THE CONVERT | London, Above The Stag Theatre

Recommended

Ben Kavanagh’s chilling new play explores the resources we need to endure catastrophe through an alternate reality where our greatest fears are endemic and enduring.

***

You said The Convert is the “maddest” thing you’ve ever written. Is it really?

I think so. I mean, it feels very much like a play that exists in an alternate world, both in terms of its actual content, and also its form and structure. There’s only three characters, but there’s constant references to a wider society which gives it this epic feel. It’s also got some pretty dramatic set pieces, but I won’t ruin it with spoilers!

How did the project come about?

The play is part of a larger season at the Above The Stag Theatre — the UK’s only full time LBGTQ+ theatre — called CONTACT, which is essentially a festival of new and challenging work. Each company has been given free rehearsal space and a five-night run to realise their ideas and bring them to the stage. I’m thrilled to be back working with director Gene David Kirk, whose previous work at the Stag has been particularly successful, and with us for the journey are two extremely talented actors in James Phoon and Olly Roy — it’s an exciting prospect going back into the rehearsal room with such a strong team.

Why gay conversion therapy?

In fact, The Convert started life as a monologue in BODY POLITIC. Gene approached me about the season at the Stag in March of 2021, and asked if I had any ideas: I suggested this monologue could have the dramatic potential for expanding into a full-length play. As we chatted, the world of the monologue seemed to blend perfectly with a conversation that was being had in the wider media at the time, the legislating against gay conversion therapy – i.e. the ridiculous time it was taking to ban it!

What can audiences expect on the night?

I know the main thrust of the play is set against the backdrop of conversion therapy, but I think, like all good theatre, at its root, it’s a play about love, and in particular, enduring love. So I’d certainly expect that. As for the rest – well, we’ve not started rehearsals yet, and the entire play could be rewritten after the first day of rehearsals, as is so often the case. So much of the writing process relies on hearing the actors speak the lines, and gaining the insight of the director in how the story is coming together – as a writer, sometimes you are too close to the play to have that kind of perspective. Collaboration breeds a kind of openness in the room that nearly always results in a clearer direction for the story. It’s thrilling! They say good plays aren’t written, they are rewritten; well, if that’s the case then sign me up!

Playing 23 – 27 June 2021 at the Above The Stag Theatre in Vauxhall.

The Prickle - About transp

LITTLE ECHOES | London, The Hope Theatre

Recommended

Published this year by Methuen Drama, Tom Powell’s Little Echoes now receives a full run at The Hope Theatre in Islington. Three haunting monologues interweave amid lightbulbs and microphones in this 90-minute exploration of London “as you’ve never seen it before”.

16-year old Danielle (Maisie Preston) meets danger in the VIP area of a pop concert. Professional relationship manager June (Ciara Pouncet) seems cool and collected, but all is not as it seems. Shaj (Mikhael DeVille) navigates feelings of intense anger and hatred in the wake of a violent acid attack on his young brother.

One of the UK’s most up and coming new playwrights, Tom Powell won the OTR National Radio Drama Award and the Footlights’ Harry Porter Prize. He is part of the Soho Writers Alumni Group and in 2015 he was shortlisted for the Soho Young Writers’ Award for his first play the bear hunt. This year he attended the Royal Court Introductory Group and was shortlisted for HighTide’s First Commissions programme. His third play White Light has recently been selected for the Arcola’s PlayWrought festival.

The production is directed by Stephen Bailey, and partnered with Beyond The Streets, a charity that works to create pathways out of sexual exploitation.

Little Echoes is playing until 9 March 2019.

The Prickle - About transp

MAKLENA | London, Camden People’s Theatre

Theatre - Recommended

Following rave reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe, Night Train Theatre Company’s production of Maklena marks the English-language premiere of this Ukrainian play by Mykola Kulish, which was banned by the Soviet authorities in 1933, and lost to the world to decades.

The play might be nearly a hundred years old, but director Maria Montague’s brand-new translation is fresh as a daisy. The themes of unbearable poverty and revolution, seen through the eyes of a young girl trying to make sense of the world, remain charged and provocative.

In addition to the remarkable text itself, Night Train use puppetry and physical theatre to brilliant effect. The text veers unpredictably between moments of guttural, suicidal misery and light, madcap joy. The cast of six guide us through in a strange, sepia world, as Maklena retreats further into her fantasies, pushing her understanding of communist and capitalist ideologies to the extreme.

The music by Oliver Vibrans is rich and evocative in a way few theatre scores ever manage, and help us connect even further with Maklena’s harrowing world.

The rediscovery of such an important play, in such a perfect production, is a remarkable theatre event. A must see.

For five performances only at the Camden People’s Theatre, 17 – 21 July 2018.

The Prickle - About transp