Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Eat, sleep, report, repeat: Groundhog Day @oldvictheatre


Could Groundhog Day at the Old Vic be the most fascinating piece of theatre on in the West End this summer? Based on a much-loved movie it isn't particularly groundbreaking as musical. Nor will you leave the theatre humming too many of the tunes. But a series of performances (including by the two charismatic leads Andy Karl and Carlyss Peer) take this show to another level.

Based on the Bill Murray movie, the show follows the same plot. Phil is a sarcastic weatherman forced to relive the same day over and over. He is stuck in a time loop reporting on whether a large rodent (the groundhog) can predict an early spring. So he starts making the most of the situation. He sleeps with every woman in town, he steals, he cheats death. But after craziness and depression set in he focuses his efforts on improving himself and getting the day right.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Last chance: Curtain Call @RoundhouseLDN


Arad’s Curtain Call at the Roundhouse has completed its summer season of live performances. But you have until the end of the bank holiday weekend to see the installation before the silicon rods are packed away.

Created by Arad in 2011, it's made up of 5,600 silicon rods suspended from an 18 metre diameter ring. The curtains first appeared in 2011 and returned this year as part of the Roundhouse’s Bloomberg Summer. The live performances with invited guests were part of a series of late night events.

Closing the live performances on Thursday were the London Contemporary Orchestra. With a combination of cool music and vocals, it was a reflective and sophisticated musical experience.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Cunning vixens and dopes: Allegro @swkplay


There is no time to lose in Allegro at the Southwark Playhouse. It is a whirlwind tour of a man's life from birth to mid life. But along the way there is much to admire in this early Rodgers and Hammerstein piece.

Allegro was first performed in 1947 is having its professional European premiere finally in 2016. For whatever reasons it did not capture the imagination of the public at the time.

Maybe it is it is because it is a character study and a none too subtle dig at city life. But perhaps with the passing of time the story has more resonance and its innovations can be appreciated.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Things ain't wot they used to be: CTRL+ALT+DELETE @CamdenPT

 
Everything is fiction. Whether it is our post-truth politics, which led the country out of the European Union on the premise of an imaginary amount of money going to the NHS and immigration being cut. Then there is our partisan newspapers shouting political hysterics mixed with celebrity stalking to an ever-dwindling audience. And then there is what we tell ourselves. So is the premise of Emma Packer's fascinating CTRL+ALT+DELETE. It is having a short run at the Camden People's Theatre. 

Written and performed by Packer, she first introduces us to Amy. A child of the 80s she reminisces about her love of sport and knowledge of the Spice Girls. She also had a loving relationship with her grandfather and the time they spent together. 

But things quickly shift when we are introduced to Amy's mother. Drinking and smoking prior to Amy's birth, afterwards abuse becomes a pattern. The unsettling part of the piece is how this becomes acceptable behaviour and consequences for Amy as an adult. 

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Passing glances: The Collector @thevaultsuk


Dark sinister and opressive… That’s just the venue it is playing in. But The Collector at The Vaults in Waterloo turns things up yet another notch with it’s creepy tale of a man who collects butterflies. And the occasional arts student.

Mark Healey has adapted John Fowles’s novel, which tells the story of Frederick Clegg and Miranda Grey. Frederick loves Miranda so much so that he follows her every move. When he wins the lottery, he quits his job, buys a remote farmhouse and prepares the basement for a special house guest.

Starring Daniel Portman (seen in Game of Thrones) as Frederick and Lily Loveless as Miranda. It is a cat and mouse tale of obsession and secrets set in a basement. Together the two spar as one plots how to make her love him, while the other plots her escape.

The thrills come from seeing how everyday activities become a pattern of behaviour that can be your downfall. And how even good people can do bad things.

A stylish production with a smart cast directed by Joe Hufton. It’s playing at The Vaults. Not one for the faint hearted. Or for anyone wearing anything but the barest of clothing given the lack of suitable air conditioning at the venue (perhaps a subtle ploy to put you in the shoes of Miranda)... It runs through to 28 August.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Earthly delights and other short stories: The Secret Garden


The Secret Garden Spring Version is a fun and emotional foray for young people into the world of musical theatre. Or those who are hesitant at experiencing overblown musicals from the 1990s. It is currently playing currently sharing the Ambassadors Theatre in the West End.

Creators Lucy Simon and Marsha Norman have reduced the running time of the piece to 75 minutes for younger performers. They have stripped out much of the adult brooding from their original work and focus on the younger characters. By doing so it gives the piece pace and energy and with a young enthusiastic cast the show really feels alive.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Anywhere alone: Rotterdam @TrafStudios, @RotterdamPlay


The best thing about the West End transfer of Rotterdam to Trafalgar Studios is the chance to see it again after its sellout run last year at Theatre 503. Maybe it is just as good as it always has been, but seeing it in the space of Trafalgar Studios 2, the drama seems heightened and the comedy funnier. The piece is a unique and hilarious story about gender, sexuality and drifting through life abroad by Jon Brittain. A combination of great writing and performances make it a must-see.

The premise is it is New Year in Rotterdam. Alice has finally worked up enough courage to tell her parents she is gay and living with her girlfriend Fiona. But the email is never sent. Just as Alice was about to send the message Fiona reveals that she wants to start living as a man named Adrian.

While Adrian starts transitioning Alice now has to decide what this means for her, and does that mean she is now straight? To add to the complications Alice’s ex and Fiona’s brother Josh is there. And she is getting some much needed attention with a young sexy co-worker called Lelani.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Oh Canada: Proud @Finborough #Proudtheplay


The former Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper is the subject of Proud currently playing at The Finborough. It asks what havoc he would have wrecked if he won a larger majority in 2011?

Written by Michael Healey in 2011, it suggests a nightmare situation of a petty-minded leader who uses whatever means possible to achieve his vision. A small-minded vision focused on making the government just a little smaller than it currently. And of course annoying the Canadian Liberal establishment.

Viewing it from the United Kingdom with our shambolic political system, you may be tempted however to think Canadians never had it so good.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Cattle class: Cargo @ArcolaTheatre


Cargo at the Arcola Theatre is a thrilling and evocative account of the plight of refugees with a twist. A delicate blend of fact and fiction, the piece by Tess Berry-Hart conjures up a dystopian world that just might be around the corner for us... And this makes it a powerful statement on how both our values as a society and how we view refugees.

The box office kindly suggests that as it is ninety minutes straight through, you might want to have a drink with you beforehand. Most people in the audience seemed to go for beer. But we have been having a heatwave in London. So I went for water and guzzled half of it before even getting to the downstairs theatre.

Walking into the studio space transformed into a giant shipping container. Max Dorey's inspired design makes you feel as if you are the cargo. And as the show begins an usher slams the door shut and you're plunged into darkness.

This is the second outing to the theatre where the production puts you in a confined dark space and then switches off the lights. Theatre at the fringe in London this summer is testing audiences for their levels of claustrophobia. The only thing that might make it more authentic would be to shut off the air conditioning. Although I was grateful for that not happening...

Sunday, July 17, 2016

I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It On the Road @JsTheatre

 
Time heals everything they say. It has been over thirty years since London has seen I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It On the Road. And watching it at the Jermyn Street Theatre is like a trip back in time. When you arrive there is a band getting ready for the show, and you could be forgiven for thinking you were in a cabaret spot from the 1970s. Complete with pantsuits, glitter makeup and records on the wall. It is a terrific looking production that makes you feel like walking down the steps to the theatre you have been in a time machine. 

But with its handful of songs and themes about the role of women, it almost feels as it time has stood still. The dialogue may be firmly rooted in the 1970s (and often a bit predictable), but the themes of female empowerment and being independent seem as if we haven't come so far since..