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Blore quite literally 'slipped-up' when he took a nasty fall departing the stage as Alex , slipping on water that had been poured over his head just moments before, but he recovered in style, impressively even managing to find an extra laugh whilst keeping very much in character, for which he was rewarded with a spontaneous round of applause. That said this is clearly predominately written to be a light comedy, which is just as skilfully brought to life by director Scott Le Crass who manages to bring this fast paced comedy from page to stage in style and without ever loosing control of it.

Would that this had been the only problem with the production however.

The scenario itself is clearly not without potential, and as the two characters slowly began to cajole each other into a conversation that slowly progresses from the mere transactional into something altogether more confessional, there seemed a real opportunity to give the audience a glimpse into the very heart of the characters as the nature of their relationship slowly changes.

It was an opportunity that failed to materialise however.

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So pronounced was this that at times the actors seemed to break through the fourth wall, albeit for no obvious dramatic purpose, and in doing so only managed to further alienate the audience from any sense of a personal discourse between the characters, and robbed the scenes of any sense that an ongoing connection might have been establishing itself between the pair.

For The Unbuilt City to have played like anything more than a good drama better suited for radio, and indeed it sometimes felt as if it was being performed in that way, the two leads would have needed to establish a much stronger bond than they were clearly being given the opportunity to do here. There were a few moments when the piece showed some potential, Dickinson sporadically injecting bursts of real verve and gusto into her performance as Claudia , but these felt too few and far between to save this otherwise lacklustre production.

The set design was unimaginative, the lighting seemed perfunctory and what should have really been a dramatic highlight, towards which the previous 70 minutes had clearly been leading us, had unfortunately long since been robbed of any real dramatic potential. San Domino has cemented the idea that is fast turning into a great year for the queer musical.


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No second rate stories plugging the gaps between regurgitated pop songs here. The stage is relatively small but both the bar and the prison island of San Domino are inovatively brought to life, as is the journey the prisoners undertake between the two. What is also immediately striking is just how big the cast of this production is, with thirteen actors taking on the fifteen roles, an impressive indulgence rarely seen away from the more commercial theatres.

Not only did this allow for the intriguing interaction between multiple characters, but in several of the scores bigger numbers it allowed for a full and powerful rendition of the songs with the occasional impressive harmony thrown in for good measure. San Domino also achieved a rare thing for me in that it had a soundtrack I could have imagined listening to many times over, most musicals leaving me satisfied enough in the moment without the need to revisit it.

If there is a recording of it somewhere, please let me know. For me it was the bigger songs that sat more comfortably within the drama, the occasional ballad never quite seeming to hit the desired effect. This was more noticeable in the second half which seemed to contain more than the first. It was also in the second half that the drama felt as if it was occasionally allowed to slip into a slightly more perfunctory role as a transitional stepping stone between a couple of the songs, but therein lays my only criticsm of this otherwise well crafted production.

All the actors gave equally solid performances, making it difficult to call anyone out specifically. That said Andrew Pepper as the Catania bars female impersonator Pietro was magnificent in his role, imbuing his character with enough humour and pathos that it was never delivered in anything other than three solid dimensions. It was also a fun device having Mark Stewart as upper class brit Andrew being the only character to attempt an Italian accent, a device given plausibility by the fact that he was learning Italian , exemplifying how his accent must have sounded to the rest of the characters, who themselves remained accent-less to the ears of the audience.

San Domino works on many different levels and reinforces the fact that high quality original musical theatre is still being produced. That this also manages to shine a light on a hitherto greatly overlooked slice of queer history makes this an altogether more impressive and worthwhile experience.

The story itself is set in a house during two time periods, the crossing of which is masterly written and the interaction of the characters on stage equally well directed. As the show begins we are introduced to young couple Anna Lauren Hall and Edward Craig Mather who are moving in to a house together. With the two soldiers Edward and Tom Joel Harper-Jackson having the pivotal relationship of the story, many other relationships are examined in the wake of their love, those of the present day mother and her children, the relationships between siblings across the two timelines and, in an echo of the central relationship, Ed and Harry also find themselves fighting for their right to love in the present day.

I am not quite sure of the thinking behind having the couple appear seemingly oblivious to each others presence in the staging of their duet in the first half but as a result, for me it led to this being the only moment that failed to maximise on it's emotional potential, but this was a very small niggle in an otherwise faultless production. In the meantime, catch it in Colchester if you can, so that you can also say you were there at the beginning of whatever the future has in store for this five star production.

The venue immediately becomes a talking point for the audience as we took our seats, a degree of uncertainty in the air as to how the evening would unfold. I was impressed! Despite having to dig deep to reveal my own sexual fantasy on the afore mentioned anonymous survey card, the interaction required throughout the evening is fairly gentle, being more like a good gossip round a friends house during which, when requested, the audience could participate in or not.

Ethan was more than able to find the comedy in these ad-libed moments, and skilfully managed to weave them back into the narrative of the piece. As you might expect, the evening is as funny as it is original with one anecdote after the other taking us behind the closed doors and drawn curtains of this whole secret suburban world, all told with a refreshingly comedic candour.

I got the impression this may have taken a little longer than usual, this evenings audience possibly being more reserved than he was used to, but I think we all got there eventually.


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  7. Given the location of tonights performance these could easily have just been items for sale in the shop. If they were, my advise to Ethan would be to snap them up as they were such a great detail. Penis shaped drawers containing penis shaped jelly sweets. Yes, more snacks please! If, like me, you are used to something a bit more traditional as a theatrical experience, I can only advise you also try to shake off your English reserve and surprise yourself by going to see this unusual piece of amusing performance theatre.

    We think you will enjoy it, and can no better sum it up than the two audience comments we overheard when leaving the venue. An ambitious undertaking requiring, we are told in a short introduction by Artistic Director Alistair Wilkinson , no less than fifty-three creatives to make it happen. Awesome, huh! It comes as no surprise then that WoLab are the innovative production company behind the idea, music having also played a not insignificant part of their previous production ManCub.

    So impressed was I by the musical selection for that production, that I made an open request to the director in my review, see: jacktheladmag. It was the nineteen individual playwrights that had control of the playlist this time however, and given that three minutes thirty seconds has long been regarded the optimum duration for a commercially successful song, this evening of new and original writing moved along at a breakneck speed, presenting the audience with so many highly original stories, situations and characters that it would be impossible to review all nineteen here.

    Needless to say, despite the quality being more than impressive throughout, there were definitely some stand out pieces, such is the nature of these showcase evenings. Both parts saw Abby displaying shades of a modern day Victoria Wood , such was the quality of her performance. Unfortunately, this leads me to my one small criticism of the evening, that being the decision to play a short extract of the song that inspired the playwright at the end of each play instead of the beginning.

    That said, there was no ignoring the incredibly high standard of both the writing and acting on display here, and as strong as some of the aforementioned monologues were, it was a few of the two-handers that became my personal highlights of the evening.

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    I sincerely hope the rumoured repeat of this format does take place as this evening has only cemented what a fan I am of these showcase events. Having been left with the sense that this is more than just vaguely autobiographical, SantaMaria uses the music of the era to instantly transport the audience back to the decade of Smash Hits, Crispy Pancakes, Studio Line, Top Of The Pops, Charlie and Razzle.

    Unfortunately, intertwined with these references came the inevitable angst and uncertainty of a teenager both discovering and coming to terms with his sexuality, and as much as there was a lot of humour to be derived from the cultural touchstones SantaMaria draws upon, the more painful and equally ubiquitous memories of bullying, homophobia, identity confusion and the arrival of aids are all resurrected in equal measure.

    This rollercoaster ride of teenage hormones, self-awareness and breaking away from the heteronormative influences he is surrounded by are all skilfully delivered by Ryan Price who more than impresses in the role, managing to keep the audience emotionally engaged from the very start of this 80 minute one-man show. His delivery is engaging and made all the more personable by the intimacy of the theatre itself. Whilst many coming of age stories have been told before, there is a warmth, honesty and heart to this play that makes it feel fresh and original, making as it does some astute observations, particularly around the teenagers inner anguish as he negotiates his own sexuality, finding himself being bullied for something he has yet to accept himself.

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    As hinted by the plays title, music becomes the one constant that the character can loose himself in during moments of both strength and solace. The instantly recognisable hits of the afore mentioned Culture Club , along with Tears For Fears , Eurythmics , Kajagoogoo and Kate Bush punctuate the action throughout the play and are often accompanied by moments of choreographed dance that, at their best, manage to effectively reveal as much about the characters emotional state as the words he speaks.

    On the whole these physically expressed moments impressively enhanced rather than detracted from the narrative, however some remained stronger than the others and, having noticed from the production notes the absence of a credited choreographer, I wonder if a bit of help might have smoothed out the inconsistency across these moments, which I otherwise loved.

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    Really Want To Hurt Me is a keenly observed and worthy documentation of what it was like to be a gay teenager in Britain in the mid eighties and showcases a writer and an actor excelling at their craft. At approximately fifteen minutes each, short works like these need to traverse the fine line of getting to the heart of the story as quickly as possible but not at the expense of creating characters that the audience can relate to and empathise with, which is no meant feat. Thankfully this was not a concern for the eight short plays being showcased here, each one feeling as refreshingly original as the next.

    At times the evening felt more like a masterclass of the short play format than a showcase of the eight emerging writers, and it is exceptionally reassuring to know that this calibre of writing not only exists, but that it is also being supported in this way. Not wanting to retract any of this well deserved praise, there is of course always going to be some pieces that resonate more than others, sometimes influenced by how relatable a story is to ones own experiences. In the first case, a young bi woman recounts the loves of her life which, whilst being innovatively staged, felt stylistically uneven.

    However, this play takes place at a time during World War II when Wittgenstein could no longer countenance his teaching of philosophy and logic at such a devastating time in history, preferring instead to take a manual job as a dispensary porter at Guys Hospital. In his private life the question of wether he was gay or in fact bisexual remains unanswered, due to there being evidence of him having relationships with several women.

    What is clear however is that he had fallen in love with several men in his lifetime, and it is this part of his sexuality that playwright Ron Elisha brings to an imagined meeting between Wittgenstein and John Smith Ben Woodhall , one of the patients at the hospital to who Wittgenstein had been charged to dispense the prescribed drugs to on his rounds. It is also why the play has been chosen to headline the Omnibus Theatre in Clapham as part of the 96 Festival , celebrating the year Clapham Common hosted the Pride after-march party.

    The Soul of Wittgenstein is a keenly observed two hander which is nothing short of a delight to watch. Even without the history, by the end of an amusingly extended introduction in which Wittgenstein gets dressed for his first day in the new job, the audience can immediately get the gist of a man who is seemingly as fastidious in his day to day life as he is about the process of thought and language.

    This is further revealed to comic effect upon his first meeting with John at the hospital, whose conversation being liberally peppered with cockney rhyming slang is as impenetrable to Wittgenstein as his own highly educated, latin strewn philosophical language is to John. What follows is a deftly written and surprisingly amusing play, performed with perfect timing by the two actors, and skilfully directed by Dave Spencer.

    In no time at all, Wittgenstein and John have become the classic odd-couple, coming as they do from completely different backgrounds but finding there is much that can be learnt from each other now circumstance has thrown them together. However, in the final quarter when the action finally does move briefly from the hospital room to the grounds outside, the energy that has been so expertly managed throughout seems to temporarily dip, the discourse between the two characters having less of the charm and connection than had otherwise been so apparent.

    Thankfully this does not last long enough to lessen the emotional punch of the final scenes.


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    4. From a queer theatre aesthetic, this play feels both original and refreshingly paced, it being something of a rarity to find such fully rounded characters written to exist far beyond their sexuality alone, which in turn makes the bonds that grow between them seem all the stronger. So what of this production? As such there is some lovely deconstruction of the format, this being a musical about putting on a nude review and the resulting body issues the cast members have in the lead up to the big reveal. It takes us to territory probably made more familiar for a contemporary audience by E.