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Showing posts from 2017

Boys town: Eyes Closed, Ears Covered @BunkerTheatreUK

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In the year since opening, The Bunker at Southwark has established itself for new and experimental pieces. Alex Gwyther’s Eyes Closed, Ears Covered is no exception. It’s a dark and confusing world where laughs and kicking about is a cover for something more sinister. It opens with an incident on the beach in Brighton in the late eighties. A boy’s been attacked and the police arrest two boys and question them about the events of the day.The two boys questioned, Seb and Aaron, had planned the day for weeks. They’ve planned and saved enough money and are going to bunk off school. But something has gone horribly wrong.There’s Aaron (Danny-Boy Hatchard), the cocky yet short-fused one. He’s got the plan to make it happen. And it was Seb’s (Joe Iris-Roberts) idea of the wide-eyed to visit his mum in Brighton. They seem like ten year olds as they bounce off each other and run about the stage recounting their mate ship. But as they tell their stories separately neither seem to provide a cred…

The lady’s not for turning: Doubt A Parable @swkplay

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It feels as if Doubt, A Parable, has transformed the Southwark Playhouse into a church. There’s the smell of incense, the stained glass and way too many seats for the audience in attendance. But a sensational subject, the ambiguity of the story and terrific performances make this a must see.It’s a tense and brisk and ambiguous piece that will leave you debating exactly what you saw.

The award-winning play by John Patrick Shanley is set in a fictional Catholic school in the Bronx in 1964. Sister Aloysius (Stella Gonet) is the head of a grade school. She’s convinced that Father Flynn (Jonathan Chambers) has had an inappropriate relationship with a boy in her school.

Shortwave: Talk Radio @ORLTheatre

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Thirty years on from its first premiere, Talk Radio was a hint about what lies in store for the future of radio. And the future of journalism. It’s an early insight into the media world we now accept where you no longer have to be an expert, you just have to have an opinion. It’s currently playing at the Old Red Lion Theatre.

It’s a step back in time to the eighties with this piece. But in doing so its a chance to reflect on the self-loathing monster writer Eric Bogosian created.

The controversial, opinionated, provocateur achieving fame and fortune but hating himself in the process seems quaint in an era of various bile-producing columnists and radio hosts. Nowadays to be sacked for being too provocative is a badge of honour; Merely a stepping stone to a bigger book deal or show. So you can be forgiven for not understanding all the angst in this piece.

The wipers times: Windows @Finborough

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Windows is yet another rediscovery of a play that resonates with the issues of today. It’s set in the period after the First World War, but the issues it tackles seem familiar. Class, rehabilitation and liberal minded values are put to the test. Politicians are despised for their incompetence and the changing economy makes it hard to find help at the right price.Written by John Galsworthy, better known for The Forsyte Sage, it’s currently playing at the Finborough Theatre. And it’s having the first professional UK production in 85 years.
We’re introduced to the March family, who are living in Highgate. Geoffrey March (David Shelley) is a successful writer of novels. His son Johnny (Duncan Moore) is still suffering the effects of three years in the trenches. But they are in desperate need of a woman to help clear the table. Surely in Highgate they could not be expected to do that for themselves?

Mum’s the word: Loot @ParkTheatre

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In the fifty years since Joe Orton’s death, Loot has lost none of its bite. In fact, with the naughtier, dirtier bits restored, it presents a hypocritical and corrupt British society that feels like present day. It’s currently playing at Park Theatre.
The targets here are religion, the police, corruption and our perception of death. It’s intended to shock. It’s intended to be funny. But taking in all the banter and word play you realise Orton’s attacking the veneer of polite respectability that pervades Britain. Here rhetoric clashes with reality. But at least it’s damn funny.
It opens with Mr McLeavy (Ian Redford) grieving over the death of his wife and getting ready to go to her funeral. He’s lived a respectable life. He is with Nurse Fay (Sinéad Matthews) who looked after her in her final weeks. But as she talks and talks about piety and respectability all is not what it seems.
McLeavy’s son, Hal (Sam Frenchum), has strayed from the righteous path. Attracted to petty crime, prostitute…

Love and marriage: Mrs Orwell @ORLTheatre

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London in 1949 was a grim time with ration books and strange fish from South Africa. But it's amazing the lengths people will go to keep up morale. Or secure a future income. The business of marriage is explored in Mrs Orwell, currently playing at the Old Red Lion Theatre.

It opens shortly after the publication of Nineteen Eighty-Four. George Orwell is dying of tuberculosis in hospital. But in his rage against the dying light he believes he has at three more novels in him. So to keep up his morale he proposes to his friend Sonia Brownell, an assistant magazine editor.

Brownell is clear that she is not in love with him, but she does care for him. And she realises she could be his only hope to keep him going. Her heart is with a French Philospher and her body is often with Lucien Freud. Well, such is the glamorous life living with artists.

Grudge match: The Wasp @JSTheatre

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Just how long can you hold a grudge? Well it probably depends on what exactly went down at school. Morgan Lloyd Malcolm's The Wasp is back in the West End. It last appeared in 2015 at Hampstead Theatre and then transfered to Trafalgar Studios.
Two years on, it's at the Jermyn Street Theatre and just as chilling and just as spooky. Although perhaps having seen it all before, you see more of the mechanics behind the story that evolves over cups of tea. 
The story is about Carla and Heather. They were once schoolmates but drifted apart due to their different backgrounds. And one or two horrible incidents. Heather has become a successful businesswoman. She drinks lattes and has nice clothes. Carla is probably just about managing - pregnant and in a track suit - and prefers builders tea. The scene is set for what you think will be a class struggle and then Heather asks Carla if she would help her kill her husband.

Unfinished business: Continuity @Finborough @Continuityplay

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It's an odd feeling to laughing along with man about plant a bomb... But such is the world you're drawn into with Gerry Moynihan's Continuity, currently at the Finborough Theatre.

What's chilling about this this monologue is how it hooks you in to the story . Here the cause is taken as a given. Unquestioned, unflinching and ongoing... The Good Friday Agreement is the thin veneer of peace that conceals what's really happening on the ground. The ongoing rough justice, score settling and resistance that is largely unreported.

The story involves Padraig (Paul Kennedy), a member of the Continuity IRA. He is dedicated to the cause. But after meeting a girl from Barcelona, he soon finds his colleagues questioning him  about his commitment. And he begins to wonder about it himself.

Jam: Just To Get Married @Finborough

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What's exciting about watching Cicely Hamilton's Just To Get Married is how it captures the spirit of a changing world. The piece is having its first London production in over 100 years at the Finborough Theatre.

It's lost none of its bite with its central argument that women are forced into marriage for their own survival. It's the only way they are judged as a success and they don't get the same opportunities as men.

It also captures life in Edwardian England where there was a fine line between living comfortably and just about managing. Here there is no safety net. No pensions. And if you're a woman, no right to vote either. Today, while some of the attitudes and priorities may have changed, some of the values may still seem familiar...

Remote arguments: The Marriage of Kim K @arcolatheatre @marriageofkimk

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The Arcola Theatre's annual Grimeborn Opera Festival opened this year with Leoe & Hyde's The Marriage of Kim K. It contrasts the life of Kim Kardashian and her brief marriage to basketballer Kris Humphries with the different backgrounds of the count and countess in Mozart's opera.

But this piece really boils down to who has the remote control in the living room. There is a third couple in the proceedings - Amelia and Stephen. She is a law student and likes to watch trashy television and he is a composer who wants to watch something more challenging.

You would think they would get a tablet and headphones and stream like everyone else. But this story was added after composer and director Stephen Hyde fell for his leading lady Amelia Gabriel. So a show about a reality show becomes its own reality show. It's so meta it is enough to do your head in.

Feeling bleat: Sheep @whitebeartheatr

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Sleep deprivation, angst and strange goings on in London are things we all can relate to. But Sheep, a dystopian take on London doesn't disturb or amuse in the end. It's more a tease. It's currently playing at the White Bear Theatre in Kennington.

The problem is that the central character Dexy hasn't slept for 21 nights. Played by Ciaran Lonsdale he looks too calm, clean and controlled to be believable in this dreamlike scenario. There's no bloodshot eyes, erratic behaviour or general wandering about looking like shit. Even for a comedy getting the mood right is important.

It opens with him complaining about the duck down pillow and brooding over his missing girlfriend. Soon he is visited by some strange men in his life. There is the overly camp Leo and the dull bus driver Vic. Then there is the mysterious lady Margot who likes to go out dancing.

Murder on the dance floor: Disco Pigs @TrafStudios

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Twenty years on, Enda Walsh's Disco Pigs still manages to shock and fascinate with its evocative and provocative world of deprivation. It's currently playing at Trafalgar Studios.

But with its endless slang and two unpleasant characters, it's often an an impenetrable world. Even with two masterful performances and slick production values, this is still a journey through hell.

The piece is about Pig and Runt. Born on the same day and at the same time in the same hospital, they've been inseparable all their lives. They have their own language, own rules, and exist in a world of petty crime, violence, drinking and dancing...

But as they approach adulthood, Pig's feelings for Runt grow. Runt struggles to break away from Pig's advances and the world in which they have built over their lives.

The best of all possible worlds: Candide in Concert with @LMTOrch @CadoganHall

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It is possible to see the best of all possible worlds after experiencing the passion and sublime music making from London Musical Theatre Orchestra's concert version of Candide.

Playing for one night only at Cadogan Hall, you left the theatre sharing the joy and passion the musicians felt for Bernstein's work.

Based on a story by Voltaire, it's about a young man determined to cling to optimism despite the frequent tragedies he encounters. Along the way he's expelled from home, dragged into the Bulgarian army, brought before the Spanish Inquisition... But the plot is not so important...

As a concert version, Bernstein's operetta lets you overlook the sillier parts of the story and focus on the music and performances.

Eat it up: Mumburger @ORLTheatre

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If barbecues and eating bring people together, Mumburger takes it to a new level in dealing with death and loss. Currently playing at the Old Red Lion Theatre  Sarah Kosar's take on death, family and meat is funny and thought-provoking. And a little off-putting if you're squeamish.
Mum's dead. She got hit by a truck on the M25. The two people she left behind - a father and daughter are grieving. There are the usual funeral plans and picking up relatives from the airport. But there is also the arrival of a brown package of meat patties to deal with.
Did their mum arrange for them to be delivered on her death, knowing full well that unlike her they were only part-time vegetarians? Or are they symbolic of something more?

Silly monkey: King Kong (A comedy) @thevaultsuk

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King Kong (A Comedy)is currently at the Vaults at Waterloo. A show that needs to tell you it's a comedy (albeit in parenthesis) might give you reason to hesitate. If it's funny why does it need to tell you that it will be? But fortunately it is like a sketch show put together to tell the story of the beast that almost conquered New York. 
King Kong is such a silly story that giving it a comic treatment actually doesn't change much of it. Struggling producer needs a leading lady for his next animal picture. No self-respecting actress would work with him and so he finds a lady off the street. Only this time she can speed read ancient texts and maps. There is enough silliness to appeal to children and enough adult themes to keep the rest of us tittering away.
A cast of serious (and not so serious) actors; Ben Chamberlain, Rob Crouch, Sam Donnelly, Aix Dunmore and Brendan Murphy play a range of characters that featured in the film.

Carpe diem: Mr Gillie @Finborough

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Poor Mr Gillie. A headmaster at a small village  school railing against the norms and expectations of the time. It's like a poor mans Dead Poets Society... Without the privileged young men, the cliches or the sentimentality. It's funny too which makes this piece enjoyable even if it is a little long. Here life is the pits, and Mr Gillie was the only hope for anyone who didn't care for that.

It's playing at the Finborough Theatre and is the first London production in over 60 years of James Bridie's work.

It opens with the a judge and barrister discussing the life of Mr Gillie. Mr Gillie and his wife had been evicted from their schoolmaster's house after the closing down of the school. The furniture van was coming to clear out his things but had run over and killed him. Now the  judge and barrister would have to decide whether his life had any point.

Music and monarchists: Blondel @TheUnionTheatre

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The legend of Richard the Lionhart's dubious rescue from captivity by his minstrel Blondel is the subject of this rock musical by Tim Rice and Stephen Oliver at the Union Theatre. With its youthful cast it's well sung and funny in a pantomime sort of way.

It's a pity that our hero Blondel (Connor Arnold) comes across less as a rock star and more of a folk singer in this version. It could do with a throbbing beat and a few guitar riffs to keep the action moving. But you'll find a few wry observations about austerity which will seem as relevant as when the show first premiered in 1983.

Gender whatevers: Rotterdam @artstheatreLDN @RotterdamPlay

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The years have been kind to Jon Brittain's Rotterdam. Since its first outing in 2015 the awareness about transgender issues has grown. Whether it is from Caitlyn Jenner or gender-neutral toilets at the Barbican, it's topical and thought-provoking.

And following its win at the 2017 Oliver Awards and a run off-Broadway, Rotterdam is back in London. After catching it again it's great to report that it still feels as funny and bitter-sweet as ever. And don't call it a lesbian-transgender-whatever comedy. That would be too binary to give it a label. It's just complicated and that's probably what gives the show its brilliance.

Cheers Mum, Cheers Dad: Punts @theatre503

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Watching Punts, which is currently playing at Theatre 503, reminded me of that joke about the boy who asked his parents if he could have a watch for Christmas. And so they let him. Here a young man's sexual awakening is organised by his parents. It all seems very modern.
Sarah Page's comedy about the sexual awakening of a young man has a twist. His parents pay for a prostitute to help him as he has learning difficulties. But the piece moves quickly from being a bit  awkward (or a bit gross), to being a very funny and sophisticated story. It's also made believable by the convincing performances.

The girl with the animal tattoo: Vixen @thevaultsuk

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There's something about the girl with vixen tattoo in Vixen. If you're standing in the bar at the Vaults at the beginning she is likely to push you out of the way singing and asking for spare change.

It's a confronting introduction to this part promenade performance of Silent Opera's Vixen. It re-imagines Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen to the streets of London. Here Vixen is homeless, taken in by a different kind of predator only to escape.

Rosie Lomas in the role of the Vixen holds your attention with her performance of a determined and resourceful woman of the street.

Along the way she escapes a foster carer, kicks out another homeless man from his shelter and falls in love.

Life goes on: Footprints On The Moon @Finborough

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There's no place like home. Except when everyone around you wants to leave you and someone has scrawled your phone number on a wall of a dodgy bar. These are all important revelations in Footprints On The Moon.

Canadian playwright Maureen Hunter's story of life in a small town is having its European premiere at the Finborough Theatre.  With its well-defined characters it's a fascinating insight into small-town Canadian life.


It opens with Joanie (Anne Adams) sweating in a dress waiting at the station for her daughter to arrive back home. But even after writing a prize-winning essay about how fabulous life is in her small town things aren't quite what they seem.

What becomes clear is that Joanie doesn't want anything to change and as her daughter grows up and wants to leave her world starts to fall apart. I

Sharing the abstract set with Jam (with is running alongside this production) makes the audience have to work hard to believe that we're in a remote provinc…

Secret marriages and other rivalries: Il Matrimonio Segreto @popupoperauk

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Cimarosa’s Il Matrimonio Segreto (The Secret Marriage) continues Pop-up Opera's tradition of semi-staging rarely seen works in unusual locations. It's playing at various sites across the country until 30 July.

This rarely-seen work is perfect for their style. It's a little bit silly. It has some great arias. And it showcases some fabulous voices from its young and energetic cast. Of course being Pop-up Opera, they add some 21st century flourishes to this  18th century opera. There are endless references to politics and on-point trends.

Batter up: Jam @Finborough

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No doubt there are days when teachers just wish they had a baseball bat to put a little bit of distance between themselves and their students.

In Jam by Matt Parvin, teacher Bella Soroush is lucky enough to do just that. It's currently playing at the Finborough Theatre.

The premise in this two-hander is that ex-pupil Kane ruined Bella Soroush's life. Something happened and so she moved schools, moved towns and got on with her life. But now Kane has tracked her down and claims they have unfinished business.

Flipping memories: Catch Me @FlipFabriQue @UnderbellyFest

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It's the start of summer. The weather's hot and the Underbelly Festival at the South Bank Centre is opening with its usual eclectic mix of circus acts, comedy and cabaret. And Flip FabriQue's Catch Me fits this bill well.

There is beauty and fluidity in the performances. The premise is that ten years later a bunch of friends reunite for another weekend at a cottage together. They play. They have fun. And they do strange and unusual things with straps, trampolines and diablos.

The not-so merry widow: Ballroom @Waterlooeast

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There's a terrific band and a real nice crowd... So one of the opening songs goes. Not all the magic is here in this lost musical of loneliness and rediscovering life. But as a vehicle for a star performance by Jessica Martin, it's great.

Martin plays lonely widow Bea who runs off to a ballroom and finds herself living life again. She's vulnerable, she's stunning and she has a great singing voice. It's currently playing at Waterloo East Theatre.

Talks preview: Preservation during conflict @WorldMonuments

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As part of a series of talks about heritage in conflict zones, on Tuesday 16 May at the Royal Geographic Society World Monuments Fund Britain presents Zaki Aslan, Director of ICCROM-ATHAR - an international body that works to conserve cultural heritage in the Middle East. Zaki Aslan will provide significant insight into the state of heritage in the region and discuss how the world’s nations could help more with conservation. The evening will be introduced by Tracey Crouch, Minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage at DCMS.

This event follows the 2015 inaugural talk World Monument Fund talk in which Professor Maamoun Abdulkarim, the Director-General of Syrian Antiquities, visited the UK for the first time. With the recent news that Palmyra in Syria has just been freed from ISIS for a second time, Maamoun Abdulkarim will join the lecture by video to give us the very latest position on his country’s besieged cultural heritage.

Conflict continues to dominate the Middle East and we regular…

Beautiful at the ballet: No Place For A Woman @Theatre503

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No Place For a Woman combines music, movemement and storytelling to present a haunting tale on human emotions and the desire to survive. And that despite it all, everything really is beautiful at the ballet. It's currently at Theatre 503.

Written by Cordelia O'Neil, this two-hander brings out the fine detail of two women's lives that are intertwined during conflict. It is set in Poland at the end of the Second World War, but there is something universal about the themes that make you feel as if it could be any time or place during conflict.

The premise is that as allied forces are interviewing the two women a story emerges. The wife of a prison camp commandant was throwing a party and she asks her husband to get champagne. But instead he brings home a ballet dancer from the camp. And they keep her.

Swinging and projecting: Soho @PeacockTheatre #sohotheshow

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A journey through London's soho with its street workers, artists, drag queens and everyday people is the theme of Soho. It is a  physical movement spectacular at the Peacock Theatre for a brief run.

Acrobats, dance and projections combine with a throbbing soundtrack to make for a breathtaking evening.

At times there is so much going on that it's hard to know where to look. But it's a slick piece of circus artisty and projections

The bizarre and the demented: Out There On Fried Meat Ridge Road @Trafstudios

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Out There On Fried Meat Ridge Road is a great title for a play. And it's a laugh out loud hour or so of bizarre antics. After a run in January at the White Bear Theatre it's at Trafalgar Studios. They've transformed the space into a dump of a motel and it's a fabulous experience. There are stains on the walls, mismatched furniture and endless country music.

It's difficult to describe the plot without giving away some of the surprises. It opens with JD (Keith Stevenson). He's a friendly kind of hillbilly living in this grimy place. Mitch (Robert Moloney) arrives answering an ad JD's placed in the paper looking for a roommate. Mitch has lost his job, his girlfriend and his apartment and so is desperate. But he's surprised to find JD living in motel. And then arrive the neighbours. There's the cranky old Flip (Michael Wade), the owner of the motel. Then there's meth-head Marlene (Melanie Gray) and her hot-headed boyfriend Tommy (Alex Ferns).

Will…

Needs a little more mascara: Madame Rubinstein @Parktheatre

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Madame Rubinstein at Park Theatre should be a camp romp covering the rivalry between Helena Rubinstein, Elizabeth Arden and Revlon. But instead it is a dragged out affair that has few laughs and some  unintended ones.

The jokes are so stale you could think that John Misto wrote it in the 1950s rather than the present day.

Miriam Margolyes as Rubinstein looks the part and has fun with the role. But in the end she can't do much with a lumbering script and odd looking production. Frances Barber as Arden is terrific as her foil, but she doesn't get much to do other than look fabulous in fur.

Sisters doing it to themselves: Everything Between Us @Finborough

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If a playwright ever wants to get the undivided attention of the audience, opening with: "Fuck you, you fucking bitch, I'll tear your fucking eyeballs out ya cunt!" sure does the trick.

And so begins an explosive 70 minutes of Everything Between Us by David Ireland. It's having it's English premiere playing in repertoire with Late Company at the Finborough Theatre.

It's about the conflict in post conflict Northern Ireland and the conflict between two sisters. Both unionists and both divided. But its power lies in how it can be funny and provocative at taking aim at Northern Ireland conflict and the people caught in it.

Trauma and light: The Braille Legacy @CharingCrossThr

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I suspect the inspiration for the musical the Braille Legacy currently playing at Charing Cross Theatre is to explore a young man's determination to read and learn.

But instead we get a lot of political intrigue and some unintentionally hilarious musical moments as children disappear after medical experiments go wrong. All set to music.

This is a new musical by Sébastien Lancrenon and Jean-Baptiste Saudray and translated by Ranjit Bolt. It's lush and listenable, but curiously lacking in any emotion or point.

Smooth operator: How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying @wiltonsmusichall

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It feels a little like a high school musical with its clunky sets and actors cast in roles too old for them. But I still found How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying at Wiltons Music Hall a lot of fun. Part of its fun is the memorable performance by Marc Pickering as the ambitious young executive.

Here you get the impression he is relying less on boyish charm and more on being sly and cunning to get ahead. Given the space of Wiltons he can look you in the eye and let you know he is out to get what he wants.  He also gives the classic songs in the show a fresh interpretation that feels as if they should be on an album.

Its all about Audra: Audra McDonald @lsqtheatre

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It is fair to say that Audra McDonald with her multiple Tony awards and unique voice and personality is a living Broadway legend. You shouldn't miss any opportunity to see her on stage and she is in town for few days performing at the Leicester Square Theatre.

She'll be back in London in the summer is reprising the Billie Holliday role in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill. As her West End debut this is shaping up to be a a much anticipated event. It was due to happen last year but had a postponement as she and husband Will Swenson were expecting a baby. Now these Leicester Square Theatre concerts will add to the buzz.

Now the baby is backstage it's time to get down to some fine music making. What is exciting about her is not only her musicianship and personality but her ability to champion new music. This has always come through in her recordings (of which I seem to have collected all of them - which probably makes me a bit of a fan).

The format of these shows is her lo…

Long time coming: Chinglish @parktheatre

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It's the little things that make all the difference in Chinglish, a slick and funny play currently at the Park Theatre. In David Henry Hwang's comedy, which opened on Broadway in 2011, Chinese-American relations, corruption and commerce are in focus.

But a funny thing happened in the five or so years since the play opened. America as led by its new leader is a country on its knees awaiting to be made great again. It may be firing missiles but they're hitting the least strategic targets possible.

And while America is impotent, China is the country the world is turning to for answers on the environment, the economy and manufacturing. So much so that some are wondering if the policy of the new administration is to make China great again.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is repositioning the country against the slouch on the couch. It could be the man, but it could be the country. And higher import duties and a corruption crackdown has ended Chinese tourists returning from Europe…

Stompin' at the Palace: This Joint Is Jumpin' @theotherpalace

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In the basement space of The Other Palace there's a whole lot of jumpin', stompin' and jazzin' going on. It is not so much a theatrical piece but homage to the great jazz legend Fats Waller.

The artists pay tribute to the life and music of Fats Waller through song, dance and a small and largely insignificant plot device. But it's the music making that will leave you with the lasting impression.

There's music director and co-creator Michael Mwenso’s cool jazz vocals which combined with his band The Shakes are a sensation.  Mathis Picard’s on the piano, Ruben Fox on tenor sax and Mark Kavuma on trumpet each have some terrific moments.

But the highlight is the London debut of Broadway legend Lillias White. She is the cats pyjamas with her charm and ability to give meaning from the seemingly most insignificant lyric.

The Corsican Job: Sublime @Tristanbates

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With Sublime, the premise of a new heist drama and a promise of it being a provocative play is hard to resist. Its short run at the Tristan Bates Theatre has ended but there were some things to admire about the piece by by Sarah Thomas.

The story is that the heistess, Sophie, is back in town. And she's got one week to pull off three jobs to pay back the Corsicans. It's assumed knowledge that you don't want to fuck with the Corsicans. But if you have been to Corsica you probably will understand that immediately.

She enlists her brother Sam to help her. But Sam is trying to lead a straight and boring life with his mousy new girlfriend Clara (Suzy Gill). But there is so much sexual chemistry between the two you begin to wonder what sort of siblings they are.

It's not the work, but the stairs: The Life @swkplay

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Whores with hearts of gold are back on stage with this slick and star-powered production of The Life at Southwark Playhouse.

It's a musical about the sleazy underworld of prostitution and pimps of the 1970s / 1980s New York set to songs from the 1930s. Well, it felt like they did, and it was hard to tell which one was out of place.

But even if the piece isn't a documentary of sex workers in the city, it presents a joyful set of tarts and pimps as an opportunity to celebrate being alive. Or at least being alive enough to take seven men in a single night.

Combined with a great cast and one of the best looking and best sounding productions in the Southwark Playhouse make it a worthwhile trip.

Bang pop kapow: Big Guns @YardTheatre

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It's bad enough walking about the back streets of Hackney alone on a quiet mid-week evening without having to worry about a man with a gun. But after seeing Big Guns at The Yard Theatre that's all I was thinking about.

The man with a gun features a lot in writer Nina Segal's piece. It's part fear and part celebration of a culture of violence. Actually it is mostly fear. With a backdrop of pop culture references, pornography, terrorism, milkshakes and popcorn.

It's all topical as the banter moves between one violent act and the next. It is a two hander and opens with Two (Debra Baker) and One (Jessy Romeo) sitting in what could be a cinema. Wearing 3D glasses and stuffing their faces with popcorn.

Drain the swamp: The Frogs @JSTheatre

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The search for a great playwright to rescue society seems an odd subject for a musical-comedy. But these are no ordinary times we are living in. A frog called Pepe is now a symbol for the alt-right movement. So now may be the time for a show where frogs appear to be a symbol of conformity, distraction and mediocrity.

The Frogs was an ancient Greek comedy from 405 BC by Aristophanes. It became a short musical piece performed in the Yale Swimming Pool in the 1970s by Burt Shevelove. And it is now a somewhat fully fledged musical thanks to Nathan Lane's obsession and fascination with the piece. It is having its UK premiere at the Jermyn Street Theatre.

Kosher cougars: A Dark Night in Dalston @ParkTheatre

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No matter what your religious or cultural background, all you need is a warm hearted older woman to perk you up. And chewable painkillers. And tea in a paper cup. These are all important in A Dark Night in Dalston which is currently playing at Park Theatre.

In the piece Council estate resident Gina brings in a young devout Jewish man lying outside her flat for a plaster and hot cup of tea. Some of the lads on the estate roughed him up after he was visiting the local slapper.  It wasn't so much as anti-Semitism as robust local banter.

Anyway while she is tending to his cuts and bruises and offering him tea the sun sets. And so he can't go home as it's the sabbath.  He doesn't want to face his father and he doesn't want to face his fiancee. Gina is an ex-nurse and full-time carer. But what care does young Gideon need? What draws him to Dalston in the first place since he comes from Stanmore? Couldn't he find what he was after in Kilburn?

Mad as duck: The Monkey @theatre503

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A debt, a bad nickname and an obsession Reservoir Dogs come into focus in John Stanley's funny and dark play The Monkey at Theatre 503.

Stanley notes that he has distilled the four characters in the piece from the larger than life characters he has encountered. They bring to life the many traits of London's sub-culture of addiction and criminality. It's part of the Homecoming's season of new writing by prisoners and ex-prisoners. The stories are about getting out and going home.

But what is fascinating in this hilarious piece is how he has created a unique character in Terry. Terry (or Tel as his mates call him) has left Bermondsey and trying to leave his old past behind. But an old mate Thick-Al owes him money (or a monkey)  His mates think he has a bit of screw loose but also that he is a soft touch.

Flashers, savages and gluttony: You're Human Like the Rest of Them @finborough

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It's a bizarre, odd sort of world. Nothing makes sense. Gluttony, communism, flashers in cemeteries. It's all laid bare in You're Human Like The Rest of Them. Three short works by B.S. Johnson playing at the Finborough Theatre. The three pieces include two world stage premieres of pieces originally broadcast on television and radio and the first production in over forty years.

B.S Johnson was a radical and an experimentalist.  He wrote plays, poems and novels. A collection of his films are also available. His pieces are about the big themes of life, death, religion. Nothing is quite like it seems. In 1973 a month after completing a short filmed piece called Fat Man on a Beach (well he probably was a little overweight but that title seemed an exaggeration), he committed suicide.  Since then his work has developed a bit of a cult following. Given the theatricality and originality of his works it is surprising that there has never been a staged performance of them. Until now…

Talking about an evolution: Darwin's Tortoise @SpanishTheatreC

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Just what would happen if a nearly two-hundred year old tortoise stood up and started walking around.  Bearing witness to the great events and catastrophe's of the twentieth century?

Well naturally she would want an historian to recount it all. Or at least correct what he had already written.

And thus is the central premise of Darwin's Tortoise by Juan Mayorga, with an English translation by David Johnson. It's currently playing at the Cervantes Theatre.

Daddy's girl: I'm Gonna Pray For You So Hard @finborough @praysohardplay

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Family ties are at their tenuous best in I'm Gonna Pray For You So Hard at the Finborough Theatre. It's a great title for a play and refers to when you really hate someone for what they did, you pray for them. The piece charts the damaged relationship between a successful playwright and his aspiring actor-daughter.

Sharp and shocking, at times it feels like you're eavesdropping on a famous neighbour that you know is a little unhinged. And you can't help but keep listening.

Keep on truckin': The Understudy @Canalcafe

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With the Oscars now over, the self-congratulatory season of handing out awards for movies has ended for another year. The Understudy at The Canal Café Theatre seems relevant.

It's a funny take on how theatre and film seem to be at times competing art forms. But in the end it is always about money.

Jake is a big star. He has had a hit action movie open but he is currently on Broadway in a three hour Kafka play. Jobbing actor Harry is going to be his understudy. Stage manager Roxanne has to get them through a rehearsal but it turns out Harry and Roxanne have a history.

And so sets the scene for debates about the worthiness of theatre versus the cheap thrills of the screen.