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Off West End

Ah, the Off West End. For those not familiar with the term, this is where the real magic of the London theatre scene happens. Great shows are born here, in pubs, in 50-seat theatres, in tunnels. Recommended for the adventurous – we can’t get enough of it, and you’ll save a quid or two as well!

Gutted, Theatre Royal Stratford East

Written and directed by Rikki Beadle-Blair  ★★★★ Pros: A play that packs a serious punch; will hurl you outside your comfort zone. Tremendously powerful performances, excellent design and a slick production all round. Cons: Takes a while to get going, and it perhaps touches on a theme too many in places.  Our Verdict: Don’t miss this one – a prime example of how powerful theatre can be. Credit: Jane Hobson The Theatre Royal Stratford East prides itself on being a ...

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Gentlemen, Please, White Bear Theatre

Sean Michael Welch Directed by William E.P. Davis  ★★★ Pros: Very funny with plenty of wordplay and physical comedy.  Cons: A few jokes wore out their welcome.  Our Verdict: A hilariously infuriating short piece that features its actors well and rarely ceased to elicit laughs. Courtesy of AXIS Arts Following Unwrap Your Candy, the White Bear houses Gentlemen, Please – the tale of a duel gone terribly, hilariously wrong. Where the previous show fails to find its comedic hot spot, ...

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Unwrap Your Candy, White Bear Theatre

Doug Wright Directed by Nick Bradford ★★  Pros: Good framework and interesting choices, some very funny moments.  Cons: The three pieces were bizarre, but not always in a good way: they didn’t match in tone, and all were quite anti-climactic. Our Verdict: The show made a good effort, and had some interesting things going on, but it wasn’t that enjoyable.  Courtesy of AXIS Arts The White Bear Theatre presented two separate shows this past week, the first being the bizarre ...

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Open Doors, The Troubadour

Presented by Stay on the Bus Productions ★★★ Pros: Some terrific script-writing, lovely acting and lots of laughs. Cons: The venue was over-crowded and unbearably hot, though this was most likely due to it being a busy press night. Our Verdict: The format of bite size drama works as a terrific alternative to a full-length play. Open Doors is an evening filled with big laughs, strong performances and great writing. Courtesy of Stay on the Bus Productions Much as I ...

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Over the Bridge, Finborough theatre

Sam ThompsonDirected by Emma Faulker★★★★ Pros: The cast worked fantastically together, creating a truly tense and touching dynamic.Cons: A couple of suspect Irish accents occasionally tainted the atmosphere. Our Verdict: A sensational piece of theatre loaded with conviction, commitment and emotion. Courtesy of The Finborough Theatre Before its premier performance in January 1960, Over the Bridge had caused mass controversy amongst the theatre companies of Ulster, the Northern Irish province in which Belfast sits. Its writer, Sam Thompson, was an Irish ...

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Tea with Mamgu, The London Welsh Centre

Written and directed by David J. Evans ★★★ Pros: An interesting approach to the very difficult subject of succumbing to dementia. Funny at times and moving at others. Enjoyable elements of Welsh culture and some very good acting.Cons: Slightly static direction with lengthy dialogue and lack of movement on stage. Mamgu was a tad too youthful for her age, detracting from an otherwise well written play.Our Verdict: An enjoyable play about the terrible reality of a dementia sufferer. A play ...

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Ocelot: Resurrection, The Last Refuge

The Brothers KaufmanDirected by Jonathan Kaufman★★★ Pros: Hilarious short pieces and a wildly funny, engaged cast. Cons: Inclusion of light and set design would have bumped the presentation up a notch. Our Verdict: Though it could have been easier on the eyes, Ocelet: Resurrection is a hidden comic gem that will crack you up and make you think! Courtesy of The Last Refuge This month, Spontaneous Productions presents Ocelot: Resurrection, their fourth series of short plays and sketches since 2009. ...

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The Seagull, Watford Palace Theatre

Anton Chekhov, in a new version by John Donnelly Directed by Blanche McIntyre  ★★★★  Pros: A modern script that pulls Chekhov into the 21st century, with some fantastic, natural performances and a great set.  Cons: Still a little hard to follow for those unversed in Chekhov. Takes a little while to get going.  Our Verdict: An enjoyable show and a great one to see if you want a digestible introduction to Chekhov. Courtesy of Tristam Kenton for Headlong  Those of you ...

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Britain’s Got Talons, Hen and Chickens Theatre

James Morton Directed by James Morton and Chris Lawson ★★★ Pros: A topical and fresh idea which will appeal to a young audience.  Cons: The play (and its audience) would benefit enormously from an interval. In its current format, it is difficult to give the play your full attention, especially towards the end.  Our Verdict: An interesting idea for a play, but an older audience may struggle with the concept. The play needs an interval and the length of some ...

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Singin’ I’m No a Billy He’s a Tim, The Cockpit

Written and directed by Des Dillon ★★★ Pros: A great script. Funny and poignant with strong themes, cleverly delivered in a very credible setting. The cast are fantastic and deliver wonderful comic timing.  Cons: Although pacey and energetic, it is a little drawn out. The early encounters lack the blind anger that could be present when staunch rivals meet in such circumstances. The context outside of Scotland may not relate to all audiences.  Our Verdict: Des Dillon is a very ...

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