Get us in your inbox

Tim Bano

Tim Bano

Listings and reviews (42)

Nine Lives

Nine Lives

3 out of 5 stars

‘Nine Lives’ ran at the Arcola in 2016 and now transfers to the Bridge for it season of socially-distanced monologues. Ishmael is one of the people who make up those immigrant ‘swarms’ we’ve been hearing so much about. He’s also the narrator of Zodwa Nyoni’s monologue, which comes to the Arcola after a nationwide tour. It’s a stark, sparse piece that urges, above all, kindness. After fleeing Zimbabwe, where the authorities found out he was gay, Ishmael is in limbo in the UK as he awaits a verdict on whether he can stay. Lladel Bryant darts around the stage in this energetic performance, building the world and characters he’s describing with gestures, accents and leaps. Director Alex Chisholm keeps the stage completely bare. A suitcase, a light bulb: that’s it, that’s all Ishmael’s got. No contact with his family, no friends, pitiful amounts of money on which to survive, and just the lonely turmoil in his head. He is completely exposed to the audience in a play about the fear of being exposed.Nyoni writes with a gentleness that doesn’t seem designed to provoke shock or outrage; instead it seeks to humanise Ishmael – and all those people who have been degraded and humiliated by governments, border agencies and ignorant, fearful racists. By giving Ishmael’s character depth and warm wit, and by focusing on how intensely solitary it is to live in a strange country where people hate your presence, Nyoni fights against the toxic language that populates lazy tabloid headlines and pol

‘The Drill’ review

‘The Drill’ review

3 out of 5 stars

'The Drill' comes to New Diorama Theatre in May 2018. This review is from February. With only two shows under its belt, Breach Theatre has already been lauded for work which melds live, devised performance from Billy Barrett and Ellice Stevens with video from Dorothy Allen-Pickard. It’s a form they continue to play with here, although with less purpose and integration. So while three performers interweave monologues about a possibly imagined day leading up to a terrorist incident – an anonymous Grindr hook-up, a flyerer at a station, a woman working through issues with her boyfriend – footage from anti-terror training days cuts in. The unexpected thrust of the piece is the equation of terrorism with theatre. Can you rehearse for a terrorist act in the way you would a piece of theatre? The training days we’re shown all insist on how important performance and acting are when learning how to stay safe. So the course leaders set up detailed scenarios, asking participants to shout and scream and really feel like they're in an emergency environment, with director Billy Barrett bringing some of the same controlled chaos to the stage. In a corrosion of fact and fiction the actors – delivering their lines in a casual, uncertain way like they’re making it up as they go along – pretend that their performance is breaking down, that they don’t want to carry on acting out these drills. It’s all very clever, even if it’s not always thrilling to watch, and it would be easy to mistake the cas

‘Trap Street’ review

‘Trap Street’ review

4 out of 5 stars

So, the housing crisis. For half a century, right across the political spectrum, from Bevan to Thatcher, politicians have tried to realise their ideals about how other, usually poorer people should live. And look at where we are now. You might think a piece of theatre about how shit it all is would be pretty unappealing fare, but not when it’s done like this. The consistently impressive Kandinsky unpicks the short-sightedness of those urban ideals with an 80-minute show that melds an astonishing complexity of themes, a mastery of form and a deep, deep humanity.Essentially it’s about a woman and a council flat from 1961 to the present day, with the show twitching back and forth in time, allowing us to piece together the story of both. There’s a blank white wall, a TV screen to tell us what year it is, and a live score played by Zac Gvirtzman. We watch this woman as a girl when her mum first moves into the flat, and see its final days before it’s demolished and turned into – what else? – luxury flats, complete with eco zone and technology-free yurt.Stealthily it becomes clear that this is a story about the housing crisis. But it’s so intricate and subtle, not to mention enjoyable, that it takes a while before you realise your blood pressure has been rising because the housing system is so utterly fucked. We’re not hammered over the head with that fact, just presented with this woman’s story, in fragments, and left to piece together the whole. The huge amount of research that ha

The Droves

The Droves

3 out of 5 stars

Over the course of three years interactive theatre experts Coney have been working with a group of young people aged 6 to 11 on this immersive show. The result is pleasingly mad, an explosion of imagination and creativity kept in check by director Tom Bowtell.  In small groups we’re led into the basement of a building, a disused carpet factory, by a group of feral children called ‘The Droves’. They used to be slaves for the owner of the carpet factory, but broke free. Now, however, they’re on the brink of dying out and are having to invite adults into their world in order to donate their ‘bits’ and so create more Drove children (let’s not think to deeply about that element of the plot).   This is far and away not the worst immersive show there’s been, and in our small groups we’re left to puzzle out some fun, 'Crystal Maze'-style riddles and challenges. The children, who have designed this piece as well as creating it, conjure a creepy world of subterranean darkness, rotting Christmas trees, spooky hooded figures and great big sets made out of carpet. On top of that, the sound of screaming children and other eerie noises are piped constantly all around this dungeon. It’s pretty cool.    There are also some bizarrely profound moments, like when we’re asked to sew a child into a carpet in order to let her sleep forever, or when we have to put a gorilla to bed. Sometimes the instructions and the rules of the place are unclear, but we always get there in the end.   All of the per

'Booby’s Bay' review

'Booby’s Bay' review

2 out of 5 stars

There’s much to like about Henry Darke’s postcard from contemporary Cornwall, his first full-length play, but it sits awkwardly in a baggy production.    Focusing on Huck, squatting in someone’s holiday home in secluded cove Booby’s Bay, the play takes a huge social problem - these homes are left unoccupied for 10 months of the year while locals struggle to find any kind of roof - but offers a simplistic solution and dilutes the theme with extraneous, contrived high drama.    So there's a minuscule subplot about a competitive surfer who dopes up, a pregnant girlfriend…while it's clear how they're meant to feed into the play, and create a panorama of how communities like this Cornish one are crumbling, they feel underdeveloped.   Although Huck is an alcoholic, Oliver Bennett plays him caffeinated rather than soused. There's no restraint here, no subtlety. It's all mania. Partly that's the performance, but direction plays a part too: there's very little imagination to Chris White’s staging besides scene transitions that combine Cornish shanties with meditative mantras and screeching birdsong. Otherwise it's a very literal production, burdened with props and set that distract more than they complement or enhance.    So, in one scene, Huck guts and fries an actual mackerel on an actual electric hob. How are we supposed to focus on anything else when Bennett has to keep fiddling with the heat to make sure the fish cooks in time for the scene to end?   Esther Coles as Huck’s mum, a

'A Girl In School Uniform (Walks Into A Bar)' review

'A Girl In School Uniform (Walks Into A Bar)' review

4 out of 5 stars

The title sounds like the setup for a gag but sometimes, during Lulu Raczka’s tricky play, it feels like the joke’s on us as we try to fathom the enigmatic language, Ali Pidsley’s slippery direction, and sit for long, long periods in complete darkness. But it’s also possible that this is quite brilliant, leaning on the likes of Caryl Churchill, Martin Crimp and other masters of elliptical language.Set in some kind of dark future, a girl in school uniform walks into a bar (cf the play’s title) to find out where her best friend is. The friend has disappeared - which happens unsettlingly frequently in this world - and the gruff bar owner claims not to know anything about the disappearance.But we’re not given anything else: none of the rules of this world, very little context. Just dialogue and some gorgeously stylish transitions involving flashing lights and sudden blackouts.Raczka and Pidsley - whose reputations were forged working with the exciting young company Barrel Organ - set up intense contrasts: between these women, one immaculate in a parody of jolly-hockey-sticks school uniform, the other in black mesh shirt with a stack of messy black hair, embodiments of innocence and not; between darkness and light, as a huge chunk of the play happens in utter darkness. Bryony Davies as the bolshy, sarcastic barwoman clashes with the naivety and earnestness of Laura Woodward as the schoolgirl.There are lots of prickling little moments that seem to want to remind the audience of the

Still Ill

Still Ill

4 out of 5 stars

This review is from November 2016. 'Still Ill' is back at New Diorama in January 2018. Among less sensitive doctors it’s diagnosed as SLS - ‘shit life syndrome’. Physical symptoms, like seizures, muscle weakness, even paralysis in extreme cases, have no discernible medical explanation. These cases are extremely common, little understood, and are the subject of this intricately-layered, exquisitely detailed piece from Kandinsky Theatre.  The main character, Sophie, is an actor. The actor playing her is called Sophie (the excellent Sophie Steer). Sophie has a major part in a cliche-laden medical drama, playing a brain surgeon with a brain tumour. When Sophie’s own medical problems start, she no longer has to enact the trauma of debilitating disease – she’s living it. But are her symptoms any more real than those of the doctor she plays on TV? Her own GP seems to think not. Whether Sophie’s symptoms are ‘functional’, ‘non-pathological’, ‘psychological’ or ‘psychogenic’ it nevertheless sounds, to most people and even to a lot of medical professionals, like ‘made up’. So this piece, by Al Smith, Lauren Mooney and James Yeatman and set to a live atonal soundtrack by Zac Gvirtzman, does more than just lay out the facts of ‘functional neurological disease’. It looks at the inextricable interplay of fact and fiction with meticulous research that is apparent, but always kept slightly under the surface, informing rather than defining the play.  Most scenes, with squelching, shuddering s

The Red Lion review

The Red Lion review

3 out of 5 stars

It was only in 2015 that Patrick Marber’s love letter to non-league football ‘The Red Lion’ received its world premiere. It opened in the National Theatre’s newly refurbished Dorfman auditorium and broke five years of writer’s block with a trickle that has since become a waterfall: last year alone Marber adapted ‘Hedda Gabler’, directed Tom Stoppard’s ‘Travesties’ and revised his ‘Don Juan in Soho’ for the West End.So Marber’s dominance over London’s biggest stages makes this reduced, small-scale revival – which premiered at Newcastle’s Live Theatre earlier this year – somewhat surprising. But it also feels like this play, directed by Max Roberts, has found its ideal size. Relocated to the north east, it sits very comfortably in Trafalgar Studios’ squashed smaller space. There’s something about the rough-and-readiness of Traf 2 that matches the semi-professional, everyone-mucking-in world of the play. Through three characters – ageing club acolyte Yates who washes the kit and has devoted his life to the team; smarmy, business-minded manager Kidd for whom turning a profit is the bottom line; and talented young player Jordan – Marber explores a clash of worldviews: romance versus realism, passion versus pragmatism. While Kidd thinks he’s trying to professionalise the club, Yates is worried that he’s killing what makes it great.  John Bowler’s Yates is a doddering old thing, visibly straining to pick up the piles of muddy shirts on the floor, and even if his delivery is a bit so

Reasons to be Cheerful review

Reasons to be Cheerful review

4 out of 5 stars

Like ‘Wicked’ and ‘Beautiful’, ‘Reasons To Be Cheerful’ is one of those musicals whose title is its own review. Featuring the songs of Ian Dury and the Blockheads, it’s so full of cheer that, like the actors at the beginning, it spills off the stage and runs rampant through the auditorium.  First staged in 2010, Graeae Theatre company, who make brilliantly accessible work putting D/deaf and disabled people centre stage, have brought it back – and with good reason. The show will always be relevant as long as there's a government in power making the lives of disabled people harder and slicing away at their dignity. It's really a musical within a musical: young Southend lad Vinnie is staging a tribute to his dad in his local boozer. His mates and his dad's mates are there, along with a six piece band, to retell the story of the time they tried to get tickets to an Ian Dury gig in 1979. The cast stays on stage the whole time, sitting on bar stools, watching, reacting, having a drink - you can almost smell the stale lager from Liz Ascroft’s set.Paul Sirett’s book and the frequent eruptions into raucous Blockheads songs make the show as masculine and aggressive as it is tender and sentimental. Director Jenny Sealey deftly incorporates sign language and captioning into the show, presented as if they're part of Vinnie's story.Between Stephen Lloyd’s supremely likeable Vinnie, Stephen Collins as his anarchist pal Colin (who draws circles round the ‘A’ on Andrex packets) and their boss

Le Grand Mort review

Le Grand Mort review

3 out of 5 stars

Stephen Clark’s final play before his death last year is a sometimes searing look at intimacy and the darker desires that drive the human mind; a slightly disturbing work that insists sex and death are, pretty much, the same thing. The play centres around lonely middle aged man Michael (Julian Clary, for whom the play was specially written) who has picked up a younger guy in a bar. They go back to Michael’s place for dinner, with the play flicking between the bar and Michael’s stylish kitchen. Justin Nardella has gone to town on the set, a very swish kitchen with more chrome than a morgue. It’s rare, certainly, to see a working induction hob on stage. But the spell sort of breaks when the text starts. The first third of the 90-minute play is Clary alone and speaking in rhyme. Really annoying rhyme. And Clary talks to the audience in the annoying rhyme while he cooks a puttanesca, talking mostly about necrophilia – imagine Dr Seuss, Hannibal Lecter and Mary Berry all in one.Clary is very good within the limited range he has. He can do sardonic and insouciant like no one else, using his calm, delicate delivery to make the grim content seem run of the mill. The effect of his poise and composure is pretty chilling. There are some really lovely lines in there too from Clark, some poetry breaking through at points, but he too frequently flees to simple filth for punchlines, and the metaphors for penises and vaginas – like the ‘erect’ lenses of paparazzi cameras ‘penetrating’ Prince

Outlaws to In-Laws review

Outlaws to In-Laws review

3 out of 5 stars

Gays were invented in 1952, according to this collection of short plays that looks at homosexuality in the seven decades since. Starting from the Queen’s coronation and ending at a gay marriage in 2017, the seven plays compiled in the ‘Outlaws to In-Laws’ range in time and in quality, but not particularly in tone. Although there are some good writers involved, such as ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme’ creator Jonathan Harvey, the collection suffers from two major problems: a lack of imagination in the way the stories are told, and the frustrating fact that, at 20 minutes each, there is so little space to tell them. It just isn’t enough to get under the skin of any issue the plays raise – Section 28, race, AIDS, prostitution, religion and class. The format almost works against what the evening is trying to do. Still, each piece has its moments, helped by a versatile six-strong cast. Paul Carroll gives a big, bitter performance as a drag queen in 1952. And in 1964, Peter, played by Jack Bence, suggests that the best an openly gay couple can be is ‘not a freak show’. Bence, in fact, is the best thing about this. He plays someone completely different in each play, from a reformed National Front member to a desperate thief, made homeless after being diagnosed HIV positive, intensely physical each time and shedding his skin for each new scene.Matt Harris’s 1997-set play ‘Princess Die’, which sees Alex Marlow as a Diana impersonator hallucinating a Calvin Klein model into life, finds a fresh way

The Odyssey

The Odyssey

3 out of 5 stars

Now in its fourteenth year, the annual open air theatre show at The Scoop, in the shadow of Tower Bridge, is still free and it’s still just about value for money. Director Phil Willmott alternates each year between Ancient Greek stuff and other classics and, since 2016 brought a Toyah Wilcox musical based on Dostoyevsky’s 'Crime and Punishment', this time around we’re back to all things Hellenic for an adaptation of Homer’s 'Odyssey'.It’s been split into three one-hour parts, with the first hour both the child-friendliest and the weakest. But by the time the cast has shaken off the initial inertia, the quality increases.Part one rattles through the big set scenes of Homer’s story about Greek hero Odysseus's attempts to get home from the Trojan War. It makes swift work of the Cyclops, the Sirens, Scylla and Charybdis. A couple of the stories, narrated by the various crew members in the third person, are quite fun and a couple are pretty dull. For some reason the action is frequently sliced through with choruses of the Lightning Seeds’ Three Lions sung by the cast, lyrics reworked. The only explanation – tenuous at best – is that the song is about football 'coming home' and the story is about Odysseus 'going home'. Yeah…Parts two and three are richer, with a couple of great performances from Adrian Decosta and Lawrence Boothman. Both capably fill the space in their various roles, Decosta with bundles of energy and Boothman with dry humour, plus PK Taylor makes for a great gende