A lovely affair

The Affair, Gibbons and Gaulier

Gibbons and Gaulier are in London with their wonderful clown comedy The Affair.
Different things make different generations laugh. What was hilarious yesterday, is seen as lame today – but it does not mean that we cannot go back to the past, if only for a little while and immerse ourselves in a magic of melodrama.

Gustavo (absolutely hilarious Claudio del Toro) is waiting for the love of his life, Daffadowndilly (charismatic Amy Gibbons) to come over his place so he can ask her “a very important question”. Things do not go as smoothly as they could, especially when Lark (witty Shea Wojtus), Gustavo’s “mistake” decides to join in. And so little comedy of errors begins.

The Affair is a sweet mix of melodrama and bouffon. Other than occasional modern moments, such as Daffadowndilly’s plans to have botox injections, cellphone ringing or jokes on Kim Kardashian’s dog, the entirety of play is wonderfully vintage in the best way possible. The storyline is obviously very simple, with numerous repeated gags and wonderful overacting. Particularly impressive, especially for a rather confined and ever-changing space that touring troupes are condemned to perform in, is very intricate stage movement. Makeup, costumes and, of course, jokes (ranging from verging on vulgar slapstick and melodrama to more refined bouffon), are very much in-style and play as a whole is very coherent. Using a simple, candid style, Gibbons and Gaulier demonstrate a delightful way with words, creativity and resourcefulness.

It is an exuberant and witty little play, cleverly depicting highs and lows (but mostly lows) of a relationship, in a men-are-from-Mars sort of fashion. If lovely old-school clown-type humour is your cup of tea, then The Affair is definitely a thing to go for.

Dominika Fleszar

23rd November at 7:45pm at Applecart Arts London E13 0SE

22nd November at 7:45pm at Applecart Arts London E13 0SE

Tickets: 02034754280 / Applecart Arts – Tickets

Also playing at:

28th November at 7:30 pm at Rialto Brighton BN1 3FE

Tickets: 01273725230 / Rialto Theatre – Tickets

30th November at 7.30pm at The Cut in Halesworth

Tickets: 0300 3033 211 / The Cut – Tickets

Relevant themes on Bear Ridge

On Bear Ridge: Royal Court Theatre

We are greeted within the walls of a derelict decaying slaughter-house. This place hasn’t done any slaughtering for some time, but John Daniel (Rhys Ifans) still wears his blood stained apron. He, his wife Noni (Rakie Ayola) and their young butcher Ifan (Sion Daniel Young) still get up everyday and open the shop, despite being the last inhabitants of the village left.

Stuck on a snowy mountain, as war wages on around them, they try desperately to keep their sanity. John Daniel bellows around the stage, rolling his ‘R’s, re-hashing old memories in angst, anger and turmoil. Noni, in soft soothing tones, calms him down – as though she has done this many times before – reassuring him that his memories and lost language will one day return.

When a desperate and distraught war captain (Jason Hughes) abruptly enters the slaughter-house, their familiar routine is disrupted. With a gun now pointing at them, the trio finally stare death in the face.

But Noni’s warm, maternal nature softens The Captain and gun down, he agrees to stay and have tea. It soon becomes clear however, for The Captain at least, too much has happened and we are reminded that for some, there is no return from trauma and loss.

Ed Thomas’s new one act play is poignant and beautiful, complimented with a haunting, symbolic set design by Cia Dyfan. As the play progresses, walls of the slaughter-house rise up and disappear into the air, leaving the characters exposed to the wintery, bleak elements. They are truly alone in this harsh world – and it’s up to them to claw onto their sanity; their memories, and keep their hope alive.

While the play is long and dialogue heavy, the performances (particularly Ifan’s), are captivating and definitely rise to the challenge. Although set in a post – apocalyptic unknown town at an unknown time, the themes of loss, pain and fear of change, are excellently executed, and remain relevant to us all.

Sophia Leonie

Showing until  November 23


Northern Light

Light Falls. Royal Exchange
A COLLABORATION between award winning writer Simon Stephens, artistic director Sarah Frankcom and original music by Jarvis Cocker, has resulted in a new production Light Falls, at Manchester’s Royal Exchange.
It features a woman who wakes up one morning with a stranger beside her in bed. A student who argues about his partner’s lack of commitment to him. A mother who begs for the financial support of and ex-partner and a married man who wants a threesome, while his wife is dying in a Stockport supermarket.

In his research for the play, Stephens scoured five towns and villages of Northern England, to try to reflect what it is to be Northern, and more particularly, to find those who have been disadvantaged by the impacts of the 2008 financial crash, and half a decade of austerity, which he believes hit them in a way that those inside the London bubble could never comprehend.

Screen Shot 2019-10-30 at 13.13.33

Photo: Manuel Harlan

If anything it is the ordinariness of his characters in this plot and how they deal with lost dreams and ruined lives that makes them even more extraordinary; but then the sheer pain is a visual masterpiece.

This is family life at its grimmest, its pain wrapped up in the dark humour which includes this memorable line: “We can’t have sex in there; the Venerable Bede is buried there!”

If anything it puts a marker down that love and kindness surpasses every life challenge, even death.

There are outstanding performances from Rebecca Manley(Christine/Claudie/Andrea/Victoria) Witney White(Jess), Katie West (Ashe), David Moorst(Steven) Carla Henry(Michaela) Lloyd Hutchinson (Bernard) and Mercedes Assad(Emma) making her professional debut at the Exchange.

Cocker’s song, Hymn of the North, is spliced into the play and would put many in mind of his Common People lyrics including the line: “Don’t forget your Northern blood.”

Light Falls plays until until November 16. To contact the box office on 0161 833 9833 or https://www.royalexchange.co.uk/whats-on-and-tickets/light-falls

Peter Devine

The craft of the amateur stage

A Bunch of Amateurs: Ambleside Players

Ever since Calamity Jane mistakenly thought she was taking Adelaide Adams to Deadwood, the wrong star in the wrong place has kept generations of audiences entertained.

In A Bunch of Amateurs it’s the right guy in the wrong venue. Jefferson Steele is a washed up, washed out Hollywood star who thinks his career is being given a new lease of life when he is handed a contract to perform in King Lear in Stratford.

Not the birthplace of the Bard, of course, but a far humbler Stratford in Suffolk where the eponymous bunch of amateurs are trying to save their even humbler little theatre.

It was written for the big screen (by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman), and the 2008 version starred Burt Reynolds, Imelda Staunton and Derek Jacobi. But how much more comedic is a stage version where a real-time bunch of amateurs are, well, playing themselves.

The Ambleside Players hit upon this great script and deliver it with gusto, deliberately bumbling their way along until, at the point of the play within a play, they prove themselves more than worthy of Shakespearean craft.

Holding the stage throughout is local GP Paul Davies as Steele: obnoxious, overbearing and over here. Cut the last two acts and give it a happy ending, and King Lear would be much improved, he maintains.

paul davies

Paul Davies and Barry Porter: what the amateur stage is all about

Davies switches from a convincing American accent into a most impressive Shakespearean delivery, though for local audiences the finest moment is when Steele saves the life of his daughter – playing Lear’s daughter Cordelia, who happens to be Davies’s own daughter Anna Davies.

“I am a doctor; well, I’ve played one on screen,” yells Steele, before delivering a medically-impeccable instruction on tracheotomy.

In this stage Stratford, the star’s outrageous behaviour is parried with good humour and a firm hand by Gail Toms as Dorothy, more used to holding together the fragile egos of amateur actors. We have David Marshall playing pompous solicitor Nigel, who thinks HE should be Lear; the dippy and dreamy Mary, played by Christine Wright; the vampish Judith St Claire as Lauren (wife of the play’s sponsor); and Barry Porter as the stage stooge and handyman Denis. He has one of the finest lines of all when, departing hurt and implacable by Steele’s behaviour, he exits stage left on a mobility scooter proclaiming: “I’m not staying here. I’ve got a septic tank to unblock.”

Director Moira Rowlinson and producer Judith Keely battle with the technicalities of performing on stage a short-scene play written for the big screen. And together the entire team prove that when am-dram can laugh at itself, the point is made most clearly: these are amateurs with no fame or glory earning immense respect for making us laugh too.

Giselle with a difference

Giselle, The Lowry, Salford

There are occasions when it feels like a privilege to be watching something very special and very unusual indeed. And the fact that Dada Masilo’s Giselle was playing at the Lowry for just two nights added to the exclusivity of this experience.

The current tour is an exciting addition to Dance Consortium’s 2019 performance schedule and continues their commitment to bringing the best international contemporary dance to audiences across the UK.


Masilo was born and raised in the Johannesburg township of Soweto. Trained in classical ballet and contemporary dance she fuses these techniques with African dance steps to create her signature high-speed style.

Masilo dances in the title role and leads her company of twelve exceptional dancers with theatrical mastery, accompanied by a hauntingly beautiful score from South African composer, Philip Miller.

The story here is set in a South African village. It tells of a trusting peasant girl who is thrust into a world of betrayal and shame when her lover rejects her. Spurned by her family and killed by heartbreak, Giselle returns from the grave as a ghost being bent on revenge.

The dancers are barefoot, in minimalist beige and white costumes; the Wilis , the ghost maidens, recast as a vengeful mob, stand out in red. There’s an exceptional performance here from Llewellyn Mnguni as Myrtha, the queen of the Wilis.

Compared with a traditional ballet , the music is hard-edged, tribal beats with drums aplenty and few soft tones. Nor is there anything gentle about the dance movements themselves. This is lively, acrobatic choreography which tells a dramatic story which a seat-edge climax, without the need for an elaborate set.

For many in the audience, this challenged their concept of what ballet should or could be. And they absolutely loved it!

Karen Marshall


Dada Masilo, who won the prestigious Prince Claus ‘Next Generation’ Award in 2018, says of her Giselle“I wanted to make a ballet that was not pretty …I wanted to get away from that and bring it back home to South Africa and give it that edge, put it into that context. The world that we’re living in right now, there’s so much disruption, so much chaos happening, I think the Giselle that I made fits very well into what is happening round the world. My approach is to show that contemporary African dance and ballet can co-exist by finding an innovative way of fusing the two. I believe that we need to collapse barriers that exist between them because they are restrictions, and as dancers we don’t need restrictions.”


In the eye of the hurricane

Hurricane Diaries,  Blue Elephant Theatre

London fringe scene is bursting with feminist vibes. There is a hugely acclaimed premiere of The Niceties at the Finborough, the Bush had Chiaroscuro; Dirty Crusty soon starts at The Yard, and Lyric Hammersmith will stage Faustus: That Damned Woman in just a few months.
And yet Puerto Rican Amanda Vilanova somehow manages to tell a story that is not only
fresh and powerful, but also much needed.

Amanda straight on (1)

Amanda Vilanova

The concept behind Hurricane Diaries, Vilanova’s first play and Oliver Hamilton’s directorial debut – was remarkably simple. The story is divided into two storylines: a history lesson of Puerto Rico and a trip down memory lane of a young immigrant. ‘I didn’t want to do anything therapeutic’ Vilanova says, ‘I just wanted to tell the story’. Which she does, indeed, quite effectively. A one-hour long monologue is not tedious; very well paced, her energy transfixes the audience only for the room to sink in the utter silence few minutes later.

Her heroine, Victoria, starts by rambling through the stage, shuffling boxes and books, sitting down, standing up, reading aloud, and, when the entire audience is sufficiently confused, she suddenly breaks the fourth wall chattering in Spanish. The rhythm goes on through the entire show – from smile to tears, from agitation to stillness.

Funnily enough, Vilanova does not dwell on politics – and, ironically, her show is not politics- less. It is just that, as she explains, ‘Trump is another symptom of oppression’. Thus, she does not waste her time on symptoms, rather, she attempts to diagnose the root cause and does so in a thought-provoking form of a history lesson. The simple set design somehow reinforces her message – set of boxes, few books and memorabilia, dripping ice packages under the roof that represent water dripping through the roof of a house destroyed by hurricane.

But it is not only a story of the island. It is, first and foremost, story of a woman from the
island – a woman passionate about her own country, lost and found in it, and lost and found in London where she migrated to. Her story – with all its various aspects, from family feasts to sexual abuse – is rooted in Puerto Rico, but not limited to it.

A mighty, robust, life-changing play on colonialism it is not. It is, though, something much, much better – vulnerable, sometimes kitschy, sometimes romantic, overwhelmingly personal. Every immigrant, I daresay, from Iceland to Saint Kitts and Nevis can find a tiny bit of themselves in Vilanova’s show. It is, after all, just a show about a woman by a woman.

 Dominika Fleszar

Runs until  Saturday Oct 19. Booking http://www.blueelephanttheatre.co.uk/          

Victor Hugo’s cocktail

IMG_4317It was meant to be a pilgrimage to the house where Victor Hugo wrote Les Miserables. But the powers that be on the island of Guernsey deemed the season to be over at the end of September and Hauteville House was now closed to the public.

As were many places around this quirky Channel Island which must be spectacular in summer sunshine. Though visitors are very welcome, a native generosity unimpeded by centuries of having to fend off invaders from France, Germany and elsewhere.

It was an inauspicious start to the weekend. The first bus to arrive outside the tiny airport had a temporary terminus not far away, where a seemingly abandoned pub graced a bleak western headland. The anticipated coastal route was off limits due to roadworks. A bemused bus driver took us back to the airport to start all over again.

We saw fields of cabbages, and abandoned greenhouses. The Dutch, it seems, scuppered the Guernsey tomato industry with their giant glasshouses warmed by gas from the North Sea fields. Guernsey’s oil-fired heaters were unable to compete.

Better luck with the next bus, that wound along the rocky northern coast past the bays of Vazon and Cobo to our destination near the Rousse Tower, a fortification left over from the time of the Napoleonic wars.


The bus service is terrific, once you get the hang of the circular routes. A ticket is just £1, a subsidised service aimed at persuading the residents of the island to use their cars less. It seems not to have worked, perhaps because car parking is free absolutely everywhere.

And for all their use of English, and driving on the left, motorists seem to have a Gallic irreverence towards other road users. There are many ..admittedly small.. cars on these small roads, and the decision NOT to hire one was quickly vindicated, watching fraught manoeuvres between stone walls, and regular sorties onto the pavements.

Near the Rousse Tower on the edge of Le Grand Havre and the pretty harbour of Les Amarreurs, was the weekend retreat at the Peninsula Hotel. It’s a big but beautifully positioned place with enchanting views of the harbour from many rooms, a cosmolitan restaurant and cocktail bar, and an open air swimming pool. Closed, by now, of course.

Like many places on the island, it’s staffed by a number of Latvian workers who have chosen Guernsey as their emigre home of choice. A fascinating study of this trend has been made by Aija Lulle http://balticworlds.com/latvians-in-guernsey/ They add to the sense of being elsewhere.

From the hotel it was an easy bus ride to the island’s capital St Peter Port, a lively and exciting cluster of narrow cobbled streets and tiny alleyways rising up from the seafront. This felt much more French, in spite of the presence of English high street shops. The street names, and the grand houses, are often in French, and the restaurants display a strong French influence.


The church of Notre Dame, St Peter Port


The Peninsula was also convenient for the Guernsey parkrun, one of the most spectacular locations along the edge of rocky L’Ancresse bay, with terrific views, and a very smart beachside cafe that served a good bacon sandwich…but also had bottles of Mumm champagne behind the counter. Maybe for celebrating a personal best?


And Victor Hugo? We found him twice, monumentally in the grounds of Candie Gardens high above St Peter Port. And back at the Peninsula, where a Hugo Spritz features on the cocktail menu, a combination of elderflower liqueur, prosecco, soda water, and mint leaves. In spite of the rain outside, this made us feel a lot less miserable.


StageyLady flew from Manchester to Guernsey with Aurigny https://www.aurigny.com/#flight-search

staying at https://peninsula.gg/