Something Rotten

4 stars

They say that history is written by the victors… and while nobody exactly wins in Hamlet, wicked Uncle Claudius clearly loses most.  Robert Cohen’s witty one-man show aims to redress that balance, taking us behind the scenes in Claudius’ court as the events of Shakespeare’s plot unfold.  It’s evident from the off that the newly-crowned king has some serious work to do: reforming the state, restoring his pride, rescuing his people from the “knavery” of his brother’s misrule.  Along the way we also learn a few home truths about the Danish royal family… and discover that, alas, “poor”

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

The Devil Without

4 stars

The door to the church slams closed, and a charismatic but dishevelled man walks out onto the stage.  We can call him John, he says, but we might know him as Johann: Johann Faust, a man of legend, the hedonist who sold his soul to the devil.  Tonight a demon has come to chase up John’s debt, and it’s lurking just outside that sealed door.  The good news is that John himself is safe from the devil’s clutches… but the bad news is, we might not be.

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

The Merchant of New York

1 star

“In christening shalt thou have two godfathers,” Shylock is told, before his forced conversion to Christianity at the end of The Merchant Of Venice.  This perplexingly misguided production from the new Cracked Shakespeare theatre company seems determined to take that line literally: it moves Shakespeare’s courtroom scene, and only the courtroom scene, to the world of the Godfather movies… and it does the whole thing twice.

Review by Richard Stamp published on Friday 3 June | Read more

Jane Postlethwaite: Made In Cumbria

3 stars

Solo character comedy is an incredibly difficult genre to pull off. It’s something of a halfway house between stand-up and sketch comedy, and often tests the bounds of credulity – not least because in real life, it’s rare for one person addresses themselves uninterrupted to an audience.  But here it makes a kind of sense: Jane Postlethwaite’s characters are all fun caricatures of Cumbrian natives who, presumably through isolation or something in that Lake District water, have become rather batty.

Review by Vivienne Egan published on Friday 3 June | Read more

A Regular Little Houdini

4 stars

Newport, Wales: the turn of the twentieth century, an age of hard graft but abundant hope. A dock worker’s son dreams of betterment; of earning the chance to live life to the full, achieved through his own skill and tenacity. He idolises escapologist Harry Houdini – who, in real life, visited Newport twice – and so, armed with the great man’s own advice for youngsters, he sets out to train himself in the illusionist’s art. Using cast-off props and industrial detritus, he works to perfect his magical “amazements”, youthfully unaware of the lurking peril that will soon invade his life.

Review by Richard Stamp published on Friday 3 June | Read more

Escape: A Magic Show

3 stars

Performing in a decaying space far beneath Brighton’s Town Hall, magician Luke Robson proves a surprisingly dapper presence.  And his show is well-turned-out too: a traditional series of tricks, performed (relatively) close-up at a table, it’s a little short on showmanship but offers plenty of friendly charm.

Review by Richard Stamp published on Friday 3 June | Read more

The Bear Space

4 stars

The Bear Space is a pleasingly enigmatic affair – and it behoves me to write a similarly enigmatic review.  A lot of its delight lies in the surprises; surprises it would, therefore, be criminal to spoil.  But I can say that the show is built around bear-baiting, the heartless mediaeval “sport” which pitted a single chained bear against a pack of dogs trained to fight.  I can say that it features brutal puppet hounds – which snarl and bite at a huge, loveably vulnerable, puppet bear.  And I can also say that it’s far more funny and charming than that blunt description makes it soun

Review by Richard Stamp published on Thursday 2 June | Read more

Cathedral

2 stars

Performed in almost total darkness, Cathedral is an interesting but ultimately frustrating piece of experimental theatre. Two performers, who never speak, occupy the blackened stage; we know they’re there, but we often can’t see them. From time to time, a handheld light flares, or a scene’s illuminated with a dim and hazy glow. Coupled with these scattered images, a story of sorts is played over the speakers, with occasional sound effects and snatches of music too.

Review by Richard Stamp published on Thursday 2 June | Read more

Crazy Horse: A Dream of Thunder

4 stars

Travelling to Brighton all the way from Kansas City, Crazy Horse: A Dream Of Thunder is both a powerful depiction of an iconic Native American figure, and a reminder of the shameful costs of the famed American dream.  It’s a bold move for actor-playwright Sam Wright to take on the mantle of the eponymous Crazy Horse, “the greatest Sioux warrior” – but he proves himself worthy of wearing it.  This is a striking, stripped-down, thoughtful piece of theatre, which delivers a capable history lesson while exploring themes just as relevant to our current times.

Review by Richard Stamp published on Monday 30 May | Read more

Caspar Thomas: Magic & Mentalism

3 stars

Stage magic’s experiencing a renaissance these days, with most acts – from big names like Dynamo down to newcomer Fringe performers – staking their names and reputations on an eye-catching spin. Caspar Thomas’s show, in contrast, is resolutely traditional, and it’s none the worse for that. It’s a true pleasure to spend an hour in Thomas’s wittily self-deprecating company; and the unpretentious style throws the focus firmly on his tricks, which are pleasingly befuddling too.

Review by Richard Stamp published on Sunday 29 May | Read more

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