Home » Author Archives: Brian Penn

Author Archives: Brian Penn

Rattled, Old Red Lion Theatre – Review

The wonderfully warm surroundings of the Old Red Lion in Islington has its usual glow: flock wallpaper, chesterfield sofas, a dog sleeping on the floor and football on the telly (think I’ve just described my house in the 1970s?). A framed England rugby union shirt now adorns the wall, and a Norwich City St Georges flag hangs over the bar. Not only does it stock a range of lagers, craft beers and cider, it also houses one of the finest ...

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Flight Paths, Stratford Circus – Review

Stratford Circus is the younger, sleeker looking neighbour to the Theatre Royal Stratford East.  Living in the shadow of a theatrical giant is no easy task, but I’m pleased to report the Circus occupies its own niche, with a wide range of community-based productions. Flight Paths draws inspiration from the Goze; blind female storytellers and musicians who travelled the length and breadth of medieval Japan, making a living from performing epic tales. Two blind performers, Amelia Cavallo and Sarah Houbolt, ...

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Dracula, The London Library – Review

As a Londoner born and bred, a book lover and aspiring writer to boot, I am ashamed to admit I’d never heard of the London Library. Tucked away in St James’s Square, just behind Piccadilly, it houses over one million books. First editions, antiquities and periodicals stretching back five centuries; a treasure trove of history, knowledge and wisdom. How could I not have known about this place? Another startling fact: Bram Stoker joined the library in 1890 and did his ...

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The Ruffian On The Stair, Hope Theatre – Review

A lesser known Joe Orton play was the incentive for a long overdue visit to the Hope Theatre in Islington. I’m guessing most people wouldn’t be able to name more than three of his plays; Joe Orton actually wrote nine that have at some point been performed on stage. So I’m fairly certain The Ruffian on the Stair is one of the six you don’t know. It was originally written as a radio play and first broadcast by the BBC ...

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Original Death Rabbit, Jermyn Street Theatre – Review

Pros: The beguiling Kimberly Nixon mastering some tightly packed dialogue. Cons: The script is occasionally patronising, diminishing what is otherwise a smartly observed piece. I always feel a quiet burst of pride when among the first to see a new play. So I can now say I was there for the Original Death Rabbit at the Jermyn Street Theatre. Rose Heiney (of Fresh Meat fame) adapted her original Radio 4 play for the stage and has produced a dark and ...

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RETURN OF THE REGGIES (Part 2)

Best play is the blue ribbon award for the Reggies; the genre that originally gave the fringe its profile. In third place is Wipers Times at the Arts Theatre. Co-written by Ian Hislop, the play is a glorious mix of comedy, pathos and drama as the human cost of war is laid bare. In second place, Tiny Dynamite at the Old Red Lion. A play from the pen of Abi Morgan does exactly what it says on the tin. A ...

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RETURN OF THE REGGIES (Part 1)

Such was the reaction to last year’s Reggies, we felt compelled to beg Brian to stage a sequel; so yes, we are proud to announce that the Reggies are back. Newly expanded to a ridiculously comprehensive seven categories, it’s a barometer of the best in London theatre during 2018. There may be only one person bestowing the Reggies, but there is a slavish dedication to fairness; sleepless nights agonising over who should be in, who should be out; yes Brian ...

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Burke and Hare, Jermyn Street Theatre – Review

Pros: A wonderfully talented cast happily connecting with the audience. Cons: Multiple characters and minimal costume changes occasionally makes the action difficult to follow. The story of Burke and Hare has been regularly plundered for TV dramas, documentaries and two big screen versions, the most recent of which starred Andy Serkis and Simon Pegg. It’s not difficult to see why, as it remains a cracking yarn based on true events. The play tells of the titular characters that embarked on ...

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Urinetown, The Bridewell Theatre – Review

Pros: A talented and tuneful cast making the most of a limited performance area. Cons: A low key Act I suffers in comparison with a sparkling Act II which emits a genuine West End feel. Urinetown is hardly the most obvious title for a musical, but its purpose soon becomes apparent as an antidote to the sugar coated fayre common to the genre. The show made its debut off Broadway in 2001 and went on to win two Tonies and ...

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Love Lies Bleeding, Print Room at the Coronet – Review

Pros: An excellent cast of familiar faces give the play a much needed boost. Cons: A beautiful venue in serious need of refurbishment and a script requiring similar tender loving care. I feel quietly reassured when a Grade II listed building is purchased and restored to its original function. The Coronet in Notting Hill Gate is one such example. Designed by legendary theatre architect W.G.R. Sprague it opened with royal patronage in 1898 and hosted a variety of productions until ...

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