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...


Monday, August 25, 2014

Awkward girls and rough guys: Dogfight @swkplay

You don't always leave a show wondering about how two characters are really going to live together. But Dogfight, currently playing at the Southwark Playhouse, manages to have you totally engrossed in its story of unlikely love that you can't help but think about their feelings and wonder what did happen to them.

It also helps with such ingenious casting and brilliant performances from its two leads. Jamie Muscato as Eddie and Laura Jane Matthewson (making her professional debut) as Rose are mesmerising and at times heartbreaking as two unlikely lovers. On the surface he is tough and she is sweet but their performances show that beneath the surfaces lie anxieties and strength that bring them together.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Looking back at islands in the stream: San Domino

San Domino, a new musical inspired by a BBC news story about Mussolini's persecution of homosexuals by sending them to an island paradise, concluded a short run as part of Arcola's Grimeborn series celebrating new opera this summer.

What could have been a fascinating and almost comic story about the stupidity of the fascist regime - sending a group of men to an island where there are only other gay men - is told a little too earnestly and drearily in its current form.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Previews on the road: Autobahn

Savio(u)r, which is dedicated to presenting work by American playwrights in the UK, will present in August Neil LaBute play Autobahn at the Kings Head Theatre.

Directed by Off-West End Award nominee Tim Sullivan, this short-play cycle follows colourful, complicated people making their way across America’s highways.

Their stops, starts, and stalls along the way are detailed in seven one-act plays, all which make the most of LaBute’s flair for the dark and sinister.

It's at The Kings Head Theatre from Wednesday 27th August – Saturday 20th September, 7.15pm

Monday, August 11, 2014

Catholic tastes: A Picture of John Gray

The Picture of John Gray imagines the life of poet and potential inspiration of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray.

It is a fascinating and thought provoking piece that recreates the period where the arts and Aestheticism were at the forefront of London society, and then how almost overnight it would all change as Oscar Wilde is imprisoned for acts of gross indecency.

The piece opens where John Gray has been left by Wilde and meets Marc-André Raffalovich, a writer, critic and supporter of the arts. They become lovers but following the trial of Oscar Wilde and the fracturing of their community of artists, Gray finds his calling and spiritual meaning through the sanctuary of the church and becomes a priest.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Intimate history lessons: Dessa Rose @TrafStudios

Dessa Rose is a musical that tells of the unlikely friendship that forms between a white woman and an escaped slave in the American South in 1846. Based on the book of the same name by Sherley Anne Williams, it feels at times to be an epic history lesson and melodrama, but the performances and the intimate space of Trafalgar Studios 2 make it a surprisingly enjoyable and emotional musical evening.

The story is based upon two separate events; a woman who took part in a slavery revolt and the story of a white woman who took in runaway slaves. When the piece is focused on these two stories, it is incredible. Particularly as the roles are played by Cynthia Erivo and Cassidy Janson. Both have big voices and convey a level of emotion and intensity that has you transfixed on them.