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Press

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Reviews for ANNA BELLA EEMA (2019, Arcola Theatre London)

'Get in, losers, we're going capital-W Weird.'

(Ava Wong Davies, Exeunt)

 

Off West End Award nominations 2019/20: Best Ensemble, Best Sound Design (Tom Foskett-Barnes), Best Set Design (Anna Lewis)

 

 

Stagedoor (Lyn Gardner) ‘The spoken simply melts into song, a woman turns into a wolf, a child is made out of mud, the real and the fantastical sit side by side in a weirdly enticing slice of Southern Gothic. ...Jessica Lazar’s production brings real inventiveness to something that might be overly static, and the performances are mightily appealing.’

Exeunt (Ava Wong Davies) 'Anna Bella Eema is a startling, unwieldy beast, quivering with barely bridled chaotic energy. Watching it can feel a little like trying to walk a bear on a leash. ...Jessica Lazar's production has an uncanny, almost alarming clarity to it. There is a propulsive purpose to her direction...Lazar’s sliced open the play, pored over its insides, then stitched it back up. Certain swathes of it may go over your head, but there’s the impression that you’re being steered by a confident captain. ...Jennifer Fletcher’s movement has the three women writhing and twisting in their chairs, straining at unseen (partially imagined?) restrictions. The stories Irene tells are a necessary comfort, but they’re a self-inflicted prison too. Anna Lewis’s ramshackle design sits on top of a brown oil-spill. It’s got a treacly sheen to it. Stuck, stuck, stuck. Fletcher’s movement matches D’Amour’s sinewy writing beat for beat – exacting and eerie, rarely static, never boring.'

British Theatre Guide (Howard Loxton) ‘Jessica Lazar’s direction creates a magical atmosphere with sound and additional music by Tom Foskett-Barnes...and three splendid performances.'

★★★★★ Theatre-News (Chloe Billington) ‘The Arcola Theatre has a reputation for producing bold new productions with exceptional young creative teams. Anna Bella Eema certainly fulfils expectations... [This] production maintains absolute precision from start to finish with haunting close harmony singing, sharp changes in mood and a final emotional punch.’

★★★★★ At The Theatre (Poppy Jay) ‘extremely impressive to watch...I belly laughed, had a tear in my eye and came out feeling empowered and moved by the show and those who have created such a masterpiece. I implore everyone to go and watch this beautiful and exciting new piece of theatre.’

 

★★★★ Theatre Weekly (Greg Stewart) ‘a strong cast and innovative direction creates a magical and captivating fairy tale that feels like a solitary beacon on the trailer park of London theatre. ...Yes tricky to follow, but it’s also like falling down an Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole that you don’t want to climb out of.'

★★★★ A Younger Theatre (Grace Patrick) ‘With the rusted American South slowly decaying in the background, a girl and a mother retreat deeper into their own delusions or imaginations. ...The decision to create sound around noises made by set pieces and props is brilliant. It’s a constant reminder that this world is being built by the people in it, and that it’s whatever they want it to be. Anna Bella Eema doesn’t always feel entirely smooth. It does, however, feel like a heartfelt and compassionate response to a rapidly changing world. It’s tender without being patronising, and that’s worth so much more.’

★★★ The Guardian (Michael Billington) ‘Lisa D’Amour’s play is as weird as its title suggests. First seen in Texas in 2001, it is a mixture of ghost story, prose poem and paean to nature. Even if I found much of it impenetrable, I was impressed by Jessica Lazar’s production and the discipline of its performers.'

(Further reviews will be added soon.)

 

Reviews for OUTLYING ISLANDS (2019, King's Head Theatre London)

'Visually stunning and ethically challenging, and grapples with some immense questions.

In my opinion, it’s hard to want much more.’ (A Younger Theatre)

 

Off West End Award nominations 2019/20: Best Production, Best Female in a Play (Rose Wardlaw)

 

 

 

★★★★ Everything Theatre ‘As near perfect as a play can get…Jessica Lazar’s taut direction, complemented by Jennifer Fletcher’s nimble movement direction and Christopher Preece’s evocative sound design, combine to create a compelling, witty, and at times devastating drama.’

★★★★★ Theatre Weekly ‘A truly captivating production, authentically staged and beautifully performed.’

★★★★★ A Younger Theatre ‘visually stunning and ethically challenging, and grapples with some immense questions. In my opinion, it’s hard to want much more.’

 

★★★★★ North West End ‘With twinges of Lord of the Flies and a dash of D.H. Lawrence this is a potent, intoxicating play that takes hold of the audience, clutches you tight, wrings you out and makes you stand back in awe… an incredibly atmospheric and intimate production.’

★★★★ The Reviews Hub ‘This is a long overdue revival, given a production that never loosens its grip…Director Jessica Lazar’s engrossing, strongly atmospheric production manages the play’s rapidly shifting moods seemingly effortlessly.’

★★★★ The Spy in the Stalls ‘an exceptional piece of dramatic writing, and Atticist’s intense and intelligent revival serves it well…Jessica Lazar’s accomplished direction brings out the very best in her four-strong cast’.

★★★★ BritishTheatre.com ‘A few years after writing Outlying Islands, Greig wrote that he wanted to create theatre that “tore at the fabric of reality and opened up the possibilities of the imagination”. This new production, intelligently directed by Jessica Lazar, captures that drive to push at the boundaries of reality to explore themes around our place as individuals in relation to society and nature. Still fresh and vivid, this is a long overdue revival.’

(Further reviews will be added soon.)

 

Reviews for EAST (2018, King's Head Theatre London)

'This is like crossing Auden and Isherwood with Edward Bond, an Eastenders staged by Frantic Assembly.

No it’s not. It’s Berkoff with a fine cast and an understanding director and you should see it.' (British Theatre Guide)

 

 

Off West End Award nominations 2018/19: Best Ensemble, Best Director (Jessica Lazar), Best Movement Director (Yvan Karlsson), Best Lighting Designer (David Doyle), Best Female in a Play (Boadicea Ricketts)

 

★★★★★ Broadway World 'Raw, sleazy, provocative, delicious, and gritty...I felt repulsed, humoured, excited, but more importantly, overjoyed that such a crazy and unpredictable machine is allowed to be on stage.'

★★★★★ Everything Theatre 'A tour de force of in-yer-face theatre. Outstanding performances in an outstanding play.'

★★★★★ I Thank You Theatre 'Everyone is excellent.'

★★★★★ London Pub Theatres 'This excellent revival captures East’s articulate anarchy...Not to be missed.'

★★★★★ The Londonist 'Eastenders meets Clockwork Orange...a fetid, ash-tray-gobbed fireworks display of a play.'

★★★★★ Stage Review 'This funny, furious, thrilling, evocative piece is still intensely powerful.'

★★★★★ Stage Talk 'Hilarious, tragic, revolting, freeing; East has it all. A fantastic production.'

★★★★★ Theatre Bubble 'This is a must-see production of a very good play by actors from whom we will hear a great deal more.'

★★★★ The Stage 'Berkoff's play remains a remarkable work...Jessica Lazar's inventive production is no less remarkable. Her five-strong cast wriggle and writhe, spit and snarl their way across the intimate, sparse space like grotesque marionettes, all to a cheery Cockney piano accompaniment.'

★★★★ British Theatre 'Tightly directed by Jessica Lazar with movement director Yvan Karlsson, this is an electrifying journey'.

★★★★ Fairy Powered Productions 'brutally funny and sharp, full of high-energy performances, and still packing a powerful punch'.

★★★★ Frost Magazine 'This revival shouldn’t work. ...With brains, heart and guts it still hits home.'

★★★★ Ham & High '[a] punchy revival...EAST has lost none of its power.'

★★★★ Jewish Chronicle 'you can sense the hand of director Jessica Lazar preventing the evening from being taken over by the gurning and grotesquerie that so often defines a Berkoff show. …[the] final flourish — a rush of sound that transports you through time — reinforces the impression that Berkoff’s xenophobic East Enders are not extinct. Mostly they just moved. Then they voted for Brexit.'

★★★★ Jewish Renaissance 'A riotous, unapologetically filthy delight.'

★★★★ London City Nights 'energetic and lively...a fantastic bit of theatre’

★★★★ London Theatre 1 'Some of what goes on is far from comfortable viewing but, goodness me, what a startling and yet beautiful reminder this is of the power of words – and the power of theatre.…Full of energy, this is an uncompromising and dynamic production.'

★★★★ Love London Love Culture 'enthralling to watch unfold, leaving the audience mesmerised and shocked in equal measure'.

★★★★ Plays To See 'the hard and grotesque textures of the back alleys and side streets can be felt and smelled in the performance'.

★★★★ Pocket Size Theatre 'a theatrical tour de force, a piece of theatre history and a wonderful engaging experience that only the best live theatre can deliver.'

★★★★ Reviews Gate 'EAST was, and still is, a terrific play and this production does it full justice.'

★★★★ The Spy in the Stalls 'a complete feast for all the senses'

★★★★ Theatre News 'The highly skilled cast handle the physical and verbal demands with full throttle dexterity and snappy direction' from Jessica Lazar.'

★★★★ The Upcoming 'the production sticks true to Berkoff’s vision, and it does so excellently'

★★★★ Upper Circle 'a physical and emotional carnival…energy bubbles to the surface, and the audience are dragged into this richly depicted and imagined world.'

★★★★ West End Wilma '[this] passionate production brings Berkoff’s portrait of the East End in the mid-century screaming into a contemporary relevance, working the tension between the funny, the offensively funny, and the just plain offensive.'

★★★½ Theatre Box  '[the] direction is energetic and vibrant, youthful and clever. The action is physical and slick, while also being layered and engaging. ...Hilarious, human, and often disturbing.'

unrated:

The Blog of Theatre Things 'The cast excel in physically and emotionally demanding roles, and the production maintains a constant drive and energy from the first moment to the last...It may not be everyone’s cup of tea; if you’re easily offended then you may want to steer clear. But for anyone who’s excited by bold, striking theatre that’s not afraid to go its own way, this is a must-see.'

British Theatre Guide 'This is like crossing Auden and Isherwood with Edward Bond, an Eastenders staged by Frantic Assembly. No it’s not. It’s Berkoff with a fine cast and an understanding director and you should see it.'

Camden New Journal 'EAST had its London debut at Islington’s King’s Head in 1975. It caused a sensation. Jessica Lazar’s production is likely to do the same. ...Repulsive, brutal, thuggish, EAST is also funny, lyrical, topical and very exhilarating. A must see.'

Exeunt Magazine 'Energetic and exuberant, this revival effectively reinvigorates the myth, making it a new yet familiar encounter.'

London Grip '[a] brilliant production'

Morning Star Online 'a staging which makes the very best of Berkoff’s work.'

My Theatre Mates 'It is hard to imagine a better fringe staging.'

Once A Week Theatre 'full of flashes of startling brilliance'

Ought To Be Clowns 'a ferociously charismatic whirlwind of stylised beauty and linguistic gymnastics that is an undoubted visceral thrill to watch and listen to.'

Savage Online 'insistently raw and always with an edge of threat...Atticist neatly extracts every subtlety from the script and no moment is wasted.'

Tribune Magazine 'This revival...shows the play has lost none of its rage and rollocking power.' 

The View From The Cheap Seat 'poetic, intelligent, brutal and funny'

A Younger Theatre 'raucous, energetic and enthralling...The direction is unbelievably tight. There are beautifully choreographed moments of physical theatre...and other moments that can best be described as impeccable chaos.'

Reviews for LIFE ACCORDING TO SAKI (2016/2017, London and New York)

'first-rate puppetry, masked theatre and slick ensemble choreography...alive with energy.' (The Telegraph)

2016, C venues Edinburgh Fringe

★★★★★ British Theatre Guide a 'show to savour'

★★★★★ Broadway Baby 'pitched perfectly...the cast are exceptional'

★★★★★ Box Dust 'a profound play that is beautifully executed to the highest professional standards.'

★★★★★ Ed Fringe Review 'darkly funny and unexpectedly uplifting'

★★★★★ Edinburgh49 'Simply, a triumph.'

★★★★★ Fringe Guru 'a show I didn't want to end - a true delight to watch.'

★★★★★ Plays To See 'Brilliant stuff.'

★★★★★ The Outlier 'an astonishing and diverse new play...expertly directed...animated and colourful.'

★★★★★ Sincerely Amy the 'script is a masterpiece...the whole physicality of the production is triumphant and excellently polished'

★★★★ All Edinburgh Theatre 'a wonderfully staged, hugely appealing production'

★★★★ Broadway World a 'well-disciplined ensemble' and a 'highly-entertaining production'

★★★★ The List 'a grand tour of the human condition...Deftly blending joyful surrealism with existential pause'

★★★★ Grumpy Gay Critic 'effortless charm by the gilded spoonful'

★★★★ SG Fringe 'an immersive theatrical experience, with darn good, inspiring performances'

★★★★ The Telegraph a 'subtle, thoughtful adaptation...first-rate puppetry, masked theatre and slick ensemble choreography...alive with energy.'

Included in The Week's 10 Shows Not To Miss and The List's Theatre Hitlist Week 3

 

2017, Fourth Street Theatre New York Theatre Workshop

★★★★1/2 aggregate reviews on Show Score ('a Rotten Tomatoes for theater') included:

'This production reassures the audience that this man’s work is not to be missed. Jessica Lazar’s direction reassured us that this show is not to be missed, either.' (Manhattan With A Twist)

'Consistently delightful to watch… Walking [an] elegant tightrope between escapism and ever-present darkness' (Exeunt Magazine)

'a breath of fresh British air that has infiltrated the East Village and charmed the pants off us all' (NY Theater Guide)

'Macabre and whimsical, dark and comic at the same time… a delicious evening of theater' (New York Theatre Wire)

'Those that love independent theater will be regretful indeed to miss out on this fine production' (Theatre Is Easy)

'The blithely protean ensemble offers many charming acts of instant metamorphosis' (New York Times)

'velvety charm and plenty of dry and sometimes Monty Python-esque humour...razor-sharp' (Blogcritics)

'The cast dart in and out of identities and worlds fluidly and with total conviction' (New Republic)

'a pleasurable evening of wit, story-telling, and truth' (Theater In The Now)

'a marvelous piece of work told marvelously' (Woman Around Town)

 

About the Carol Tambor Award 2016

The Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh Award was established in 2004 by The Carol Tambor Theatrical Foundation. It is awarded annually at Edinburgh Fringe, sponsoring one production to transfer to New York as well as offering runners up a smaller financial contribution towards their work. For Atticist (and many previous winners) it is also the start of a long-term friendship with the wonderful people behind the Foundation.

 

To read more about Carol Tambor, her Foundation, and the Award, visit www.bestofedinburgh.org.

We were so touched and overwhelmed even to be on the shortlist for this award. It’s always lovely when anyone likes your show. To get this kind of support for a really young company like ours is just incredible. (Jessica Lazar in The Scotsman, 26 August 2016, Brian Ferguson - Fringe tribute to writer Hector Hugh Munro set for New York)

Life According to Saki, a Play Set in World War 1, Wins Edinburgh Award (New York Times, 26 August 2016, Steven McElroy)

Life According to Saki Wins Top Edinburgh Prize at Edinburgh Fringe; New York is Next (Playbill, 26 August 2016, Olivia Clement)

The Edinburgh cast, 26 August 2016 (Photo: Florence Walker)