Tricycle’s theatre to close for a year in multi-million pound revamp

Last Thursday, the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn held an open day to show off its plans for the “Tricycle transformed“. We learned that the Tricycle really will be transformed. The theatre will close on July 2nd, at the end of the current show (The Invisible Hand), and will remain closed “for about a year”. Fear not, film fans, the cinema will remain open.

Better sightlines and more seats as "scaffolding" style replaced. Image via Chapman Waterworth

Better sightlines and more seats as “scaffolding” style replaced. Image via Chapman Waterworth

The project has two main goals. The first is to open up the entrance on the Kilburn High Road and completely renovate the theatre. To make it easier to understand — a quick history lesson. The Tricycle Theatre was originally the Foresters Hall, but was acquired by Brent Council in 1980 as a permanent home for the Wakefield Tricycle Touring Theatre Company (so that’s why it’s called the Tricycle). Recently Brent/the theatre also acquired a long lease on the Order of Foresters shop, next door to the current entrance. The plan is to put a café there and so make the Kilburn High Road entrance much more prominent.

The second, and arguably more significant change, is the complete transformation of the theatre. Out goes the 1980s scaffolding seating arrangement, down goes the floor level to allow step free access for disabled theatre-goers (and the number of wheelchair places will rise from two to up to eight), and up goes the number of seats overall, by 50 to 290, with improved sightlines. Not to mention there will be more, and better, loos. Plus, the stage will be enlarged and the original Order of Foresters hall proscenium arch will be more visible.

Overall my impression was it had been well thought through and it will tie the theatre and cinema sides of the Tricycle together. The one controversial issue that arose during the discussions: whether or not to keep the Tricycle carpet. Locals were keen on keeping it, the architects less so … We’re running a poll on Twitter to see what you think.

Should it stay or should it go?

Should it stay or should it go?

All this work doesn’t come cheap, but the Tricycle’s fundraisers have already got an impressive £5.5 million (£2.5 million from the Arts Council and the rest from trusts and donors). They still have a further £750,000 to raise; if you have some spare cash in search of a good cause there are ways to support the project on the website, such as dropping a grand to name a seat.

Review: Come In! Sit Down!

The award-winning Muslim and Jewish theatre company, MUJU crew, have brought Come In! Sit Down! to The Tricycle Theatre in celebration of their tenth anniversary. The piece is a devised sketch show, tackling perceptions of Muslims and Jews in Britain, and the challenges faced by those communities. It doesn’t sound like that would be a barrel of laughs, but the cast take great delight in sending themselves up, holding a fun house mirror up to some difficult and controversial subjects.

Dominic Garfield & Stevie Basuala

Dominic Garfield & Stevie Basuala [Photo courtesy of]

The performances across the board are very strong. Each of the actors brings their own skills to the group and for the most part they are well cast. Particular stand outs for me were Lauren Silver’s Jewish mother routine and Dominic Garfield’s Disney terrorist (to explain will give too much away!). There’s a great rapport among the company, and their enthusiasm and energy is infectious.

The musical numbers are very strong, and were the highlight for me. Although not all of the cast members have outstanding voices, they can all carry a tune, and it’s the sheer enthusiasm of the team which carries things along at a good pace.

Some sketches worked better than others, but that could be that the mixed audience missed some of the in-jokes, which would go down well with a mainly Jewish or Muslim crowd. The high points were very pertinent, but the message started to feel rather one-note as the piece went on, and at times it did feel like the audience was being rather ‘hit over the head’ with the inevitable commentary on terrorism. I would have liked to see a more nuanced approach, with the headline-grabbing material interspersed with more ‘everyday’ experiences.

My companion for the evening observed that the show has the feel of a weekly revue, with that slightly anarchic frenetic edge, and the sketches as a collection of hits and misses. While this is to be expected of a show that is being put together with very tight deadlines every week, one would expect a theatre piece, which has been developed over a longer time, to have been tightened up a bit, with some of the less-successful sketches re-worked or put out to pasture.

Overall though, the hits outweigh the misses, and at around 75 minutes, it’s a fun show with great performances, which whips along at a brisk pace. Its irreverent approach won’t be for everyone, but it’s great to see very talented people from Jewish and Muslim backgrounds coming together to challenge perceptions while making us laugh quite a bit.

Come In! Sit Down! runs at the Tricycle Theatre until Sunday 2 August. Tickets available here.

La Traviata at The Tricycle

As a total opera novice, I was not sure what to expect when I sat down in the Tricycle’s auditorium for two hours of Verdi. Would I be able to suspend my disbelief and go along with all the characters singing at each other? Will the operatic performances just be too big for the tricycle’s small theatre? Will I even understand any of it?!

I needn’t have worried. OperaUpClose have spent the last six years developing opera performance for small spaces, having started with La Boheme in the now sadly defunct Cock Tavern Theatre on Kilburn High Road. Their work is designed to be accessible to everyone, and for an intimate ‘up close’ performance. They have even managed to bag themselves an Olivier Award for their efforts.

This production of La Traviata has been around for a while, but has been revived for a short run at the Tricycle. Artistic Director Robin Norton-Hale has translated Verdi’s original into an English version, so there’s no need to worry about not speaking Italian, and the score has been edited, zipping along at a pacy 2 hours 15 minutes, including interval. Yes, I was in the pub by 9.30!

Verdi's La Traviata_poster

The story, which will be familiar to many, focuses on lovers Violetta and Alfredo, and their doomed relationship. This version is set in 1920s America, and the set and costumes are really stylish, with the entire cast permanently dressed to the nines – Violetta manages to look glamorous even when wearing pyjamas! We are instantly drawn into this world of parties, dancing and champagne, but even at the opening it is clear to see there is a darker side to all the frivolity.

The set looks great, a lovely touch is the subtle backdrop of a proscenium arch and curtain, behind the set, serving as a reminder that this is, after all, theatre. There are a couple of slightly clunky set dressing moments, which are carried by the musicians and it is a shame that they end up tucked away in the corner of the action, barely visible. The trio keep the piece moving along nicely, adding backbone to the muscular vocals on display, and are given the occasional moment to shine, but this production is all about the voices.

As Violetta, Louisa Tee steals the show. Her vocal dexterity is mesmerising, and she carries herself so well, exuding charm and vivacity, it’s easy to see why Alfredo is so enamoured of her. Robin Bailey’s Alfredo has a less-polished delivery, but the raw edge to his voice really worked for the character and I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up whenever he sang. In a good way. During the run, four of the five cast members are on rotation, with three singers alternating for each of them. I don’t know if this is a regular practice in opera, but I can certainly see the need to protect the performers’ voices, as they are absolutely giving their all.

The English translation worked for me, because I am only a little familiar with the Italian original, but I can imagine that purists would find it jarring. There were a few moments where the singers seemed to struggle with the phrasing, trying to fit the English words into a rhythm created for Italian, and I couldn’t help but feel that some of the beauty of the arias was, literally, lost in translation.

These moments were, for me at least, few and far between, and I had no trouble losing myself in the story and getting caught up in the emotion. Within a few minutes I had ceased to be aware that the cast were singing in this elaborate manner and I was transfixed. The drama is high, with little room for subtlety, but this is opera, after all, and a thoroughly enjoyable night at the theatre. I’m not ashamed to say I left the auditorium with a tear in my eye, and I will be going back for more.

La Traviata runs at the Tricycle Theatre until 4 July. Catch it while you can!

Review: After Electra at the Tricycle Theatre

It’s Virgie’s 81st birthday, and she gathers together her friends and family for a celebration, and an important announcement. Virgie intends to kill herself. The play follows the reaction to Virgie’s declaration and explores how the choices we make can change our lives forever.

Virgie is a woman who has always been torn between her art and motherhood, and it becomes apparent that her dedication as an artist has severely compromised her relationship with her children Haydn and Orin, who are, as adults, scarred by her neglect. Virgie’s sister Shirley, and friends Tom and Sonia, make up the rest of the party, all coming to terms with Virgie’s announcement, trying, and failing, not to give in to the absurdity of it all.

Marty Cruickshank as Virgie (Photo: Steve Tanner)

Marty Cruickshank as Virgie (Photo: Steve Tanner)

None of the characters are particularly likeable, they are all self-involved and thoughtless, but in that they are relatable and frequently very funny. Tom the actor, and his long suffering wife Sonia, provide a lot of the comic relief, as two people more or less tolerating each others’ eccentricities. It’s hard to tell if Virgie really wants to die, is succumbing to madness, or if this is all some play for attention, but ultimately it is the question of control over one’s own existence, and of dealing with loss, which the play forces us to address. While this is a comedy, and I frequently laughed out loud, it is also a moving tale of family and friendships, and the lengths we will go to in order to find a sense of normality in the chaos.

Rachel Bell, as Shirley, the officious younger sister, steals the show in a really well written part, just the right amount of self involvement, tempered with pathos and played with the perfect level of self awareness. She has some great lines and delivers them with total relish, you can’t help but warm to her despite her apparent cold heartedness, which, as the play develops, we learn is really just her mode of survival.

Haydn, Virgie’s daughter, is believable, real, less a caricature than the others, and genuinely seems somewhat lost. Veronica Roberts has a lovely subtlety in her performance, we see glimpses of the rage burning within, but this is someone who has learned to swallow her pain, leaving her unable to connect intimately with others. Her sense of daughterly duty is something many will relate to, doing the right thing no matter how much it costs her personally. Her interaction with Roy, the poor cabbie who finds himself inadvertently caught up in the drama, is a real highlight.

The one misstep is the character of Miranda, a former student of Virgie, who appears in the final scene, to provide a new perspective on the story we’ve been fed piece by piece throughout the play. Unfortunately her wide-eyed youthful exuberance jars with the ageing melancholia of the other characters, whom we have been investing in from the start. It’s an interesting proposition, that we would open up and confide in a relative stranger, while hiding truths from our nearest and dearest, but I found Miranda’s complete lack of tact and diplomacy wildly irritating and so in the end the message was somewhat lost on me. But perhaps that’s the point.

Set and Costume Designer Michael Taylor has done a fantastic job of bringing a flavour of the Essex coast to North West London, completely transforming the stage at the Tricycle, so the action is thrust into the horseshoe auditorium. Virgie’s home feels lived in but isolated, windswept, with autumn creeping around the door.

Given the uncomfortable and dark subject of suicide, it takes a while for the audience to really get into the comedy of the piece. But this is a well-directed ensemble, with several strong performances, finding the humour in tragedy, without playing for laughs unless it is appropriate. A few choice nods to the Electra myth work really well without being heavy handed and I found myself laughing in recognition at the pain and pathos of life and its inevitable end.

After Electra is at the Tricycle Theatre until 2 May 2015.

Read our interview with director Sam West.

Interview: Sam West’s After Electra is “hotter and faster” at the Tricycle

After Electra opened at the Tricycle Theatre last night. We sat down with the director (and acclaimed actor) Sam West to find out more about the play and his take on Kilburn.

The full cast of After Electra. (Photo: Steve Tanner)

The full cast of After Electra. (Photo: Steve Tanner)

The play is called After Electra, should we expect a Greek Tragedy?

No, you should expect a black comedy, inspired by a Greek Myth but certainly not one you need to know anything about Greek drama to enjoy. The play is about an 81 year old artist called Vergie, who calls together her daughter and best friends on her birthday and announces she’s going to kill herself and they argue and try and stop her. It is very funny! It’s mostly about the difficulty of balancing work and children. In the original story, the Electra Myth, Electra and her brother Orestes kill their mother Clytemnestra, that doesn’t happen in this play, it’s mostly a comedy about what to do when you want to kill your mum!

We’ve all been there…

We’ve all had those feelings! And the Greeks put on plays about it so you didn’t go out and kill your mum. April De Angelis, the writer, has very carefully and cleverly written it about a woman who is a very accomplished artist and feels a calling towards her art, more than she does towards her children. So it’s a lot about what you do when you feel like that really, because I think one of April’s points is that men, on the whole, don’t get pilloried when they go off and excel in business and neglect their children and women, if they do that, get put on the front pages. They’re expected to have this bottomless well of unselfish motherhood, and the play is about what happens if you find that you don’t have that.

The play features several strong female roles and a generally older cast…

Yes, it was written in response to a request from Plymouth Theatre Royal, where it started, as a way of improving the situation about the lack of decent roles for older women. Because we have a lot of very good older actors who aren’t getting the parts… there are fewer meaty roles. It’s a cast of eight, only one of whom is under 30, and although the leading character is 81, there are very good parts for people in their 60s and 70s.

After a successful run in Plymouth, you’re bringing the play to London. How did the transfer to the Tricycle Theatre come about?

Yes, it’s a Plymouth production and the Tricycle decided that they wanted to pay for it to come to London so, although we’ve been working in tandem with them, it’s not a co-production. We’re delighted that Plymouth work gets a chance to be seen in the capital because we’re all very proud of it and most of the company live in London. Because Plymouth is a local regional theatre, it’s important for it to go to a theatre which has a good feeling of constituency, a good feeling of localism, like the Tricycle does. Not all London theatres feel like the Tricycle, do they? Some of them feel like posh transfer houses, where you put on things for a small metropolitan audience. But the Tricycle, whenever I’ve been, has always felt like a theatre that is really in the heart of its community and I’m really pleased that we’re taking it there.

And has the transfer been a smooth one?

Yes, though we’ve had to cut a metre off the set! It fills the space quite well but the stage at the Tricycle is not quite as wide as the Drum in Plymouth. Because the Tricycle is a bit like an Elizabethan theatre, a sort of horseshoe, there are some really interesting angles from where to see the show, which I was very pleased about when we brought it in. It would have been boring to have to add a metre, that would have made everything take slightly longer, but in fact we’re sort of squeezing it like a box, so the pressure should get slightly bigger and the show should get slightly hotter and faster.

Have you performed at the Tricycle in the past? Are you familiar with Kilburn?

I’ve never performed there. I’ve rehearsed there and I’ve seen many things there. I rehearsed a Donmar production there about 6 years ago and was delighted to be going there every day for 5 weeks, but this is the first time I’ve put a show in. I live in North London and have friends in the area, so it’s a pretty easy journey for me. I’m very fond of Middle Eastern food, and we’ve been trying out the various Turkish and Lebanese restaurants in Kilburn, which has been really great.

So, why should locals come to the Tricycle and see the show?

Because it’s very funny and quite short! (Laughter) It’s a play for anyone who is a mother, or who has one. It can’t fail to teach you something about your mum, and if you’re a mum it can’t fail to teach you something about your children, and it is pretty funny, but will make you think a bit. It’s done by ten o’clock, so you can still go the pub afterwards!

After Electra is on at the Tricycle Theatre from 7 April to 2 May.

Theatre review: The Dissidents

Last week the Tricycle Young Company took over the Tricycle for a festival of theatre, film, music and poetry. Headlining the takeover was The Dissidents, an energetic play with a large ensemble cast, all aged between 19-25. It was written by Shamser Sinha for the Tricycle Young Company, and depicts life in contemporary London for young people living on the breadline.

Members of the Tricycle Young Company (photograph: Mark Douet)

Members of the Tricycle Young Company (photograph: Mark Douet)

We catch a glimpse of the experiences of brother and sister, Juan and Selena, who are struggling to make ends meet after the death of their father. Their lives are overshadowed by austerity measures, including their final moments with their father in an overworked NHS hospital, and Juan’s brief career at Poundland as part of the government’s ‘back-to-work’ scheme. The play encapsulates the anger and frustration of its young characters, who feel they are being stereotyped and criminalised, without being given the opportunities they need to improve their situation.

The production made great use of the stage, transforming it between scenes within seconds into familiar urban settings. Many members of the cast played multiple parts, and the quick changes between scenes and characters made the play a little hard to follow in places. The dream sequences were particularly well choreographed however, making use of the large cast, and creating an eerie, disturbing atmosphere.

Stevie Basaula and Tania Nwachukwu did a fantastic job as Juan and Selena, particularly in the emotional final scenes. The play could have done with a bit of polishing, but overall it was a very enjoyable evening and it would be great to see more of the Tricycle Young Company.

Review: Happy Birthday Without You

Photo by Luke Pajak

Photo by Luke Pajak

Violet Fox is a self-proclaimed “live and visual spoken word vegan solo artist and occasional collaborator”. Don’t let that put you off though; this show isn’t quite the tirade against men and carnivorism that you might expect. Fox is the fictional creation of Sonia Jalaly, the writer and star of Happy Birthday Without You. In mock-autobiographical style, Fox tells the story of the traumatic birthdays of her childhood, and her relationship with an alcoholic, balloon-popping mother.

The show has its dark moments, but mostly it’s just highly enjoyable silliness. At one point she literally brings her emotional baggage on stage (complete with a taxidermied cat), and although the birthday anecdotes help to give it structure, the show works mainly as a springboard for Jalaly to showcase her knack for physical comedy and impersonating Broadway dames. Her voice is actually rather good and she has the audience in fits of laughter with impressions of Julie Andrews, Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe, all singing ‘Happy Birthday’ in their own unique styles.

Photo by Luke Pajak

Photo by Luke Pajak

As she gets the audience to pass around party bags and blow up red balloons to throw on stage, Jalaly helpfully throws out a few quotes for theatre critics – “look the lights have come on, it’s so immersive” and, to be fair, it is a pretty immersive experience. Parts of the show feel more like a stand-up performance in the way she speaks to, and interacts with the audience.

So if you like comedy, balloons and caterpillar cakes, this show is for you. Sadly its short run at the Tricycle is over, but if you can catch Sonia Jalaly in any future productions, I would highly recommend it.

Review: A Series of Increasingly Impossible Acts at The Tricycle

Eight actors hang out on stage, warming up in their gym gear, chatting to the audience a little, as if waiting for a rehearsal to begin. The show has quietly started as we walk in, but gets going when one of the performers’ names is picked out of a hat by a member of the audience and they become the focus of the action. What follows is a series of vignettes; snapshots of a life lived so far, tales of love and loss, interspersed with lots of physical challenges and silliness.

Series of Increasingly Impossible Acts Tricycle


Our protagonist for the evening is Stevie (Steven Webb), who brings the audience into the action enough to make you feel involved, but not so much that you’re terrified you’ll be picked on for a bit of participation! His energetic, physical commitment to the performance is staggering and I found myself trying to catch my breath, after watching him writhe around the stage with gusto for an hour and a bit.

The cast are clearly having fun, and you can’t help warming to them and their antics, about which I will say as little as possible. For all its big energy, there are also several smaller, beautifully observed moments, which add depth and poignancy and raise the show to another level. Though admittedly there is something profoundly enjoyable about watching two people wrestle in a bid to remove each other’s shoes.

Inevitably, with an ensemble piece like this, you don’t get to see as much of some of the performers as you do others, and my guess is this varies depending on who is pulled out of the hat each night. It seemed a shame that not everyone was equally involved and I would have liked to see a few more scenes with the whole cast taking part. One stand out performance was that of Hammad Animashaun, whose deadpan comic delivery was perfectly judged.

For the most part the bare-chested honesty of the piece works but it’s not without its flaws. A couple of times the action feels self-consciously ‘edgy’ and wanders into cliché territory. One scene using very well known Shakespearian dialogue is, in my opinion, a misstep, and breaks the pacy, frenetic feel of the show.

With its stripped back set and simplistic lighting, the show often feels like a well polished student production, which some might see as a negative, but actually it’s the raw youthful energy of the performers, with their well-developed improvisational skills, that keeps the show fresh and engaging. It’s the sort of show that could work in all sorts of spaces, and at times I wanted them to burst forth from the proscenium arch and take over the whole auditorium. I felt they wanted that, too.

This young theatre company is definitely one to watch. This is exactly the sort of show that is perfect for the Edinburgh Fringe, where it ran to critical acclaim. I hope it can find the right audience in NW6, one that will embrace the non-narrative structure, admire the honesty and openness of the performances, go along for the energetic ride and be ready to laugh. A lot.

Win a pair of tickets to the show!

Review: Lionboy at The Tricycle Theatre


Lionboy is this year’s family show at The Tricycle Theatre. Suitable for everyone aged 8 and up, it’s a riotous adventure based on Zizou Corder’s novels. Elsie Oulton, 13, went to review it for West Hampstead Life; here’s her verdict.

Having not read the book, when I went to see the Lionboy production at the Tricycle, I had no idea what to expect. There was a cast of around 8, who each helped to tell the story by playing many different parts, including percussion and sound effects on stage. It was a vibrant and tense production, and the lead, who played himself and the lions, was amazing. There was also the use of shadow puppets to help tell the story, which were really cool. The use of props was also extraordinary, for example using swaying ropes to represent a river, and ladders make a prison, giving the Corporacy an eerie atmosphere. The circus family on the ship were particularly colourful and bizarre. My favourite was the French bearded woman, who was very witty and talked to the audience a lot. All the children in the audience were totally gripped, booing, hissing, cheering and shouting. Overall, I think that it was a great production, which glued you to your seat, and left you wanting more. See it!

Lionboy runs until January 10th. Book tickets here.

Tricycle escapes damage from Kilburn fire

A fire broke out in a kitchen on the upper level of the Brondesbury Medical Centre on Kilburn High Road last night, meaning customers at the neighbouring Tricycle Cinema had to be evacuated.

Last night's scene on Kilburn High Road - photo from Twitter by @bartnowak79

Last night’s scene on Kilburn High Road – photo from Twitter by @bartnowak79

The theatre performance had ended for the evening; however around 400 cinemagoers were in the building for a screening of Gone Girl when fire crews arrived at around 9.40pm. London Fire Brigade confirmed on their website that the fire was under control by 11.10pm. They managed to contain it to the kitchen where it started, so the only damage to the public area was to one TV screen, and some smoke damage to the adjoining areas.

Staff at the Tricycle box office today confirmed that the theatre and cinema complex was unaffected by the fire, with no smoke or water damage.

However, the doctors’ surgery was closed, with notices on the door advising patients of alternative medical services.

The door to the Brondesbury Medical Centre this morning

The door to the Brondesbury Medical Centre this morning

Review: The Kilburn Passion delivers tears and laughter

As a former Kilburn resident who has now somehow found herself living on The Other Side Of The Heath, I jumped at the chance to saunter back down my favourite high road to review The Kilburn Passion on its opening night. Initially performed in April as part of the Tricycle Theatre’s ‘Takeover Festival’ by its Young Company, the group of 19-25 year-olds have been welcomed back for a short run, due to popular demand. Having clapped, gasped and sobbed my way through it, it’s easy to see why.

The vivacious, brightly-dressed ensemble cast have a genuine and apparent bond as a company which shines through their performance of Suhayla El-Bushra’s collection of vignettes of the interconnecting lives of Kilburn residents.

All walks of life are presented in the actors and their characters; the bus driver pushed to the edge, the fashion retailer with delusions of grandeur and the struggling young family – all are portrayed with understanding, tact and wit. Their tales take us on a walk through the details of their own lives and histories, whilst the wider story forces us to examine our interactions with those we’re involved in as well as the people we may not pay attention to.

Usually put off by shows with “dancy bits” and musical numbers, (and such a high concentration of young talented over-achievers), I found the energetic, modern and impressive choreography and use of sound perfectly captured the spirit of Kilburn, with obvious passion. You cannot help but get swept up in the performances of this cast.

Peppered with perfectly-timed laughs and fly-on-the-wall glimpses of relationships of all sorts, The Kilburn Passion holds a mirror to our own experiences of work, community and time spent on any London high street.

My love of Kilburn is no secret. I was even moved to write my own rambling praise of the place on my walk to the theatre. But stand-out performances by Nathan Powel and Jade-Marie Joseph in particular moved me to tears, thigh-slapping laughter and to participate in a well-deserved standing ovation – the first I’ve witnessed at the Tricycle in 6 years of visiting.

The Kilburn Passion runs until Saturday August 9th.

Tricycle Theatre rejects Jewish film festival over Israeli embassy sponsorship

The Tricycle, Kilburn’s highly regarded theatre and cinema, has found itself embroiled in controversy this evening after announcing that it will no longer be part of the UK Jewish Film Festival.

The cinema was due to screen films at the festival, which takes place in November.

In a statement, the artistic director of the theatre, Indhu Rubasingham said

The Tricycle has always welcomed the Festival and wants it to go ahead. We have proudly hosted the UK Jewish Film Festival for many years. However, given the situation in Israel and Gaza, we do not believe that the festival should accept funding from any party to the current conflict. For that reason, we asked the UK Jewish Film Festival to reconsider its sponsorship by the Israeli Embassy. We also offered to replace that funding with money from our own resources. The Tricycle serves many communities and celebrates different cultures and through difficult, emotional times must aim for a place of political neutrality.

We regret that, following discussions, the chair of the UKJFF told us that he wished to withdraw the festival from the Tricycle.

To be clear, at this moment, the Tricycle would not accept sponsorship from any government agency involved in the conflict. We hope to find a way to work with the UK Jewish Film Festival to allow the festival to go ahead at the Tricycle as it has done so successfully for the past 8 years.

The theatre has, unsurprisingly given the strength of feeling on this emotive topic, come in for a fair amount of criticism for its decision, with many pointing out that other festivals it holds receive funding from governments that some people would consider parties to conflicts. The statement above does specify that it is the specific conflict in Gaza that it is objecting to, but that will be of little comfort to those who feel its actions are politicising the arts.

Judy Ironside, executive director of the UK Jewish Film Festival, said

The Tricycle Theatre have shown themselves unwilling to work with what is clearly an apolitical cultural festival is tremendously disappointing. They have chosen a boycott over meaningful engagement – to the great detriment of this celebration of Jewish culture, which is of course intrinsically connected to the state of Israel.

We pride ourselves on showing a diverse programme of films, which present a comprehensive view of international Jewish life and Israeli films are of course an important part of that.

We have always sought to convey a wide perspective on the conflicts in the Middle East and initiate open dialogue with our audiences and guest speakers; and the Israeli Embassy have always supported us in this. The Tricycle have refused to take this into account in their decision.

On social media, accusations have also come of anti-Semitism from some critics, which given the Tricycle’s long-standing association with the festival seems a spurious argument, but there’s no doubt that the decision will rankle for a long time within the Jewish community.

Today should have been a day for celebration for the Tricycle as its Youth Theare project The Kilburn Passion returns to the stage.

Get passionate about Kilburn in new Tricycle play

The Tricycle Theatre has always been vocal in its support of young people but for the first time, Kilburn’s premier cultural venue is putting its money where its mouth is and handing over control of the building for a week to the Tricycle Young Company. During The Takeover Festival, which runs from March 30 – April 5, this group has programmed a week of theatre, film, music and poetry.

Tricycle Young Company members

Tricycle Young Company members

During the week, seven new plays will be performed by young people aged 11-25 on the Tricycle stage, including some written and performed in partnership with the National Theatre. The biggest production is The Kilburn Passion, written as a new commission by Suhayla El-Bushra, a successful writer for stage and screen, former resident of Kilburn and herself a one-time member of the Tricycle Young Company.

The drama takes place along the Kilburn High Road, and anyone familiar with the area will “definitely recognise a lot in the play,” according to cast member Hayley Konadu. It tackles issues such as the stereotypical perceptions of Kilburn and its community that are familiar to many of us.

There’s something in it for everyone, says director Emily Lim, whether or not you’re familiar with Kilburn High Road. “Most people in the company are local, and there’s a lot of diversity of experience that has gone into the play. Londoners tend to look at our shoes rather than looking into people’s eyes, so it’s about questioning why we’re so hesitant to look and see and listen to the people around us and to place ourselves within a broader context of relationships and friendships and networks and community.”

“Suhayla was inspired by the Easter tradition of a Passion Play and we’ve really enjoyed the idea that a passion play was something traditionally performed by a community for its own community, and it’s also about a community.”

The play’s genesis was a very collaborative process, with El-Bushra meeting the Young Company at the outset and incorporating their ideas and personalities into the finished work. Emily explains “Suhayla’s brief was to write a piece that reflected Kilburn, and a piece that reflected our company of young people to unlock the spirit of what this company is and what makes them tick.”

It’s also been a rare opportunity for young people aspiring to careers in performing arts to work with a professional team of lighting and sound designers and stage managers. As well as supporting the young performers’ professional development, Emily is keen to point out that the scheme is “also hugely about personal development and creating a culture of support and kindness because we think that’s how we’ll create our best work, and we know that this work helps our young people to learn more about who they are and what they can be.”

As well as being a fun process, it’s clear that a lot of work has gone in to the creation and evolution of The Kilburn Passion and that the cast has risen to the challenge and the high expectations placed upon them.

As Hayley explains, “The Tricycle has always supported the youth, but the Takeover is taking it one step further. We’re the next generation, so why not push us to greater things? The pressure is good, because it forces us to act professionally. Because sometimes you’re treated as ‘just the young company’. But where’s the line between young company and professional? I like the way they’ve forced us into the professional world: ‘This is how you do things.’ And the best way is by learning.”

Hayley’s enthusiasm for the project shines through as she explains the evolution of the play. “The rehearsal process has been amazing. We started in September with our selection workshops based around what we like, what we don’t, what we’re passionate about, and what we want to have in our play – because The Kilburn Passion is a play that has come from us. Suhayla’s taken all the ideas we’ve put into it and just connected it up into an amazing play.”

Emily says “It’s the first time that the building has done anything like this, and put so much faith into its young people, and by giving us the main stage to perform on and giving such a high level of professional investment in terms of the creative teams and the writer that we’re working with, it’s showing an incredible amount of belief in the work and it’s making a very important statement that reflects the Tricycle’s whole ethos about bringing marginalised voices into the mainstream and it’s very unique in London.”

The Kilburn Passion runs from April 3-5 and West Hampstead Life readers can get discounted tickets by entering the code WestHamp when they book online.

New plays and new seating policy at the Tricycle

Indhu Rubasingham, entering her second year as Artistic Director at the Tricycle Theatre, has announced the new season of plays and some changes to the seating policy.

The new season opens in September with the UK première of Colman Domingo’s award-winning A Boy and His Soul. This is followed by the world première of Handbagged – Moira Buffini’s take on the relationship between the Queen and Margaret Thatcher. Rubasingham herself directs Stella Gonet as Margaret Thatcher and Marion Bailey as Elizabeth II.

Starting in November,  Kathy Burke directs a major revival of Mary J O’Malley’s Once a Catholic; and to complete the season, the multi-award-winning Red Velvet written by Lolita Chakrabarti and directed by Rubasingham, returns to the theatre ahead of its transfer to New York. Adrian Lester reprises his role as Ira Aldridge. Chakrabati and Lester also join the Theatre as Creative Associates, along with Rosa Maggiora.

New seating policy
Starting in September, the theatre will also introduce allocated seating throughout the auditorium. This means ticket-holders will no longer need to queue for seats before performances (hurrah – it can be a bunfight at times!). The theatre will also have some £8 preview tickets, cheaper than it’s previously been able to offer. Normal ticket prices will stay the same. Concession tickets will save £2 Tuesday-Saturday. There’s also a season ticket deal: book for three or more plays at one go and save 20%. Finally, there are a limited number of £10 tickets available for people aged 25 years and under for Monday–Thursday for the first two full weeks of A Boy and His Soul, Handbagged and Once A Catholic.

The Tricycle is also re-launching the Tricycle’s Young Company. This is free, and open to 11-25 year olds. It provide opportunities to make high quality theatre productions, and develop skills, confidence and professionalism. In March 2014, a Tricycle Takeover festival will see the Young Company present at least two new works.

Indhu Rubasingham, commenting on the new programme, said “It’s an exciting time for the company, seeing us collaborate with so many writers, actors, and directors, and to reach out to new audiences both here, and in the US, with such a diversity of work.”.

Kilburn goes Caribbean

If you’ve been reading the local film listings of late, you’ll have spotted that the Tricycle in Kilburn has been taken over for the Trinidad & Tobago cultural village. Fiona went along to see whether it had brought some Caribbean sunshine to the mean streets of Kilburn:

“After an incredible weekend for Team GB, my flatmates and I had thoroughly caught Olympic fever. So on Monday night we decided to try one of the cultural villages that have popped up across London, and as Trinidad and Tobago have made the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn their home, it seemed like the obvious choice.

The evening’s main event was a dance class was led by Attillah Springer who is heavily involved in the local Trinidad community in Kilburn (she has a blog). She began by explaining the history of wining and its importance as an expression of freedom and female sensuality. For her wining is about owning your own body and displaying it proudly during Carnival. We were repeatedly told ‘Your bottom is not your enemy!’

We started with simple ‘chipping’ (effectively walking with rhythm) and then moved on slowly to creating the signature grinding movement. I won’t pretend I was any good at it but I did manage to learn something and had a great laugh doing so – and who knows, by the time the Notting Hill Carnival comes around I might be wining with ease!

After the class we went downstairs to eat. There are five or six stalls serving up traditional Caribbean food from tiny hotplates and microwaves. We chose one, which turned out to be from Jouvert, a Trinidad and Tobagan restaurant rather annoyingly based in SE6. The roti was really excellent: tender chunks of mutton with spicy potatoes, proper chapatti, and grilled plantain on the side, all for £8 (or £6 without the plantain). No cards are taken, so take cash! We washed it all down with Carib beer, and sat back to watch some athletics and cheer on the Jamaicans on the big screen as sadly no one from T&T was competing that evening.

There is still plenty more to come as the village runs until the 25th August. The workshop floor where we had our dance class was covered in glitter from an earlier children’s workshop, and if you can tear yourself away from the Olympics (we couldn’t) there are also film screenings and music concerts (the later sadly seems to have sold out) in the evenings. We had a great evening, and on a wet squib of a summer evening, it was nice to find a slice of Caribbean sunshine on our doorstep!

You can find out more here:”

Dead Sea Midnight Runners

After #whampgather this Sunday, why not wend your way down to Kilburn for some music? “What sort of music?” I hear you ask. Let me hand you over to Nathan, who can explain all.

“Musicians have often made high-profile attempts to show that they’re not one-trick ponies. George Michael has tried to sing folk songs from the American Great Depression, Luciano Pavarotti has duetted with Frank Sinatra on ‘My Way‘, and more, much more than this, Michael Bolton has had a crack at ‘Nessun Dorma‘.

Let’s agree that none of the above really worked.

Far less high-profile, but surely more successful, will be the first full gig given by the Dead Sea Midnight Runners, this Sunday at Kilburn’s Tricycle Theatre.

If you think you know klezmer music (and hey, you’re from North London, so you should), you are probably right. Which is why you might find this gig interesting.

The Dead Sea Midnight Runners (also known as Fat Klez) are not steeped in klezmer. Martin White is an accordionist, and largely plays music that the accordion should play, as well as his own music for the Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra. Nathan Hamer is a trombonist of the classical tradition; he listens to Mahler to relax and can spot a parallel fifth at ten paces. Ben Handysides is a jazz drummer, which means that he does not know silence. Amy Butterworth, a lifelong West Hampstead resident, has dedicated her life to Slash and the preaching of rock violin. Just like so many other West Hampstead residents.

The band first formed in the spring of 2010 having been asked by the quite legendary Mark Thomas to play in his ‘Walking The Wall’ shows at the big summer festivals. A long, sold-out run at the Tricycle preceded Glastonbury’s first two-hour comedy set to an audience of thousands. Appearances at Latitude, Leeds, Reading and the Greenbelt festivals followed. In January 2012, Mark gave his show a swansong at the Tricycle, and it was during that week that outgoing theatre director Nicolas Kent invited the band to put on their own show.

There’ll be surprises and laughs, because having fun is what klezmer is all about. It’ll be short (just over an hour), because it’s on a Sunday night and we all have ironing to do. Tickets are a mere £8. That’s cheap fun. See you on Sunday. Oh, and bring a pun.”

Midsummer [a play with songs] at The Tricycle Theatre: review

Midsummer was a hit at Edinburgh. It is actually set in Edinburgh at midsummer and is simply a story of boy meets girl, or rather girl meets boy. The girl is a divorce lawyer, the boy a petty criminal. Over the course of the play they let us look into their lives as 35 year-olds. They don’t especially like what they see, but we love them. We cannot help but love them.

It is an astonishingly good play. David Greig’s script (he also directs) flows effortlessly and convincingly from appropriate dialogue to poetic musings. Attempts to do this jar in many modern scripts, but never once does it seem out of place here. The staging is great – there’s no interval, no set changes, and definitely no fourth wall. With just a bed and a few props, the cast of two work their magic. Yes, just a cast of two. At times they each morph into other characters – which sounds odd but works brilliantly. I can’t recall seeing a production that plays so smartly with the suspension of disbelief yet never once disengages you from the unfolding drama.
The two actors are faultless. Cora Bissett perhaps has the edge, but it’s really unfair to split them. Matthew Pidgeon turns “Robert… Rob… Bob… fuck” into a tragic hero on a par with the best. These two are a double act and utterly convincing. Over a drink after the play I tried hard to think of faults with this production and struggled to find one.

Throughout Midsummer there are musical interludes penned by Gordon McIntyre – it is after all “a play with songs”. These work rather well – rather like music in a TV drama, except here it’s the cast that sing and play guitar. Again, sounds a bit odd – works like a dream. Seems a bit Dennis Potter doesn’t it. Well, he was brilliant too.
I can’t recommend this highly enough. It is both hilariously funny, utterly engaging and incredibly moving as the characters come to terms with what they are doing with their lives. And it’s on our doorstep. Go and see it. 
Midsummer runs until January 29th at the Tricycle Theatre.
There’s even a singles night on December 21st (midwinter, geddit)
*Disclaimer: I received a free ticket courtesy of the theatre