Monday, 11 June 2018

Translations, the National Theatre, the South Bank, Central London

Images from the National Theatre web site
A poignant and passionate play, Translations immerses you in rural Donegal in the 1830s. A small Gaelic-speaking subsistence community is gradually unpicked and uprooted by the arrival of a squad of red-coated English sappers charged with mapping the county and replacing the Irish place names with Anglicised alternatives. The action focuses on a hedge school, which teaches Greek and Latin, but not English, to potato farmers living off a rugged landscape lashed by rain. This warm and engaging production brings to life the subsequent war of words and languages, while the threat of a real conflict looms large in the background. A returning son tries to bridge the broad gap between his earthy, yet erudite, compatriots and an earnest English captain, while a young lieutenant is enthralled by the lusty lyricism of the locals.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

The Floacist at the Hideaway, Streatham, South London

A heady fusion of neo-soul, rapping, poetry, comedy and attitude, the Floacist is a regular at the laid back Hideaway jazz club in Streatham. In a diverse, two-part set, Natalie ‘Floacist’ Stewart and her talented band intersperse short tributes to Soul II Soul, a beautiful rendition of Bob Marley's Redemption Song and other classics, with more experimental music, that still seems to draw on familiar melodies. As a local girl, Stewart attracts friends and family to her Hideaway gigs and they form an impressive choir, as she implores the audience to join in with the better known numbers. You'll find your fellow punters on their feet swaying along to the music, while sometimes swapping banter with Stewart. Switching effortlessly between London, street and Jamaican accents, Stewart likes to deliver homilies on positive thinking and self-belief during the gaps between the tracks. Although the interval is a tad too long and the set a tad too short, this is a gig that emanates energy and warm hopeful vibes. 8/10 

Friday, 27 April 2018

Absolute Hell, the Lyttelton Theatre, the National, South Bank, central London

Images from the National Theatre web site
Lavish and lengthy, Absolute Hell at the Lyttelton Theatre is a revival of a repetitive and downbeat play by Rodney Ackland originally performed in the 1950s and then revised to be more explicit in the 1980s. Set in a Soho club at the end of the Second World War, in the run-up to the Labour  victory in the 1945 General Election, the cast of 30 portrays characters from many walks of life who have one thing in common - they all want to escape reality. The club patrons, which include writers, artists, soldiers, pensioners, preachers, racketeers and aristos, obscure the outside world by indulging in alcohol, sex, literature, religion, music and nicotine. They are mostly a miserable lot, apart from an old lady with dementia.

A mute prostitute
Although there are a handful of funny scenes and the choreography can be top notch, this three hour production lacks a compelling plot and the story moves forward at a snail's pace. The play rotates through a carousel of cameos, often repeating the same gags over and over again. The multiple appearances by a bible bashing lay preacher banging on about Jesus being born on Boxing Day are particularly tedious. Throughout the performance, a mute prostitute walks round and round the stage like an robot, underlining the circular nature of the play.