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Still got it suckers: Chicago @Phoenix_Ldn

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Corruption, greed and murder never seem to go out of style in Chicago. The Kander and Ebb musical returns to the West End’s Phoenix Theatre after a six year hiatus. It’s pretty much the same show that burst onto the scene in the late 1990s. Back even though it was a revival people saw it resonate with the trial of OJ Simpson. Twenty years on the President of the United States is purportedly a urophiliac. Hookers and porn stars paid off as fast as a the National Enquirer can catch and kill a story.  And you no longer have to be good or competent to rise to the top. Everything old seems new again. And this show is still a hell of a ride. With the sexy costumes and choreography “in the style of Bob Fosse”, the show oozes sex, rhythm and sensuality.  If you’re not familiar with the show other than the gelded movie with Richard Gere and Catherine Zeta-Jones you’re in for a treat. If you’ve seen it all before you can lie back and enjoy the performances by Sarah Soetaert and Josefina Gabriell…

Lovely spam: Cockamamy @TheHopeTheatre

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Alice is starting to get a bit absent minded. She left the can of spam in the sofa. And she forgot that her daughter is dead. But when do these little things start to become the onset of dementia rather than just being part of old age? Afterall, who hasn’t forgot they already had a few cans of spam in the cupboard when they go shopping? It’s all part of Cockamamy, which is currently running at The Hope Theatre.Part of the charm of this piece is that even as things become bleak, there is humour found in the everyday situations. And dementia can be funny while nobody is getting hurt. Alice (Mary Rutherford) says what she thinks. She has a pizza a 5am when she’s hungry. She tells her granddaughter she landed on her feet dating a doctor,  while pouring him a big glass of wine.  Her granddaughter Rosie (Louise Coulthard, who also wrote the piece) feels obliged to look after her. She gets a cleaner in to help and she gets an alarm hooked up. But as she wants to get on with her life she finds…

The other path: The Unbuilt City @kingsheadthtr

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Life love and legacy is at the heart of The Unbuilt City, Keith Bunin’s play having its European premiere at the King’s Head Theatre. And a lot of talk about sex with men over a bottle of bourbon. But all told it’s a delicate and contemplative two-hander marked by sensitive and warm performances.Set on a cold afternoon in February. Jonah (Jonathan Chambers) arrives at a townhouse in Brooklyn Heights. His mission is to persuade Claudia (Sandra Dickinson) to sell her secret art collection to a university archive. Particularly her documents relating to an architect and his unrealised plans for New York City.  But even if she can’t afford to heat her house and debts are mounting, she won’t part with her collection to anyone. She wants to know why Jonah is acting as a free agent. What are his passions, his regrets and his loves. Over the course of the piece each reveal a little about themselves and what things could have been. Bunin’s piece The Busy World Is Hushed was set against the backd…

Rinse and repeat: Obsession @Katzpace

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The quest for perfection is at the heart of Obsession. Writer performer Kate Marston’s gives us Ivy, a young woman with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. She switches on and off the lights. She uses an awful lot of hand sanitiser. She won’t do anything other than sit ups and jogging at the gym. And she will never, ever take the garbage out. It’s presented for a few nights this week at the Katzpace Theatre in Southwark.At first things seem to be quirks of her personality. But soon things start to spiral out of control. Ivy’s relationship with her boyfriend Sean (Chris Royle) starts to fall apart as she suspects he wants to leave her. This soon becomes a reality.  Alternatively funny and sensitive, the piece explores how mental health issues impact on the normal lives of a group of young people. It’s engaging throughout with its youthful line-up of characters. Rounding out the cast is Chris Udoh as the understanding physical trainer and Sophie Winter-King as the perfect woman to undermine e…

From owt to nowt: The Daughter-in-Law @arcolatheatre

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Family ties are strong and stifling in The Daughter-in-Law. It’s a snapshot of working class life against the backdrop of the 1912 miner’s strike. It’s expertly presented in the downstairs space of the Arcola Theatre. It feels as if you’re in the mining cottage as an accidental witness. The performances, drama and intimate space will have you transfixed throughout. DH Lawrence’s drama, written in 1913, is set in a Nottinghamshire mining town. It’s a world where money is crucial for survival. There are those who have it, those striking for better conditions and those who are bargaining for more of it.  The “daughter-in-law” in question is Minnie (Ellie Nunn). She is a  somewhat independent woman who by chance inherited £100. She’s married to Luther (Harry Hepple) after asking him. After less than a few months marriage, Luther seems to resent his wife’s economic independence to the point that he’s ambivalent to her existence. But it’s his relationship with another woman that sets in trai…

Duelling sopranos, love gone wrong: Der Schauspieldirektor and Bastien Und Bastienne @Popupoperauk

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The singing is always the key to Popup Opera’s touring operas in small or unusual spaces. Along with the chance to see some overlooked or minor pieces by famous composers. Again the company does not disappoint with its Mozart double bill: Der Schauspieldirektor and Bastien Und Bastienne.The first half of the piece, Der Schauspieldirektor, is essentially half an hour of music stretched out to a mildly amusing farce. Tradition has it that the dialogue around this piece is rewritten. Here the scenario is duelling auditions between two sopranos when a struggling opera company can only afford one. It’s an amusing premise that becomes a bit silly in its execution. But there’s still some serious music making. Particularly when older diva Sarah Helena Foubert and younger diva Hazel McBain spar in a thrilling duet. In the second half we have Bastien Und Bastienne. Both consult a relationship guru (updated from a soothsayer) when one suspects the other is having an affair. After a series of son…

Oughta be in pictures: The Biograph Girl @Finborough

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Musicals are usually about a love story. In The Biograph Girl, the love story is about the love of going to the flickers and the people who made them. The flickers were what people called the short silent movies. Before they started treating the medium as a form of art. And a source of serious money making. The show is having its first professional production in nearly forty years at the Finborough Theatre. While there’s much love for the subject, a musical covering the early years of film is a tad ambitious. Covering the stories of Lilian Gish, Mary Pickford and D.W. Griffith doesn’t allow much time to explore them in any detail. Or any of the peripheral characters that surround them. People come and go. Only by reading the programme notes do you get a sense of who they were. And while the musical numbers are fun, they also tend to slow down rather than advance their stories.  It’s a minimalist production too with its plain white walls, a few chairs and an electric piano. It’s a pity …

A mother’s touch: H.R. Haitch @TheUnionTheatre

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If there is one thing to admire about H.R. Haitch, it is it’s impeccable timing. Opening at The Union Theatre on the week of the Royal Wedding could confuse people for thinking this musical comedy is a topical satire. Alas, it’s not. The piece premiered in 2015 as a workshopped performance. Three years on, with its convoluted plot, songs that stop the show dead and running gags that fall flat... It could do with a few more workshops. For reasons that are unclear it’s set in a parallel universe in 2011. Mouthy common barmaid Chelsea (Tori Allen-Martin) meets secret prince Bertie (Christian James). They fall in love and plan to open a catering business. Until duty calls, and for reasons that are also unclear, he has to reveal his identity.It’s hard to understand the romance. Chelsea comes across as a motherly figure to Bertie. But I guess it takes all sorts. She also says more about why she hates the royal family than anything else. But Tori Allen-Martin makes the most out of underwritt…