Monday, February 29, 2016

Tender horrors: Firebird @TrafStudios


Drama ripped from the headlines and an intense, emotional performance from Callie Cooke in the lead make Firebird at Trafalgar Studios a must see show.

Leaving the theatre you might feel as if you have seen first hand a traumatic event. And perhaps you have. This piece conveys some of the brutal realities victims of child sexual exploitation experience. It leaves you drained, shocked and angry that this is probably still going on. But that is no doubt its intention.

Remembering last year: @Mytheatremates Also Recognised Awards

While some of us can't remember what we saw last month (handy to have a blog for that reason), MyTheatreMates announced last week the shortlists in the second annual Also Recognised Awards.

These audience-voted industry accolades celebrate talent in fields often overlooked by other award bodies. One of the awards is the UK’s first-ever prize for Best Musical Direction. In addition to Best Musical Direction the awards recognise performances for:

  • Best Ensemble Performance
  • Best Solo Performance
  • Best Shakespearean Production
  • Best Original Music
  • London Newcomer of the Year
  • Theatre Event of the Year


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Wife swap: Four Play @Theatre503


Twenty-first century first world problems are at the fore in this funny take on modern love in Four Play. It is currently running at Theatre 503.

There are plenty of gay plays you can see these days. Most involve a flimsy plot that is just an excuse to get a bunch of actors naked. In London they are worthy of a genre in their own right (my suggestion is #shitforgays). But this piece explores emotions that are more than skin deep. Perhaps.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Trouble at the mill: Norma @E_N_O


Norma at the ENO is almost a compromise too far. The production moves the action to the Victorian period. And it is a bit too distracting for this tragedy lyrics set in Roman-occupied Gaul.

But there is some fine singing. American Soprano Marjorie Owens in the lead role gives a vocally strong performance. She dominates the scenes that she is in. Jennifer Holloway as Adalgisa matches Owens with vocal clarity. Both make their performances seem effortless. Rounding out the love triangle as Pollione, Peter Auty is just as resourceful.

Monday, February 22, 2016

You gotta get a gimmick: Hand to God @handtogodlondon


Hand to God has landed in the West End after a successful run on Broadway. It's been described as Sesame Street meets the Exorcist but something seems lost in translation in its trip across the pond.

The comedy seems forced and the attempts to shock seem like they miss the target for London audiences. After all, this is a city where its buses advertised that God probably doesn't exist. Fanaticism and seeing things only in black and white is not really what we do over here.

It's a shame as while there is a heavy handed preachy message that misses its mark, there are also some great performances. And some very funny use of sock puppets.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Meanwhile in SW13: Dress Rehearsal @OSOArtsBarnes


Backstage antics at a pub theatre in Barnes never felt so mild or bemusing in Dress Rehearsal. But while the drama is a little flat the music and production values make up for it. It's on for a short run at the OSO Arts Centre.

Dress Rehearsal follows five performers and their rivalries, failures and ambitions. What happens backstage spills onstage as the drama leads into music and then back into more drama.

Windmills of your mind: The Memory Show @DraytonArmsSW5



The transformation of a mother daughter relationship as a daughter becomes a carer is at the heart of The Memory Show.

It's a new musical with book and lyrics by Sara Cooper and music by Zach Redler. It is having its European premiere at the Drayton Arms Theatre in South Kensington, for a very brief period.

Alzheimer's has inspired many creative works. From the book and film Still Alice and the recently produced play The Father. Here the same story is told, but with music. And it gives the piece a heightened sense of reality and emotion. And the natural performances from the two leads ground the piece and have you transfixed watching their journey.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Topical Manhandling: Red Velvet @BranaghTheatre


Red Velvet tells the story of Ira Aldridge, a black actor who plays Othello at the Theatre Royal Covent Garden in 1833. It's fascinating to watch Adrian Lester, playing a man playing Othello. And it's evocative seeing the drama unfold in a theatre close to the period that it adds to the drama.

The piece is set at the Theatre Royal Covent Garden in 1833. Edmund Kean, the greatest actor of his generation, collapses on stage while playing Othello. As a result of too much hard living. His son who is playing Iago expects to step up into the role. But impresario Pierre Laporte gives the role to Aldridge, who had been touring in London.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Meanwhile somewhere in rural England: Weald @Finborough



Weald, the new play by Daniel Foxsmith currently playing at the Finborough Theatre, is a funny and   intriguing piece about rural life in England and the bond between men.

The premise is that Jim arrives home after six years away in need of work at a livery yard. It is only temporary as he needs the work. Sam, the older man and father figure to him, reluctantly agrees.

As they get back to work, it is as if they were picking up where they left off. But in the years since Jim left, both have changed. The harsh economic realities for both of them mean that things are going to be as they were before.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Make a pot roast: The World Goes 'Round - the songs of Kander and Ebb @St_JamesTheatre


After catching The World Goes Round, it is easy to appreciate the breadth of writing from composers and lyricist John Kander and Fred Ebb. In the days since catching it, many of the songs have become ear worms. Who would have thought a song about two women comparing their lives (and singing about pot roast) could do that? No doubt it is due to the fine music making on stage.

The show includes songs from their best known works, Cabaret and Chicago. But it also includes many other songs from lesser known shows. And songs that might have been lost are now given the chance to shine.

It is a lot of songs in to get through in one evening but the show never drags during its nearly two hour duration. Helping the proceedings along are the performers assembled for the evening and each are given their moment.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Blowing off steam: One of Those @TristanBates


It all happens on the mid-morning train to Cornwall in One of Those, in this funny and fresh piece of new writing by Tom Ward-Thomas.

A train ride to Cornwall is full of connections, and not just of the rail kind.

The play's title comes from the false assumptions that people make at first meeting and how this influences how they behave.

Pillow talk: Jeepers Creepers @lsqtheatre


Life is a series of bedroom scenes in this tribute to comedian Marty Feldman, Jeepers Creepers. It's playing downstairs at the Leicester Square Theatre through to 20 February.

And while you learn a bit about the man from East London who found fame in Hollywood, you never really understand what made him so funny in the first place.