Thursday, 26 May 2016

FOUR STAR REVIEW Blue Orange at the Young Vic

SIXTEEN years ago Joe Penhall's play Blue Orange was premiered at the National Theatre. It is now being revived at the Young Vic and thanks to the brilliant writing it feels as contemporary and fresh as ever.
It tells the story of Christopher, (Daniel Kaluuya) a young black Londoner who has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and confined to a psychiatric ward for a month.
Desperate to get out it is up to the two doctors to battle it out as to whether he is fit enough to re-enter society.
Bruce (Luke Norris) is a conscientious young doctor who feels that Christopher - who still believes oranges are blue - needs to stay in longer so he can be assessed and given the right support and treatment.
However, his senior consultant Robert (David Haig) has other ideas and is determined that Christopher be released as soon as possible. He believes Christopher will be fine back at home in Shepherd’s Bush surrounded by the people who are "just like him", not to mention that it will relieve the taxpayer of financially supporting him in hospital.
It is a brilliantly conceived play in which the issues of race, ethics, mental health, the cash-strapped NHS and politics collide in a brutal way.
And it starts with the audience walking through dark corridors and a clinic's waiting area with a background noise that includes patients shouting and screaming in order to get to the stage.
The stage itself is a square shaped consulting room and it feels claustrophobic and oppressive - no wonder Christopher wants out.
The three actors are excellent with a particularly fine performance from David Haig as Robert who veers effortlessly between patronising, racists, scheming, pompous and bully boy tactics to get what he wants - making sure it's him that comes up smelling of roses at the expense of his idealistic but equally determined junior.
And it's a credit to Daniel Kaluuya that it is never completely clear whether he should really stay in the hospital or be released. A real stunner.

Blue Orange is on at the Young Vic, The Cut, Waterloo, until July 2. Tickets from £10. Visit or call the box office on 020 7922 2922.

Monday, 23 May 2016

FIVE STAR REVIEW My Family: Not The Musical

DAVID Baddiel describes his new two-hour show My Family: Not The Musical - now on at the Menier Chocolate Factory - as “a twisted love-letter to my parents”.
In it the comedian and writer talks with incredible candour, honesty and humour about his mum Sarah who died suddenly two years ago and his father Colin, who has Pick's Disease, a particularly nasty form of dementia.
In many ways it is subject matter that might be uncomfortable for some to hear - and a bit like airing ones dirty linen in public.
But it is actually much more than that - it's about memory, ageing, love, infidelity, truth, honesty and even features the antics of one of David's cats.
It is in fact a finely crafted and rather beautiful eulogy for his mother - and a celebration of her rather racy life which she clearly enjoyed - and good on her for that.
It is also filled with affection for his father, despite his vocal outbursts, and by the end the audience is quite moved by footage during a show David did more than 20 years ago after which his father gave him a hug.
It starts with David discussing what people say about those who have died. He cites how many described his mother as "wonderful", something she may well have been but that was not the whole story. He believes that to really remember our loved ones you have to remember their weirdnesses, their madnesses and flaws because no one is a complete angel.
And so for much of the first half we hear about how Sarah had a voracious appetite for sex and how she conducted a very public affair with another man, David White.
We also find out how she loved the limelight, how she wanted to be the centre of attention - in a good way - and how much she enjoyed life.
Throughout the piece there is much humour as well as poignancy and it is utterly compelling.
I wish this show long life.

David Baddiel and My Family: Not The Musical is on at the Menier Chocolate Factory, Southwark Street until June 25. Visit for full listings.

Monday, 16 May 2016

INTERVIEW Tiggs Da Author

NEXT month sees the 23rd Meltdown Festival. Hosted by the Southbank Centre, this year its curator is Guy Garvey.
The Elbow frontman, 6 Music DJ and presenter joins a pantheon of stellar names who have curated the event over the years including Jarvis Cocker, Patti Smith, David Bowie, Yoko Ono and most recently David Byrne.
And Guy has got a veritable feast of musical greatness to entertain and delight audiences throughout the festival which runs from June 10 to 19.
Among the line up is Tanzanian born and South London raised, up-and-coming singer songwriter and rapper, Tiggs da Author who tells me he can’t wait to be part of such a prestigious festival.
“It is amazing to be at Meltdown,” he says warmly. “I’ve never performed at the Southbank Centre before so it’s going to be awesome and I'm really looking forward to it.
"It's pretty exciting because it's such a big gig. I’m going to give the audience something a little bit special that’s for sure.
"There will be a lot of energy and spontaneous things - in fact anything could happen,” he chuckles.
"It’s going to be energetic, fun, up tempo and opinionated. When I see certain things going on in the world I like to speak about it and don’t like to stay silent so there will probably be a bit of a political undertone to it as well."
But first things first, who is Tiggs Da Author and how did he get his name?
"I got called Tigger when I was at school because I wore stuff with Tigger from the Winnie The Pooh stories on them," he chuckles.
"I thought it sounded really silly but it stuck before getting changed to Tiggs which is a cool name.
"When I started writing poetry that’s where I got 'author' from and so I added them together and now I'm Tiggs Da Author."
Tiggs admits that as a kid growing up in New Cross - his family moved from Tanzania to London when he was about eight - he was never really into music - and says it was more by accident than design that he developed a passion for it.
"I went to Sedgehill School and was more interested in football than music," he remembers. "All my friends used to rap but I'd just listen to them - I certainly didn't think I could do it."
However things changed when he was about 16 and moved in with his friend DJ Fingers.
"He had his own DJ room and records which was amazing," says Tiggs. "I started to mess about with the equipment in my spare time and then it took off."
Since then he has been influenced by a diverse range of musical sounds, from reggae, garage, Motown, grime and East African jazz and his own music is a mix of all of that making him one of a kind.
"Musically I have been inspired by the likes of MC Dizzee Rascal, Ray Charles and James Brown although my tastes have broadened over the years," he says.
"There is a real energy to South London and that's where I get most of my influences from," he says.
"I also get inspired when I watch films and documentaries but also from speaking to older people who pass on their wisdom - that really inspires me to write lyrically."
And although he's a relative new kid on the musical block, such is his following, he's just finished supporting American superstar Jess Glynne on part of the European leg of her tour and his new song Run has been featured in the promotional campaigns for FIFA 16.
He's also appeared on Jools Holland's show which featured Tom Jones as one of the guests.
"I have to pinch myself all the time," he laughs. "I try not to think about it but playing in front of Tom and Jools with them watching me was quite a thing.
"When my manager asked if I'd like to play with Jess, well I couldn't turn that one down! It was pretty amazing.
"I'd love to work with Pharrell as I've been a fan of his for ages. I met him once, he was so humble and very nice and I was trying to act super cool!"
But for now his focus is on Meltdown and he says he hopes to see as much of the line up as possible.
"I'm so amazed to have been invited to perform on this stage - it's huge for me," he says. "It's such a great festival and loads of brilliant people have done it before me.
"I can't wait."

Tiggs Da Author is at Guy Garvey's Meltdown Festival at the Southbank Centre from June 10 to 19. Visit for full listings.

FOUR STAR REVIEW for Better Together at the Jack Studio Theatre, Brockley

Lewisham playwright David Weir has a hit on his hands with Better Together.
The play, now on at the Jack Studio Theatre in Brockley, is set in Burntisland, Fife and centres on the lives of the Finlay family in the aftermath of the Scottish independence referendum.
Elder daughter Shona (Rosalind McAndrew) is an unemployed single mum in her early 20s. The father of her baby is residing at her Majesty’s pleasure a three hour bus ride away.
Younger daughter Arlene (Eleanor Morton) is “the bright one”, passionate about politics, particularly Scottish independence, and on her 18th birthday, announces her intention to leave the nest and go to university in Sweden.
Dad Adam (Rikki Chamberlain), who likes a drink every now and again, is none to pleased about this news, and tries every trick in the book to keep her in Scotland, including offering her a partnership in the shipyard business he runs with wife Margaret (Kate Russell-Smith).
And then there is mum Margaret who tries her best to keep the family together.
Although the play touches on the politics of the independence debate, and the passions that ran deep throughout the campaign, it is about much more than that.
It is a fascinating look at the lives of those who live in a small town which relies on one industry to provide the jobs and what happens when that industry fails.
Weir paints a vivid picture of what life is like for the people of Burntisland and the Finlays in particular - Arlene who would have voted leave in the referendum had she been old enough to vote at the time, is lucky as she has the ability to escape.
But it’s not that easy for the rest of them. Shona is stuck there with no job, or the prospect of one and she feels trapped. This is exacerbated by the fact that she is also lonely with no chance of getting another boyfriend thanks to the family of her baby’s father - one unlucky suitor ended up in hospital with a series of broken bones for his trouble.
Their parents soon realise that “a handshake” is not what guarantees loyalty, jobs and contracts and we see how their fortunes change almost overnight.
Although the ending is somewhat predictable this is a brilliantly written play with a tight, 90-minute long script and great performances from the four-strong cast.

Better Together is on at the Jack Studio Theatre in Blockley Road until May 28. Visit for full listings.

FOUR STAR REVIEW - A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Globe

Ewan Wardrop as Bottom. Picture credit Steve Tanner

In the programme notes of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, director and new boss of the Globe, Emma Rice, says it is her favourite Shakespeare play.
It’s also one of mine and having met Emma a few months before she officially took charge at the Bankside theatre and listened to her talk with passion and enthusiasm for taking on such a plum job, I had high hopes for this production.
It is the first in her inaugural season and I have a feeling that it isn’t for Shakespeare purists - it is loud, brash, full of contemporary references and as though someone has dumped a whole load of glitter on Bankside.
However it is fun, exuberant, colourful and full of laughter - which is really what this play is all about.
Emma has taken a certain amount of liberties with the text - perhaps her most daring is that of making Helena a man - Helenus - and thus the relationship with Demetrius a gay one. But it works - and brilliantly so.
Elsewhere in a genius move, Emma has brought in cabaret artiste Meow Meow to play Titania and Hippolyta - again this works although during the scene where she seduces Bottom it verges on Meow Meow just being herself.
The mechanicals are played, with exception of Bottom, by women who all work as volunteers at the Globe. Again, this works well and the humour is brought out to the fore.
There is also a mix of contemporary attire for the mortals and a punky version of Elizabethan garb for the fairies which I liked.
However, there are other elements that didn’t work so well for me - the constant references to Hoxton hipsters and the skit where the mechanicals sing a David Bowie number. Some of it - including some of the humour - was too contrived and this was a shame as the language is good enough that it doesn’t need that.
But that aside this is a production which is inventive and enjoyable and is a real crowd pleaser.
There are plenty of great performances too - in fact the whole cast is brilliant.
Katy Owen as Puck was great with her mix of hot pants, Elizabethan top and ruff and a water pistol which she was more than happy to use on the audience.
Ewan Wardrop as Bottom too was brilliant as was Ankur Bahl as Helenus and of course Meow Meow as Titania.
Now that the season is in full swing I can’t wait to see what Emma has up her sleeve for the rest of it.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is on at Shakespeare’s Globe, Bankside until September 11. Tickets from £5. Visit for full listings.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

THREE STAR review for Crooks - on at a secret location in Borough

A SECRET location, dodgy dealings and a group of suited and booted gangsters. This is Crooks, an immersive, site specific and promenade production in which the audience is as much a part of the action as the six actors.
We all get given a password and the address of the location in Borough the day of the show with specific instructions. At the allotted time we arrive and are ushered into to what looks like a lock-up.
We are divided into groups of about 10 and then introduced to the gang. Headed up by the Don we are recruited as his henchmen - or are we? For amongst us there are undercover cops who are trying to bring down the Don and his team.
Drugs, guns, beatings, card games and a birthday party are all part of the fun and depending on what we are asked to do and what actions we take depends on the outcome of the evening.
There were moments when it worked really well and was quite exciting - such as when one of the team was asked to put a drug in the Don's whisky. Unfortunately it didn't quite go according to plan and he found out. That led to other consequences - some of which weren't pleasant for the Don's gang members.
But there were also moments when the action faltered - such as being in the underground bar where we had to wait for instructions. It was loud, thanks to a pulsating soundtrack, and dark so we couldn't easily see or talk to each other.
But it was fun and cleverly constructed and played out by the cast and crew, and on the night I went there was a bit of a twist at the end that none of us saw coming which added to the excitement.

Crooks is on at a secret location in Borough until May 20. Visit for full listings.

INTERVIEW - Brian Mullin. Brian talks about his debut play We Wait In Joyful Hope, on at Theatre503 from May 17.

THE life of his aunt, who as a Catholic nun ran a women's refuge centre in New York, has provided the inspiration for the debut drama by up and coming playwright Brian Mullin.
We Wait In Joyful Hope is a frank and humorous portrayal of modern feminism, friendship and an extraordinary woman, who just so happens to be a nun.
Sister Bernie D’Amato, now in the twilight of her life, has, for the past 40 years been running a women’s refuge centre in a New Jersey slum.
Helping the poor and homeless, she’s won battles with priests, police and even gang leaders.
But now she’s facing her biggest threat yet - that of property developers who are buying up the neighbourhood.
It is up to Sister Bernie to save the centre from closure in order to continue the work of her mission.
Staged at Theatre503 from next week for a four-week run, Brian's exploration of religion and capitalism in contemporary America was chosen from the Battersea theatre’s Writer in Residence programme.
For Brian, an American born playwright who studied at Goldsmiths and is now based in Brixton it is a dream come true.
“If it wasn’t for my aunt I wouldn’t have written the play, but it is all thanks to Theatre503 that it’s come to the stage,” he tells me.
“I was so lucky to have been chosen as one of five writers for their new writer's programme, but for it to be my play that was chosen to be staged is amazing.
“The team here is fantastic, really supportive and this programme enables new writers to get a platform for their work. It also gives them a chance to work with professional actors, directors, producers and stage a full-length play - something that is invaluable and really exciting."
He acknowledges that a play about a nun might raise a few eyebrows but he stresses there is plenty in it which will resonate with audiences.
“There are so many themes and issues that people will recognise,” he says. “I live in Brixton and the area is constantly changing - is it regeneration, gentrification and is it good or bad.
"These are issues people in South London are dealing with and ones that Bernie faces in her life too - how developers come in and change an area and the harm it can potentially do. She tries to stop it because she recognises the value of her refuge to the community."
Although he wanted to pay tribute to his aunt and others like her, Brian was also keen to show nuns in a different light and create a central role for an older actress.
"I wanted to pay tribute to the strong women who hold communities together and, in my experience, few women are stronger, more dedicated – and more unsung – than nuns," he says.
"For so long there has been a resistance to portraying nuns as as full human beings or even feminists.
"A lot of people, when they hear about nuns think of the comic like Sister Act or the sentimental like Sound Of Music. But actually nuns are extraordinary women who do amazing things for those who are the forgotten ones in society.
"Sister Bernie is inspired by my aunt but is an amalgamation of various nuns I met and spoke to while I was in the process of writing the play," he ads.
"She is not conventional - she wears a T shirt, smokes and deals with gang leaders. She's also tough, rebellious and, sometimes, hard to deal with, but is inspiring.
"And, even as everything around her seems to be changing, she keeps fighting for the causes she believes in."
And he says that as well it being an emotional journey, the audience will find much humour in the piece.
"I hope people can relate to Bernie and her spirit," he says. "It's very funny and an uplifting story, but it is also quite political because it asks who really stands up for our community - and in this case it's a 70-year-old nun."

We Wait In Joyful Hope is on at Theatre503, The Latchmere, Battersea Park Road between Tuesday, May 17 and Saturday June 11. Visit for full listings.

Monday, 9 May 2016

INTERVIEW - Steve Backshall

HE has swum with great white, bull, great hammerhead, mako and tiger sharks, caught king cobras, black mambas and lanceheads, had a redback spider crawl across his hand and was bitten by a caiman whilst searching for anaconda in an Argentinian swamp. He even learned how to dance on BBC TV's Strictly Come Dancing.
Now naturalist, extreme mountaineer, adventurer and kids' TV favourite, Steve Backshall is gearing up for a new challenge - a tour in which he will be visiting towns across England imparting his considerable knowledge of nature, wildlife and his passion for the subjects.
Wild World, which will accompany the release of Shark Seas’- the fourth book in his Falcon Chronicles series of children’s novels, will feature a stop at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley.
And it's clear when we chat that Steve can't wait to be back on stage and entertain his legion of fans.
"I'm really excited to be back at Bromley," he says cheerfully. "I was there about five years ago on a previous tour and it's so close to home that it's nice to be on home turf for a change.
"We always have a really good time so I'm looking forward to it."
And an element of the show that he looks forward to particularly is the Q&A - which can yield all manner of questions.
"I never do a tour without a good amount of audience participation and so all my shows are fully interactive," he says.
"The audience gets a chance to grill me and ask any question they like which I love.
"They are always great and encompass a huge range of topics such as how did the giraffe get a really long neck and do polar bears get lonely.
"Some are really easy to answer and some are a bit tricky - like who would win in a fight between a polar bear and a great white?
"Others are completely off the wall and random. Once recently a young boy asked me what was evolution - that was the worst one because I made the terrible mistake of trying to explain it but 10 minutes in I realised I was failing badly!
"The thing is if you want to stump me it's pretty easy because the natural world is so amazing and has millions of different species so if you ask me something about a specific water flea for example I wouldn't have a clue," he laughs.
"But I like that because I get to go away and read up on it and learn something new."
Tough questions aside Wild World will be filled with loads of fantastic stories about his all too numerous to mention adventures to the world's wildest places and the creatures that inhabit them.
There will also be exclusive behind the scenes content and unseen footage from some of his TV shows such as Deadly 60, including some "very close calls". There might even be some chat about his books and children's novels.
Cheerful and chatty - and every bit as friendly as you would expect - Steve says he feels "exceptionally lucky" to have what he says is the best job in the world.
His passion for wildlife started at a young age when he would go out into the garden and get up close to the creatures in it.
"It wasn't anything hugely dramatic and exotic," he says. "I was just lucky be able to explore my back yard and be surrounded by heathland where I was able to build camps and rope swings and see animals such as snakes in the compost and deer.
"Every single part of it had me excited from an early age and I'm so lucky."
Since then of course he has graduated to slightly more extreme adventures and in nearly 20 years he has taken part in some dramatic and dangerous expeditions and come up close with some fiercesome creatures.
And he says there is still more he wants to do.
"I'm about to go white water kayaking which is something I've been wanting to do for about 20 years," he says. "That will be fun and exciting.
"However, the more you travel the more you see and you realise that in 1,000 lifetimes you still wouldn't see everything.
"The scariest things was when I went diving for crocodiles in Botswana and fell face first into a hippo," he chuckles.
"It was such a surprise because we didn't know the hippo was there - if we had known we wouldn't have done it. So that was the most frightening thing. But looking back the hippo was a young animal - had he been fully grown we probably wouldn't have made it out alive but lucky for me it was more intimidated by me than I was of it."
And then he tells me about some of his other incredible encounters such as swimming with great white sharks, trekking through the rainforest and extreme mountaineering.
"It's an amazing privilege," he adds. "But in most cases these animals I come across are much more frightened of me than I am of them.
"I know I'm safe because in most situations they would much rather give me a wide berth and move away.
"However there have been some heartstopping moments along the way but we put an enormous amount of work in to try and make sure these situations are few and far between.
"Besides life is a risk - being in London with all those cars is a risk as you could end your life at any second but you learn to find ways to make yourself safe and it's the same in the natural world."
And then he's back to chatting about the tour which starts in October.
"I love touring and normally I go all over the country but October is going to be a bit busy so we've decided to scale it down a bit."
Indeed he has a small matter of a wedding to organise - that of his own to Olympic rower Helen Glover who he will be cheering on at the Olympic Games in Rio this summer.
And if you think he's going on a "normal" honeymoon, think again.
"Helen has done a lot of travelling but she wants to go on an expedition and so I'm taking her to the Sea of Cortez in Mexico and go diving with sea lions. She's also going to learn to scuba dive and then we are going to the desert looking for snakes.
"The place where I went swimming with sharks is quite close to where we are going in Mexico and it was an option for the honeymoon but I didn't think Helen's father would be too impressed," he laughs.
And the answer to who would win in a fight between a polar bear and a great white? You will have to go and see him to find out!

Steve Backshall embarks on his nationwide Wild World theatre tour from October 19 to November 20. He will be at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley on October 26. His new children's novel 'Shark Seas' will be published in October.

Visit to book tickets.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

FIVE STAR REVIEW for The Flick at the National Theatre

Matthew Maher as Sam

Jaygann Ayeh as Avery and Louisa Krause as Rose
picture credit Mark Douet

THREE people and a cinema in a small town in Massachusetts. Not perhaps at first glance the most inspiring of settings but The Flick, now on at the National's Dorfman stage is a real gem.
Written by American playwright Annie Baker, the cinema in question is the only one for miles around that still plays films on 35mm rather than digital.
It is this that has attracted 20-year-old African American Avery, on a break from his studies and who has an OCD-like obsession with "proper" film.
He joins Sam as a cleaner, sweeping up the rubbish and other unmentionables after the audiences have left the auditorium.
The other in the triumvirate is Rose the projectionist. They are three lost souls who are drawn together because of their love of the silver screen.
Over three hours, we hear about their dreams, find out what makes them tick and see their foibles - including Avery's fear of - and how Sam and Rose are running a small scale scam into which Avery gets drawn into with the inevitable consequences.
We also see them struggle to keep the cinema going, even though it is failing and about to be taken over, much to their concern who worry about their jobs and the future of traditional film.
It is a fascinating study of human relationships - and into the mix it becomes painfully obvious that Sam fancies Rose who in turn fancies Avery.
Admittedly this is not a show for those hoping to be out quickly. There are some long pauses. Indeed no one speaks for the first five or 10 minutes, instead they sweep, clean or simply stare at each other. Sometimes the pauses err on the side of being a few seconds too long, but nevertheless this is a great show.
Avery (Jaygann Ayeh), Rose (Louisa Krause) and Sam (Matthew Maher) are terrific and the set is brilliant.
It may be a slow burner but it is a beautiful and astonishing play that unfolds and one I would quite happily sit through again.

The Flick is on at the National Theatre until June 15. Tickets from £15. Visit for full listings.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Card Ninja at the Udderbelly Festival

WHAT do you get if you cross a pack of cards with a few marshal arts moves? Card ninja of course!
And someone who knows all about being a Card Ninja is Javier Jarquin.
The New Zealand-born comedian and card throwing meister has been delighting and wowing audiences across the world for the past six years with his unique act.
Now happily settled in Stockwell with his wife he is preparing for series of shows around the country including a gig at the Udderbelly Festival on Sunday, May 15.
It is a festival he says he likes and has performed at before and is keen to take part in again.
“I love the purple cow, it’s the perfect venue for my show,” he tells me cheerfully.
“It’s a lovely space and the crowds are great so I’m really excited to be here.”
The show will be a chance for audiences to find out what it takes to be a card ninja and see Javier use ordinary playing cards as weapons, with incredible and unbelievable precision, speed and power in impressive stunts.
They will also be able to follow his journey from mild mannered card player to silent assassin Card Ninja.
“People come to the show but don’t know what they are going to see,” he chuckles. “It’s not about magic, or about doing loads of card tricks.
"It’s about throwing cards as weapons. The story behind it is that I’m trying to be a card ninja so I have to do all these ninja trials to show off my speed and accuracy.
“The audience follows my journey to see what it takes to become a card ninja. So it’s about why I am doing these tricks - I have to give the audience a reason to support the underdog and want me to succeed.
“I might fail and it’s a bit dangerous so it creates a tension. I get the audience involved too - they will shout things out, provide music from their phones, help out on stage and throw things around. It's great fun!”
So can anyone be a card ninja, I ask?
Javier says yes but it takes “a load of practice”.
“It does take a lot of work to get it right and I’m still learning,” he says modestly. “I’ve certainly not mastered it yet, I’m just very persistent and very stubborn!
“My wife is very patient with me because there are thousands of playing cards all over the place.”
He admits it’s not the first choice of career for most people and says he fell into it by accident before being inspired by the likes of magicians Jeff McBride and Ricky Jay.
“I have a computer degree and ended up working as a software engineer,” he says. “I began by throwing my business cards around and then one day one came back to me. I kept going and started experimenting a bit and that was it.
“I did stand up as well and eventually I mixed the two together and Card Ninja was born.”
And if you think it’s all glamour being a card ninja think again - Javier says there are always hundreds of cards to pick up after each show.
“I get through thousands of cards,” he laughs. “I always get really good ones which are good quality, glide nicely and retain their shape well.
“However the only downside is that there are always loads to pick up at the end of the show!"

Card Ninja is suitable for those aged eight and up and is on at the Udderbelly Festival on Sunday, May 15. Visit for full listings.

FOUR STAR review for Les Blancs at the National Theatre

Danny Sapani as Tshembe Matoseh. Picture credit Johan Persson

WHEN American playwright Lorraine Hansberry died aged 34 in 1965 she left some of her work unfinished.
Les Blancs was one such but thankfully her ex husband Robert Nemiroff finished it.
The play is currently on at the National Theatre and it is truly an epic production. Full of intensity and brilliant performances, especially that of Danny Sapani as Tshembe Matoseh, it is quite simply brilliant.
Directed by multi award winning director Yael Farber, it is set in a missionary complex in a fictional African state which is in the middle of an armed struggle for independence against colonial rule.
Into the dust and heat come two men. The first is Charlie Morris, an American journalist who wants to write an account of the mission - populated and led by a white missionary who has gone missing - and the work it does to help the indigenous people.
The second is Tshembe who after having left his people to travel the world, has married a white British woman, had a son by her and now settled happily in London, is back to be with his family at his father’s funeral.
But the tension within the state is rising with an increasing number of shootings, arguments and lootings and as a consequence, uncertainty and worry about the future is uppermost in the minds of those who stay at the mission.
Tshembe finds himself in the middle of this storms, torn between his family and his life back in England.
And all the while with tensions rising, and the revolution imminent, it is as though a bomb is ticking just waiting to explode.
As well as some superb performances from the likes of James Fleet as Dr Dekoven and Elliot Cowan as Charlie Morris, the revolving set too is stunning, making it a production that is both gripping and poignant.

Les Blancs is at the National Theatre until Friday, June 2. Visit or call the box office on 020 7452 3000 for full listings.