Posts

Showing posts from December, 2012

Last evil looks: Robert le Diable

Closing night of The Royal Opera's Robert le Diable was a drawn out affair. An opera that was described to me as Mildred Pierce meets The Omen, it could have been half its length if all the repeated phrases were cut. I don't recall ever seeing an audience so restless either who were mostly squirming or fidgeting throughout the four and a half hours of the performance.

Meyerbeer's grand opera was an instant sensation when it first premiered 1831. Full of stuff that packed in the punters - drama, the occult, difficult music - over time it has not aged well. The story is inspired by a medieval legend of the devil's son. Robert, Duke of Normandy, has travelled to Sicily with the hope of marrying Princess Isabelle. But his companion, Bertram (who turns out to be more than just a friend) leads him astray. Cue chivalry, the occult and some incredibly outrageous French knight costumes that could have come direct from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Closing night seemed a st…

Lovely green things: Salad Days

Image
Salad Days is back at the Riverside Studios and is a delightful antidote to cold wet days in London. The story of a young couple who just recently graduated and find themselves entertaining London with a piano is a bit like the Fantasticks with its ever-so-silly plot, but the performances, inspired production and upbeat nature of the show make for an enjoyable, if slightly overlong show.

It is 1954 and Timothy and Jane (played by the wonderful Leo Miles and Katie Moore) leave university to make their own ways in the world. A chance meeting with a tramp brings the couple together as his street piano gives everyone around them an irresistible and unstoppable urge to dance. Meanwhile the police and the establishment want to put a stop to all this fun. Cue singing and dancing and general silliness.

The production is from opera company Tête à Tête, and so the singing and musicianship is very good. But the ensemble also show a great sense of comic timing and fun in the proceedings which i…

Phone rings, bitch and drink, lose your friends: Merrily We Roll Along

Image
Merrily We Roll Along, currently playing at the Menier Chocolate Factory near London Bridge is like a bitchier, nastier version of his show Company where Bobby is Frank and a total bastard. It has received great reviews, has a wonderful cast, looks good (well as good as aluminium windows on stage can be when they design feature - but the period is the sixties and seventies so it is appropriate) and sounds great. But for a show that tells the tale in reverse about how a man becomes wildly successful and loses his friends on the way, it is still a tough, bitter sell.

The characters are two-dimensional and shout at each other and even as they move from jaded to optimistic, it still feels unrelenting and repetitive. By the time the upbeat finale comes about (close to the third hour) you may find yourself close to exhaustion (or sleep) to care about it much. At intermission one Sondheimista fan said to me, "but all those lost opportunities and wrong turns... That's life!" Th…

Theatre going and moaning in the cheap seats

Theatre in London is pretty good value for money, particularly if you don't mind trying your luck at the half price ticket booth, trying to get to the theatre by 10am for the few day seats on sale. Many of London's ageing theatres have great seats at a good price if you don't mind a partially restricted view or a bench seat. But it can be a false economy if you find yourself sitting in the theatre with your knees up to your ears because the row in front of you is so close. Or if you are so high and far away from the stage you can't see anything other than a small fuzzy dots which might be either actors or the onset of vertigo.

While there are a few sites out there that review theatres, the information tends to go out of date as theatres are upgraded, so a new website Seat Plan aims to address that. It's launching in the new year and for every review posted by the end of this week, it is offering the chance to win £100 worth of theatre vouchers. 49,000 seats are rep…

Richmond Panto: Aladdin

Image
Some fun costumes, and a great performance by Tim Vine (pictured far left) as Wishy Washy keep Aladdin at the Richmond Theatre as a sensible evening out for families (or very big kids) who don't mind a mild case of panto over Christmas.

This version of the Aladdin follows a fairly traditional storyline. Aladdin works in his mothers laundry, meets a princess and after stumbling across the lamp with a genie, is granted riches that allows him to marry her. Well he would have married her if that evil Abanazar didn't get in the way. The loose plot is an opportunity to show off some great costumes, sing a few songs and tell a few gags. A few more filthier jokes for older members of the audience (timed to sail over the heads of the younger ones), and a few more modern tunes would have made the show better.

Of course for the younger members of the audience, who were likely to be experiencing their first time at the theatre this did not matter so much. They were hooked on the drama an…

In a damp warm spot: Mydidae

Image
A day in the life of a married couple, as set in a bathroom is the premise of Jack Thorne's sharp and funny play, Mydidae, currently playing at the Soho Theatre.

This classy little play on the top floor of the Soho Theatre features a fully plumbed bathroom, that  provides the backdrop for a full and frank exploration of a couple and their secrets. Actors Pheobe Waller-Bridge and Keir Charles undress, shave, lust after each other, wash and urinate in front of the audience.

Strangely enough they don't fart in front of each other which was possibly a missed opportunity as there never seems to be a better place to do that than in a bathroom... Particularly if your partner is in it...  Of course once you get past the novelty of the full frontal nudity; the tweaking of the penis, the perky tits and vagina at eye level, it is amazing how it is the intensity of the performances and the intriguing story that holds your attention.

The piece seems an innocent enough premise at first, bu…

Classic songs, breathless dancing, innuendo and long pauses: Kiss Me, Kate

The Chichester Festival production of Kiss Me Kate, now playing at the Old Vic Theatre, has a wonderful cast and thrilling and lively musical numbers. If there is one thing to be bothered by this production it is that between the songs things are not so lively. The dialogue is treated as if it were Shakespeare, and some of it is... Delivered so slowly... And deliberately... That much of the fun feels drained at times from the show. Thankfully there are too so many musical numbers that are well-conceived and performed that you will find yourself waking up to enjoy them.

Star Hannah Waddingham was indisposed last Friday night when I caught this show and so Carolyn Maitland took the lead. Given the show is very traditionally staged (set backstage at a theatre in 1948 the set is backstage at a theatre circa 1948), it was a refreshing opportunity to inject a bit of uncertainty into the evening's proceedings. Cole Porter's musical, while a classic, only has two female roles so it i…

Melodrama and plonk love potions: L'Elisir D'Amore

Laurent Pelly's revival production of Donizetti's L'Elisir D'Amore at the Royal Opera is an early Christmas present full of some fine singing performances and comic turns. The piece moves abruptly from comedy to tenderness and the performers handle this so believably that you find yourself completely drawn into this world of small town unrequited love and quack doctors administering love potions.

Roberto Alagna plays the farm worker Nemorino who yearns for the love of Adina, played by Polish soprano Aleksandra Kurzak. Alagna tackles the role with bounding enthusiasm as he throws himself over haystacks and rips off his clothes revealling some very nice y-fronts and a tanned physique that suggests all that physicality has been paying off. Of course he sounds great too as the simple farm worker who constantly tries for the affection of Adina. Kurak manages to balance what could be an unsympathetic screechy character with one that is tender and nuanced, and reveals early …