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Jerry’s Children: Showtune @TheUniontheatre

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An evening of songs by composer Jerry Herman weaved into a song cycle about the excitement of being on stage, or anywhere for that matter is an unexpected joy. Particularly when it's sung by a young and energetic cast. It's currently playing at the Union Theatre.
It's been over thirty years since an original Jerry Herman musical has been on stage. That none of the cast were born when these songs were written probably isn't lost on the audience. But Herman's work remains almost a regular feature of the West End as Andrew Lloyd Webber's Evita or Joseph. Recent years have seen La Cage Aux Folles, Hello Dolly! Or Mack and Mabel. 

For a period from the sixties through to the early eighties, Jerry Herman wrote musicals that helped define the idea of what a musical show should be. Emotional, funny and always tuneful.  Now there's a chance for a new generation of musical theatre graduates to take on his work. With the young cast of ten performers assembled, the optim…

Taking the leak: Count Ory @arcolatheatre

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August at the Arcola Theatre is an opportunity to see fresh takes on classic operas or forgotten works by up and coming opera companies and artists. They call it Grimeborn (just so you’re not to be confused with that other opera festival near Lewes). This year’s series included a chance to see Rossini’s Le Comte Ory translated into English by company Opera Alegria.

The time and place have shifted from the Crusades to the Second World War, but it’s still the same story.  A  slightly randy Count Ory (Robert Jenkins) tries to woo his way into the life of Countess Adéle (Naomi Kilby) while her brother is off fighting the war. While the women wait for their men to return, they’re growing vegetables and making do on the home front. But Count Ory hatches a scheme for him to appear as a hermit who can advise on matters of the heart. That doesn’t go to plan, and Adéle falls in love with a farm boy. So his next idea is to reveal his true feelings to her, disguised as a nun.


It’s a silly story,…

Horse Play: Equus @Trafstudios #EquusWestEnd

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Peter Shaffer's play Equus is given a slick and stylised turn in this English Touring Company production that's currently playing on the West End at Trafalgar Studios. With everything stripped back to the bare essentials, all that's left is a white curtain, muscles and guilt. And the occasion flash or scream. If you missed it earlier this year at Theatre Royal Stratford East, see it now as it's a fresh look at this psychological thriller.

The premise of the piece is that seventeen-year-old Alan (played by Ethan Kai with moody intensity), has blinded six horses in a stable he worked in on weekends. Rather than go to jail, he's sent to a psychiatric hospital for treatment.  And where Dysart (Zubin Varla) has to uncover the motive for this madness.

Even if it was inspired by a real-life crime, it's rather clever of Schaffer to focus on cruelty to horses in England. Nothing surely can be more shocking in a country that worships the very ground the equine beast tro…

Donkeys have fun too: My Son Pinocchio Jr @SWKPlay

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The British Theatre Academy, which provides theatre training and performance opportunities for young people is back at the Southwark Playhouse for the summer for a series of shows, including My Son Pinocchio Jr. It’s a condensed version of the 2006 musical, My Son Pinocchio: Geppetto’s Musical Tale. This was based on a television movie musical Geppetto.
The show is a retelling of the Pinocchio but from Geppetto’s perspective. It opens with the ever cheery Blue Fairy telling everyone that she is going to celebrate the story of one of her wishes that came out perfectly lovely. Only for Geppetto to appear and say he wants her to take him back. 


It turns out that Pinocchio wasn’t all that lovely after all. And not what he expected. Mainly because he did boy things like ask the wrong questions, gets in a fight at school and then runs away to a puppet show. Which is fair enough, but then again Geppetto was forcing Pinocchio to be a toy-maker rather than a train driver. The story in its shorte…

A room with a song: The View Upstairs @Sohotheatre

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The View Upstairs imagines a dialogue between the trailblazers of the LGBT+ community and today's self-absorbed gender-fluid Millennials. The dialogue is through a series of songs by Max Vernon that veer from soft rock, disco and glam. It has some wry observations about what has and hasn't improved for the community since the 1970s. So the conversation becomes more like a musical theatre bitch slap to anyone who takes for granted the right to be themselves. It's currently playing at Soho Theatre.

Set in 2017, internet influencer and conflicted fashion designer Wes (Tyrone Huntley) has fled New York for New Orleans. He's bought a building intending to show off his work. But he's either mixed his citalopram with his cocaine or trapped in a time warp as he found himself back in 1973. And the building he bought was the site of a largely forgotten arson attack on the gay bar Upstairs Lounge that killed 32 people. This had been the deadliest attack on the LGBT+ communit…

Hello young lovers: Games for Lovers @TheVaultsUK

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Love in the age of #metoo, career goals, money worries and online dating can be a bit random and to chance. It's all part of life in London. That and the need for a flat close to the tube. It's all explored in Games for Lovers, a new piece by Ryan Craig that's currently playing at The Vaults.

There's Martha (Evanna Lynch) who is secretly in love with her best friend Logan (Calum Callaghan). But Logan's got a girlfriend, Jenny (Tessie  Orange-Turner), although he has trouble with intimacy. When Darren (Billy Postlethwaite), an old college mate of Logan's, has a room to rent, Matha takes it since it has excellent tube links. Even if Darren's a bit odd.

Through a series of flashbacks and addresses to the audience, we get a sense of who they are. But things really get interesting when Darren decides to give Martha lessons in the art of seduction. Lynch and Postlethwaite together are hilarious with their unexpected outbursts and comic timing. And Orange-Turner …

Hull on earth: Starved @TheHopeTheatre

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It’s a game of survival of the fittest in Starved. A desperate world set in a bedsit on a rough estate in Hull in northern England. Two characters circle each other like wild animals as their circumstances and choices strip them of their dignity. And any creature comforts. It’s a short and provocative piece that’s currently at The Hope Theatre in Islington.

Money may not be able to buy you happiness, but it gives you options. Here the two young characters, Lad and Lass, have nothing. They’re on the run and hiding out, having dropped out of society. But they’re running out of luck too, trying to get by living on a diet of cup-a-soups and whatever they can steal.

Writer Michael Black (who also plays Lad) lures you into moments of comedy before quickly shifting gear into much darker territory.  Imprisoned by their circumstances, they retreat into a world of hunger, scraps, sexual favours and addiction until they hit the point of no return. But it’s such a natural progression that the po…

Space for reflection: Dark Sublime @Trafstudios

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Cult eighties television is the launch pad for looking back on a life sort-of lived in Dark Sublime. A long but rewarding look at how trivial and inconsequential things can end up being so much more. In this case, a crap science fiction show alters the space-time continuum with enduring rewards, and a chance to reflect on a life well lived so far. It’s currently at Trafalgar Studios.
Marianne (Marina Sirtis) is a serious actress who reached fame with a London Television science fiction show, Dark Sublime. Full of cheap effects and overacting, it was a minor hit when it aired in the eighties and since developed a cult following.
Her television work gave her fame and paid for the mortgage. Nowadays, she makes ends meet with random jobs that pay for her penchant for cheap wine at Tesco. But a young man with a childhood obsession for Dark Sublime (Kwaku Mills), tracks her down for his fan website. Their meeting leads to a moment of reflection of where she is in her life, and her relationshi…