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Showing posts from November, 2012

Cheap laughs and nothing fancy: Judith Lucy

Judith Lucy is a household name in Australia. She has done a show, she has done films, she is on crap television like the show above. But until the 1 December she is London at the Soho Theatre doing the thing that made her famous in the first place. Stand up comedy. It is just her, a microphone and some very sensible shoes because as she tells the audience, "My feet are fucked!" She is brutally honest too...

Naturally being an Australian act, the audience will be dominated by Aussies desperate for some cultural references from down under (this was part of the incentive to go, along with being reminded of her talent after recently seeing her on film as Merle the racist pub owner in the film The Sapphires). But none of this should put you off.

When Lucy is interrogating the audience she is in her element with her ability to draw laughs out of what could be the most innocent of responses from unwitting audience members in the first few rows of the theatre. You are wise to si…

Somewhere out there in a parallel universe: Constellations

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Nick Payne's Constellations takes a quantum mechanics view of a love story. The basics of this is that in one universe the outcome is A and in another universe the outcome is B. And there begins a story about Marianne and Roland. They meet at a barbeque and develop a relationship. Or in a parallel world they don't as he is there with his wife. She is a scientist and he is a beekeeper in Tower Hamlets (somewhat inspired by London-based urban beekeeper Steve Benbow and there is Constellations honey available in the foyer). And thus begins a series of fragments of a relationship that together tell a story of a number of different possibilities that it could take.

While the premise of this piece threatens to feel repetitive (or at least a bit like Groundhog Day meets Love Story), over its short but perfectly formed running length a range of scenarios play out that simply highlight some of the quirks and eccentricities of their relationship. Holding it all together is the wonder…

Nice nights out: The Magistrate

The Magistrate, which has just commenced playing at the National Theatre, is a big lavish production that feels like part panto and part musical. It is actually a farce written by Victorian actor and playright Arthur Wing Pinero, but under the production values of the National, it is something bigger, brighter and sweeter. The cast look lovely. The set is amazing (it opens and folds over and spins around). And there are a series of panto-like characters that pop out, sing and cavort about as commentary on the piece. Of course it does not help that the songs are superfluous and at the preview I saw, the singing was out of tune and the dancing was out of time. But it all adds to the running time of the show so you can't say you didn't get your money's worth.

The basic premise of Pinero's story is that Mrs Posket (played loudly here by Nancy Carroll), shortly after her first husband passes away, takes five years off her age in order to seal the deal of a second marriage to…

Art: Joe Hesketh A Pendle Investigation

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One of the most famous witch trails in English history, the Pendle witches are recreated in Joe Hesketh's dark and haunting pieces titled A Pendle Investigation. It has been on tour around the country for a while but has come back to London, to coincide with Halloween and give a few lasting chills to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the trials. There is an old pumpkin still hanging around outside the gallery so you may think you know what you're getting into when you arrive. Alas you will be wrong...

Hesketh turns witches and Halloween on its head and gives a contemporary perspective to the violent story of injustice, superstition, rivalry and corruption. It's an ambitious project but Hesketh creates some unforgettable scenes layered with imagery. Alternatively beautiful and horrific, she also likes to thrown in the occasional visual puns such as the justice holding two breasts as the whole trial went tits up, just to throw the viewer off guard. There are layers of me…

On the radio: Radio Times The Musical

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The Radio Times The Musical is in Richmond this week and it is a funny and entertaining enough show. It is set during the Blitz in London as a BBC light entertainment show prepare to undertake a special broadcast that will be heard in America. It is an opportunity to breathe life back into composer Noel Gay's music, who also wrote the songs for the show Me and My Girl. With Gay's songs, a story evolves full of bad jokes, gags and silliness as the star of the show Sammy Shaw, tries to hang on to his leading lady, a new producer fights with the writers for a show that isn't full of smutty innuendo and the need for a show to go out that will lift morale.

This production originated at the Watermill Theatre and follows their usual style where the performers act, dance and play the music. In a show with such brassy and lively numbers it looks great as the cast integrate dancing, music-making and performing so effortlessly. The effect gives things a real buzz. Gary Wilmot in the…

Cabaret: Karen Akers at The Crazy Coqs

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The Brasserie Zedel, run by restauranteurs Jeremy King and Chris Corbin (of The Ivy, The Woolsey fame) which opened this summer, has given new life and a touch of French glamour to a formerly unloved hotel just off Piccadilly Circus in the heart of the West End. Their cabaret room, The Crazy Coqs is a beautiful art-deco space that is a great way to sample an evening of cabaret.

The last time I saw Karen Akers we were bemoaning that Pizza on the Park was shortly to be closing. But change isn't always a bad thing. Akers act was the same act (or possibly shorter) but in a smaller, classier space with a sensible cocktail it seemed all the more enjoyable. Akers has finished her run but there is great line up of acts running throughout the autumn with shows at 8pm and 10pm (I have also made a mental note to catch Miss Hope Springs some Sunday evening in the not too distant future).

Either timeslot allows for a quick bite at the Brasserie Zedel before or after the show. The spa…

Lookout behind you: Panto season

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Christmas also means that Panto season is coming and aside from the usual blockbusters in the West End or the likes of slightly edgier Jack and the Beanstalk at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, they are designed to lure families in with a mix of childrens comedy and dirty innuendo for the adult members of the audience. Or in the case of Dame Edna's foray into Dick Whittington last season, it was an opportunity graft Edna's material onto a panto format for a new unsuspecting audience...

Others are taking this to another level, with less innuendo and just filth and good ol' vulgarity.

There is Snow White and the Seven Poofs that has its run at the Green Carnation in Soho from early December... Subtitled, "The Climax" it looks like it leaves little to the imagination... With pop numbers and a show billed not for children (or for the faint hearted), it will be fascinating to see what they (ahem) come up with...

The Drama Queens Drag Theatre Company is also produci…

Last chance (for now): The Mystery of Charles Dickens

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The Mystery of Charles Dickens is finishing its run at the Playhouse on 10 November and worth a look if you don't mind watching Simon Callow on stage for a couple of hours. He is great to watch as he has such a marvellous speaking voice. It isn't so much a mystery but a good story telling that takes place as he runs through some rather dramatic points in Dickens's life, interwoven with recreations his readings of his stories, which you learn were quite a sensation.

This show was first staged in 2000, but has come back for another revival timed to commemorate the 200th anniversary year of Dickens's birth. It is a simple concept with Callow on stage as part teacher, instructor and performer. Written by Peter Ackroyd, who knows a thing or two about London (and Charles Dickens), he manages to distil the interesting aspects of his life and this production keeps things moving at such a brisk pace you can be forgiven for forgetting how many years, books and wives have passed b…

Patter songs: I Love You You're Perfect, Now Change

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A short run of the show I Love You, You're Perfect Now Change at the Riverside Studios Hammersmith is a pleasant enough diversion, although you get the feeling it is more fun performing it than watching it.

Performers must love it as the cast of four manage to sing in a variety of styles from country to cantata. They  also run through a variety of roles from young nervous daters to old Jews at a funeral home (well, it is set in New York). This cast are great and manage to make the most of the material and the comic possibilities. But after awhile it becomes clear there isn't much variety in the work and each song tends to blend together. For the most part they are trite and forgettable. There is an occasional gem such as a ballad in the first half when the girl who finally manages to land a date proclaims, "I will be loved tonight" with such such desperation you are left wondering about her fate. In the second half there is an amusing song about being a bridesmaid, …