Tag Archive | "Southwark Playhouse"

Tags: , , , , , ,

Review: Digital Ghosts/Children of the Revolution, Southwark Playhouse

Posted on 21 April 2014 by Laura Peatman

A double bill of new works from Southwark Playhouse Young Company shows a group of young artists with their fingers firmly on the pulse of their generation, whose potential can certainly be developed with some refinement and focus. Both one-act pieces focus on issues of ‘the youth today’, a phrase dismissed so angrily by one of the characters of Children of the Revolution, varying from distrust of the government and the price of education, to addiction to social media and online personae.

Children of the Revolution, performed by the 15-18 Years Company, explores an imagined general election in which the voting age is lowered to 15, leading to a landslide victory by ‘The Future’ party. The social commentary is pretty unsubtle and the ending – an apparently perfect society in which the teenagers in power led the country with ease –  is rather simplified and sentimentalised. However, these young performers present a work that is aware of the pressing issues for their generation, and there is a keen sense of creative buzz. In particular, a strong scene sees characters drawing parallels between the Orwellian Animal Farm commandments and their own school rules, and perhaps gives a suggestion of what The History Boys might be like if it was set in a 2014 high school: the same combination of intellectual spark and teenage rebellion reigns.

With no character list it’s sadly impossible to put names to faces; yet mention must go to some great character acting from a flamboyant Prime Minister David Campbell (ring any bells?) with a love of Whitney Houston. The actor is let down by a script that drags out the comedy beyond its potential, but his comic timing got a rapturous reaction. Elsewhere, perhaps down to nerves, fast delivery and a lack of projection into the space means some chunks of dialogue are completely lost. Yet on the whole, this ensemble use space well, have a strong grasp of character and understand how theatre can be used to dissect the world around us. They should now focus on delivery and exploring this sketched plot further to discover the nuances of their themes – but there’s plenty of good signs for the future.

In the second half, Digital Ghosts – by the 19-25 Years Company – puts another on-trend theme under their microscope, that of social networking and the digital age. There’s a risk that this could already feel outdated, with the novelty of the social media explosion behind us, but the company do an impressive job of maintaining freshness and currency throughout. There is plenty of humour – with a good deal coming from the wickedly accurate mirror it holds up to us all – including a disastrous Skype date and a character who talks largely in hashtags (“#save #Africa #justsayin #Isaid”).

This work is sharper in performance than the first, as you’d expect from a more mature cast, yet its snapshot style needs more focus to create a wholly satisfying piece. While some threads are strong – for example a girl suffering from amnesia who in fact needs her ‘digitial ghost’ to make her memories – others seem rather haphazard. Although it’s one of the funniest scenes of the night, it’s unclear how a conversation about the poverty crisis in Africa is relevant to digital communication. It’s almost as if there’s too much creative material in one work, and with so many interesting trains of thought, it’s worth streamlining and focusing to make sure they are presented as effectively as possible. Once again, director Paul Edwards uses the space of ‘The Little’ intelligently with excellent staging (although I was at times rather blinded by Zoe Spurr’s lighting design…) and this is a short but sparky production that keeps the audience enthused and entertained.

All in all, a successful evening’s work that shows a lot of promise from these ensembles. There are certainly elements that can be streamlined, and areas to work on in delivery, but Southwark Playhouse Young Company are in touch with their audiences, confident in their artistic vision, and able to create rounded characters swiftly that already shows an impressive aptitude for their craft.

Laura Peatman

Laura Peatman

Laura is an English graduate, tea drinker and blogger. After spending three years studying and reviewing theatre at Cambridge University, she now runs marketing for an HE dance college and spends as much time as humanly possible at the theatre.

More Posts - Website

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , ,

Review: Three Sisters, Southwark Playhouse

Posted on 10 April 2014 by Adam Foster

 Three Sisters

Anya Reiss has form when it comes to adaptations. Her version of Frank Wedekind’s Spring Awakening, a co-production between Headlong, West Yorkshire Playhouse and the Nuffield Theatre in Southampton, continues its tour this spring. Her adaptation of The Seagull, meanwhile, was recently revived by the Library Theatre Company at the Lowry, having premiered at the Southwark Playhouse at the end of 2012. Now, in between a new job writing for EastEnders, Reiss returns to the Southwark Playhouse with a new version of Three Sisters.

This is Chekhov with Christmas jumpers, iPads and baby wipes. To account for the isolation of the Russian original, Reiss’s three sisters Olga (Olivia Lallinan), Irina (Holliday Granger) and Masha (the brilliant Emily Taaffe) pine for London in the British ex-pat community of an unspecified Middle Eastern country, from which the British army are about to withdraw. To this end, it reminded me of Sir Nicholas Hytner’s seminal Othello at the National Theatre last year, with the inert aftermath of war once again proving fertile ground for domestic drama. The problem with modernisation of this kind, though, is one of context. As Michael Billington noted in his review of Hytner’s production, “once you’re into a world of laptops and strip lighting, it’s hard to believe Othello would be deluded by the absence of a spotted handkerchief”.

While Othello’s handkerchief stretched believability in a modern day setting, here the fundamental constraints under which Chekhov’s three sisters lived simply don’t exist anymore. Would they really be so reliant on their brother Andrey (Thom Tuck) for financial support? Would Masha really stay with a husband whom she didn’t love? Why don’t they just go to London? Some would say, of course, that they don’t go because the play is about not getting there. Just as Godot never arrives in Beckett’s drama, so Moscow isn’t reached in Chekhov’s. Nevertheless, in an age of wanderlust and budget airlines, you can’t help but wonder why they don’t just up sticks and head for the big smoke.

I also think she’s missing a trick with her change of setting. Apart from the occasional sound of military aircraft overhead and the mention of “a small terrorist attack” in London, Reiss fails to make use of what is quite a bold piece of geographical re-contextualisation. Set, as it is, in the Middle East, I would have liked to have seen Reiss embrace the socio-cultural predicaments of that context and impose similar social constraints on her three sisters. In this context, Natasha’s invasion of the house could be loaded with a very different set of implications.

Aside from these concerns, Reiss’s version succeeds brilliantly in relocating Chekhov’s existential ramblings for a modern age. As her Andrey puts it, this is a world in which everyone is just “sleeping and eating and shitting and drinking and working and dying”. For me, the production was at its best when it embraced this more modern sensibility, with a riotous karaoke rendition of Pulp’s Common People being a particularly memorable example. There are also some cracking one liners. Indeed, if we learnt anything from Reiss’s early work it was the ease with which she handles fraught, claustrophobic domesticity. She puts that skill to good use here with the crowded early acts providing ample opportunity for bitching and backstabbing, usually, as you’d expect, directed towards the suitably irritating Natasha (Emily Dobbs).

Nevertheless, this adaptation must be viewed in the context of what is a growing portfolio of adaptation work for Reiss, particularly given that her version of The Seagull for this theatre was criticised in some quarters for the slightness of her intervention. In a recent interview for the British Theatre Guide podcast, Reiss gives a lucid insight into how she went about adapting Chekhov’s play. Rather than adapting sentence by sentence as you might expect, Reiss explained that she would read several versions of a given page to give her a “blue print” of the action, before going away and writing her own version. In doing so, she endeavours to capture the spirit of Chekhov, but in her own voice. With a number of adaptions under her belt, I only wish Reiss had the courage to move beyond the blueprint and allow her own voice to take the ascendancy. All of which entails that for all its promise, this is an adaptation that fails to truly ignite.

Three Sisters is playing at Southwark Playhouse until 3 May. For more information and tickets, see the Southwark Playhouse website. Photo by Annabel Vere.

Adam Foster

Adam Foster

Adam graduated from the University of Exeter in 2012. He is currently enrolled on Royal Holloway’s MA Playwriting course run by the playwright and academic Dan Rebellato. He has previously trained as an actor at The BRIT School and is represented by Alchemy Active Management.

More Posts

Comments (0)

Tags: , ,

Competition: Win tickets to Three Sisters at Southwark Playhouse

Posted on 31 March 2014 by Lucia Genziani

Love your Chekhov? Then you’ll be pleased to know you can win 2 tickets to see Three Sisters at the Southwark Playhouse with this AYT competition. Skip below the blurb to find out how to enter.

Three Sisters
by Anton Chekhov
in a new version by Anya Reiss
Southwark Playhouse
3 April-3 May 2014

‘You won’t be here. Not in thirty years. You’ll have had a stroke, or I’ll have shot you. It’ll be one or the other.’

Three sisters. Three thousand miles from home. Overworked Olga, wild Masha and idealistic Irina dream of returning. Living in a world of deceit, desire and hard drinking it’s difficult but is there something else holding them back?

Featuring a stellar cast led by Holliday Grainger, Olivia Hallinan, Emily Taaffe & Paul McGann, and reinterpreted for the 21st century by Anya Reiss, (winner, Most Promising Playwright at the Evening Standard Awards and Critics Circle Awards 2010) this searing new version of Chekhov’s masterpiece reunites the team behind 2012’s critically acclaimed, sell-out hit, The Seagull and is co-produced by the award winning producer of last year’s smash hit, Titanic.

Press for The Seagull -

‘Fresh, colloquial, sexy and downright perceptive.’

The Telegraph ✭✭✭✭

‘in a year of remarkable Chekhov revivals, this Seagull flies with the best’

The Guardian ✭✭✭✭


Enter the Competition

Want to win 2 tickets to Three Sisters at the Southwark Playhouse? Simply enter your details below.

Your Email (required)

Your First Name (required)

Your Last Name (required)

Your Date of Birth DD/MM/YY (required)

Your Location (required)

Please enter the following code

More information and tickets via the Southwark Playhouse website

Terms and conditions apply. Prize is valid Mon-Thurs between 9th and the 17th April 2014. Subject to availability. Prize is as stated and cannot be transferred or exchanged. No cash alternative will be offered.

Competition closes on Monday 7 April at 5pm. By entering this competition you agree to be added to the A Younger Theatre E-Newsletter.

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Review: A Study in Scarlet, Southwark Playhouse

Posted on 24 March 2014 by Jemma Anderson

The original stories of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson may be over 100-years-old, but they’re just as popular today as ever before (if not more so). The recent successful television series’, Sherlock and Elementary, are just the tip of the iceberg of recent adaptations of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, and just when the small screen seems to be leading the way in showcasing the investigative duo’s adventures, in come Tacit Theatre presenting its new version of A Study in Scarlet. 

Written by Lila Whelan and Greg Freeman, A Study in Scarlet is a faithful adaptation of the novel of the same name. Known as the first book in the series, it serves as an introduction to the characters of Sherlock and Dr Watson as they begin their crime-solving together whilst we see the pair come face-to-face with some murderous Mormons that have travelled from Utah to Victorian London.

There’s a rather typically-Holmes set that we’re invited to walk through to get to our seats, detailed with those objects synonymous with 221b Baker Street: science experiments, a comfy armchair, and a whisky decanter, all loving designed by Katharine Heath. The intimate black box theatre holds host to the small cast of seven; although some clever multi-rolling is used to create many more characters.

Director Nicholas Thompson has used the intimate space to the best of its abilities, and Leo Steele’s clever lighting design highlights the actors nicely. One of my favourite images came from the close of act one: Sherlock standing silhouetted as he plays his infamous violin, a trait we all know and expect to see of the world’s only consulting detective.

The smug and erratic Sherlock is performed with great energy by Philip Benjamin. He is similarly matched by Edward Cartwright’s slightly loose, but comical Dr John Watson, who injects some much needed light-heartedness into the evening.

There should also be a particular mention for Holly Ashton and Stephanie Prior, who not only delight with their portrayal of the female roles, but similarly charm the audience with their musical skills. Elliot Harper, Rhys King and Paul Lincoln, who all double up on contrasting characters, also contribute to the evening’s musical interludes with some fine characterisations.

Whilst not only a fine adaptation that is sure to delight Holmes fans, it is a great evening to showcase just how to fill a small space with such a delightful, relevant story with considerable talent.

A Study in Scarlet is playing at Southwark Playhouse until 12 April. For more information and tickets see the Southwark Playhouse website.


Jemma Anderson

Jemma is currently studying Drama, Theatre and Performance at Roehampton University. Between studying and reading about theatre, she also watches and reviews as Editor-in-chief of the Drama Department's newspaper, The Call.

More Posts

Comments (0)

Advertise Here
Advertise Here

Join our E-Newsletter

Exclusive offers, opportunities and updates from AYT.