Pillow Talk: A Review

This week I attended an evening of four one-act plays organized by Downstage Left, an Amsterdam-based international theatre company.  I had been specifically invited to review Pillow Talk, a short play written by Peter Tolan, directed by Ben Evans and performed by Charles Bird and Chris Grabski. Pillow Talk was delightful. Let me tell you why.

First of all, I am always impressed by well-executed brevity. If a play, book, film or other creative product manages to amuse, move or otherwise get its point across in a short amount of time, I think this is a sign of great creative talent, and more importantly, skill. Pillow Talk has a runtime of about 30 minutes, I’d say, and is a perfect example of what Hamlet said: “brevity is the soul of wit.”

Because Pillow Talk is very funny. It’s funny the way the familiar can be made funny if it is presented cleverly. The plot of the play is simple: two heterosexual men who are close friends are forced to share a bed. One of them is uncomfortable with this arrangement. The other one just wants to sleep. Anyone who knows anything about awkward slumber parties or toxic masculinity will understand how this plays out. The men bicker, of course, and passive-aggressively keep switching the nightlight on and off. Indeed, the hilarity of Pillow Talk lies in the fact that the whole thing is so utterly familiar and recognizable to its audience.

Stage props are minimal: it’s just two men in a tiny bed. Their close proximity adds to the humorous tension that is central to the play. It takes some excellent acting to make a play with such a limited setting, which could easily become static or dull to watch, so riveting. The two actors, Charles Bird and Chris Grabski, pull this off brilliantly.

Most importantly for me, Pillow Talk engages with a social issue close to my heart: it unpacks the complicated and sometimes ridiculous phenomenon of toxic masculinity. Pillow Talk asks, quite explicitly, exactly what it is that many men find so unnerving about physical and emotional intimacy, why they feel that way and what could be gained by examining those feelings. It also questions heteronormativity and the societal expectations we all have of male friendship.

If you get the chance, go and see Pillow Talk. It will be performed five times between 24-26th April at the CC Amstel theatre.  Booking opens soon.

The photographs of Pillow Talk used in this piece were made by Arjen Veldt.

The 39 Steps: A Review

After seeing the review I did for Writer’s Block Magazine of their 2018 performance of The Importance of Being Earnest, the lovely people of the Queen’s English Theatre Company invited me to their new production: The 39 Steps, which was put together in a collaboration with West End actress Loveday Smith under the name QE2. They performed it tonight, and they will also perform it tomorrow, the 7th of December, at 15:00 and 20:00 and Sunday the 8th at 15:00 and 20:00, all in Amsterdam.

Originally, of course, The Thirty-Nine Steps was a 1915 adventure novel by John Buchan. Then, famously, it was made into a movie by Alfred Hitchcock in 1935, and a number of other adaptations for the big and small screen followed, as well as a theatre adaptation first created by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon (can you imagine being named Nobby?) and then adapted by Patrick Barlow in 2005.

I did read the novel once upon a time, but I barely remember it. I also once saw the play performed in London’s West End while I was in high school, but that, too, has faded from memory. What I do remember, however, is the funny, energetic, innovative Oscar Wilde adaptation the Queen’s English Theatre Company (QETC) put on last year. So I was excited to see what they’d do with The 39 Steps, and I was not disappointed.

A photo I took during intermission
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Live Shows of 2017

My live shows of 2017

2017 was a good year for me in terms of shows and stuff. Not the best maybe, but it was pretty great. Here’s a quick overview.

  • Harry Potter & The Cursed Child Parts I & II  – January 21st 2017 – The Palace Theatre, London

This was the theatrical highlight of my year. I know a lot of people hate The Cursed Child and I sort of understand why; I think I wouldn’t like it either if I hadn’t seen it live and obviously expensive live performances in London are not universally accessible and I’m not sure I agree with Rowling’s decision to do it this way, but she did, and I was lucky enough to see it, and I loved it. Continue reading

A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad)

I’m still raising money for suicide prevention everyone. You can donate here. But I’m also doing something that is equally as important, if not more so: raising awareness. You should all be aware that thousands of people all over the world are struggling with their mental health everyday. If there was more understanding for their struggle, the world would be a better place.

What I’m about to do now is going to be super-frustrating: let me recommend a play to you. It is a play you can only see if you can manage to travel through time, and it is called A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad).

I saw the play at the Edinburgh Fringe this August, and it means a lot to me. I won’t wax lyrical about life-changing experiences or some such, because of course the real life-changing experience was my depression itself. But to see my illness recognized, understood, and performed so brilliantly and accurately on stage was a huge relief.

The play is accurately named. Its presentation, full of glitter and singing and chorus lines, is super happy. It’s subject matter, ranging from alcoholism to depression and suicide, is anything but. The writers and performers have managed to unearth the comedy inherent in anything that is bleak or sad, and made use of that comedy without devaluating the terrifying experience that is mental illness. Bravo.

I always tell people that no one is alone in their fight against mental illness, but I don’t always believe it. Jon Brittain and Matthew Floyd Jones made me believe it, and that felt incredible. Of course you can’t travel back in time to see this play, but you can do the next best thing: read it.  Paperbacks and ebooks are available from Amazon

What’s Next?

I know y’all are waiting for an in-depth analysis of The Final Problem and I promise that’s coming up really soon. For now, suffice it to say that I was, overall, really happy, in spite of some blatant queerbaiting. But, surprisingly, Sherlock is not what I’m blogging about today.

Today might be the pinnacle of my career as a Frenzied Fangirl. I threw a Disney-themed birthday party this weekend and people turned up en masse in costumes. It was lovely. Then, last night, I was more anxious than I remember ever being before about Sherlock. This morning I purchased two tickets for Hamilton on the West End. Next weekend I’m going to see Harry Potter And The Cursed Child and today….

Lin-Manuel Miranda published this video.

 

It is the catalyst for a blogpost that has been a long time coming: one about how great it is when people you are a fan of are fans of other people you are a fan of. Kind of like Lin-Manuel Miranda recording a West Wing fanvideo.