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This mean and unpleasant land: Allelujah! @_BridgeTheatre

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Watching Alan Bennett’s Allelujah! at the Bridge Theatre, you can’t help but admire him for putting it up his fellow Englishmen. After all he’s a national treasure, living legend, man of letters, all round octogenarian. And here’s an angry play about how this country doesn’t care. It neglects its elderly, it causes hardship for immigrants and so on. There’s a long list of grievances that the bigoted press have not unnoticed in their reviews. But it’s presented with all the charm and wit Bennett can muster. You can feel the irony as he evokes the noble yesteryear, contrasting it with the neglect of today. A nurse quips that the patients are living long enough to form a choir. But it’s a performance nobody sees. Even as the cast work their way through an increasingly elaborate set of musical numbers. It’s as if Bennett’s making the case to the audience that you’re having such a darn good time with the performers why keep putting your old folks on the scrap heap? Life for the elderly who…

Racing with the clock: Around The World In 80 Days @TheUnionTheatre

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Around the World in Eighty Days at the Union Theatre is a youthful and energetic interpretation of Jules Verne’s novel. It’s silly and fun. And suitable for younger audiences over the holidays too. If you’re prepared to explain the scenes in an opium den and a rousing number about the virtues of polygamy. Travel can be exhausting. In this piece adapted by Phil Willmott and Annemarie Lewis Thomas, there’s little time to dwell on the adventure. And each stop seems livelier than the next.No sooner as they stop in a particular city there’s a big song and dance extravaganza, expertly sung and executed. And then they’re off again.
But you get the gist of the story anyway. Even if you shouldn’t think too much about it. Phileas Fogg (Sam Peggs) wagers a bet with his fellow members of his club that he could travel the world in eighty days. With his French valet Jean Passerpartout (Connor Hughes).Along the way they rescue a princess (Jasmin Minjoot) and get help from an English missionary Miss F…

I Can do That: Bring It On @swkplay

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Some death-defying cheerleading stunts and a whole lot of energy make the British Theatre Academy’s youth production of Bring It On a slick and polished extravaganza. Even if perhaps the acrobatic-style choreography comes at the expense of the vocals. And at times seems to look painful. It’s currently playing at the Southwark Playhouse.There’s no denying the excitement of watching talented individuals bend and snap their way through a series of complicated manoeuvres. It builds up to a finale that has enough throws, cartwheels and catches to have you gasping in amazement.Bring it On is based on the 2000 movie of the same name starring Kirsten Dunst. It’s fascinating to contemplate how many of the cast may not have even been born then. It’s about a cheerleader who is transferred from a middle class school to a rough one so a rival can take her place. She then plots her revenge.
For a show called Bring It On, it takes a while to get going. The music has two composers. Tom Kitt and Amanda…

Love in concert: Broken Wings

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Love, like new musicals can be fleeting. And tragic. Broken Wings had a short run this week at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Semi-staged and with a nine-piece orchestra it was an opportunity to bring to life the concept album. Although given the lacklustre staging and curious lack of drama, listening to the album proves more entertaining.Written by Nadim Naaman and Dana Al Fardan, the piece is based on Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran’s poetic (and semi-autobiographical) novel. It’s your typical boy meets girl but girl is sold to another influential family.Told through flashbacks we know from the outset that all will not end well. It opens New York City, 1923 where the older Gibran (Nadim Naaman) looks back on two decades to early 1900s Beirut. There the story begins with his return to Beirut after studying in America. As his younger self, Rob Houchen and his soaring tenor vocals are a delight to hear, even if his physical appearance makes it a struggle to see how he grows up looking like N…

Brief transactions: The Cloakroom Attendant @Tristanbates

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The Cloakroom Attendant is a mediation on the ordinary among the extraordinary. It concludes this evening at the Tristan Bates Theatre.Set deep below a prestigious gallery of national importance. In the basement lies the cloakroom. It’s a place where dreams, fashion and items larger than a small bag need to be left. It’s a ritual and an obligation before viewing the masterpieces high above.  And of course being a job in London it’s a role that’s filled by a young European national, Dimitra Barla. Over qualified and over from Greece. Fluent in four languages.  She watches the people and their belongings while contemplating her own life and choices.This solo show brings to life Barla’s experiences working as a cloakroom attendant. She provides a museum-like categorisation and classification of visitors. And along the way she also imagines and reimagines her own life and the artefacts around her.  Alternatively funny and mysterious, objects and artefacts intertwine with her own dreams. Bar…

When in Rome: For Reasons That Remain Unclear @KingsHeadThtr

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A young screenwriter and an older priest walk into a hotel room in Rome. You just know it isn’t going to end well. But part of the suspense in For Reasons That Remain Unclear is you are never certain where things are heading. Mart Crowley’s sexually charged piece keeps you guessing. It’s having its UK premiere at The Kings Head Theatre as part of its Queer Season of theatre.Patrick (Simon Haines) is working for Warner Brothers in Rome living out of a fabulous hotel. He meets Conrad (Corey Petersen) on the street and after a long lunch they head back to Patrick’s hotel. What then ensues is a series of mind games as faith, sexuality and secrets are explored. Conversations about the trivial meander into the personal. Then it builds into something darker. It’s probably every gay priest’s fantasy to get picked up off the street by someone from Hollywood. But if you get past that it’s a rewarding piece, particularly given the performances. Haines and Petersen are terrific. They hold your att…

Game play: Lamplighters @ORLTheatre

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The world of spies as depicted in John Le Carre novels seems to be an unlikely source of amusement. All that drinking, bureaucracy and lying. But in Lamplighters it’s really a backdrop for some inspired improvisation and audience participation. Led by Neil Connolly as the spymaster, he’s living out a childhood dream to play spies... With a bunch of random audience members. It’s an immersive theatre experience. Which means that when you enter The Old Red Lion Theatre you can expect to be part of the entertainment.  But only if you want to.  After he’s finished chatting you up at the start (and sizing you up), there’s a slightly unconvincing mystery to solve, villains to find and stop. And a secret briefcase. And he needs the help of the audience to make it happen. And get laughs.This concept works well in making the ordinary seem hilarious. Assuming there’s always the right balance of weird and adventurous audience members to make the show hilarious every night.  On my night the audience…