Before the nineteenth century, the inhabitants of the East Anglian Fens lived lives shadowed by the threat of obliteration. The conditions that made the fields they tended so fertile, so good for growing crops, also made widespread flooding a devastating annual likelihood. Then the land was drained; made attractive to … Continue Reading Fen

Ward No. 6

Taken collectively, Chekhov’s short stories are an impassioned protest against the depravation inflicted by those in authority upon the weakest members of society; those with no voice or recourse to justice. Director and writer Matthew Parker’s absurdist interpretation of one of the longest of these stories, Ward No. 6 – first … Continue Reading Ward No. 6

The Overcoat

When staging a play about the oppressive monotony of daily life it’s important that your production doesn’t become a monotonous experience for your audience. Unfortunately, Eero Suojanen’s version of Nikolai Gogol’s short story, adapted by Howard Colyer, treads this fine dividing line with awkward steps. Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin (Chris Bearne) … Continue Reading The Overcoat

The Painter

On 12 January The Arcola opened the doors of its new home, the Colourworks building, to the public. In its heyday the factory supplied colour blocks to artists throughout England. So what better way of marking the theatre’s move here than premiering a play about one of its most famous … Continue Reading The Painter


There is something comforting about doctors. Even if they are unable to reassure you that nothing is wrong, they can provide you with answers; they can name your problem and in doing so bring welcome definition to the shapeless fear of the unknown that has been nagging away at you. … Continue Reading Blue/Orange

The Big Fellah

It’s very easy to get politics wrong in plays, and the road to failure is paved with good intentions. The desire to make a point, to comment on a situation, can result in the ditching of characterisation and plot in favour of something that comes across as simplistic or naive on … Continue Reading The Big Fellah

Pieces of Vincent

The Arcola’s production of David Watson’s third play is a sophisticated audio-visual affair. Its utilisation of wrap- around video footage, surround sound and physical effects is a media student’s dream. But does the production prioritise technical wizardry over substance? This is a real concern as the audience take their seats … Continue Reading Pieces of Vincent

In the Blood

For such a linguistically rich play, Suzan-Lori Parks’ In the Blood – an updated take on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, here receiving its European premiere – is at its best when exploring the limitations, inadequacy and cruel fixedness of language. Words, sentences, labels, expressions and clichés – as wielded … Continue Reading In the Blood