Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Cute puppets and terrific performances can’t disguise The Lorax, currently playing at The Old Vic, from being a bit of a joyless. It doesn’t quite meet thneed for entertainment at Christmastime.
Something seems lost in the translation from Dr Seuss’s simple story about the rise of industry over nature. There is plenty to keep you occupied with bursts of colour and great performances, but it does not make a particularly memorable evening out.
Monday, December 21, 2015
It is playing downstairs at the Trafalgar Studios for those who dare to see it.
Written by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, the story is about two women who were once school friends, but drifted apart. For good reason. Twenty years on Carla is living hand to mouth, raising four children with a fifth on its way. Heather has a successful career, a husband and a beautiful home. Heather has got in touch with Carla through social media, and with a wad of cash asks her to kill her husband.
Monday, December 14, 2015
Hangmen is Martin McDonagh's first new work on the London stage in a decade. But something is unsettling about this commentary on mob mentality and nostalgia. It’s grim world where the hero is the second best hangman in the country. And the smell of cigarette smoke and stale beer permeates the air. Well you don’t smell the beer but there is so much smoking on stage it wafts into the audience.
It is 1963 when the show opens. A prisoner is desperate to delay his execution by any means possible. But Harry Wade, the resourceful and efficient hangman, keeps things on track. The scene is hilarious right up to the moment when the trapdoor opens and you hear his neck snap.
Fast forward two years and Harry is running a pub in Oldham. Capital punishment has been abolished. A cub reporter from the local paper is chasing him for an interview. Still, he has his regulars at the pub. They are like his fans, clinging on to stories from the old days as if capital punishment was a sport.
Sunday, December 13, 2015
Kitten in Heels, playing at the Lost Theatre, takes the Dick Whittington pantomime and adds lashings of filth and smut. It's a naughty night out where the King Rat bears an unusual resemblance to Theresa May, and Dick's love interests is more interested in buying lemons.
But to really appreciate this show you need to be imbued with plenty of Christmas cheer.
There is a bar both inside the theatre and outside of it to assist, which may help overlook the slow pacing and the amateurish production. Plenty of audience members were making the most of the bars, but the effect was that they were making their own entertainment.
Tuesday, December 08, 2015
Things take a gritty and violent turn in the Royal Opera's new production of the short operas Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci.
With its sumptuous music and a production that moves the action to recent times, the melodrama and violence seem so palpable.
Monday, December 07, 2015
If there is one way to write a pantomime, Cinderella and The Beanstalk by Sleeping Trees at Theatre 503 tears up any rulebook.
It is a crazy little show full of as many pantomime or nursery rhyme characters. The end result is a frenzied and funny take on the pantomime and Christmas traditions.
The premise of the show is that James, Joshua and George have written a script, booked a venue and hired one lonely musician (in the form of Mark Newnham). But they have forgotten one small thing. Hiring any actors. After checking that it is alright with the audience (who are we to say no?), they decide that they are going to have to perform all the roles themselves.
Sunday, December 06, 2015
It's only on until Sunday 5 December, but Jest End at the Waterloo East theatre is a bit of a guilty pleasure of fine singing and silly musical send ups.
Billed as London's answer to Forbidden Broadway, the show takes barbs at various successful (or not quite successful shows), social media obsessed actors and low pay. You don't need to be a musical theatre aficionado to enjoy the silliness of it all. But it probably helps... Particularly as many of the in-jokes are ripped from local news headlines, gossip and sending up themselves...
Monday, November 30, 2015
At a time when you could be forgiven that (apart from football), immigration is all that the nation is obsessing about, Bend It Like Beckham the musical is an infectious celebration of different cultures living together in London without much fuss in beautiful downtown Hounslow.
What is memorable about the piece is the strong story about two women who have a passion for football. One just happens to be in a traditional Indian family and torn between her family's traditions and her passions.
The exhibition brings together 30 new paintings by artist Hugh Beattie depicting views of London’s skyline which we do not normally see. The works contrast the heritage of London and the new architecture of glass.
Over 70% of the City of London’s buildings have been erected since the millennium. In Beattie’s canvases, Early Medieval buildings share the cityscape with towering Modernist flats.
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
It's once, twice, three times the er charm(?) at the Kings Head Theatre this Christmas when the ever popular play F*cking Men. The play already has been extended since starting last summer and enters its third month.
This time there the production will be streamlined with three actors playing all ten roles... While that sounds exhausting there potentially is a touring future for the show.
Check out details at the theatre's website. The play that dare not print its entire name runs through to 9 January.
Monday, November 23, 2015
After watching Gary Kitching’s improvised performance at Oval House Theatre, Me and Mr C, you realise that you probably had the most fun you could invent for an evening.
On our night, audience members were chanting “Pigfucker! Pigfucker! Pigfucker!” as part of a lesson in organised heckling, while the remainder of us were rolling around in hysterics at the premise.
Kitching has come up with an act that derives its humour from getting the audience to do stuff. Lots of stuff. And amazingly everyone does what they are told.
Monday, November 16, 2015
In it’s eleventh year of touring and sixth year in London, La Soiree still manages to thrill and excite like it has just burst onto the scene. It’s mix of old favourites and new acts still makes it the show to see over the next few months.
Constantly changing, La Soiree keeps you second guessing what will come next. Whether it is Freddy Mercury obsessive in very tight jeans crowd surfing or a gorgeous acrobat dangling from the top smoking a cigar, this is a show that is determined to make sure you have a good time.
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Baubles up in shops, tinsel on sale in the supermarkets and dirty old men looking at little girls through telescopes, are tell tale signs it is coming on Christmas.
Theatrefullstop have decided there’s no better way to celebrate than to head down to The Yard Sunday 13 December and treat yourself to a host of theatrical... Treats.
Theatrefullstop Presents... The Christmas Wishlist sees eight acts perform a variety of circus, physical theatre, comedy and monologues.
This year's acts include: spoken word artist and writer Ese Ighorae who will present an excerpt from her latest play Olu; Lulu, a circus sex tragedy told with knives; and emerging burlesque talent Cici Noir.
Further information about all other unique and diverse artists appearing throughout this exciting evening can be found on their site...
Monday, November 09, 2015
Anita and Me, currently playing at Theatre Royal Stratford East covers Meera Syal's life growing up in 1970s West Midlands. It was an era of chain smoking, flares and glam rock. But something feels lost in the translation from book to stage production. It feels like it is a series of random encounters with northern stereotypes.
Not much happens in this slice of life comedy-drama and the accompanying music often serves to distract from the story making the show less involving than it should be.
Friday, November 06, 2015
Rotterdam is a unique and hilarious story about gender, sexuality and life abroad by playwright Jon Brittain. It is made even more memorable by the strong and tender performances by the leads.
It’s having its world premiere at Theatre503, which is continuing to nurture original new writing in London. It has to be the first “gay play” or perhaps the first "lesbian transgender comedy" in a long time to explore something that feels like real characters.
Wednesday, November 04, 2015
Xanadu, currently playing at the Southwark Playhouse takes the format of musical based on a movie and sends it up mercilessly, but the high energy levels and sheer enthusiasm from this cast make it more than just a cheap show.
Usually musicals based on a movie (or a jukebox) have source material that was loved or respected. Xanadu did not have that. It seemed to be a showcase Olivia Newton-John's limited acting (and dancing) abilities. The occasional cheap effect could not conceal that looked as if it was staged in a supermarket. And shot mostly at eye level meant that none of the dance sequences could really be seen anyway.
Over the years it developed a cult following among those who appreciated it for being "so bad it is actually good”. It was also Gene Kelly’s final film so how bad could it really be?
Monday, November 02, 2015
Returning for a sixth season in London, the little show with a big heart La Soirée is back at the Spiegeltent at the Southbank Centre.
The show is currently in previews and I recently caught up with some of the performers during a lunchtime break.
Monday, October 26, 2015
Shakespeare’s gory Elizabethan shocker Titus Andronicus is less a tragedy than a blood soaked exercise in revenge. But it is given a slick (and slightly gory) updating by Arrows and Traps in this production currently playing at the New Wimbledon Theatre studio space.
Heads in plastic bags, severed hands, twitter-based uprisings combine in this production that borrows from a range of current trends to tell this tale of horror and revenge.
But the cast assembled mostly keep the focus on the story for a brisk two hours, keeping a fine balance between the comic, creepy and sadistic elements at the heart of the story.
Friday, October 16, 2015
The second of the joint of the joint winners of the inaugural Theatre 503 Play writing Award, Valhalla, is an intriguing and at times frightening tale on science, mythology and a marriage on the edge.
This two-hander starts off seemingly normal. Man, a genetic scientist is researching a cure for an epidemic killing thousands. His wife, Woman, is a GP. They are trying for a baby and she is having trouble conceiving. Chaos and rioting has erupted on the streets arising from the epidemic, so they head to a Nordic research facility so he can continue his work.
Monday, October 12, 2015
It's been over a year since In The Heights stormed London. It is back at the Kings Cross Theatre sounding even better than before.
This is a thrilling show directed by Luke Sheppard. It's full of terrific performances, spectacular choreography by Drew McOnie and a pulsating latin, pop and hip-hop-fused musical score by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Sunday, October 11, 2015
In this adaptation by Stephen Sharkey, which was commissioned to mark the 90th anniversary of the novel’s publication, live music is combined with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing to give a period flavour to the evening.
Friday, October 09, 2015
The Father is the story of one man as he “looses his leaves,” and through a series of fragmented scenes it is left to the audience to piece together what is happening to him. But the premise of jagged short scenes actually proves alienating and the dialogue is often unbelievable.
What we learn over the course of this piece is that Andre is 80 years old. He was once a tap dancer. He lives with his daughter Anne and her husband Antoine. Or he was an engineer whose daughter Anne lives in London with her new lover. Bit by bit fragments of his life are colliding as age takes its toll. Are those around him helping him or have they other plans?
Thursday, October 08, 2015
Participants are told nothing of what they are going to do. Instead are asked when queuing for the fair whether they are curious...
They are then drawn slowly in, until it is too late to turn back, having to continually question how far they want to involve themselves and being encouraged to go beyond the traditional weird stuff set for both theatre and art fairs.
Hmmmm sounds like being a writer for theatre and the arts in the social media scene…
Sunday, October 04, 2015
As the lights go down suddenly the familiar tune from the film Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory floats down from around the St James Theatre.
And thus begins the journey into the world of the songs of Leslie Bricusse with the revue Pure Imagination. It could easily be called a journey through the last fifty years or so of music, as it does feel like it is a showcase of some of the most popular songs from stage and film. Part of the fun is realising so many of them were written or co-written by one man.
Saturday, September 19, 2015
A reunion with an estranged half-sister at their mother's funeral provides the backdrop for an unlikely musical subject in the Etienne Sisters at the Theatre Royal Stratford East. The sisters accompanied by jazz pianist Nikki Yeoh perform admirably in this sophisticated and slick show even if the music doesn't feel like a perfect match to its subject matter.
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Tonight I’m Gonna Be The New Me, currently playing at the Soho Theatre is a theatrical endurance piece, both for the performers and the audience as it attempts to describe a relationship, or a relationship re imagined.
It should be part of Soho Theatre’s programme of weird shit to see in the West End. It’s alienating, amusing and infuriating. So depending on your frame of mind you’re going to love it or think you are trapped. I suspect the intention is to feel both. Thankfully it only lasts a little over an hour.
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
And Then Come the Nightjars, currently playing at Theatre 503, is a funny and at times touching two-hander that charts the period of the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001 and its aftermath from the perspective a a farmer in South Devon and his friend and local vet.
It is astonishing to watch such a finely drawn characterisations and a beautiful looking production in the intimate space of Theatre 503.
Friday, September 11, 2015
Dusty Springfield is back from the dead in Dusty, a multimedia musical which has her spinning around and singing in 3D holographic spectacular. As for the show, despite other opinions, I liked it for the music. It is a wonderful homage to her, even if the technology gets in the way of the performances and the story.
Tuesday, September 08, 2015
To celebrate the bi-centenary of its publication, the Friends of Brunswick Square present Emma200. Not to be confused for what is written on those tart cards you will also find in phone boxes nearby, it is a weekend festival of talks, performances, exhibitions in the leafy surroundings of Brunswick Square.
Monday, September 07, 2015
As we approach the centenary of his birth, Arthur Miller’s first produced play gets a classy revival with a terrific cast at the Kings Head Theatre.
The premise of the work is that David, a mid western automobile mechanic has the Midas touch. Everything he touches turns to gold. He gets the girl he wants (against her father’s wishes), he runs a successful automobile mechanic business (after a chance encounter with another mechanic). He even opens a gas station which just by luck then has a freeway run past it. But as his family and friends struggle with their lives despite their hard work and perseverance, David struggles to enjoy his success. And as he waits for his luck to turn he slowly descends into madness.
The old keep living and the young are dying. It is all a bit random and unpredictable with these birthdays, deaths and marriages in hamlet is dead. no gravity. It is one of four pieces playing as part of the Volta International Festival at the Arcola Theatre.
The work by German writer Ewald Palmetshofer is both fascinating, challenging and amusing. The work deals with the premise about how people tend to tense up in uncomfortable situations, be it the mother who longs for her mother to be dead, a marriage of convenience, an unexplained death or a brother and sister who seem awfully close. Things gradually build to an unexpected climax.
Tuesday, September 01, 2015
There is so much energy in this production of Thoroughly Modern Millie that even if a projector malfunctioned and a spot light crashed, nothing dims the performances of this young, good looking cast.
This is a song and dance show. And on more than one occasion did this small and resourceful cast wow with high kicks and perfect pitch in the intimate space of the Landor theatre. Sam Spencer’s fabulous choreography makes this show a thrill to watch. Sitting up close to the performers as they sing and dance their hearts out gives the show an added level of excitement and gives a new perspective to the piece.
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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.
Monday, June 08, 2015
Spade guitars, feats with champagne bottles you didn’t think were possible, dancing budgies and amazing acrobats. It’s all part of the mix with the latest offering from Company2, Scotch and Soda, now playing at the London Wonderground on the SouthBank.
The show is a mix of circus and jazz provided by The Crusty Suitcase Band, led by by Ben Walsh, who keeps things moving with an impressive collection of percussion
Friday, May 29, 2015
With original words and music by James Beeny and Gina Georgio, this new musical tells the true story of war hero Captain David ‘Reggie’ Salomons who led his regiment Third Field Company to
Gallipoli in 1915.
Set during 1914-15, The Dreamers is based on the true story of Captain Reggie Salomons and tells the story of the outbreak of the First World War through the eyes of the soldiers and the families that they left behind.