• Kaylila Pasha

An Introduction to the London Stage

Updated: Aug 3, 2019

Hi friends!

So I blinked, and suddenly my first three weeks studying in London have come and gone! Time truly flies when you're having fun. The passing of these weeks also marks the end of the course I took at the University of Roehampton: Intro to the London Stage.

Although this course counts towards completing my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, I can hardly qualify it as "class." Rather than a traditional classroom setting, Intro to the London Stage is designed to offer a more immersive introduction to the theatre scene on the West End and beyond. Our professor, Sarah, does so by taking us to see plays all over London which we later discuss and reflect upon.

I could quite literally talk about these shows for hours, but I'll keep it brief. Here's a taste of the incredible I've seen on the West End! (in order of attendance)

1. The Hunt, Almeida Theatre

The Hunt, Almeida Theatre

In an era of #MeToo and widespread falseness of words, The Hunt reimagines an old Danish parable as a tightly knit, patriarchal community copes with assault allegations involving a young student and a beloved elementary school teacher. Addressing topics such as sexual assault, toxic masculinity, and parental responsibility with boldness, The Hunt opened by eyes to how fearless the London theatre scene is in comparison to American Theatre. My rating: 7/10

2. Citysong, Soho Theatre

Citysong, Soho Theatre

A love letter to Dublin, Ireland, Citysong is a lyrical play that captures three generations of one family over the course of a single day. Using poetic text, a dexterous company of actors shift seamlessly across a variety of vignettes to portray a message about love, family, and loss. In imaginative set includes the audience in this timeless community narrative. My rating: 6/10

3. Present Laughter, The Old Vic

Present Laughter, The Old Vic

We love a farce! Present Laughter at The Old Vic offers a new take on a well-loved play from the 1930s. Andrew Scott shines as a comedic powerhouse, but the creative team made some questionable decisions with the choices to gender-bend several characters and introduce a queer narrative without changing any of the original dialogue to address or support their interpretation. My rating: 7/10

4. Top Girls, National Theatre

Top Girls, National Theatre

While this play was written in the 1980s, Top Girls addresses issues of women in the workforce that are still alarmingly relevant today. What is the price a woman must pay to have a successful career in a man's world? Presenting a variety of historical contexts, Top Girls impresses with the resilience of women while also highlighting how much progress we have yet to make. My rating: 6/10

5. Noises Off, Lyric Hammersmith

Noises Off, Lyric Hammersmith

Believe it or not, this production was my first time seeing the classic farce Noises Off (in the theatre where the play originally premiered in the 1980s, no less)! Relying heavily on slapstick humor and physical comedy, Noises Off presented a dated, heteronormative look at a company of artists trying to put on a play (and not doing a very good job). My rating: 5/10

6. Kiss My Genders, Hayward Gallery

Kiss My Genders, Hayward Gallery

Rather than a traditional afternoon at the theatre, we opted to visit Kiss My Genders, a international group exhibition exploring and celebrating gender identity. A beautiful combination of visual art, thought-provoking entertainment, and fearless activism, Kiss My Genders is certainly ahead of its time and of its own kind. While I would have preferred to see more female-designated-at-birth artists represented, I am still highly likely to recommend this exhibition to anyone with an open mind and a flair for the fabulous. My rating: 7/10

7. Hive City Legacy, Roundhouse

Hive City Legacy, Roundhouse

What is all the buzz about, you ask? The loud, vibrant, unapologetic celebration of femmes of color that is Hive City Legacy is redefining the status quo of riotous behavior. With an intersection of beatboxing, aerial acrobatics, and spoken word, these queens exceptionally energetic and undeniably uplifting. My rating: 7/10

8. Jellyfish, National Theatre

Sarah Gordy in Jellyfish, National Theatre

Jellyfish is the story of a first kiss, first love, and a first future for Kelly, a twenty-seven year old with Downs Syndrome. This stunning play follows her journey navigating a relationship in a world that is all too cruel and all too caring at the same time. It poses the question: does everyone really have the right to love as they choose?

This play was and is one of the most special pieces of theatre I have ever had the privilege of seeing, and I will hold it close to my heart forever. For those who don't know, I have an undergraduate research project devoted entirely to disability awareness, advocacy, and inclusion in contemporary theatre. It is a passion of mine, and this show hits the mark in every category. I cannot recommend it highly enough! My rating: 10/10

9. Strange Fruit, Bush Theatre

Strange Fruit, Bush Theatre

Although it is set in the 1980s, Strange Fruit is a chillingly relevant tale about the struggles of black identity in a white man's world. Exploring topics of abuse, sex, displacement, violence, and suicide in an extremely intimate found space, this play is as provocative as it is difficult to watch. However, superb acting and an important message about prejudice are well worth the weight of the piece. My rating: 8/10

10. Europe, Donmar Warehouse

Europe, Donmar Warehouse

I cannot imagine a better way to wrap up an introduction to the London stage than with this production. Fearless, fiery (literally), and heart-wrenching, Europe encapsulates the best of English theatre. Although it was written twenty-five years ago, the script is extremely modern as it follows the story of two refugees stranded in an abandoned train station on their journey to find a new home. A commentary on the recent division throughout Europe (#brexit), this play's messages of shared humanity and a common longing for belonging are sure to be well-received by many audiences. My rating: 9/10

I am overwhelmed with gratitude to have been exposed to such a variety of thought-provoking, daring theatre completing this course in London. I am excited to continue learning and seeing more theatre as we head to Edinburgh in just two weeks (?!?!) for the Fringe Festival! Stay tuned for more opinions on, well, everything ;)



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