Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Pulling all the stops out: Gypsy


Gypsy has been running since April, and four months in Imelda Staunton’s performance as the mother of all stage mothers is still fascinating, exciting and exhausting to watch. It's amazing showcase in stamina, guts and determination, and that's just working with the material.

Staunton previously managed to give new meaning and depth to the role of Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd. Here she gives a dramatic sense of determination and vulnerability to the role.

And what lingers after the show is her exquisite vocals that give a velvety depth to the character. While there is an album from the show, after hearing her sing in this show I really want to hear her  sing jazz standards. Afterall she knows how to writhe every possible meaning out of a lyric.

Monday, August 10, 2015

More comings and goings: F*cking Men @KingsHeadThtr


Brief encounters never seemed hotter in this latest revival of Joe DiPietro’s comedy-drama play, Fucking Men. In part due to the sexy cast and witty one liners but also because it is summer and pub theatres are hot at the best of times.

The work had its premiere in 2009 at the Kings Head and went on to have a long run and transfer to the West End. It is presented here as part of the It is running as part of the King’s Head Gay Theatre Festival.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Comings and goings: Grand Hotel @Swkplay


Nothing stays still seems to be the key message in this breathtaking new production of Grand Hotel at the Southwark Playhouse. It is constantly moving and the performances, music, singing and dancing combine in what is probably as close as is humanly possible to musical theatre perfection.

The musical tells the story of a series of characters from a guided age that feel like they are from an alien world on one hand, but on the other you can’t help see some relevance to the current age of austerity, economic and political refugees and rage against the one per cent.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Wherever I lay my hat: The Motherfucker With The Hat @NationalTheatre #Mofohat


Addiction, sex, rehab and other filthy words make up this high energy play by Stephen Adly Guirgis which has been running since June at the National Theatre… The Motherfucker With The Hat has potentially been a drawback as a title since it prevents people from fully explaining the play and what it is about in so-called family or decent publications. But my blog is not one of those.

Jackie, a small time (and not very good) dope dealer is just out of jail and he has got a job, he is sober and his life is looking up. He is about to catch up with his girlfriend for and afternoon of sex, when he notices a hat in the room. It’s a man’s hat and it is not his. He checks the hat. He smells the hat. He checks the unmade bed and then he smells the bed...

For the next one hour forty-five minutes as his life unravels, there are a series of hilarious scenes and interplay between the characters on stage. And an awful lot of filthy words. It is a terrific cast although you get the sense it must be a lot of fun to play such highly strung yet unique characters.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Lady be good: Jonathan Holloway's Jekyll and Hyde @JekandHydeUK


Jekyll and Hyde is a thoughtful gender reversal of this classic tale with some seriously atmospheric theatrical tricks up its sleeve. 

The piece adapted by writer director Jonathan Holloway has already been to London (albeit in a shortened form) in an equally interesting and shocking production.

Here things are fleshed out a little more and are infused with some pretty impressive production values for a fringe production, which is a co production with Hong Kong’s Chung Ying Theatre Company.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

It’s not where you start: Songs for A New World @St_JamesTheatre


Twenty years after it first premiered Off-Broadway, the song-cycle / revue Songs For A New World at the St James Theatre serves as a useful introduction to composer-lyricist Jason Robert Brown’s early work.

It’s initially exciting to watch four accomplished performers (mostly) handle his vocally demanding work. But the effect of 90 minutes of his music straight through makes you feel as if you are trapped in a world that is a bit repetitive.

It starts out spectacularly with the opening number “The New World”, a song about starting over. And then there is a song about endings, another about loss, and another about new beginnings. By the half way point, the limitations of the music become apparent.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Moderately modern Milly: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers @OpenAirTheatre


Fancy footwork and star performances from Alex Gaumond and Laura Pitt-Pullford make Regents Park Open Air Theatre’s production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers a memorable and magical night out... Assuming it doesn’t rain...

Don’t let the central premise of mountain men who kidnap women to make them their brides put you off. While it is typical battle of the sexes stuff, the women hold the upper hand throughout. Besides there are enough tuneful songs and spectacular (and at times jaw-dropping) dancing that propel the story at breathtaking speed, that there is little time to think too much about the plot.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Cabaret sisters doing it for themselves: Sibling Revelry @HippodromeLDN


It would be fair to say that Ann Hampton Callaway and her sister Liz Callaway raised the roof with their sensational cabaret show at the London Hippodrome. Smart and engaging with some terrific witty banter, it is hard to imagine a better show in London at the moment.

Both are stars of New York’s cabaret scene and have both been Tony Award-nominated for their performances in major Broadway musicals. Music is clearly in their bones having grown up in a musical family. They have had acclaimed careers in their own right but the show is is an opportunity to update the show they performed together back at the Donmar in 1996.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Ambiguously Straight: Bromance @udderbellyfest @bmtroupe


Flying by the seat of your pants takes on greater meaning with circus troupe Barely Methodical and their latest offering Bromance, which is at the Udderbelly Festival on the South Bank until 19 July.

The three performers, Beren D’Amico, Louis Gift and Charlie Wheeller, fuse circus performance with their expertise in martial arts tricking, parkour and breakdancing; not to mention some hilarious comic interactions for a thrilling hour.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

The importance of being earnest: The Dreamers @St_JamesTheatre


The Dreamers is more a semi-staged music piece than a piece of musical theatre, but once you get over that (and the feeling you are watching an important and earnest history lesson), it is a fascinating story about Capt Reggie Salomons, who died while trying to save his men at Gallipoli in 1915.

With original words and music by Kent-based musicians James Beeny and Gina Georgio, this production which originated in Tunbridge Wells last year and is now at the St James Theatre.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Party time: I Went To A Fabulous Party @kingsheadthtr @fabpartyplay


I Went to a Fabulous Party by debut writer And Davies is currently showing at the Kings Head Theatre. Its a play that leaves nothing much to the imagination. 

Under the guise of a party at a successfully married couple's place, a range of gay stereotypes is summoned to liven things up. There is the gym bunny, the nerd, the bear, the jock and the chicken. 

Anyway, after a few throwaway lines about it being too darn hot or wanting to show something for the cammers, suddenly half the cast are naked. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Chop it up: Chef @Sohotheatre


One woman’s descent from a haute-cuisine head-chef to convicted inmate provides for some mouth watering entertainment in Sabrina Mahfouz’s Chef at the Soho Theatre. While it is not necessarily an unexpected journey, it provides enough interest for its short duration to make you wish you were not watching it on an empty stomach.

It all starts with a peach. With the simplest of ingredients,  Jade Anouka takes us through a range of courses that track her culinary career and the events that lead to her ending up in jail.

Food as her passion comes out more strongly in this piece than the stories of her troubled teenage years, domestic life and the need to keep things level while behind bars. The dialogue is so evocative of food, its preparation and presentation that it is bound to make you hungry.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Those underground Italian girls: L’Italiana In Algeri @popupoperauk


Popup Opera’s second summer show is full of energy, enthusiasm and some fine singing… Even if it is a rather silly show, it is great to see a piece that has not been performed in London for a while in such an unusual space.

This minimalist opera group has pared back Rossini’s work and taken away all that business of harems and bad Turks. Instead it moves the story to a modern day den on iniquity - Las Vegas - and the Algiers Hotel.

Popup Opera’s unusual choice of venues and performing lesser known works (with a modern twist) is a great introduction to opera.  Silly plotted operas work well with this format and so moving the piece to Vegas gives the tale of gambling, infidelity and cheap thrills a new dimension. Although perhaps a few cuts in the second half to bring things to a quicker conclusion might help.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Monkey business and other catastrophes: The Dead Monkey @ParkTheatre @Mongrelthumb


The sphincter of modern life as viewed from a grimy, and gritty (well they live by the beach so sand in the house must be hell) American marriage is both absurd and fascinating in Mongrel Thumb’s production of The Dead Monkey.

From the minute you enter the smaller space of the Park Theatre it is as if you are transported to California where the sun, sand and surf are so enticing that people just drop out of life. Sure you may be living in poverty but what a lifestyle with linoleum floors, distressed furniture, an endless supply of oranges. But it is all incredibly evocative and alluring. 

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Ginger and oiled: The Clockmakers Daughter @LandorTheatre


The Clockmaker’s Daughter is an exciting new piece of musical theatre, full of promise and some terrific music. It has landed at the Landor Theatre and with its charm, strong performances and production values, it will no doubt keep enthralling audiences.

What is most intriguing is how this original work by Michael Webborn and Daniel Finn, appears so fully formed and seemingly ready to move on to bigger or better things after the London fringe.