Monday, February 23, 2015

Another take: This Comedian @EmbassyTea


Idil Sukan’s debut exhibition, This Comedian, is now at the Embassy Tea Gallery through to 8 March.

It is a retrospective of her creative work in production, design and photography in the comedy industry. The varied collection from the last decade includes 200 of Idil's portraits and photographs of live performance.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Romford burning: A Local Boy @ThePleasance


It had only a short run but A Local Boy which concluded yesterday at the Pleasance Islington is a great new piece of writing by Dan Murphy. The dialogue is funny and incisive about the cruel trials and traumas of today's youth, where anything is fair game and everything is online.

It is a world where there is no privacy and sometimes this has unforeseen consequences. This time there has been an incident at the local war memorial in Romford where young people hang out and drink.

Ice cream and other treats: She Loves Me @LandorTheatre


It has been a week since I caught She Loves Me at the the Landor Theatre, but there is something so sweet, perky and fun about this show that it lingers with you long after you have seen it. Perhaps the terrific cast headed by Charlotte Jaconelli and John Sandberg helps. There is so much enthusiasm in the performances that you can't help but like it.

It is a show about mistaken identity, scandal and intrigue. The story revolves around a little shop in Budapest and two of its employees. Although they are constantly at odds with each other, through a personals advertisement, they inadvertently become anonymous pen pals. Soon romance starts to develop. The work is based on a play by Miklos Laszlo that would become The Shop Around the Corner and the inspiration for such films as You've Got Mail.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Cold dark killers: Assassins @menchocfactory


Finally caught Assassins at the Menier Chocolate Factory. This dark and grim piece of musical theatre is re imagined as a funfair where the cast of would-be and actual assassins of US Presidents tell their stories like a bunch of grim clowns. But it comes across heavy handed and lacking much irony.

Staging a musical with this subject matter is always going to be a challenge, but both the material and the production don't really dig too much into the obsessive gun culture that is part of the country's DNA. Compared to The Scottsboro Boys, another musical based on an unpleasant subject, there is none of the bitterness or outrage presented ironically as a song and dance musical.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Bare emotions: Gods and Monsters @swkplay


Gods and Monsters, now playing at the Southwark Playhouse is a showcase of incredible performances from its terrific cast and an engaging story. Oh and there is a bit of full frontal nudity too.

Based on the novel Father of Frankenstein (which was also the source material for the film of the same name), the story is a blend of fact and fiction. Age, memory, fame, youth and loss collide in the story of the last few months in the life of English director James Whale.

Whale director and creator of the first two Frankenstein films, had a moderately successful career in Hollywood which enabled him to live comfortably in Los Angeles. He was also openly gay. But following a series of strokes in his sixties, he lost his ability to prevent painful memories from his past flooding back. And without giving too much away, his most successful creation, the monster in Frankenstein, seems to become something far more personal.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Sassy and sexy: Anything Goes @NewWimbTheatre and everywhere @AnythingGoesUK_


Going on a cruise seems like an awful lot of fun if this high spirited production of Anything Goes is anything to go by.

The cast sing and dance their hearts out in Cole Porter's classic musical. There is so much to take in with the fast footed choreography, wonderful performances and imaginative staging.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

New cast photos: Shakespeare in Love


New cast photos from the production of Shakespeare in Love are out. The new cast took over at London’s Noel Coward Theatre on 12 January 2015.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Previews of a different animal: Bradley Cooper in The Elephant Man


Currently enjoying a popular run on Broadway, Scott Ellis’ acclaimed production of The Elephant Man will transfer to London with the US cast starring Bradley Cooper (in various states of dress and undress), Patricia Clarkson and Alessandro Nivola this spring.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Funny bodies: The Diary of a Nobody @KingsHeadThtr


The Diary of a Nobody at the Kings HeadTheatre distills the best bits of the classic comic novel and adds much physical comedy and cheap theatrical effects for an hilarious evening.

Originating in Punch magazine in 1888-89, the Diary of a Nobody has been called one of the funniest books in the world. It records the daily events in the life of Pooter and his family and friends over a period of 15 months. And although intended as a parody of the fashion for writing diaries, it also provides an insight into Victorian life, which today seems remote. After all a humble home for a city clerk in 1890s London is now an exception property that would fetch a few million. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Looking in the round back: Orpheo @TheRoyalOpera

Gyula Orendt as Orfeo in Orfeo © ROH. Photo by Stephen Cummiskey, 2015.

The Royal Opera and Roundhouse joint production of Orpheo is a surprisingly fresh and lively interpretation of Monteverdi's early opera based on the Greek legend of Orpheus and his attempt to bring his dead bride Eurydice back from Hades.

When you first enter the Roundhouse, you know you are going to be in for something a little bit different from both companies. Apart from a large circular stage that is thrust forward, there is a giant ramp and seating surrounding it all. You don't normally see that in the Roundhouse where most concerts are standing room only affairs.

As the music starts the performers descend down the ramp and take their places as if it were a royal court - with Pluto and Proserpina taking seats at the high gallery. It evokes the origins of this piece as court entertainment, but also as if you are watching Greek theatre. And it gives a sense of intimacy to this large venue.

There is also a religious theme running throughout the production with performers in various religious robes. But the ultimate strength of this production is the fine music making by performers and musicians from The Early Opera Company directed by Christopher Moulds.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Carrying on over the edge: Dante's Inferno @craftheatre


Confronting your demons has never felt so exhausting or in your face as with Craft Theatre's physical and modern update of Dante's Inferno.

You enter The Rag Factory in Shoreditch with the performers already running around with bamboo sticks, jumping and tumbling about. There is an assumption that you are probably sophisticated theatre-going folk so you know that this is part of the process of mental and physical exhaustion the company uses to get the actors in the right frame of mind for their performance.

You will also observe that some of the performers have feet and wrists bandaged so perhaps the unexpected injury happens here as well. As most of the audience is sitting with a front row seat to the action, it can make you feel nervous as bodies fall and tumble rather close to you.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Nice is different than good: Into The Woods (the movie)

It's not theatre but the source material is, and Into the Woods makes for a nice film. There are some things to admire in this film which is a mash up of fairy tales tells the story of what happens when the characters get their wishes and try and live happily ever after. While some songs are lost from the stage musical, the end result is a shorter, more focussed story.

But something seems to get lost lately when musicals are adapted for the screen. Like other film adaptations it suffers from some poor choices in casting. Notably James Corden, who is not known for his singing abilities, in the central role of the baker. His performance comes across as a bit one note and lacking any sense of comic timing (or charisma).  And Corden's voice, while not as bad as hearing Russell Crowe sing flatly in Les Miserables, it comes a close second.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Driving Miss Marianne: The Grand Tour @finborough


The intimate setting of the Finborough Theatre and some wonderful performances make The Grand Tour a surprisingly enjoyable and sweet romp across France.

Jerry Herman's 1979 show is only now getting its European premiere. While then it was a full-scale musical, the smaller space of the Finborough allows the focus of the show to be on the three leads and the various adventures they run through as they attempt to escape France under Nazi occupation.

At the opening we are introduced to Jacobowsky, a Polish-Jewish intellectual who has always been one step ahead of the Nazi's as he explains in the show's opening number I'll be here tomorrow. As the Nazi's invade France he finds himself with a car that he cannot drive. By chance he meets the snooty and slightly anti-Semitic Polish Colonel Stjerbinsky, who needs to flee France with information for the Polish government in exile. And he can drive. So the Grand Tour begins.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Hard core high flying: La Soirée @southbankcentre

It is only on until 11 January on the South Bank but La Soirée is a lot of fun. Thrilling acrobats, a bearded lady singing in deep bass and a middle-aged man in a big blue bunny suit are just some of the entertaining and slightly naughty acts on offer at the moment.

Nothing beats the intimate setting of the Spiegeltent and being so up close to people flying over your heads or doing strange things to red handkerchiefs...

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Life upon the wicked stage: Birdman (it's only a movie not a play)

It isn't theatre, but a film that is sort of about theatre, Birdman opens here on 1 January. It  brings back to the screen Michael Keaton as a former movie star from a successful comic book franchise. Washed up and without a movie career, he is planning a comeback by writing, directing and starring in a Broadway play, based on a Raymond Carver short story.

Keaton's character Riggan Thompson sees the piece as his chance for validation, yet at every step he feels frustrated by his fellow actors and haunted by the voice of his superhero alter-ego, Birdman. His daughter who is a recovering addict and supporting him on the show tells him that he is no longer relevant and he should just get over it like everyone else.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Previews: English National Ballet's Nutcracker


English National Ballet’s acclaimed production of Nutcracker returns to the London Coliseum this Christmas. Running through to Sunday 4 January 2015.

First performed in 2010 to celebrate English National Ballet’s 60th anniversary, Wayne Eagling’s version has since been seen by over 300,000 people.

Photos from the 2014 production have been released, including Ksenia Ovsyanick in full flight (opposite).

This year, two of English National Ballet’s rising stars make their debuts as Clara; Katja Khaniukova who performs alongside Ken Saruhashi’s debut as the Prince and Daniele Silingardi’s debut as the Nutcracker; and Ksenia Ovsyanick who performs alongside Max Westwell’s debut as the Prince and Fabian Reimair’s Nutcracker.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Slick and oiled: Cinderella @NewWimbTheatre

It is panto season, and nowhere has slicker productions than the New Wimbledon Theatre. This year, with Linda Grey as the fairy godmother in Cinderella the show has appeal for little kids and bigger kids. Bigger older kids. Ones who stayed in when Dallas was on television (well back then there probably wasn't much else to do).

Cinderella now is set against the backdrop of her fathers struggling oil business and thanks her ugly stepsisters spending all his money, they are flat broke. Cue the need for a special Fairy Godmother - with a penchant for a hip flask - to come to the rescue and save the business and get Cinderella to meet her prince charming.

While there is a star-studded cast, what also makes the show a treat are the charismatic performances by Liam Doyle as Prince Charming and Amy Lennox as Cinderella. They sing, dance hold their own with all the insanity (and occasional scene chewing) around them.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Fare: A Christmas Carol @ORLTheatre

A Christmas Carol at the Old Red Lion Theatre is an enjoyable and evocative version of the tale that uses resourceful staging, some fine singing and subtle performances to tell Dickens' tale.

The story of ghosts, greed and goodwill is now a regular Christmas theatrical tradition and works best mixed with carols and some festive cheer.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Variations on a theme: Miss Havisham's Expectations / Sikes & Nancy

Dickens With A Difference at Trafalgar Studios presents two monologues by characters from the stories of Charles Dickens and deconstructs and tells the stories from a character's perspective.

It helps to be familiar not just with the plot of both stories but also the written words that shape them, and knowing that Dickens loved to do readings of his stories as performances. Both pieces evoke these performances.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

High notes: Mikado @CharingCrossThr

Fine singing and some fancy footwork mark this latest revival of The Mikado, which is playing at the Charing Cross Theatre through January.

If you are not ready for sitting through a pantomime, this probably the next best thing with so much silliness. And depending on your musical sensibilities (and familiarity with Gilbert and Sulivan's work) you may find yourself humming along to the tunes anyway, or at least sitting beside someone who is.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Boots and all: Man to Man @ParkTheatre

Man to Man, which concluded its run at the Park Theatre Sunday allowed for Tricia Kelly to inhabit a character that is filled with desperation for survival.

The hardship comes after a series of calamitous events. The first after losing her husband (and source of income) to cancer, then to survive war time Germany and again in the post-war socialist order of East Germany.

Kelly moves about the stage, drinking, screaming, throwing dirt and all the time evoking the tumultuous period with a wry sense of ingenuity and a little bit of humour. It must be a hell of a part to play and to watch her perform is fascinating and evocative.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The elixir of Grigolo: L'elisir d'amore @TheRoyalOpera

Vittorio Grigolo in L'elisir d'amore © ROH.Mark Douet, 2014 Two star performances by Vittorio Grigolo and Bryn Terfel make this current production of L'elisir d'amore at the Royal Opera so exciting and damn funny.

Grigolo bounces around the stage with such energy, enthusiasm and vocal power that makes this production a real treat.

His Nemorino, the naive village boy besotted with farm owner Adina, really conveys the hope and longing (and the touch of silliness) that this piece requires.

Adina, played by Lucy Crowe has a lovely vocal tone and can act too. Perhaps she seems to nice to ever be so cruel to reject Grigolo's boisterous advances.

Bryn Terfel as the quack doctor Dulcamara who offers a love potion to Nemorino to help win Adina's heart has a great voice but perhaps not the first person to think of for this comic role. He seemed tentative on Tuesday in his opening moments. But by the second half he was deftly handling both the comedy and the music and looked like he was having a hell of time.

Matching the energy onstage was conductor Daniele Rustioni keeping the orchestra light and swift

An irresistible treat that had the audience laughing and cheering throughout.

Performances run until 13 December and the production will also be filmed and screened live on 26 November as part of the live cinema season.  Catch it if you can.

****


Photo credit: Royal Opera Mark Douet

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Feel the earth move: Beautiful comes to London



It is not due to open at the Aldwych Theatre until February 2015, but Beautiful – The Carole King Musical’ has now started to appear on posters underground.

The musical tells the story of Carole King’s journey from Brooklyn girl to someone who wrote or co-wrote some of the most well-known songs of the last fifty or so years.

Her music could fit several musicals but the show includes a range of her hits including ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow’ and ‘I Feel the Earth Move’.

Check out more at Beautiful - The Carole King Musical London...

Monday, November 17, 2014

Shortbits: Streaming @thepleasance

The subject matter may not be to everyone's tastes (although going by their popularity online maybe it would be), but Pipeline theatre's Streaming offers insight into the world of camming, online sex exchanges.

But for a lurid subject matter the play turns out to be quite human in its observations about life that can turn in the right circumstances. While thoughtful and surreal at times, what makes the piece worthwhile are the excellent performances from the cast. They manage to create realistic and sympathetic characters.

If only it was a little shorter as it would pack even more of a punch. It runs (for two hours plus interval) at the Pleasance Theatre until the end of the month.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Jumping the shark: Idomeno @RoyalOperaHouse

Shark and the chorus of Idomeneo in Martin Kušej’s production of Idomeneo © ROH.Catherine Ashmore 2014 There is some fine music making in the current Royal Opera production of Idomeneo. It is such a pity that the production is sunk by Martin Kušej's heavy-handed interpretation of regime change.

Perhaps in another production it would be a stylish addition, but a giant rubber shark representing a sea serpent from Neptune highlighted the worst excesses of this nonsensical production.

Rubber sharks, concrete walls spattered with blood and overacting extras carrying guns and wearing cheap sunglasses all becomes a bit too distracting for this early opera. Crete has never looked more unrecognisable. Audiences were not impressed either with the creative team resoundingly booed on opening night.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Turning a blind eye and other emotionless states: Cans @theatre503

Taking the fallout of Operation Yewtree and turning it into a comedy drama seems like a challenging task, but Cans manages to inject some humanity into the subject matter, even if the results are a bit predictable (and a tad overlong).

Stuart Slade's debut play is a two-hander set in the garage of Jen's family home with her uncle Len. Jen's dad was a  media personality, charity fundraiser and national treasure. But a year ago he was arrested for sexual offences against young men and women, and now he is dead. Len is trying to help her get over it and the two of them seek refuge in the garage of her home, drowning mice, sharing secrets and talking crap.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Revisiting in jokes and theatrical barbs: Forbidden Broadway on the West End

It has another month to run, but Forbidden Broadway is a bit of a guilty pleasure. Full of in-jokes and send ups of shows on the West End (and Broadway) it is a lot of fun, but also a chance to see four actors wow us with their singing and comic abilities.

The silliness becomes infectious to the point that the spoof of Once becomes so hysterically funny even the cast have trouble keeping it together.

Christinia Bianco is off this week, but Laura Tebbutt is an equally funny impersonator - particularly of Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel. Let it blow (a parody of the enduring song Let it Go) is a particularly evening highlight.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Site specific pies: Sweeney Todd @Tootingartsclub

Tooting Arts Club's production of Sweeney Todd, staged in Harrington's Pie Shop Tooting, at least until they manage to squeeze in some extra dates. It might now be sold out, but it might be worth killing for a ticket to see

The 32-seat confines of the pie shop give the piece an added dimension of claustrophobia and suspense, particularly as the cast act, sing, bleed and sweat at times inches away from your face. It is like the musical equivalent of fun fair ride. You may want to let out a yelp at times, but you are going to have a a hell of time.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Hot Bath tales: The Rivals @arcolatheatre

The Rivals at the Arcola Theatre is such a high energy production with a terrific cast, that the silliness of the plot and length of the evening whizzes by.

Sheridan's comedy of manners directed by Selina Cadell, is given an injection of fast pacing and a range of archetypes that seem to take inspiration from Comedia dell'arte to Pantomime and make the show a real treat.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Petty theft and other austerity measures: Spine @SohoTheatre

Spine, which is playing at the Soho Theatre until 2 November is a fascinating piece that looks into  the importance of knowledge in the age of apathy.

Written by Clara Brennan, it takes you on an unexpected journey. What starts out as a story of (potentially predictable) rebellious and troubled teenager builds to make some wry observations about generational divides, the loss of political leadership in modern Britain and the apathy of people, particularly in London, over things that were once valued. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Opening tonight: Neville's Island

The West End production of the comedy Neville's Island opens at the Duke of York’s Theatre tonight, Tuesday 21st October.

Following its run at the Chichester Festival last year, the show is booking to Saturday 3rd January 2015.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Old doge: I Due Foscari @TheRoyalOpera

Plácido Domingo in I due Foscari © ROH/Catherine Ashmore, 2014
The Royal Opera's production of I Due Foscari which opened last week is a chance to see Plácido Domingo in an age-appropriate role.

Verdi's opera is intriguing for its use of leitmotifs for each of the principal roles, but lacks much dramatic fire, other than to see the predictable  tragedy of an ageing ruler weakened and lose everything.

Thankfully it is short but it is also give much more interest with some star power and seems a perfect vehicle for Domingo.

When his voice was at his strongest, you could also be forgiven for thinking he was back in tenor territory with its rich and bright sound. And at 73, it is an event to watch see such an experienced master at work.

Songs of love war and death: Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living In Paris @CharingCrossThr

The songs of Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel are given a slick and lively treatment in Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, currently playing at the Charing Cross Theatre. Brel may be dead for nearly forty years, but under the direction of Andrew Keates and with a terrific cast comprising of Eve Polycarpou, Gina Beck, Daniel Boys and David Burt, Brel's complex songs are given a fresh new perspective and lease of life.

Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris is a musical revue that dates back to the late sixties. It was an opportunity to present to English-speaking audiences the world of Brel with translations by Mort Shurman and Eric Blau, which are considered to best capture the spirit of Brel.

There is no particular story that holds the songs together; the performers move about the stage and amongst the band without saying anything. But over the course of the evening you become acquainted with Brel's song (each are complicated enough to be considered little three-act plays) and his sarcastic, wry observations about older generations, war, death and unrequited love. And if you are lucky enough to be sitting the cabaret seats at the front you may get Daniel Boys pouring your a drink.

New pics from @memphismusical

New production images have been released for Memphis the musical, which has its opening night on Thursday 23 October.  

Led by Beverley Knight as club singer ‘Felicia Farrell’ and Commitments star Killian Donnelly as radio DJ ‘Huey Calhoun’ it follows the fame and forbidden love of a radio DJ who wants to change the world and a club singer who is ready for her big break. And looks like it has some snappy dance numbers too... Pictures by Johan Persson.







Sunday, October 19, 2014

Singalong politics: Albion @bushtheatre

You would not expect karaoke and far right British politics to go so well together, but in Albion, currently playing at the Bush Theatre, they seem inexplicably linked.

The cast break out into songs throughout the piece, but instead of singing for joy what emerges instead are thoughts of isolation and fear.

Chris Thompson's new play looks at the rise of the new far right in modern Britain at the home of an East End boozer.

The cleverness in the piece is not the interwoven songs as if you're watching a night of karaoke down at the pub, but how the politics and motivations are presented within their context and without judgement. You may leave the theatre feeling slightly challenged by some crafty arguments and giddy from some terrific singing. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Play ball: Damn Yankees @LandorTheatre

Damn Yankees at the Landor Theatre is one hell of a fun, sexy show. A great cast of dancers and singers give this show about a man who sells his soul to get on his beloved baseball team (and give them a chance of winning) new legs and balls.

It also helps to up the ante with the sexiness with some healthy doses of cleavage and legs (and that's just the men).

The musical is a retelling of the Faust story set in the 1950s when the New York Yankees dominated the game.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Life among the poppies: Shoot I Didn't Mean That / The Last Days of Mankind @Tristanbates

Is it okay to smile and take a selfie when you visit a memorial or make a nazi salute gesture in Austria? Maybe even write something glib in the visitors book at the Anne Frank museum? If you did not know the answer to these questions, Shoot I Didn't Mean That starts to explores the implications of doing things like this.

Catriona Kerridge's dark comedy looks in to the strange and surreal downfall of four women as they become fascinated and then obsessed by the politics of The Great War.

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...