Fire and Phoenix

In this captivating drama, playwright Kate Glover has brought back the time and place, capturing not only the immensity of the event, but also the sometimes shocking human dramas it produced. Director Kenneth Michaels makes full use of the generous Bridewell Theatre stage, itself a victim of the fire back then. Unusually, the play consists of 22 short scenes, and while this does provide a framework for coverage of a wide number of issues, it does make the structure of the evening somewhat fragmented and stop start. However, (apart from a tendency in some to ‘ face front and play to the gallery’) the highly committed company overcome this with a dedication and relish for the meatiness of their roles and the unfolding story.

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Wild At Hear

The programme is a quartet of one-act plays seldom seen, dating from early in the playwright’s career, and is redolent of his preoccupation with the disintegration of hopes and dreams. The guillotine decends as the poor creatures finally face the shattering truth of their lives. Williams’ masterpiece, A Streetcar Named Desire, comes to mind particularly. In the ironically named At Liberty, and in Hello From Bertha, facets of the early life of Blanche du Bois from Streetcar can be witnessed.

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Chastity Belt

The show is packed with sensational scenes and naughty but very nice suggestion, but principally, it is the last word in brilliant, devastatingly daring acting, singing and mime, in the highest tradition of burlesque. If burlesque is defined as ‘a humorous and provocative stage show featuring slapstick humor, comic skits, bawdy songs, striptease acts, and a scantily clad female chorus’, Chastity Belt is the most sublime burlesque show in this or any other town.

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Danger: Memory

Apparently an examination of a fading memory, plus alcohol (she) and a dropping off of professional skills (he), it was, in the end, none of this, merely a superficial recounting of the playwright’s words, with not a thought for any great depth. Arthur Miller did not become one of the giants of 20th century American drama by turning out shallow material. As a result, the supposed climax and highlight, the dance scene at the end, exemplified this. What could have been exquisite nostalgia was simply embarrassing.

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The 2 Sides Of Eddie Ramone

This is the second incarnation of The 2 Sides Of Eddie Ramone that I have seen. Previously, at its Edinburgh festival outing, it was Eddie on his own with his demons, and I was moved to write: ‘With flashes of brilliance, mixing comedy and pathos, and with his original and bitingly powerful writing, the redoubtable Chris Sullivan’s performance is his most memorable to date’. He has lost none of this winning emotional cocktail. This version of the play now features Shian Denovan, who plays his daughter, in a beautifully delivered and felt performance.

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King Lear at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

With the exception of the extraordinary staging of one of the most memorable ever speeches, Lear’s ‘Blow wind and crack your cheeks..’ being shouted by him with his back to the audience, the production’s modern dress style was filled with engaging movement and visually skillful staging. The attention never wavered, even though it was like watching a foreign language play at times.This reviewer was seated at the extreme right of the thrust stage. Perhaps because of this, most of the language was unintelligible, with actors facing away. Added to this this was the indistinct delivery of the text, with actors allowed, or directed, to speak with great speed, as they would a Mamet text, often with poor enunciation and vocal projection.

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