Through Bush, Through Briar
El Greco of Hornsey
Through Bush, Through Briar (Fringe Player on demand)
Achy Bits Productions’ reimagining of A Midsummer Night’s Dream sees a villainous councilman planning to tear down a fairy forest to build a theatre. Local activists, along with the councilman’s daughter, are lured in by a mysterious letter to save the day. Shakespeare’s original verse is mixed with more modern dialogue, referencing Instagram and Theseus conducting his business on mobile phones, which on the whole works well.
The blue-haired Puck cuts a queer figure in the forest setting, which really lends itself to the numerous music and dance segments. Using Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On and an acoustic Take On Me cover was unusual to say the least! I particularly enjoyed the play-within-a-play, performed by construction workers in hi-vis vests; it was gloriously over-acted and hammy.
Through Bush, Through Briar is a unique take on Shakespeare that provides al fresco escapism from the comfort of your sofa.
El Greco Of Hornsey (Greenside on demand)
Olga Thompson explores her 80s childhood working in her mother’s North London hair salon, through the experience of being a Cypriot immigrant. Donning wigs and outfits, Olga becomes the family and clients that visit El Greco, many of whom come in looking like Demis Roussos and hope to come out like Pepsi and Shirlie. All the teenage angst of looking for boyfriends, poor body image and worrying about getting pregnant from toilet seats may be a cringeworthy reminder of our own pasts but it’s sharply observed. The retro theme is bound to trigger fonder memories though, from the posters of George Michael and Princess Diana on the walls, to the clouds of Elnett hairspray and aspiring to the Saturday girl’s fiancé-snagging perm.
El Greco is not just a salon; it’s a marketplace, restaurant, doctor’s surgery, therapist and church rolled into one. The show is an honest, funny look at how one family escaped conflict and built a life for themselves in a rough and ready, chilly hairdresser, aspiring to one relative’s glamorous life of Crispy Pancakes, trips to Aberdeen Angus Steakhouse, and becoming Alexis from Dynasty. In keeping with the 80s theme there’s even a musical interlude with some creative hairdryer use, which I loved.
Thompson has created a love letter to her family, its past and present, and I highly recommend booking your appointment at El Greco as soon as possible.