Orange tree theatre

Why do theatres think audiences want Covid-related drama?

Hats off to the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond. They’ve discovered a new form of racism. Some people say we have enough ethnic division already but in south-west London they’re gagging for more apparently. A new play, Prodigal, examines the prejudice endured by a Ugandan chap whose mother moved to London when he was a child and whose younger siblings are British. Family tensions depressed him. ‘You all made me feel ugly,’ he moans. The shifty whinger has returned home after his mother’s death in order to cheat his family out of an insurance pay-off. It’s remarkable to see a drama that reinforces a damaging stereotype but the author, Kalungi

Theatre’s final taboo: fun

How will the theatre look after lockdown? A clue emerges in a statement made by Guy Jones, the literary associate of the Orange Tree in Richmond. ‘The victims of this year are many. Homelessness is on the rise, loneliness is deadly, the monster of racism lurks in every-day interactions… and many of the inequalities we live with are written into the systems in which we are asked to participate.’ ‘The victims’. That’s his starting point. It might seem odd that a theatre should prioritise the injured and the aggrieved, as if the stage were a tribunal or a public court where justice is dispensed. But that’s how theatres see themselves.

If you want a play that brings girls into science, commission a man: Jina and the STEM Sisters reviewed

Jina and the STEM Sisters is a blatant act of propaganda. And its intentions are excellent. This is a musical puppet show that sets out to encourage girls of eight and older to take up careers in science where women remain under-represented. The heroine, Jina, is a schoolgirl who embarks on a hike through a dark forest haunted by ghosts and demons. It’s not clear to the viewer why she’s there or where she’s going. And she hasn’t a clue either. Perhaps the forest represents the world of intellectual repression she inhabits. ‘I ask a lot of questions,’ Jina tells us. ‘They say, “too many questions”.’ That’s an odd start.