good girl

REVIEW: ‘An outstanding piece of observational theatre’ ★★★★★ Good Girl, Trafalgar Studios

The funniest standup routines always feature material, which is relatable. There’s something very comforting about laughing at mutual misfortune after the event. The shared suffering evokes a strange kind of empathy, which is extremely satisfying.

And Naomi Sheldon has managed to completely capture this feeling in her one-woman show at Trafalgar Studios. Good Girl isn’t a standup routine, but more an amusing collection of anecdotes put into a one-act theatrical production. But for anyone who didn’t necessarily tread the conventional path as a teenager, the stories Sheldon depicts will provoke a fond and, at times, uncomfortable retrospect.

It’s a very genuine and earnest narration of a girl, who has often struggled to vocalize her frustrations and confusions about the adult world and as Sheldon is both the writer and performer, it is very brave to showcase some of the confessional material.

But what Sheldon perfectly portrays is the comedy and tragedy of everyday life. I’m sure most of us are able to look back on our teenage years and laugh at some of the woeful decisions we made. And judging how bad you’re feeling based on how much ABBA it takes to cheer you up is something I’m totally down with.

Good Girl is an outstanding piece of observational theatre that manages to find both the humour and heartbreak in our human experiences.

Good Girl is running at Trafalgar Studio 2 until 31 March. 

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Jordan Tannahill’s Late Company to transfer to Trafalgar Studios

Following its critically acclaimed and sold-out European premiere at Finborough Theatre in April/May 2017, Stage Traffic’s production of Late Company, by the award-winning playwright Jordan Tannahill, will transfer for its West End debut at Trafalgar Studios 2.

A successful middle-class couple’s lives are irrevocably changed after their teenage son is mercilessly bullied for being gay. In an attempt to “move on” they invite his chief tormentor, and his parents, to a dinner party.

Far from finding the peace they seek, the dinner strips bare their good intentions to reveal layers of parental, sexual, and political hypocrisy.

Written with sensitivity and humour, Late Company explores restorative justice, cyber bullying, and the ever-changing complexities of parenthood in the 21st century.

Jordan Tannahill, playwright said, “I wrote Late Company in the wake of an incident in my hometown of Ottawa, Canada that touched me deeply as a gay youth in my early twenties. It was a piece I intended to share with my group of friends; a means of venting anger and seeking some kind of reckoning. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine it would make its way to West End. It is an honour to share this production with London audiences.”

Proudly in support of the new production CEO of CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), Simon Gunning explains, “Late Company is a powerful play that centres around the highly difficult themes of bullying, suicide, sexuality, and family dynamics. These themes are insightfully handled; there is a sensitivity and awareness that does not shy away from a harsh reality. CALM is proud to support a show that starts the conversation of stigma surrounding mental health, as well as the dark side of social media and high-school hierarchy. Suicide is the biggest killer of young men in the UK, and those who are bereaved by suicide face a brutal journey. This confrontational play is beautifully cast, acted, and directed; and will certainly help to spread the word about the devastation of suicide.”

Late Company is at Trafalgar Studios 2 from 21 August – 16 September 2017

Review: “An insightful and relevant work” ★★★★ Kiss Me, Trafalgar Studios

Over 700,000 British men died in World War I. With an outbreak of Spanish Flu killing millions more after the fighting had finished, Britain was left with a vastly depleted male population.

The consequences of this devastating loss of life were felt for many years and master storyteller Richard Bean explores the terrible legacy in his play Kiss Me at Trafalgar Studios.

We meet Stephanie (Claire Lams) over a decade after the end of the war, a widow who became a lorry driver to help the effort on the home front. At 32 she is seen by society as past it, but longs for a child and thanks to a fairly cloak and dagger scheme by a local doctor, is given the chance to conceive. She is visited by a travelling impregnating machine in the shape of Dennis (Ben Lloyd-Hughes) who has taken it upon himself to repopulate London because as he says “Turkey basters don’t work” and after fathering over 200 children, he is doing fairly well.

But the underlying reasons behind his sexual prowess realistically stem from his survivor’s guilt and in finding a kindred spirit in Stephanie, the purpose of his vocation is thrown into question.

Despite being set in 1929, the themes of human displacement and a desperate search for a reason for existence feel impeccably relevant. The nervous ramblings of Stephanie when they first meet – allowing too much of herself to be exposed and filling any empty space with meaningless chatter – is something I’m sure many of us have experienced on a first date. But, this is supposed to be more of business transaction and that further generates the debate over whether there is a difference between having sex and making love.

Bean has become more well-known in recent years for his crowd-pleasing comedies – including the hugely popular One Man Two Guvnors – but this return to small-scale intimate drama is a welcome one. His script is filled with amusing interludes, but at all times maintains an underlying feeling of desperation.

Claire Lams is totally captivating as Stephanie, cutesy and self-deprecating, while maintaining a forthrightness by illustrating the rise of female empowerment, something that was very much in its infancy in the 1920s.

Ben Lloyd-Hughes is more reserved and makes it clear from his stiff posture and stand-offish body language throughout that this is a man who is tormented by his past and is determined not to let anyone crack his armour.

At just 70 minutes, you are definitely left with unanswered questions and it wouldn’t hurt to explore some of the issue and characters a little deeper, but this play is, nevertheless, an insightful and relevant work, which is worth a look.

Kiss Me is at Trafalgar Studios until 8 July 

We talk to Ben Lloyd-Hughes about Kiss Me at Trafalgar Studios

Following a critically acclaimed run at Hampstead Theatre, Richard Bean’s two-hander Kiss Me has transferred to Trafalgar Studios and with the pairing of Claire Lams and Ben Lloyd-Hughes reprising their roles, the thought provoking 1920’s drama promises to be another hit, writes Nicky Sweetland.

Set post World War I, when Britain is reeling from the loss of so many men, the story follows Stephanie, a 32-year-old widow, desperate for a child. Her plight is recognised by Dennis, who has taken it upon himself to impregnate husbandless women.

Ben Lloyd-Hughes told us, “This play asks the questions about what this scenario would be like and what happens if they also have a connection.”

But, Ben’s character isn’t just an opportunistic Lothario and Ben explains, “You’ll really find out what’s going on inside his head and his justification for doing it. There’s a lot more hidden there and there’s a lot more to do with the war and his own guilt”

Film fans know Ben Lloyd-Hughes for his role in the dystopian action thriller Divergent, but the actor is perhaps most recognised for his portrayal of Josh Stock in the television series Skins. Ben previously appeared in the West End transfer of the Royal Court’s production of Jumpy.

I ask Ben what it’s like to be returning to the role he left behind last year. “It’s been a joy to reconnect not only with Claire [Lams] and our director, Anna [Ledwich] but also just with the text itself and to re-find it, recreate but also find new things about it. Anna has encouraged us to treat this as something new while also honouring how successful and great it was last time.”

Writer, Richard Bean is best known for his seminal work, One Man, Two Guvnors, a play, which is defined as a bawdy crowd pleaser. Kiss Me is a much more potent project and tackles some modern issues under the guise of a historical drama.

“The play talks a lot about feminism and female empowerment because this was a time when there was still a lot of sexism.” Ben explains, “Everything was still behind closed doors, but at the same time – because of the war – a lot of the women were having to do the men’s jobs and so it actually led to a lot of female empowerment.”

Kiss Me is at Trafalgar Studios until 8 Jul 

Theatre News: Stockard Channing set to return to the London stage

Hollywood and Broadway icon Stockard Channing will return to the London stage this summer, to star in a new production of Olivier Award winner Alexi Kaye Campbell’s acclaimed drama Apologia, directed by the multi-award winning Jamie Lloyd.

Opening at the Trafalgar Studios on 29th July, Apologia will see the Tony and Emmy Award winning actor performing in the West End for the first time in over a decade.  Channing’s hugely popular film and TV credits include starring roles in The West WingThe Good Wife, her Oscar® and Golden Globe nominated role in Six Degrees of Separation, and the iconic role of Rizzo in the film Grease. An acclaimed Broadway and West End star, Channing’s most recent performances on Broadway, It’s Only a Play and Other Desert Cities (a “peerless” performance – NY Times, for which she was nominated for her seventh Tony Award), have affirmed her position as a true theatrical legend.

Channing says: “I’m excited to be returning to the West End – my first time both working with Jamie Lloyd and performing at the Trafalgar Studios. I was so drawn to this unforgettably bold and uncompromising character in such a rich, moving and witty play. I can’t wait for us to bring Apologia to life for the audiences.”

The production also marks the return to the Trafalgar Studios of Jamie Lloyd, following his critically acclaimed productions of The Ruling Class and Macbeth starring James McAvoy and his hit production with Martin Freeman of Richard III.

Alexi Kaye Campbell’s play is a compelling drama about the importance of family and the pressures commitment and principles exert on it.  Apologia follows his critical success with The Pride and his acclaimed plays Sunset at The Villa Thalia at the National Theatre and The Faith Machine at the Royal Court Theatre.

Stockard Channing plays Kristin Miller, a firebrand liberal matriarch of a dynamic family, who is presiding over her birthday celebrations. An eminent art historian, Kristin’s almost evangelical dedication to her career and her political activism has resulted in her sons – Peter, a merchant banker, and Simon, a writer – harbouring deeply rooted and barely suppressed resentments towards her. The fissures in her relationship with them are brought to the fore by the recent publication of her memoir.

As the evening progresses through barbed humour, Kristin’s family and friends, and ultimately Kristin herself, question their achievements and choices, and whether they were worth the sacrifices they made. In the increasingly fragmented political turmoil of today’s landscape these questions have never seemed more relevant, and will strike a chord with audiences.

Apologia will open at the Trafalgar Studios on 29 July

Richard Bean’s Kiss Me transfers to Trafalgar Studios

Multi-award winning writer Richard Bean’s Kiss Me transfers to Trafalgar Studios after a sold out run at Hampstead Theatre Downstairs in 2016.

Ben Lloyd-Hughes in Kiss Me. Photo by Robert Day

This new play is a beautiful and unorthodox love story about two people struggling to escape the guilt and ghosts of the past, set against the shifting world of London post- World War I. As the roles women play change, Stephanie, a war widow finds it increasingly difficult to play by the rules as she still longs to have a baby. A meeting with Dennis changes everything. A desperate woman. A chivalrous man. And a forbidden kiss.

While Bean is more often know for comedy and farce, this intimate and tender portrayal reflects emotion in a time of great crisis and suffering. Bean’s other plays include One Man, Two Guvnors, Great Britain, Made in Dagenham and the recent sell out hit The Nap, which starred Jack O’Connell. He comments, I’m very excited that Kiss Me is transferring to Trafalgar Studios, and this intriguing story will hopefully find a wider audience. It will be great to be working with Claire Lams, Ben Lloyd-Hughes and Anna Ledwich again.

Director Anna Ledwich will be returning to the Trafalgar Studios following her Olivier-award nomination for Four Minutes Twelve Seconds.

Claire Lams (The King’s Speech, Chichester Festival Theatre; The Little Mermaid, Bristol Old Vic; Routes, The Royal Court) and Ben Lloyd-Hughes (Future Conditional, Old Vic; Henry V, Michael Grandage Company; Jumpy, Duke of York’s Theatre) reprise their roles.

Kiss Me will run at Trafalgar Studios from 6 June until 8th July

Harry Potter’s Evanna Lynch to star in 20th anniversary production of Disco Pigs by Enda Walsh

Marking the 20th anniversary of its explosive British debut, Enda Walsh’s Disco Pigs comes to Trafalgar Studios starring Evanna Lynch (Harry Potter; My Name is Emily) and Colin Campbell (Dublin by Lamplight; Through A Glass Darkly).

When Walsh’s breathtaking breakthrough play premiered, the Guardian commented that it didn’t so much debut at the 1997 Edinburgh Fringe as erupt there. It was awarded both the George Devine Award and the Stewart Parker Award.

Born at the same time on the same day in the same hospital, Pig and Runt have been inseparable ever since. They speak in their own language, play by their own rules, and create a world for themselves in which boundaries blur between truth and illusion. Until, on their seventeenth birthday, they discover something more. As night falls, and the disco and drink take hold, they spiral violently out of control.

As we follow these two extraordinary teenagers through the streets of Cork City, drinking and dancing their way into the night, we witness with startling clarity how the nature of friendship can be changed forever. Endlessly playing with their own unique language, it’s impossible not to be swept along by their sense of youthful abandon. Desperate for a world beyond their mundane, everyday existence – amidst the bright lights of the Palace Disco – they draw us into their orbit, refusing to let us go.

Enda Walsh comments, “It seems shocking that Disco Pigs is 20 years old – but I trust that Evanna Lynch and Colin Campbell under the stewardship of John Haidar – will brilliantly send Pig and Runt crashing through their chaotic joint birthday.”

Enda’s other accolades include the Caméra d’Or for his screenplay for Hunger and the Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical for Once.