When In Spring, Go See Plays

Spring seems to be the time when stage plays start popping up, just like the colorful flowers. A couple of weeks after the play at Bush Theatre, I’ve got the invitation to review another two plays: one in Kingston and one in South London. Merrily I went along to check out the plays, the theatres, and the area they were in.

Brian Friel’s Translations at Rose Theatre Kingston

Translations - Rose Theatre

Translations is a play created by Brian Friel, an Irish who is considered to be one of the greatest living English-language dramatists. I was slightly hesitant when I heard of the title: “Translations” — I was sure that there would be play of words of more than one language, and as someone whose first language is not English, would I be able to get the subtleties of the dialogues?

Translations is set in a 19th century village in Ireland. It was the time when the English people started coming to Ireland with the intention to convert everyone into speaking English (amongst other things). We met a few characters in the “underground” school or what they call Hedge school — that is community of people who studied in small group in barns and bushes/hedges. Like in any group faced with significant changes, some people embraced the changes — wanted to learn English and go to the new land America, while some people were wary and liked to stick with the old ways.

I did have a bit of a problem understanding some parts of the play, because while the majority of the language used in the play was English, the characters did switch to Irish, Latin, and Greek, with sprinkles of quotations from old Greek and Latin plays. Not having gone through any kind of European education, it was rather challenging to me to even differentiate which language is which, and which plays the quotes were taken from.

Some scenes were easier to digest. There were a few scenes where the characters were all talking in English, but did not understand each other, as if they were talking in different languages. This is such a great way to depict the situation, in a way so that the audience understands what’s going on on both sides.

I particularly enjoyed learning about this period of history, as it’s something I didn’t know much about prior, and I thought the sets and costumes were fantastic. It was also my first time to go to Rose Theatre and it was indeed a lovely one. I promised myself to go back again to Kingston and Rose Theatre another day to spend more time there. As this is a classic play, I don’t think I would go further into the plot. Check out Rose Theatre website for what’s showing now.

Alice in Wonderland by Blackshaw Theatre at The Selkirk Pub (Wandsworth Arts Festival and Fringe 2014)

Alice in Wonderland - The Selkirk, London

The second play I’m talking about today is a much easier play. I’m a HUGE fan of Alice books, and while I’ve seen a few of its movie adaptations I don’t think I’ve seen its stage adaptation before. What the movies seem to always lack is the humour in the book — there’s just none of that, I wonder why. But this Alice play by Blackshaw Theatre was just spot on in capturing the humour. There were word plays and it was genuinely funny, though some parts were a bit too hectic and shrilly.

The play was performed at the upstairs room of The Selkirk Pub, near Tooting Broadway station at Northern line. I had never been to the area before, so it was a bit of an adventure trip from where we live in Ealing, West London. The room was small, with three rows of seats and it was full of cute paraphernalia, like pictures of Cheshire cats on classic paintings.

The Alice here starts her adventure from a charity shop instead of the side of the river like in the book, which is a great use of the tiny space as they could use the bar as the shop reception, that also doubles as a spot for the characters to appear from and disappear into (as pictured above).

The only issue I had was that my favorite scenes in Alice were played rather short (like the caterpillar and the talking flowers) while some of my least favorite scene like the Walrus and the Carpenter seemed to never get to the end. I loved loved the girl who played Cheshire cat (Really, who doesn’t love Cheshire cat? And the performer Natasha Green was fantastic.) and the girl who played Alice was brilliant as well (Emily Rae). I love that her costume was modern, of blue shirt and short jeans, but with a big ribbon around her waist – just added to the ridiculousness of it all. Another standout performance I thought was Dean Brammall as Flowers and Mad Hatter, but I loved his performance most of all as the talking Flowers – I wish that part could’ve been longer!

If my teaser tickled your interest, head now to Blackshaw online to get a ticket. It’s an hour play for £6 and they’re playing until 18 May as part of the Wandsworth Arts Festival and Fringe. The Selkirk pub was looking great too and it has a nice garden. Enjoy, I know I did!


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The Traveling Reader
I left home when I was 17 and never stop exploring the world since. Most days I'm a digital technician at one of the London's biggest visual effects studio. My alternate persona writes and travels and dreams of doing these as a living. I alternately call myself Indonesian or Australian whichever is more beneficial at the time, and I've been a Londoner since 2011.