I’m going to start a little more seriously this month before moving on to my regular list of recommendations. I want to use this small space to acknowledge the difficulties being faced by the entire UK stage industry as official pandemic restrictions end and further governmental support seems unlikely. The people that make performance across this country are extremely determined and – as they’re probably tired of hearing – very resilient. But their hard work and ability to put on a show in almost any circumstance can make it look as though there’s nothing wrong. Don’t let their talent and professionalism fool you; every piece of work mentioned below has been made despite an untenable lack of support, money and security. If you can support the industry in any way over the coming years, I’d strongly urge you to do so.
Serious section over. Here are some recommendations for February!
The annual MANIPULATE Festival from Puppet Animation Scotland started on 28 January, and is running in different Edinburgh venues as well as online until 5 February. It’s always an interesting programme, celebrating innovative puppetry, visual theatre and animated film annually. One highlight this year is Animated Womxn on Saturday 5 February, an online showcase of shorts made by international women and non-binary animators. It’s £8/6 and can be found here along with the rest of the festival programme.
From 11–15 February at Ipswich’s New Wolsey Theatre is When the Long Trick’s Over, a new show from HighTide. Also touring around the east of England, this two-hander play about joy, loss and distance between a mother and daughter has been created and produced by an all-female team, written by Emilia’s Morgan Lloyd Malcolm and with Chinonyerem Odimba directing.
If you’re looking for comedy that isn’t another cis straight white man then you really can’t do better than The LOL Word. On 7 February and 14 March at Soho Theatre, “your fave queer women, trans and non-binary comedy collective is bringing you another epically gay stand up show”. The collective includes Chloe Petts, Shelf, Chloe Green and Jodie Mitchell, so laughter is guaranteed.
My comedy audio recommendation for this month is the new series of podcast Wheel of Misfortune. Hosted by standups Alison Spittle and Fern Brady (though Brady is stepping down), the show started in 2020 and is an absolute delight. They talk through their most embarrassing moments on a weekly topic as well as playing voice note submissions from members of the public. If you’ve not heard it yet, I’d urge you to give it a listen and embarrass yourself on the bus by laughing out loud. Brady is currently on a tour of the whole of the UK with her show Autistic Bikini Queen, and Spittle has a few dates coming up as well. Both are fantastic live comics.
For comedy streaming in February, I’d suggest Live from Aberystwyth Pier, now up on BBC iPlayer. These are four recordings of standup showcases hosted by Kiri Pritchard-McLean at last October’s Aberystwyth Comedy Festival, which had a stellar line-up including a few fantastic newer acts you might not have seen before.
Also worth looking at online – this month or any month – is Soho Theatre’s on-demand site. Currently on offer are shows from the likes of Jessie Cave, Mae Martin, Panti Bliss, Josie Long and Shaparak Khorsandi. You can rent each one for a small amount (usually less than a tenner) from a selection of their old shows. A lovely opportunity to see things you might have missed, especially if you’re not London-based.
That’s it for February, though as always there’s a lot more going on. Keep an eye out, and I’m always open to suggestions if you have something you think should be shared here. Until next month, then.
Image: the photo is from Short & Sweet at MANIPULATE Festival and is by Darren Evans. It shows stylised repeated images of people in a black dress, spotlit on a completely black background. They are wearing a lot of black eyeshadow and looking in different directions. There is also a repeated white feather motif collaged onto the image.
The image in the text is from When the Long Trick’s Over. It shows the head and shoulders of a woman in a blue swimming costume, with goggles on her forehead. The sun is low in the sky behind her and the face of another woman is reflected in the goggle lenses.