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Our Top Off-West End Picks for July 2009

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The summer can be a difficult time for London’s Off-West End and Fringe, as companies prepare to decamp to the Edinburgh Festival, but this month there’s certainly no shortage of fantastic shows. Here is WOS Off-West End’s pick of the best...

Theatre 503’s brilliant exploration of the life of Martin Luther King Jr, The Mountaintop, is on until 4 July. David Harewood plays Dr King in the world premiere of this play by Katori Hall, who has just been announced as the 2009-10 recipient of the Lark Development Center Playwrights of New York Fellowship, one of America’s most significant awards for new writing.

Also closing on 4 July is Nevermind at the Old Red Lion, a story about a young man’s obsession with Kurt Cobain. Chris Coghill gives a powerful performance as disturbed music journalist John, with able support from Daniela Denby-Ashe and Ruth Evans as his girlfriend and mother respectively. Any Nirvanaphobes potentially turned off by references to the band needn’t worry: Nevermind is about much more than music.

A show that is all about the music however is Been So Long, which continues until 15 July at the Young Vic. This gutsy R’n’B musical is an adaptation of Che Walker’s 1998 play, which premiered at the Royal Court studio. Arthur Darvill’s score, a blend of funk, blues, hip-hop and reggae, evocatively narrates events at a raucous urban bar; his onstage band keep the evening jumping.

Mincemeat is the latest offering from Cardboard Citizens, the UK’s leading professional theatre company working with homeless people. This promenade production is perhaps the most affecting Fringe show of the year, wowing audiences with its quiet condemnation of prejudice and collective deceit as it guides them through the mysterious circumstances of a World War Two intelligence operation. Mincemeat continues at Cordy House until 12 July.

Another production offering an unusual experience for audiences is A Lament for Medea, opening on 7 July at the Arcola. Audience members are invited to watch the performance with their feet immersed in a pool of water along with the five female actors playing Medea, her Maid and various other parts. The production promises to be an original and exciting new telling of the well-known tragedy.

And finally, the Almeida Summer Festival 2009 runs from 8 July to 1 August and features collaborative and devised work from New York company The Team and Bradford-based Slung Low as well as rehearsed readings, live music and an original installation by director Lu Kemp. This is the Almeida striking out into exciting new territory and is not to be missed.


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