, old shoes… DNA?

Henrietta Lacks died in 1951 but her cells are still alive, growing in test tubes all over the world. But no-one bothered to tell the family.

Ghosts, cells and everlasting love intertwine in these twisted true tales, with original live music on cello, squeezebox and ukulele.

POST-SHOW TALK: WHO OWNS OUR DNA?

After the show on Thu 6 March there will be a post-show discussion with the cast (Clare Perkins, Anna Helena McLean and John McKeever), director Kirsty Housley and writer Mira Dovreni. Joining them is scientist Louisa Petchey, who is Policy and Public Affairs Assistant at Genetic Alliance UK and has a PhD in developmental genetics.

FREE, NO BOOKING REQUIRED

Watch the trailer here, or see the ticket offer code below to book.

 

SPECIAL OFFER: Tickets £10

Select full price tickets then enter the promo code immortal10 at the checkout.

Book online via the Soho Theatre website.

 

A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre (AYT) is a platform for young people to express their views on theatre and performance. The site is maintained, edited and published by under 26 year olds who all have a passion for theatre.

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Review: Smallholding, Soho Theatre

Posted on 21 February 2014 by Lisa Carroll

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Chris Dunkley’s intense and tragic two-hander Smallholding explores how, no matter where you find yourself, old habits always die hard. Indeed, when Jen (Matti Houghton) and Andy (Chris New) relocate to a cottage in Northamptonshire, they hope their rural surroundings might help them bury their past, so that they can live clean in the country air. However, soon their big plans to grow parsnips, sell their produce to supermarkets, and reclaim custody of their daughter are eclipsed by Andy’s lies, erratic behaviour and eventual relapse. Over the course of a fast-moving 70 minutes, we witness the couple spiral out of control, as each pushes the other further into the clutches of addiction and despair.

Soho Theatre’s intimate Soho Upstairs space provides the perfect setting for this claustrophobic piece, with the audience watching from every side as the couple haplessly descends into crisis. David Kidd’s lighting design successfully bolsters this effect, introducing undertones of menace into this seemingly inoffensive country setting, complemented by Rob Jones’s quirky sound design, creating an unsettling tone for the work that is sustained throughout.

Patrick Sandford’s confident direction ensures that the storytelling is clear and fluid, as the audience comes to learn about Jen and Andy’s hopes, failings and darker natures. Unfortunately, Sandford’s commendable efforts cannot always camouflage the exposition-heavy moments within Dunkley’s script, nor compensate for what is ultimately quite a predictable story. Moreover, the play’s form, unwittingly mirroring its content, lapses towards the end due to the language of its staging. While Sandford has the actors participate in partially lit scene-changes throughout the play, it is at the crucial climactic point that the rules of the on-stage world become confused, and the turning point of the piece is undermined as we segue into the equally unsatisfying final scene.

Of course, Smallholding is incredibly relevant and well-timed, given recent headlines regarding high profile figures and their abuse of heroin. Furthermore, Houghton and New offer valiant performances that highlight the grey areas surrounding the topic, such as the often-overlooked fact that abusers are more often victims than criminals. Again though, the cast are fighting against a form that sees the drama hinge on incremental revelations, often resulting in the tension being undermined overall, and the nuance of the subject matter lost. As such, Smallholding feels as though it does not shed any new light on a topic that so desperately needs examining and addressing on the stage and beyond.

Smallholding is playing at the Soho Theatre until 9 March. For more information and tickets, see Soho Theatre website.

 

Lisa Carroll

Lisa Carroll

Lisa Carroll graduated from University College Dublin in 2012 with a B.A International in English. She is also a playwright, script reader and director. @lisa_carroll46

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