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Off-West End Picks for February 2010

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Off-West End Theatregoers have an eclectic mix of plays and an even more eclectic array of venues to choose from this month, many of which serve as ideal (and affordable) treats for Valentine’s day.

Those subscribing to the Al Gore school of environmental awareness should hurry to catch a showing of The Forecast at Greenwich Playhouse, running until 7 February. Jay Miller directs the tale, which doles out a healthy dose of political and social commentary while focusing on three people (depicted by international theatre group Marvin and the Cats) trying to survive on what has become a rapidly dying planet Earth.

While on the subject of inclement climate conditions, it’s worth mentioning Oliver Cotton’s playwright debut Wet Weather Cover, which chronicles what happens when two egotistical actors find themselves co-existing in a leaky trailer while filming a movie in rainy Spain. Michael Brandon and Steve Furst (who you'll recognise from the Orange TV ads) lead the cast in a play that The Times hailed as “beautifully acted.” Wet Weather Cover will be running at King’s Head Theatre up to 21 February.

Anyone claiming to be a fan of improv-comedy surely shouldn’t miss Cartoon de Salvo’s colourful Pub Rock, running at Lyric Hammersmith from 3-20 February 2010. One Trick Pony, the band that the show revolves around, provides no shortage of audience involvement and stimulation throughout the story’s development and progression. Last seen in 2008 with the wildly successful Hard Hearted Hannah, the Cartoon de Salvo crew is at it again, showcasing the noble art of improv.

While light-spirited scripts abound across the city in the continuing economic gloom, there’s still plenty out there to occupy those in the mood for something more sepulchral. Brendan Behan directs The Hostage, a dark look at the seedy underground of 1958 Dublin. The show, runs from 3-20 February at Southwark Playhouse after last being seen in London 16 years ago, lucidly illustrates a sequence of events following the Irish Republican Army’s finding out about the British’s intentions to execute a fellow member. What follows is the revengeful hostage taking of a Cockney soldier (played by Hairspray star Ben James-Ellis), whose fate is explored and ultimately decided.

Also running until 20 February is Rex Obano’s deeply rooted Slaves, which Whatsonstage.com's Carole Gordon calls “a no holds barred depiction of a toxic prison system.” Young prison officer Chris Jackson is thrust into the new and unfamiliar world of Corrections, where he must maintain order while exploring not only himself, but also the motives of a few eerily threatening inmates. Slaves is at Battersea powerhouse Theatre503, directed by Nadia Latif.

Picking up on the blackened world of indecency and self-examination, director Alan Marni is resurrecting Georg Büchner’s chilling Woyzeck, the tale of an ingenious poet who is maniacally murders his loving wife Marie in a momentary burst of unparalleled insanity. Set to be performed 8-14 February at the Lion and Unicorn, Büchner’s play was banned from production for over fifty years after being written in 1836, not seeing the stage until 1913. 

Finally, educator and playwright Ashmeed Sohoye brings Rigged to the Oval House Theatre, a bildungsroman of sorts that showcases the events in the existence of frustrated youth Nathan. Struggling to juggle an unhealthy gambling addiction, tumultuous family life, Nathan grows increasingly frustrated as his intelligence is slowly converted to an inescapable apathy. Rigged can be seen from 16-20 February, directed by Natalie Wilson.

- Alex Mangini


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