Category Archives: Plays

“Gripping and haunting” – Devil & Stepashka moves to new theatre

D&S - StepashkaThere’s a second chance to see Claire Booker’s drama ‘The Devil and Stepashka’ this weekend, as it transfers to Ye Old Rose & Crown Theatre in Walthamstow.

Inspired by a Tolstoy short story, the play is a thought-provoking tale about passion and its consequences. Landowner, Zhenya, stands trial for the murder of one of his peasants, but can there be true justice in an unjust society?

Goblin Baby Theatre Co. has pulled off another critical success, earning four-star reviews during the play’s two week run last month at The Space, north east London: “Gripping and haunting. Booker’s play is very brave as well as unusual. One of those hidden gems on the London Fringe.” Remotegoat.com. “An intriguing new work.” Viewsfromthegods.co.uk  “The superstitiously secular, domestic world of Claire Booker’s The Devil and Stepashka manages to create a believable male Antigone in what ends up to be very literally one hell of a double-bind.” Exeunt Magazine.

D&S - Dasha

Plaudits for the cast and crew include: “Particularly remarkable were Dimitri Shaw as lawyer Boris . . . and Tessa Hart who portrayed both the haunting presence of the murdered Stepashka as well as her living sister Dasha.” RemoteGoat.

D&S - Lisa 2“Lydia Lane is wonderfully precise and pernickety as Zhenya’s doting wife, Lisa. She has the harassed, loving, frantic possessiveness of a woman fearing, but refusing to believe, that she has been replaced.” Exeunt Magazine.  “Overall production designer Christopher Keech is to be congratulated for achieving a varied and detailed design.” RemoteGoat. “Leigh-Anne Abela (director) manages to bring out the intense emotions of this piece, cleverly framing the love triangle between Zhenya, his wife and the memory of his lover . . . leaving us with two passionate individuals, choked by dark desire, spiralling out of control in front of us.” View From The Gods.

‘The Devil and Stepashka’ plays on Sat 19th July (8pm) and Sunday 20th July (2pm and 6pm) at Ye Old Rose & Crown, 53 Hoe St, E17 4SA (a 6 min walk from Walthamstow tube station). For more information or to book tickets, visit: http://goblinbaby.ticketsource.co.uk

Devil & Stepashka GoblinBaby_0001 - Copy

D&S Set

The Creative Team of The Devil and Stepashka are: Leigh-Anne Abela (Director), Christopher Keech (Production Designer), Simon Vella (Music Composer), Claire Booker (writer), Paul Christian Rogers (Zhenya), Dimitri Shaw (Boris), Tessa Hart (Stepashka/ Dasha), Lydia Lane (Lisa).

Loose Muse hits Manchester, London and Cornwall with Women’s New Writing

MMMmmm, luscious cover and when you open it – what an assortment! So many melt-in-your mouth fabulous poems and short stories to choose from.

Loose Muse Anthology Spring 2014It’s Loose Muse’s fifth anthology – triple-launched in London, Manchester and Cornwall and celebrating the creative talents of 50 women British and international writers aged between 20 and 91!

Some of my favourites? Balaba Aseka’s ‘The Boda Boda Rider’; Anne Macaulay’s terrifying ‘The Dive’; Sue John’s powerfully damning ‘Instructions for a Summer Wedding’; Nancy Charley’s touching ‘Finding Gold’; the street-wise ‘Dyke Spotting’ by Emma Wootton; the witty ‘Apple’ by SaraMae Tuson; plus some great stories by Hilaire,  Isabel White, Fiona Read and Joolz Sparkes.

I’m lucky enough to  have had three of my own poems included, together with my short play ‘Enemy’ (set on the Russian Front in 1943) which was performed at The Lost Theatre Company’s 5 Minute Play Festival last December.

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To view a film of the play, click on: http://youtu.be/7yvt1Z34rEo

Loose Muse is London’s only regular women’s writers night which has been running continuously since 2005 at The Poetry Cafe, Covent Garden, London. It meets at 8pm on the second Wednesday of each month (except August). It offers a friendly and fun atmosphere for women to perform open mic. Men are always welcome to make up the audience!

To buy copies of the latest anthology (or back-copies of the previous four) go to: www.loose-muse.com or contact Agnes Meadows at agnespoet@gmail.com The anthologies are also available to read in the reference section of The Saison Poetry Library in the Royal Festival Hall, South Bank, London.

The anthology’s front cover artwork is ‘Dismantled’ by Lorraine Clarke, who has also designed all the previous Loose Muse covers. Loose Muse Anthology Spring 13Loose Muse (Autumn 2013)

Cropped Loose Muse Anthology

Feminist fairytales put wolf in the dog house!

Some great reviews and lively audiences at last month’s Fairytale Festival ‘Retold’ prove beyond doubt that women’s theatre can put bums on seats and still be taken seriously.

Hoodie at Space (Eliza pic)

Activist theatre company ‘Goblin Baby’ commissioned Claire Booker, Amy Bethan Evans and Tilly Lunken to update three traditional fairy tales. The plays were performed for five nights at The Space, Isle of Dogs, then transferred to The Hen & Chickens Theatre, Islington for a further five nights.

Claire Booker subverted Grimm’s ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ and set all the action inside the belly of the wolf where it’s dark, it stinks and it’s packed with victims. Can Hoodie, Gran and Aisha escape, or should they wait for the Woodcutter?

Hoodie Aisha (Eliza pic)

“‘Little Red Hoodie’ feels like a sudden gem and Natasha Atherton is truly riveting as Aisha, a Muslim woman who wakes up in the stomach of a wolf. This piece of writing engages with a more delicate kind of metaphor and allows a story to be told; one which is very moving. This truly feels like a fairytale done differently, while remaining recognisable.”  ThePublicReviews

“Booker devises a brand new character, Aisha (Natasha Atherton), a devout Muslim who has unexpectedly found herself detached from the rest of her body. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The idea of women being empowered to save themselves comes across in this play and there’s a nice nod to the disparity in generational attitudes, with Hoodie (Tessa Hart) and Gran (Rebecca Peyton) coming to different conclusions. Hoodie gran (Eliza pic)Peyton’s slightly doddery, well-meaning grandmother character is a delight.” ViewFromTheGods

Tilly Lunken’s play used a reunion of three old school friends queuing up to watch Snow White as a way of dissecting issues of beauty and appearance. “There is a sweetness here and Priscilla Adade-Helledy (Lilly) brings an enjoyable levity to proceedings. Some truly poignant moments show up with wonderful lines like “[Snow White is] a story of never escaping the dreams of your mother.” ThePublicReviews

RETOLD“The Snow White Complex’ definitely packs a big emotional punch, thanks to the cast but also director Kuba Drewer.” ViewFromTheGods

Amy Bethan Evans ‘As if by a Stair’ used the story of Rapunzel as a fable which illustrates how young people’s futures have been sold down the river of so-called fiscal necessity.  “Whilst the pieces are each completely different and unique, the overall fairytale and socio-critical tone still makes the show feel like one big ensemble project where everyone is very much in tune with each other.” RemoteGoat
Goblin Theatre (Red Hoodie)

Watch this space for more information on Goblin Baby Theatre Company or go to their website at: http://www.goblinbaby.com

Claire Booker’s short comedy ‘Last Man in Watford’ plays at Loose Muse, The Poetry Cafe, 22 Betterton Street, Covent Garden, WC2H 9BX on Wed 12th February (8.00pm).

Tilly Lunken’s One Act drama ‘Mint Leaves’ plays at the Hen & Chickens Theatre, 109 St Paul’s Road, Islington, N1 2NA on 13th and 14th February (7.30pm).

Goblin Baby Theatre’s one-night-only benefit production of Eve Ensler’s ‘The Vagina Monologues’ takes place on Sunday March 16th at 7pm at The Space, 269 Westferry Road, E14 3RS.  

True WW2 story – and only 5 minutes to tell it

My short play ‘Enemy’ (http://youtu.be/7yvt1Z34rEo) was filmed last month at The Lost Theatre as part of their annual 5 Minute Festival.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe play was inspired by the true story of Otto Schimek, a young Austrian recruit to the German Wehrmacht, who refused to shoot hostages on ethical grounds (he was a devout Catholic) and in return was shot as a ‘coward and deserter’.  

In my play, Otto spends his final night locked in a cell with Nadia, a Russian partisan who will face a firing squad the next day for assassinating German officers.  Can they possibly find common ground?

Russian women played significant roles in partisan operations during the second world war. They could move around with less suspicion than men and proved every bit as determined to remove the German aggressor from Mother Russia in what became known as The Great Patriotic War. 'Enemy' illustration, Volgograd

In ‘Enemy’, the role of Otto is played by George Weightman and that of Nadia by Carla Espinoza.  They both turned in performances of passionate intensity. The play was performed live in front of an appreciative audience on 10th December at The Lost Theatre, Stockwell, south London.

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'Enemy' illustrationFor more details about The Lost Theatre (including their One Act Play Festival in May) please check their website at: http://www.losttheatre.co.uk

To view ‘Enemy’ by Claire Booker click on http://youtu.be/7yvt1Z34rEo or you can read the script at http://www.bookerplays.co.uk

Booker produced Off Broadway (2,000 miles ‘off’ to be precise!)

Building on Sand, Reno 13Nevada has made theatre history! It’s the first state in America to debut a play by Claire Booker. The wonderfully monikered ‘Goodluck Macbeth Theatre Company’, based in downtown Reno, had a fantastic month earlier this October, with a run of her sea-side comedy ‘Building on Sand’.

“With the manner of Moliere – or, dare I say it, a Benny Hill sketch – this seaside farce involves lots of contrived situations, misunderstandings, naughty behaviour and characters that are adorably weird,” said the drama critic of Reno News & Review.  “The play is seriously funny – I know this despite having missed several lines due to audience laughter – everyone watching laughed a lot.”

Building on Sand Nevada

Laughter seems to have been contagious, as proved by the thumbs up given by ‘Your Sassy Gay Reviewer’ Oscar Ceezon, to what is essentially a heterosexual romp: “I laughed throughout the entirety of the show. Whether it was the ridiculous premise, the highly-charged sexual innuendos, or the senile musings of an old woman, the wealth of humor present is boundless. The production benefits from an already brilliant script, which the cast bring to life. A hilarious show and certainly worth seeing.”

“A credit to director Amanda Alvey, for effectively casting the show. Richard (played by Ian Sorensen) delights audiences with his quirky antics and has a hilarious physical presence on stage. Juliette (Amanda McHenry) grounds the production with her dry wit and delivery, harkening back to an Oscar Wilde period piece, where the humor lies in the subtle quips and clever intonation. Building on Sand - Reno

Dan (Marvin Gonzalez) woos audiences with his suave charm and sly remarks . . . Aunt Dot (Jeanne Weiser) and Berenice (Jessica Johnson), ultimately won me over in the end and delivered some of the funniest bits of the show.”

For more information on ‘Goodluck Macbeth Theatre Company check out their website at: http://www.goodluckmacbeth.org  To read an excerpt of the play, click on: http://www.bookerplays.co.uk

Building on Sand - Good Luck Macbeth Th Co

Ten Actors, Four Plays, One Director and a Partridge in a Pear Tree!

Get yourself down to the best kept theatrical secret in Manchester and enjoy four new plays at 3MT in Affleck’s Arcade, Oldham Street, M1 iJG.

3MT2013Santa’s little elves have crafted a programme of four developing plays for your Yuletide enjoyment: ‘Fingers and Toes’ by Claire Booker; ‘Telescope’ by Michael Rumney; ‘Last Man in Watford’ by Claire Booker; and ‘The Fossil’ by Jennifer Banks – all directed by the highly experienced Gina T. Frost.

You’ll be amazed and delighted by some very promising acting talent, including the wonderfully named Taz Swearpants and the Rude Mechanicals.  At £3 per ticket, this has got to be one of the cheapest evenings out!

Maia Terra in 'The Fossil' by Jennifer Banks

Maia Terra in ‘The Fossil’ by Jennifer Banks

The 3MT Programme goes up at 7.30pm on Thurs 12th and Fri 13th December. Come and join the actors and regulars as they delve into the weird, the wonderful and the downright desperate!

For more information about 3MT’s courses, events, productions or facility hire check their website at: http://www.threeminutetheatre.co.uk

 

‘Last Man in Watford’ unleashed on Southwark Playhouse

Sibling productionsClaire Booker’s short comedy ‘Last Man in Watford’ is to get a second bite at the cherry, following a successful run earlier this year at The Hen and Chickens Theatre, Islington.

Producing company, Little Pieces of Gold, has selected nine state-of-the nation short plays by UK-based playwrights to showcase on Sunday 24th November (7.30pm) at The Southwark Playhouse, near London Bridge.  Previous Little Pieces of Gold showcases have been sell-outs, so if you don’t want to risk missing out on a variety-packed evening, then book your tickets at: http://www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk

‘Last Man in Watford’ is set in 2084 when women rule the world and men are kept as exhibits in zoos.

Tom Kirkin unleashes Adam on a helpless audience

Tom Kirkin unleashes Adam on a helpless audience

Utopia or dystopia?  You decide!  The play was performed as part of Sibling Productions Short Cuts 4 season in Islington in July, alongside three other dark comedies. Tom Kirkin played the role of unreconstituted Adam, Kathryn Perkins was the schoolgirl ingenue, and Lydia Lane played the long-suffering zoo keeper. It was directed by Tessa Hart.

For more information about Sibling Productions:

http://www.shortcutsfestival.co.uk

To contact Little Pieces of Gold about the Southwark Playhouse evening, or to submit work for their next showcase, please visit: http://www.littlepiecesofgold.co.uk

Achtung! Booker comedy unleashed on Germany

BuxtehudeSocksOne more European stereotype bites the dust. Germans really do have a sense of humour, as proved by the English Theatre Buxtehude’s production of Claire Booker’s one act comedy ‘Socks Go in the Bottom Drawer’.

Based just outside Hamburg, the English Theatre has been offering German theatre-afficionados a chance to enjoy English drama in its original tongue for the last 27 years.

‘Socks go in the Bottom Drawer’ was directed by Karsten Wildeisen, who taught English at Hamburg Grammar School for four decades. His fine troupe of English-speaking actors included Jürgen Kotisa as Adam (one of the last men to survive after women take-over the world!) and Anja Droge-Jacobs as his zoo keeper.  The funny but feminist programme also included a production of ‘World Without Men’ by Philip Johnson and ran for five performances.

Adam and his inflatable wife!

Adam and his inflatable wife!

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To read an excerpt of ‘Socks go in the Bottom Draw’ please click:  http://www.bookerplays.co.uk

For more information about The English Theatre of Buxtehude click:http://www.englisch-theatre-buxtehude.de

Socks Buxtehude Tageblatt

Cathy’s War triumphs at The Lost Theatre

IMG_7087‘Cathy’s War’ by Claire Booker won actress, Helen Duff, a Notable Contribution Award in the Lost Theatre’s 29th annual One Act Play Festival last month. The production gained accolades from Paul Vale, Theatre Critic for The Stage, who adjudicated 18 plays over six nights.

“A deeply humane script. It blew me away,” he told the audience. “One of the highlights of the whole Festival has been the performance by Helen Duff in the role of Cathy.”

Cathy’s War is set in Belfast during the 1980s. When Cathy’s young husband is shot dead in army cross-fire, she decides to take revenge into her own hands. But is there one rule for women and another for men in this deadly game of vengeance?

Cathy's War - Alexander Forsyth

Alexander Forsyth turned in a powerful performance as Cathy’s brother, Gerry, who struggles to understand Cathy’s ‘hands-on’ approach to killing.

Claire Booker was mentioned in dispatches   – notable contribution award (writing) – for the script. The production was ably directed by Joanna Greaves, who is one of the founders of the Bread and Roses theatre and has recently launched the Skylight theatre: http://www.skylighttheatre.co.uk

“Claire Booker’s play is not about the Irish question as such, though it colours the whole concept enormously,” reads Paul Vale’s formal adjudication. “This is a play that delves much deeper into the psychology of grief, one of the prevalent themes in this festival and perhaps the most successful play this week at dissecting the process.  We mourn the dead but how do we grieve for the living? . . . The pain of loss and ultimately the fear of death resonate throughout Duff’s bravura performance and the strength of her characterisation shapes the play.”

IMG_7079Thanks go to The Betsy Trotwood and Bread and Roses pubs for their kind provision of rehearsal space. Also grateful thanks  to Lost Theatre for the use of the photos in this post.

For more information about The Lost Theatre please click on the following link: http://www.losttheatre.co.uk e-flyeroneONEACT

Churchill, Booker and Ibsen – Visions of Utopia

Hills Players, BrisbaneSabina Head, of Griffith University, Brisbane, has published a fascinating paper in Drama Australia Journal in which she analyses power relationships in Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House’, Claire Booker’s ‘Socks Go In The Bottom Drawer’ and Caryl Churchill’s ‘A Number’ and considers how the three playwrights enable their audiences to contemplate alternative futures.

Hills Players (1)Future Studies is a developing branch of academia which looks at the portrayal of utopias and dystopias within a range of fields including drama.  In this particular article, Sabina uses the technique of causal layered analysis to reveal a play’s depth of innovation – how dialogue and action are informed by underlying beliefs and metaphors.  

“In this half-hour comedy “Socks Go in the Bottom Drawer” (Booker, 1991), two women and their daughter visit a zoo cage to see a most interesting exhibit – a man. He shows off for them and flirts with the girl, who is interested but unimpressed by his attempts at seduction. His keeper then entertains him with a story from the distant past, in which “once upon a time, the world was ruled by men” (ibid. p.15). She then tiptoes out, leaving him to sleep. . . .

Hills Players, Australia

” The status transactions are intended to be comic, to make the audience laugh. The metaphor throughout is one of man as a quaint curiosity, of no actual use but seen as a pet to be occasionally indulged in small ways, including the pretence that he is powerful and dangerous. Clearly women control the world; they are beings of power and influence, functioning without men. The metaphors are pushed into contrast in an extreme reversal of traditional male and female roles, throwing macho male behaviour into the spotlight. . .

The plays discussed may make the present appear remarkable; equally important, they make the future debatable. The story ideas generate public response: condemnation or approval, but above all, debate. Encouraging playwrights to add to these few works is a project worth pursuing if they can inform a broad democratic process.”

To read the whole of Sabina Head’s article, please click on the following PDF  – Forward Theatre and Causal Layered Analysis http://www.jfs.tku.edu.tw/17-1/A03.pdf which was printed in the NJ,36, 2012.

To contact Sabina Head directly, please e-mail her at: sabina.head@uqconnect.edu.au

Loose Muse Anthology Spring 13A 5 minute drama by Claire Booker based on ‘Socks Go in the Bottom Drawer’ was recently published in the Spring 2013 Loose Muse Anthology of New Writing by Women. It is entitled ‘Last Man in Watford.’  To buy the anthology or for more details click  http://www.loose-muse.com