Ash

5 stars

Perky and poignant, funny and fatalistic, Ash is a study of love: love for a mother, love between husband and wife, and – here's the rub – love of a thing which will kill you.  It's grounded firmly in no-nonsense Yorkshire, but it's filled with creative flourish; it plays to the eyes and the ears, but most of all to the heart.  It follows a likeable, everyday protagonist called George, introducing us to the family and friends who surround him.  And all of them smoke.

Review by Richard Stamp published on Monday 13 February | Read more

Save + Quit

4 stars

The set is simple, two separate chairs, left and right on a darkened stage; the spotlight falls upon Joe (Eddie Robinson), seated to our right. Joe is a proper Londoner, who knows his city and its people. He speaks at a London pace, nimble and superficial, at the surface, with occasional glints of a kinder underbelly – a tight community that cares for those near to them.  Yet as he talks, we come to suspect that he hankers after times gone by.

Review by Mike Lee published on Saturday 11 February | Read more

Astronauts of Hartlepool

3 stars

Evening darkness has fallen on Hartlepool. A lone figure (Rakhee Thakrar), dressed in black and looking somewhat distressed, stands by the water's edge – ready to jump. Along comes a passer-by, a modern day good Samaritan (Sophie Steer). But this is no ordinary attempt at suicide. And this is no ordinary passer-by.

Review by Mike Lee published on Saturday 11 February | Read more

Greywing House

4 stars

The audience is met by the lady of the house, Miss Amelia (played by Molly Beth Morossa).  She welcomes us into her home – a guesthouse by the sea, where breakfast will not be served.

The warmth of her greeting is periodically offset by details that aren't quite right: an off-kilter note of sadness in Miss Amelia's tone, the threatening roar of waves nearby, glances toward people no longer present.  As smudges of Miss Amelia's reality seep in, the dimly-lit mould-green surroundings add to the tone, revealing tragic neglect and confirming the dark theme of this story.

Review by Mike Lee published on Monday 6 February | Read more

Major Tom

3 stars

I'll start this review with a confession: I'm not a fan of Bruce Springsteen.  I don't mean that I'm actively against him; I just mean that I'm not a follower, not an expert, not obsessed.  Which is what sets me apart from "Major" Tom, the likeable protagonist of this one-man show, whose single-minded fascination with The Boss proves the unlikely ticket to the trip of a lifetime… a five-year mission to Mars.

Review by Richard Stamp published on Monday 6 February | Read more

WE ARE IAN

4 stars

Ian is a talking lightbulb.

Faceless dancers, with multi-coloured flashing-light shoes, move at individual pace behind a projection screen; only their arms, legs and feet are visible. As they slowly synchronise, we are being transported back to 1989, a time before these performers were even born.

Review by Mike Lee published on Monday 6 February | Read more

BattleActs!

4 stars

I've seen a lot of theatre sports in my time – but as far as improv shows go, I can honestly say this was up there with the best.  The all-male line up, consisting of three performers (Michel Keane, Kiell Smith-Bynoe and Brendan Murphy) and a compere (Chris Eastwood), had me caught up in their enthusiasm from the moment they came bounding onto the stage. The hour-long show follows a simple formula, where suggestions are drawn from the audience, then used by the company within the structure of a series of improv games.

Review by Tig Land published on Saturday 4 February | Read more

Happy

5 stars

At first, you might mistake Happy for a typical parody Fringe show.  The familiar comic building-blocks are there: the script isn't quite finished, "artistic director" Thom seems slightly unhinged, and one of the actors is missing – leaving Thom's long-suffering friend Carrie to play the part of a gay man.  Sure enough, the first few minutes are very funny, thanks largely to Thom's utter lack of self-awareness and habit of undermining his cast.  But before you settle in for an hour of comfortable humour, beware.  Happy is not a happy show.

Review by Richard Stamp published on Saturday 4 February | Read more

A Colder Water Than Here

3 stars

Were you to judge it by the first five minutes alone, you'd class A Colder Water Than Here more as art than theatre.  A stunning site-specific opening plays with concepts of speech and writing – perfect imagery for a multi-lingual production, with communication as a central theme.  Spread across the exposed brickwork of the vaulted space, we see a swirling constellation of brightly-lit words and letters, while actors recite lyrical fragments drawn from many tongues.

Review by Richard Stamp published on Saturday 4 February | Read more

Play Time

4 stars

Who pushed Charlie off the climbing frame?  A cloak-and-dagger mystery is gripping the local primary school, and erstwhile teacher's pet Elton is firmly in the frame.  He waits now outside the headteacher's office, his dreams of future eminence twisting slowly in the wind.  But he's not alone: another child is with him, a troublemaker whom the goody-two-shoes Elton would normally shun.  Will this odd couple unite in the face of a common enemy?  And more importantly... will Elton ever learn to play?

Review by Richard Stamp published on Saturday 28 January | Read more

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