Press Play Here – five shows (Stratford East)

Press Play is now available on the website and YouTube of Theatre Royal Stratford East. All five of these short monologues take their cue from the pandemic and have moments of transformation and political comments. In this third lockdown, we meet the diverse people of east London, and get a snapshot into their disrupted lives.

Alex Luttley in Press Play Here

In Le Cabaret De Rien, we find our lone young man whiling away the lonely hours, with ice cream, music, puppets, and a fetching onesie. Add a bit of sparkle and the tears of a clown in your own home and let your imagination run wild.

A clever mime which transcends language barriers leads into a cabaret performance par excellence, bringing back the torch songs and movie scenes of wartime and beyond.

Written and perfomed by Alex Luttley, who is rather marvellous and has such expressive eyes, and directed by Sita Thomas.

Nick Holder in Press Play Here

In Jack and the Beanstalk Pocket Panto,Nick Holder performs as Dame Trott, and Eva Sampson directs. As our panto dame begins to reminisce in front of the theatre, we wonder what does a dame out of work do in the lockdown?

In this retelling of the fairy tale from mum’s perspective, we hear about the “hairy, horrid and hungry”BoJo monster who took her husband away. This is politically pulsing and right on the gender pulse: Jack is Jacqueline, not the usual doltish son.

This is fun in miniature at seventeen minutes, and aims its barbs well. One “Com Dumplings”, indeed, gets the biggest boos, and Holder is a lively dame and all the supplementary characters.

Jenny Galloway in Press Play Here

Meet Mo by Leo Butler stars Jenny Galloway and is directed by Eva Sampson. A sixteen minute piece with music, as grandma Mo talks about her life and family.

She’s in her living room with armchair, rug, table, and lamp. The music is uplifting and warm, and the lyrics are funny, “where is this effing vaccine”. It plays like a wartime singalong and Mo is a trouper despite being stuck in by the twin evils of “austerity and COVID”.

Galloway, a former Mme Thenardier in Les Misérables, brings a strong and determined focus to Mo, who sees all the governmental and scientifc shenanigans around her.

Daniel Ward in Press Play Here

Ribena is set indoors, in front of Littlewood’s maxim “My life was buikt on the rock of change”, and extols the virtues of the blackcurrant drink over its rival, Vimto. “Pure purple.”

It’s just eleven minutes of reliability, familiarity and just a hint of danger. This plays nudges into BLM territory, and the environment. It’s a love affair with the colour purple but also with the resilience of those who have to deal with casual racism and targeted jingoism every day.

Daniel Ward writes and performs, in a powerful piece touching on COVID, the recession, Brexit, Trump and Johnson, briskly directed by Eva Sampson.

Fatima Abukar in Press Play Here

Romani Girl, written by Ambreen Razia, and directed by Sita Thomas, stars Fatima Abukar in a fifteen minute piece.

She’s in casual clothes and hijab, chatting about friends, mums, and growing up. A typical teenager in many ways, feeling fear, falling in love, dealing with confusion, and being ghosted by her best friend.

She’s in the theatre’s foyee, loos, cafe, backstage, and out on the terrace. Abukar engages well with the camera, and wandering around the empty stage.

With an intermittent drumbeat we hear her story, and get under her skin, punctuated by some thoughtful imagery: “life is temporary, love is forever; “mascara like a nest of dead spiders”; “shame will never be your friend.”

You can watch the shows in the Press Play Here series for free here until 17 February.