Shakespeare in Shoreditch Festival ~ Pelican Daughters/This Is Art

The festival runs until Saturday 30th April 2016.

Shakespeare in Shoreditch Festival has given four writers the chance to write a play which is inspired by Shakespeare . There are four in the festival and you can see two at any one time. I reviewed Pelican Daughters and This Is Art, while the other two that unfortunately I won’t have chance to see are The H-Word and Grey Man.

Pelican Daughters is written by Amy Rosenthal, directed by Kay Michael and it features King Lear as a base. Gaby (Katherine Dow Blyton), Rose (Jenna Augen) and Chloe (Gabriella Margulies) are sisters, their father (Linal Haft) is on the cusp of celebrating a big birthday and Gaby has taken it upon herself, as the eldest, to lead the celebrations with a presentation. Nervous about speaking in public and pleasing her father, she is flanked by her wine-swilling, prematurely widowed and rather more flamboyant sister, Rose. Their sister Chloe is only mentioned in passing to begin with, to set the scene of jealousy as the youngest and as yet unseen sister, is their father Leo’s favourite. The story takes interesting turns with inhibited and unleashed passion very much an undercurrent. Each character is strong and necessary, from Gaby’s mild-mannered husband, Andrew (Jacob Krichefski) to old school friend, Eddie (Michael Adams) who is every inch the alpha-male. Linal Haft’s transparently bullish and canny portrayal of Leo tells a tale in itself and Gabriella Margulies succeeded in transferring my sympathy to her character, Chloe, even if it was short-lived.

I loved the innovative transient set, which meant that we as the audience moved location with the actors. Every individual set staged the scene with good continuity and the ‘interaction’ with the actors involved us in the piece which meant that the script worked on several levels. A dream of a play which I feel could work well if lengthened. It left me with questions and a thirst for more of what we’d just been allowed a window into. Beautifully directed, cleverly written and perfectly cast.

This Is Art took its lead from Othello and this piece was as terrifying and exhilarating as a rollercoaster ride. Written by Charlene James, directed by Hannah Banister, this is set in an art gallery called Desdemona’s. Jo (Oya Taniya Doldur) and Elle (Comfort Fabian) are old friends who used to graffiti with their pink trademark. Jo (who struggles in a Council House that she is under threat of eviction from once her ailing mother passes), is right-hand ‘man’ to Elle, for Elle owns Desdemona’s and is not so short of a bob or two. There is already a dangerous level of envy from Jo, but this is intensified when Elle commissions Cassie (Francesca Bailey) to exhibit at the gallery. Jo had been waiting for her big chance to ‘shine’ as an artist and feels that Elle had promised her this chance. The green eyed monster sets in motion a chain of events which take a terminal course downwards to devastation.

The set is static this time, but the action includes some live ‘art’ which includes similar audience interaction to Pelican Daughters. We are made to feel a part of the story, and it’s a dark story which at times was intense to the point of claustrophobic and that enhanced the story. All three actresses embodied their roles and portrayed emotions without speech, frequently. I felt every nuance of the powerful piece and it worked as a short play because of the profound fierceness contained within the words and movement. Kudos to the director for striking a remarkable balance and Charlene James is a writer to watch out for.

Book tickets for Shakespeare in Shoreditch Festival here:





Press Release: March 2016 Shakespeare in Shoreditch Festival 2016 20th – 30th April

A world-record 1,000 plays will be performed in 10 days across East London on a ‘medieval pageant wagon’ to herald the launch of The Shakespeare in Shoreditch Festival 2016. Celebrating The Bard’s historic connection to the neighbourhood on the 400th anniversary of his death, the festival itself brings together four of the UK’s most engaging playwrights with four of London’s most exciting directors – alongside a programme of workshops, film screenings, and talks.

Following 2014’s sell-out success of the inaugural festival, Shakespeare in Shoreditch this week announced the full programme line-up for the second edition from April 20th-30th.  Kick-starting the programme, a newly formed company of Rude Mechanicals have scheduled a world recordbreaking tour of Hackney on a ‘medieval pageant wagon’ from April 8th to 18th – performing in ten days the very 1,000 plays written by playwright Annie Jenkins across the ten days of the inaugural festival. The Rude Mechanicals will slog down the River Lea and up the Kingsland Road, stopping off to perform around a hundred plays each day at some of Hackney’s most beloved cultural institutions – all the while recruiting new fans and audiences for the festival. Launching on April 20th, the festival itself is centred around the theme of Storms – and is headlined by four radical reinterpretations of Shakespeare’s plays by four of the UK’s most engaging playwrights (Lulu Raczka, David Watson, Amy Rosenthal, Charlene James) and helmed by four of London’s most exciting directors (Robyn Winfield-Smith, Roy Alexander Wise, Abigail Graham, Hannah Bannister).   Written and developed in Shoreditch, the newly-commissioned works all aim to build a connection between new, younger audiences and the world & works of Shakespeare – recruiting life-long fans and followers along the way.

Meanwhile, at the Festival Hub – at BL-NK, on Curtain Road – a ten-day programme of workshops, film screenings, and talks invites audiences to take shelter from the storm and share their own stories on A Hackney Story Map.
Shakespeare in Shoreditch 2016 Dates      April 20th-30th   (The Rude Mechanicals from 8th-18th April) Venues          Across Shoreditch with the festival hub at BL-NK on Curtain Road Tickets      £15.50 Website /
Listings Information  The Rude Mechanicals
A band of patches and vagabonds, the Rude Mechanicals will tour Hackney on a medieval pageant wagon from 8th – 18th April performing a world-record breaking 1000 plays in ten days. Slogging down the River Lea and up the Kingsland Road, The Rude Mechanicals will stop off to perform around a hundred plays each day at some of Hackney’s most beloved cultural institutions – all the while recruiting new fans and audiences for the festival.  Written by Annie Jenkins.
The Rude Mechanicals is only possible thanks to the generous support of the Hackney Community Fund.
Dates / Times  April 8th-18th 10.00 – 18.00
Ticket Free admission
Media Opportunities Interviews available Photo / Film opportunities
The H-Word
On the trendiest side of London’s most happening street – The HWord. A place for everyone. A place where people can be themselves. A café for the future, but haunted by the past, in a play about spirits, belonging and gentrification.
Written by David Watson Directed by Roy Alexander Weise
Grey Man  Maya knows a lot of good scary stories. Loads. Too many really. She hates them. But why then, is she telling them to us? Two sisters grow up on either side of a bedroom wall, one tells the stories, and the other hears them.
Written by Lulu Raczka Directed by Robyn Winfield – Smith
Dates / Times  April 20th-30th 19:00
Ticket £15.50
Media Opportunities Interviews available Press tickets available
Pelican Daughters
A reversal of King Lear set in the shifting landscape of East London, Pelican Daughters is about sibling rivalry, filial bonds and the inescapability of our roots.
Written by Amy Rosenthal Directed by Abigail Graham
This is Art
Set at the Desdemona Gallery in an ever-changing Hoxton, This is Art explores jealousy, betrayal and how we make a mark to express who we really are.
Written by Charlene James Directed by Hannah Banister
Dates / Times  April 20th-30th 19:00
Ticket £15.50
Media Opportunities Interviews available Press tickets available
BL-NK on Curtain Road will be home to talks, workshops, music and conversation throughout the 10 days. A daily workshop programme exploring filmmaking, animation, playwriting and directing will take place in the afternoons and post-show discussions with the festival’s writers and directors will follow the evening’s plays. On 25th and 27th April, Robert Stagg will be curating two discussions: Shakespeare and the Storm, and Shakespeare’s Shoreditch.
For up to date information visit:
Dates / Times  April 20th-30th 21:00
Ticket Free admission
Media Opportunities Interviews available
Contacts  For further information / Use of pictures / Interviews: Press Office  07776 374490 Press email:      Producer:   
Editor’s Notes
Shakespeare in Shoreditch Festival:
Shakespeare in Shoreditch was launched to celebrate Shakespeare’s historic connection to Shoreditch. Dedicated to inspiring creativity through the lens of Shakespeare’s works, the  programme is built around a focus upon radical reinvention; playful experimentation and new perspectives.
Conceived and produced by Francesca Duncan, Joshua Nawras and Felix Mortimer, Shakespeare in Shoreditch was developed from RIFT’s work on Hoxton Street with O Brave New World (2012) and The Trial (2013). The Festival was launched in April 2014 with the commissioning of 10 new plays and the inaugural Festival followed in October 2014. Shakespeare in Shoreditch now operates its own programme of activities and became a charity in 2015.
The 2016 festival is delivered in collaboration with RIFT and supported by New Diorama, BL-NK, Hackney Council and The Creative Exchange.
The Shakespeare in Shoreditch Festival 2016 is sponsored by Principal Tower. The Rude Mechanicals is only possible thanks to the generous support of the Hackney Community Fund.
The Rude Mechanicals: World Record 1000 Plays in 10 Days
From 8th – 18th April a troupe of players, The Rude Mechanicals, will travel around Hackney on a makeshift pageant wagon performing 1000 mini plays in 10 days. The Rude Mechanicals will encourage members of the public to help them with their challenge to perform all of Annie’s 1000 plays in just 10 days – that is 100 plays per day!
Annie’s 1000 Plays were written during the Shakespeare in Shoreditch Festival 2014 by playwright Annie Jenkins who was tasked to write 1000 new plays in 10 days. She was helped to reach her target by members of the public who donated over 300 plays to her cause. Annie’s plays are short candid snapshots of real London. Formally experimental her plays veer from autobiographical to surreal and back again.
The Rude Mechanicals is only possible thanks to the generous support of the Hackney Community Fund.

The Plays
Grey Man Written by Lulu Raczka : Directed by Robyn Winfield – Smith Maya knows a lot of good scary stories. Loads. Too many really. She hates them. But why then, is she telling them all to us? Two sisters grow up on either side of a bedroom wall, one tells the stories, and the other hears them.  The H-Word Written by David Watson : Directed by Roy Alexander Weise On the trendiest side of London’s most happening street – The H-Word. A place for  everyone. A place where people can be themselves. A café for the future, but haunted by the past, in a play about spirits, belonging and gentrification.  Pelican Daughters  Written by Amy Rosenthal : Directed by Abigail Graham A reversal of King Lear set in the shifting landscape of East London, Pelican Daughters is about sibling rivalry, filial bonds and the inescapability of our roots.  This is Art  Written by Charlene James : Directed by Hannah Banister Set at the Desdemona Gallery in an ever changing Hoxton, This is Art explores jealousy, betrayal and how we make a mark to express who we really are.
The Writers
Lulu Raczka is an award-winning young playwright. She is a Company Director of Barrel Organ Theatre, who she worked with on her play NOTHING, which has toured the UK. Lulu has also had her work performed at the Sheffield Crucible, and the Soho Theatre. She is currently working on a play for the Gate Theatre and Some People Talk about Violence with Barrel Organ.  David Watson’s other plays include Housed (Old Vic Community Company), The Serpent’s Tooth (Almeida), You cannot go forward from where you are now (Paines Plough/Oran Mor), Pieces of Vincent (Arcola/Paines Plough), Flight Path (Bush/Out of Joint) and Just a Bloke (Royal Court Young Writers Festival.) He is under commission to Birmingham Rep, Cardboard Citizens and the Royal Court. His TV work includes the BAFTA award-winning L8R (BBC Education /Actorshop.)  Amy Rosenthal has been writing for stage and radio since 1998. Her theatre work  includes Polar Bears (West Yorkshire Playhouse); The Tailor-Made Man – A New Musical (Arts Theatre West End); On The Rocks (Hampstead Theatre); Sitting Pretty (Watford Palace Theatre, UK Tour, Hypothetical Theatre New York); Jerusalem Syndrome (Manchester Royal Exchange Studio, Soho Theatre);Henna Night (Chelsea Theatre). Amy wrote the libretto for chamber opera Entanglement, touring summer 2015, and is currently working on two musicals and a new play.  Charlene James is a playwright and an actor. In 2008, she participated in the Royal Court’s Young Writers Programme and in 2012 was selected to be one of the 503 Five at Theatre 503. In 2013 Charlene became a writer in residence at the Birmingham Rep for their season focusing on mental health. Charlene was awarded the Alfred Fagon Award, for best new play at the National
Theatre for Cuttin’ It, a play focusing on Female Genital Mutilation which also won the George Devine Award 2015.
The Directors
Roy Alexander Weise After training at Rose Bruford College on the BA Hons Directing course, Roy joined the Young Vic Genesis Directors’ programme and became Associate Director for The Red Room. He was Trainee Director on Topher Campbell’s Channel 4 short film INVISIBLE. Roy was First Runner Up for the JMK Award for directors of great promise in 2014 and received a BBC Theatre Fellowship bursary at the Bush Theatre and Lyric Hammersmith in the same year. He is currently Trainee Director at the Royal Court Theatre where he has assisted on Hangmen, Primetime 2015, Violence and Son, Who Cares and Liberian Girl.  Abigail Graham Abigail is a freelance theatre director and Artistic Director of OpenWorks Theatre. She has just written and directed her first short film, Timetable, (Anderson Shelter Productions). Recent directing work includes: And Now:The World! (UK tour), Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made (Assembly Rooms Edinburgh), DEBRIS (Southwark Playhouse), Molly Sweeney (Print Room, Lyric Theatre Belfast, Northern Irish Tour), Agent 160,Four Short Plays (UK tour), The Censor  (JMK Award Runner Up, Young Vic), Blue Heaven – Three Short Plays by Tennessee Williams (Finborough), Jack’s Quest (Company of Angels, Young Angels Award Winner), The Boy and the Dog who Walked to the Moon (Pleasance, Edinburgh). Work as an assistant/associate director includes: ENRON (Chichester/Royal Court), Great Expectations (Bristol Old Vic), Glass Menagerie  (Young Vic), Ruined (Almeida), Death and The Maiden (West End).   Hannah Banister Hannah was a finalist for the JMK young director’s award 2014 and trained at Central School of Speech and Drama (BA Hons Acting).Theatre credits as Director include I Killed Rasputin (George Square Theatre, Edinburgh) Gardening: For The Unfulfilled and Alienated (fringe first award winner and Sell out run at the Edinburgh and Latitude Festivals 2013), Crimble(Old Red Lion), Trapp (24 Hour Plays/The Old Vic), Best Men (Little Pieces of Gold Festival/Southwark Playhouse). As associate director: The Absence of War for Headlong, Tiger Country at Hampstead Theatre, Another Country at Trafalgar studios; As Assistant Director The Angry Brigade (Paines Plough),The Tempest (Shakespeare’s Globe), Longing(Hampstead Theatre), Step in Time (24 Hour Celebrity Musicals Gala/The Old Vic), Jumpy (Duke of York’s Theatre and Royal Court Theatre).  Robyn Winfield-Smith Robyn is an Associate Director at Omnibus, having directed the Off West End Award-nominated UK premiere of Lot and his God by Howard Barker at the Print Room (November 2012) – where she also directed Nicholas Le Prevost in a staged reading of The Twelfth Battle of Isonzo and assisted Lucy Bailey on her acclaimed revival of Tennessee Williams’ Kingdom of Earth. Robyn also assisted on the Donmar Warehouse’s world premiere of Conor McPherson’s adaptation of Strindberg’s The Dance of Death, as part of the Donmar’s residency at the Trafalgar Studios.

Writer in Residence
Annie Jenkins  Where tiny plays are concerned, she is a record-breaking playwright. In 2014, as part of the Shakespeare in Shoreditch Festival she was tasked with accumulating 1000 micro-plays over it’s 10 day duration; she succeeded, writing over 700 and gathering 300 donations. Volume One was published in April 2015 and they are also available to read at She has written and is currently co-producing Funemployed, a short film about an unemployed graduate with an obsessive crush on David Cameron. Her first full-length play, In Lipstick, was part of the Arcola’s new-writing festival PlayWROUGHT#4 in February. She is from Tottenham, North London.

Spotlight On… Amy Rosenthal

*** Shakespeare in Shoreditch Festival 2016 runs from 20th – 30th April ~ follow this link for information and to buy tickets ***

Amy Rosenthal is a highly acclaimed playwright and also know for having followed in the footsteps of her father, the late playwright, Jack Rosenthal. Amy is one of the playwrights for Shakespeare in Shoreditch Festival, and I caught up with her to ask her about this latest piece and what else the future holds for this talented lady.

Hi Amy, thanks for talking to Break A Leg Review, first of all tell us about Shakespeare in Shoreditch, what can the audience expect from your piece ‘Pelican Daughters’ and where did the inspiration come from?

A pleasure to talk to you! Shakespeare in Shoreditch is a festival of theatre celebrating Shakespeare’s connection with this part of London. I’m one of four playwrights commissioned to write one-act plays for the festival – my fellow-writers are Lulu Raczka, David Watson and Charlene James.

We were asked to write a play inspired by Shakespeare, Shoreditch, the theme of storms, and I’m very obedient so I made sure to jam in all three. I used King Lear as a springboard, partly because it features a memorable storm, but also because I was interested in turning the relationships on their heads. Lear makes it obvious from the start that he prefers his youngest daughter Cordelia to the other two, and it struck me that the “wicked sisters” Goneril and Regan have probably had to put up with that all their lives. As an eldest child myself, I wanted to look at the nature of being the firstborn, and how in some cases we never stop striving to reclaim the full attention of the parent.

So: Pelican Daughters is set at the 80th birthday party of Leo Shine, one-time king of his East London stamping ground. It focuses on his eldest daughter Gaby, who wants to be her father’s favourite, if only for a day. It’s about family dynamics, a shifting city and a gathering storm, and I hope it’s funny.

How do you feel when you watch your work interpreted and performed? Are you adept at stepping back and allowing other creatives to ‘take over’?

Writing can be isolated and a bit self-punishing, so it’s fun to reach the collaborative part of the process. Watching and listening to a good director and good actors interpret a text is the reward for wrenching the work into being. I’m not a natural at letting go, but I’ve got better at it. I’m a worrier, and even if I bite back my concerns in the rehearsal room, my pinched little face gives me away.


You’re an acclaimed playwright, with many credits under your belt, was there a piece of writing that you felt was a turning point in your career?

My first full-length play Sitting Pretty was written for my MA in Playwriting at Birmingham University in 1998, and kick-started my career. It’s in some ways very conventional, but probably braver than anything I’ve written since; I didn’t care so much about being judged at twenty-five. But the real turning point was a play called On The Rocks, first produced at Hampstead Theatre in 2008. It’s about D.H.Lawrence and his attempt to convince Katherine Mansfield and her husband to live with him and his wife in Cornwall. I’d struggled with writer’s block for some time (as did Mansfield) and this play was a breakthrough. Lawrence loved the symbol of the phoenix rising from the ashes and I felt like one myself. I’ve since learned that you have to rise from the ashes more than once.

Is there a piece you look back on and that you would re-write if you could? If so, what’s the reason for your choice?

Early on I wrote a two-hander called Henna Night that gets performed a lot. I’m grateful for its longevity, and some of the productions have been lovely, but the play itself makes me wince. It’s very raw and confessional, and I didn’t cover my tracks enough. If it’s played with a light touch, it can just about get away with it, but weighty, sentimental readings expose all the flaws in the script.

Do you have particular performers in mind when you write scripts? Can you imagine specific people in the roles?

I don’t often think about casting whilst writing, but I do like writing for actors when I get the chance. I work regularly with the Oxford School of Drama on their graduate showcase – it’s exciting to tailor a play to bring out the qualities of talented young actors and makes the process feel less introspective. I’m working on one play with a specific actor attached, and I’ve workshopped a musical with actor-improvisers, who are so inspiring that it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the roles they create.

We know that you also write musicals, do you have a preference over genre? Do you find certain genres easier to write than others?

I don’t find anything easy to write! I grew up on musical theatre and I love it, and would challenge anyone who sees it as a poor relation to “serious drama”. I’m relatively new to the genre and again, the collaborative aspect is great. Writing the book for a musical feels less ego-driven than writing a play, because I think a good book-writer serves the composer/lyricist, and most of the big moments are songs. I like both working in both genres, but if pushed to choose, my ego would probably win.

I expect you are asked this next question a lot, but did your father influence your career choice and does his work influence yours in any way?

Watching both parents at work had a huge influence. I spent lots of time in rehearsal rooms and dressing rooms, and took it for granted that the theatre was home. I’ve been influenced by their work ethic and inherited from both of them the desire to make people laugh. Initially I wanted to act, and studied Drama at university, but realised after about nine minutes that I’m a terrible actress. It was a nice surprise to discover I didn’t care; that I had more of a facility for writing, and that the playwright plays all the parts, and never has to stand on stage unless it’s a post-show Q&A.

My dad’s view of humanity influenced me, it sings out of everything he wrote and although our voices are different, we shared a sensibility. He was a wry optimist. He wasn’t naïve, he was socially engaged and his plays were (in my view) political, in the best sense of the word – never overt or didactic, always striving to see both sides. But his world-view was ultimately hopeful.

Who were your influences when you were growing up and has a writing career always been your goal?

Katherine Mansfield, Chekhov, Sondheim, J.M.Barrie, J.B.Priestley, Arthur Miller, Leonard Bernstein, ABBA. That’s also my fantasy dinner party; I’d put Katherine Mansfield in between Benny and Bjorn.

Finally, are there any future projects you can tell us about, yet?

My new play Fear of Cherry Blossom opens at the Cheltenham Everyman Theatre in May – it’s a contemporary story about two Jewish sisters, one of whom has become a committed Buddhist. I’m working on a musical with composer Karl Lewkowicz about Queen Victoria’s last great love and developing another musical with Adam Meggido and Duncan Walsh Atkins of The Showstoppers. And I’m adapting two of my dad’s TV plays (Eskimo Day and Cold Enough For Snow) for BBC Radio 4.

Huge, huge thanks to Amy, interviewing her has been a real pleasure and I can’t wait to see Pelican Daughters!




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