Monday, September 22, 2014

Previews: Memphis in Rehearsals

Rehearsals have now begun for the West End production of hit Broadway musical Memphis, which will have preview performances at the Shaftesbury Theatre, London from 9 October 2014 with Opening Night on 23 October 2014.

Winner of four 2010 Tony Awards® including Best Musical, the show is led by multi award-winning recording artist Beverley Knight as club singer ‘Felicia Farrell’ and stage star Killian Donnelly as radio DJ ‘Huey Calhoun’.

With Rolan Bell as ‘Delray’, Tyrone Huntley as ‘Gator’, Claire Machin as ‘Gladys’, Jason Pennycooke as ‘Bobby’ and Mark Roper as ‘Mr. Simmons’


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wicked thoughts: The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd @OrangeTreeThtr

The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd at The Orange Tree Theatre is an exciting start to new season at the Orange Tree Theatre. The audience is made to feel as if they are eavesdropping on the drama in this working cottage where a family is falling apart.

Set in the Nottinghamshire mining community in 1914, DH Lawrence has created a moving piece of working class woman in an abusive relationship.

After an evening where he brings home two ladies after a night of drinking she wishes he was dead. She soon gets her wish and then suffers guilt.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Father knows best: Wingman @sohotheatre

Father-son comedies have never quite felt so weird as they do in Wingman, Richard Marsh's new take on strained and odd family relationships having an early slot at the Soho Theatre this month.

Marsh, a writer of Fringe First winning Dirty Great Love Story and Radio 4 show Love & Sweets, has crafted a story that is part dialogue and part poetry that has a surreal comic effect in describing his dysfunctional relationship with his dad (played by Jerome Wright).

Mum has died but after twenty years apart they reunite at her graveside. And it is an opportunity for dad to reunite with the son he left twenty years ago. And dad suggests after seeing that his son is struggling with women that perhaps they could socialise together and he could be his wingman. But that means the son has to get over his issues of abandonment and general hatred of the man...

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Quick looks: Christina Bianco Party of One

Christina Bianco has concluded a short run at the Hippodrome Casino. An expert at mimicking any female singer she is now off to the West End transfer of Forbidden Broadway, but the highlight of her show was when she got a chance to just sing and be herself, or use the material from Forbidden Broadway (which was funnier).

Bianco has become a bit on Youtube with her singing songs in the style of other performers. She has a great set of pipes too.

She just needs a show that she can make her own. Here's hoping that comes soon for her. In the meantime future cabaret performances would feel more substantial with more jazz and less mimicry.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

It's a wonderful life: The Me Plays @ORLTheatre

Growing up in Wembley seems like fun in Andrew Maddock's The Me Plays, currently showing at The Old Red Lion Theatre. 

Two forty-five minute monologues delivered by Maddock present a semi-autobiographical look at his life growing up there.

Male body image, internet pornography, Catholic schools, surgical procedures are all covered in this brutally honest account. The cleverness in the work is its frankness and his matter of fact delivery, which makes for a fascinating evening that will linger with you after leaving the show.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Bare ambition: Quentin Crisp Naked Hope

Fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe, Quentin Crisp Naked Hope, playing at the St James Theatre studio gives a brief insight into the life and times of the unconventional man. 

Written and performed by Mark Farrelly, the piece follows the same format as one of Crisp's stage shows, where he would retell stories from his autobiography The Naked Civil Servant, and then entertain the audience with his amusing responses to questions from the audience. 

While it is fun to hear the Crisperanto (particularly if you are not familiar with it), you get the sense you are just seeing a guy in a funny wig and lipstick, rather than Crisp before you. 

Perhaps a little more improvisation would bring some spontaneity to the piece.

The St James Theatre studio space is lovely, but get in early for a good seat as it is unreserved. And (according to the woman I overheard at the door) get your wine from the bar upstairs as it has a better selection. It runs until 7 September and then is followed by a national tour.

***

Monday, September 01, 2014

Opening up on the road: Autobahn @KingsHeadThtr

Neil LaBute's Autobahn, now playing at the Kings Head Theatre, explores over seven short vignettes how sitting in a car be a cathartic experience. Or a chance to just talk crap. While the focus is America, the themes are universal.

Often funny and never boring, each vignette involves two people.  Sharon Maughan (Holby City, The Bank Job, She’s Out of My League), Henry Everett (Michael Grandage’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Tom Slatter (Robot Overlords), and Zoe Swenson-Graham (Our Town) play the various characters, changing characters as quickly as a change in gears.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Unrequited London properties: My Night With Reg

I finally caught up with the sellout show My Night With Reg. Kevin Elyot's funny and groundbreaking play is revived with style and a great cast at the Donmar.

Although there is perhaps a tad too much style here when depicting gay men living in London in the 1980s. In the days before home renovation television shows introduced the masses to beige, I thought most of them decorated their flats as if they were pubs.

Back to theatre: Our Boys

The revival of Jonathan Lewis's play Our Boys at the Duchess Theatre poses some interesting questions about what happens to people who chose a career in the army. Given the events this week involving murder-suicide of an IRA bomb survivor, it also seemed unintentionally topical. The play is based on Lewis's own experiences although the subject matter is more about hospital treatments for pilonidal sinus than the military's role in Northern Island. But since this condition was also nicknamed "Jeep seat", it provides insight into a lesser known aspect of army life.

This play is set in a London hospital ward in 1984 and is a largely funny and episodic account of a group of wounded squaddies who find themselves passing time while they recuperate together. This premise is a fertile ground for penis jokes, masturbation, sex dolls, and a healthy discussion about circumcision. Best of all is a restaging of the Russian Roulette scenes from The Deer Hunter where beer cans shaken up are subsituted for guns.

Naturally with such a blokey atmosphere it is an all male cast that includes Cian Barry, Jolyon Coy, Arthur Darvill, Matthew Lewis and Laurence Fox. They all have appeared on television in shows such as The Bill, Casualty and Foyles War and it gives the production and healthy injection of star quality. And with all of the sex talk throughout the show you can just imagine every night by stage door a swarm of young ladies with autograph books just waiting to pounce. But the actors do not just look pretty, they work well together as an ensemble and give the show such style that it is easy to overlook wondering what was the point of it all and just enjoy the banter.


It is also helped by a wonderful production design that expertly recreates hospital ward that could have easily been ripped out of the deepest darkest bowels of the Queen Elizabeth Military Hospital. It is stylised grim that feels almost too authentic so you cannot help but sympathise for the lads living in a time when smuggled cans of beer or a vcr and a beat up television passed for entertainment.

The play attempts to show how there are some basic human needs and desires from all these men, even those in uniform, but perhaps the laughs and the good looks of the cast might prevent everyone from bothering to get into that much analysis. But it's a good night out anyway. There are £10 day seats for this show during its limited 12 week engagement and £20 standby concessions. Look out for discounts at the other usual outlets as well.

Of course as it was opening night the Duchess Theatre was packed with celebrities including David Tennant, Matt Smith and Billie Piper. What was happening in the stalls was just as much a distraction as on stage...

And now for a Squaddieboo with Johnnyfoxlondon... It's not the only military-themed play on in London at the moment but I was just happy to have a night out...


listen to ‘Squaddieboo: Our Boys’ on Audioboo




Thursday, August 28, 2014

Previews (and not sequels): King Charles III

After a sellout run at the Almeida earlier this year, Mike Bartlett's new play King Charles III will transfer to the Wyndham’s Theatre for a limited run.

Previews commence from 2 September.

Tim Pigott-Smith will once again play Charles and Oliver Chris will reprise his role as William.

They will be joined by Katie Brayben, Richard Goulding, Nyasha Hatendi, Adam James, Margot Leicester, Miles Richardson, Tom Robertson, Nicholas Rowe, Tafline Steen and Lydia Wilson.

The play explores the people underneath the crowns, the unwritten rules of our democracy, and the conscience of Britain's most famous family, and what just might happen once The Queen is dead...