God’s Waiting Room is a darkly comic play that tells the story of Connie and Stella, two middle-aged sisters whose hospice-bound mother is at the brink of death from terminal cancer. The play focuses on the impact on the sisters’ relationship - apparently prickly at the best of times - of watching their mother die slowly and in agony. It explores how old sibling resentments, envies and tensions explode under the almost unbearable strain of dealing with their mother’s painful and undignified end.
Stripped down to its bloodless essentials, life is- give or take- a series of disjointed happenings, comings together and comings unstuck. There are birth pangs, there are death pangs. Big deal. John Emsile’s 50% Liability is a play that has something to say about all these things, plus one of those other elemental, everyday components: luck. Particularly, exclusively, bad luck.
It’s one the enduring footballing cliches, parked somewhere alongside “a game of two halves” and the absurdist non-sequitur “sick as a parrot”: “it’s the hope that kills you”. Like all good cliches it invites you to consider an alternative, a refashioning, a making new. John Patrick Higgins’ Every Day I Wake Up Hopeful is an attempt at just such a refashioning.
Life is just a matter of appropriate planning. A good life is a well ordered life. The fullest life is the most neatly divided life. Birth, school (“with outstanding grades”), a lucrative job, a beautiful wife, a spacious suburban house, grinning suburban children, early retirement, grinning suburban grandchildren, a cheerful death and a well peopled funeral. It’s so simple, so simply broken down.
A council worker watches on as a young man takes a running jump to throw himself off a bridge. He pulls back at the last moment. The young man, elegantly dressed, starts to converse with the dry witted street sweeper and the tone shifts. Things are revealed to be more complicated, as things often are.
Sharp Edges (written and performed by Amelia Sweetland) is an intense exploration of female mental illness. Filmed sequences and voiceover showing Sophie at home are used to break up a series of sessions Sophie has with the therapist her GP sends her to when she complains of insomnia. Slowly, Sophie's past and Sophie herself start to unravel.
At first, It Folds feels baffling, a blur whose beauty defies close analysis. It blurs the boundaries between life and death, making the ghosts of murdered children walk among their grieving families. It blurs the lines between truth and fiction, drawing on real-life stories of child abduction but muddying their details until they become universal. And most of all, it blurs the categories we place performance into. Its large cast mix dance, physical theatre, matter-of-fact monologues and disconcerting wit into a piece that creates a incense-heady atmosphere of its own.
Spoonface knows that people in operas die beautifully and she wants to die beautifully too. Diagnosed with autism, and later terminal cancer, the child walks along silver linings in this hour-long monologue. Tackling the difficulties of development disabilities and terminal illness, Spoonface’s optimism never falters, as the backing track of Puccini’s ‘O Mio Babbino Caro’ lulls us into a romantic view of death.
History has painted Camille Claudin as 'Rodin's tragic lover' - a muse-turned-artist-turned-asylum patient, desperate and alone. But although her 10 year love affair with the master of French sculpture has defined her, she's increasingly recognised as an artist in her own right: the 70th anniversary of her death was marked with asignificant retrospective of her work at the Rodin Museum.
Male suicide is at epidemic proportions, the leading cause of death for men between 20 and 34 in England and Wales, an undiscussed wave of futile waste. Like mental health provisions across the UK, support for young men has been eroded, and the new societies of the 21st century have less use for the strong, silent and stoic men still lionised by those who advocate ‘traditional values’ and roles.
The volume of this work is at the level of trembling clothes. An affective noise that moves bodies and governs the internal rhythms of an audience to match its ritual of dialogue balladry. The singer is standing in a washed-out strobe aurora with a mic lead coiled in her punk rock grip, hand-in-hand with one from the crowd. The crowd let it lull them into a meditative state.
It's not just African AIDS statistics that Njambi McGrath carries around with her; she bears the generational physical and mental scars of Kenya’s colonial past. Teresa Mays recent political wrangling to scrape The Human Rights Act seem unsurprising when Njambi offers an African’s insight into the systematic extermination of the populations of Kenya and DRC by European Imperialists. It's the West's inability to see the hypocrisy in lecturing Africa Nations on human rights that has recently led to Gambia withdrawing from The Commonwealth.
Mamoru Iriguchi’s moving planes of flat projection are a visual signature, a recurring technique constructed through a wacky series of contraptions that disguise their sophistication. In 4D Cinema the footage projected onto them are used to question time itself, the ability of a subject to define their own home and the biographic responsibilities of the performer and audience. The nature of memory is as much its subject as Marlene Dietrich, both in what the audience remember of themselves as they were fifty minutes younger, and in thoughts of how your memory will survive after death.
Hero Worship deals with comics as a coping mechanism and is the latest in a series of monologues by admired writer-performer Kenny Boyle. Cyberpunk clothing and a utility belt are instantly familiar from the comic Kick Ass as is our hero, a 21st century everyman working in a SUPERmarket. His main enemies are probably familiar to all of us and go by the names of anxiety, depression and uncertainty. Using imagination to escape the mundane is a central theme in hero Worship but it’s stressed, that the complexities of real life are what make us who we are and build our personalities.