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Young Writer’s Festival

Tomorrow, Today

Young Writer’s Festival 2023

Arts Richmond at The Exchange Theatre, Twickenham, 26th March

Review by Heather Moulson

The Young Writer’s Festival, showcasing the best of poetry and prose from the authors of tomorrow never fails to amaze with the quality of the creativity of young minds.  The event is the highpoint of Arts Richmond’s yearly competition to encourage writing by children and teens.  There was an impressive turnout for this annual celebration of young talent, and we were treated to a promising line-up of readers all clad in black, and all with a solid theatrical background, an interesting variety of ages and talent. 

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The Dead City

Death in Bruges

The Dead City (Die tote Stadt)

by Erich Korngold, libretto by Paul Schott

English National Opera at the London Coliseum until 8th April

Review by Patrick Shorrock

It is always wonderful to see an opera company operating at the height of its powers.  This new production of Korngold’s Die tote Stadt from ENO blazes with the conviction that this opera deserves the very best an opera company can give it.  This brilliant production – both musically and theatrically – is very much proof that ENO is not an opera company on its last legs, despite its brutal treatment (and temporary reprieve) by the Arts Council. 

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The Gut Girls

Cutting Edge Drama

The Gut Girls

by Sarah Daniels

The Questors Student Group at The Studio, Questors Theatre, Ealing until 1st April

Review by Michelle Hood

“Offal by name, and awful by nature” shouts one of the five young women working in a slaughterhouse, at the beginning of Sarah Daniels’ 1988 play The Gut Girls at The Studio in the Questors Theatre, Ealing.  We are back in 1897, in the Deptford Foreign Cattle Market, where five women toil thirteen hours a day slaughtering, cleaning and cutting-up cows, pigs and sheep.  

The play provides a glimpse into the gruesome bloody world of slaughtering, and introduces us to the bawdy beer-swilling women working there – a grisly reminder of the macabre jobs of yesteryear.  But the real impact of the play is what happens to these women when a curb is introduced on imported animals, which means the slaughterhouse has to close.  We then follow the blood, guts and tears of these bawdy hard-working women as they search for new roles, given the stigma of working in the slaughterhouse, a position in society barely above the status of whores and charlatans.

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Jekyll & Hyde

In Two Minds

Jekyll & Hyde

by Robert Louis Stevenson, adapted by Maggiemarie Casto

Maggiemarie Productions at OSO Arts Centre, Barnes until 25th March

Review by Heather Moulson

A stark set, predominately dark, and the original characters of Utterson and Lanyon express concern about a menacing stranger, and about murders.  A lot of material is covered by the time Jekyll comes on.  Jekyll & Hyde looks to be an interesting interpretation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s terrifying novella, The Strange Case of DrJekyll and Mr Hyde.  The simple set is designed by Karl Chaundy, with Patrick Richards as the thoughtful lighting designer. 

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Wyrd Sisters

Sororal Sorcery

Wyrd Sisters

by Stephen Briggs, adapted from the novel by Terry Pratchett  

Richmond Shakespeare Society at the Mary Wallace Theatre, Twickenham until 25th March

Review by Steve Mackrell

“When shall we three meet again?  Well, I can make next Tuesday”.  That kind of sums up this collision between the fantasy world of Terry Pratchett’s vivid imagination and the collected works of Shakespeare, in a play that revolves around the story of – well, I’ve got to say it – (ouch) Macbeth!

Wyrd Sisters is a 1988 cult novel written by Terry Pratchett, as part of his Discworld series, and adapted into a stage play in 1996 by Stephen Briggs.  This production by the Richmond Shakespeare Society, at Twickenham’s Mary Wallace Theatre, certainly went down well with an enthusiastic audience.  Not being an aficionado of Terry Pratchett, I found it quite hard to be won over.  However, given the energy of the enthusiastic company of ten actors playing multi-roles, and a comic script littered with Shakespearean asides, I found myself warming to the concept. 

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Charlotte and Theodore

Ex Aspirations  

Charlotte and Theodore

by Ryan Craig

Theatre Royal Bath at Richmond Theatre until 25th March, then on tour until 1st April

Review by Daniel Wain

Ryan Craig’s new play Charlotte and Theodore has echoes of Oleanna and Educating Rita, being a two-hander set in the world of academia.  As it follows the changing fortunes of its protagonists (first colleagues, then lovers, then married with two kids) and their intersecting story arcs, it is perhaps most resonant of A Star is Born.

The poignant, if wryly witty, tale tracks Teddy and Lotty’s relationship through a series of flashbacks.  It starts with the literally high-flying Lotty about to jet off to Chicago, leaving house-husband Teddy looking after the kids.  We then skip back to their first encounter, with eager young student Lotty applying to become celebrated philosophy professor Teddy’s research assistant.  Craig’s plot then traces her rise and his fall, until an epilogue which leaps back to happier times and their first date.

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May We Have Some More

Oliver Jnr

by Lionel Bart

Dramacube, Esher Orange Cast at Cecil Hepworth Playhouse, Walton until 19th March

Review by Heather Moulson

At one time Oliver! was the most successful British musical, and even a junior version seemed an ambitious venture.   So I was intrigued to come to the Cecil Hepworth Playhouse to see the Esher Orange cast, all in their early teens, perform their version, which will be a precursor to versions by younger casts earlier in the spring.  Once again Dramacube did not disappoint.   

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Murder on the Nile

An Nile Ation

Murder on the Nile

by Agatha Christie

The Questors at the Judi Dench Playhouse, Ealing until 25th March

Review by Brent Muirhouse

Despite Murder on the Nile being a timeless Agatha Christie‘s whodunit, I learned that it is the first time in 90 years of The Questors Theatre, that any Christie had been on the bill to thrill audiences.  The play is brought to life on stage in a singular room: the observation deck of the paddle steamer Lotus as it cruises down the Nile between Shellal and Wadi Halfa in Egypt.  The set design was impeccable, with sandy and beige tones that reflected the sweeping vistas of Egypt and the riverside (although it was presumably the Grand Union Canal transformed for the occasion) and the mainly cream and bleached linen costumes were perfectly tailored to both theses surroundings and to the era.

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The Sensation of Water


by Liz Richardson

TBTL and Liz Richardson Productions, in Association with imPOSSIBLE Producing at the Omnibus Theatre, Clapham, until 18th March, then on tour until 24th June

Review by Raymond Wheatan

Swim was written by the actor and theatre-maker Liz Richardson during lockdown, and premiered in 2022 at Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake in the Lake District where Richardson was raised and swam as a child.

After working in Manchester and London Liz Richardson relocated to the Peak District, a move that, together with certain real events, inspired her to write Swim, first for a cast of three and now revised and re-written as a one woman show, under the direction of Andy Routledge.

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Unexpected Twist

The Past Comes Seeping

Unexpected Twist

by Roy Williams, adapted from story by Michael Rosen

The Children’s Theatre Partnership and Royal & Derngate at The Rose Theatre, Kingston until 19th March, then on tour until 10th June

Review by Eleanor Lewis

Roy Williams’ adaptation of Michael Rosen’s Unexpected Twist is not so much a modern revamp of Dickens’ 1838 novel, as a fusion of 19th and early 21st century characters in a story spanning generations and in which, aside from a few social mores, not a great deal has actually changed.  Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, in fact.

Shona and her widowed father are struggling to survive, mainly on chips, in 21st century London without attracting too much attention from Social Services.  At school, Shona is reading Oliver Twist and noticing unnerving parallels with her own life.  Help arrives out of the blue in the form of a Smartphone, given to her by a boy in school but for which, it turns out, there is quite a price to pay.  Gang culture beckons.  A violent and controlling young man, Pops, runs a collection of children, using them to deal drugs and steal money (including picking pockets).  Shona’s world-weary Nan launders the cash through her market stall. 

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