A Complete History Of London @ The Draft House – A Review

Just down the street from Tower Bridge you’ll find the Draft House pub. Entertaining visitors down in their basement until 24 April is a rather bold experiment in story-telling – A Complete History Of London, which in one hour precisely takes you all the way from the time when London was just another part of the ocean bed right up to the present day and Boris’s current shennanigans.

A Complete History Of London is the first play by Tim Chapman, who left his banking job with Barclays to become a playwright, but fortunately it doesn’t feel like a first attempt. In fact taken as a whole I thought it came across as tightly scripted and mature with some genuinely hilarious moments – the audience certainly spent much of the time screaming with laughter. That’s a pretty solid indication of its comic potential!

The show involves a rotating cast of three characters who, through a series of lightning-fast costume changes, introduce us to the Romans, the Angles, the Saxons, the Stewarts and the Tudors via the Black Plague, the Great Fire of London and other important moments in London’s history – even the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381 gets in on the act as does that slimy conspirator, Guido Fawkes…

Much of the middle of A Complete History Of London is taken up with a combination of encounters between Queen Elizabeth I, Sir Walter Raleigh and the Noble Bard, and it is this section that provides much of the amusement although that does come at a price. I doubt that many of the tourists going to see the show will pick up on it but I did think that this was a little derivative of Black Adder – the portrayal of a lisping, capricious Queen and nervous courtiers will always bring Rowan Atkinson’s work to mind…

 
 

 
 

What I enjoyed most of all about A Complete History Of London was the last three minutes, which was the amount of time alloted for the cast to cover the last three hundred years of London’s history. A big ask you might think, and made all the more difficult because these one hundred and eighty seconds involved rapid-fire rhyming couplets that bounced around between them – a superb piece of writing and worth a standing ovation at the end of the show in anyone’s book.

Tickets for A Complete History Of London are priced at £14.50, with performances daily at 1pm and 3pm – perfect to break up your day if you’ve spent the morning at the Tower Of London or somewhere along the Southbank. You’ll find tickets online here.…

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The Bear @ Ovalhouse – A Review

The Bear is a play by Angela Clerkin and Lee Simpson – a co-production with Improbable, it is currently running in the Ovalhouse theatre’s downstairs space. It begins with the most startling opening that I’ve seen in a long time – the stage lights slowly rise on a big perspex box, 10 feet on a side, and within it is the indistinct shape of a big, brown bear appears, roaring and clawing at the ground. This scene fades, and when the lights come up again Angela Clerkin and Guy Dartnell are standing in front of the box, ready to explain the premise of the play.

The main character, played by Clerkin, is a solicitor’s clerk who finds herself assigned to a case where a suspected murderer blames the crime on a bear. As the play develops via dialogue between the characters interspersed with some rather deftly performed musical numbers, we slowly discover that the main character suffers from a pathological need to be physically abused, and that the bear of the title might be uncomfortably close at hand in more ways than one….

The Bear is a very neatly stitched together package – Clerkin plays her character with a genuine fragility, while Simpson is wonderful as a whole cavalcade of characters, including a larger-than-life maiden aunt, a drunken uncle, the prisoner and more. Along with some simple yet very effective staging and imaginative sound design, it comes together as a very satisfying and thought-provoking whole. Highly recommended.…

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Book Readings By Arachne Press @ Crow On The Hill, Whitechapel Ideas Store & Keats House This Month

Arachne Press, publishers of London-themed short story collections Stations & London Lies (the first of which I reviewed recently) are hosting three free book reading events across London this month:

On Thursday 10 January several of the authors of Stations will be reading their stories at Crystal Palace’s specialist bookseller Crow On The Hill from 7pm with additional readings from London Lies – the bookshop is an appropriate venue given that no less than three of the short stories in Stations make mention of the local park. A week later on 17 January the Whitechapel Ideas Store will feature an evening of readings of the Stations stories that have an East End twist, from 6pm.

To mark the launch of Lovers’ Lies, the latest publication from Arachne Press, at the end of this month there will be a special celebration in the wonderful Keats House in Hampstead on Sunday 27 January. Special readings from the new stories will be presented and visitors to the event will be able to pick up signed copies of the book, as well as gaining access to the house itself – arrive at 2.30pm to participate.

Finally, to mark LGBT History Month, which falls on February each year, Arachne writers Cherry Potts, Paula Read and actors Gloria Sanders, Sarah Feathers and Will Everett will be dramatising passages from their Lesbian and Gay themed stories and those by Jessica Lott and Catherine Sharpe at a celebratory event at the Deptford Lounge from 7pm on Monday 11 February.

Follow Arachne Press on Twitter for updates about these special events.…

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