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Showing posts from December, 2017

Laugh yer bastards: The Grinning Man @TrafStudios

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The Grinning Man bursts on stage at the Trafalgar Studios. And even if you’re not sure if it’s meant to be a comedy or an emotional love story, it’s determined to show you a good time.Although the good time is a little on the dark side. As one character comments in this show, “prepare to shit kittens.” If you like that sort of thing then it’s a welcome break from the relentless cheery musical fare around Christmas. The show, based on a story by Victor Hugo throws in puppetry and style. You enter the theatre as if you’re going to see a fairground freak show. Designer Jon Bausor has framed the stage with a giant disfigured mouth. It’s grim, but its the perfect setting for a story about a boy who’s mutilated, saves a baby, makes a living as a freak and then wins over a kingdom. Louis Maskell as the heroic Grinpayne the disfigured boy conveys emotion and excitement of the character. He’s on stage most of the time and is either controlling his younger puppet self or jumping about as the gro…

Christmas in Hull: FCUK’D @BunkertheatreUK

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FCUK’D at The Bunker is a an alternative Christmas theatre experience about life on the margins of British life.A teenage boy kidnaps his little brother and they run away. Escaping their grim council flat, daily run-ins with the authorities and in search of something better than this in the lead up to Christmas.Estimates put it at around 100,000 children run away from home every year. This piece unpacks some of the reasons why. Dad is gone. Mum is either drinking or comatose. Nobody cares about them and so they’re going to have some fun. They steal crisps from the supermarket. They steal a car. And then they burn it for warmth.Written and directed by Niall Ransome, the story is told in verse. Ransome took inspiration from his experiences growing up in Hull.

It’s delivered convincingly by Will Mytum as the troubled youth. He engages you through it’s short duration. Pacing about the stage, eyeing the audience, brining to life this tale about never getting a break.The stage is a square o…

Land of hope and glory: The Melting Pot @Finborough

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Poor old worn out Europe. Racked by violence and injustice only America serves as hope for a new post race new world. Given that part of making America great again nowadays is to close the doors to immigration. Or at least to certain people and religious groups. This hope seems misplaced.Yet this is only part of the message from Israel Zangwill’s 1908 play The Melting Pot. It’s having a brief run at the Finborough Theatre and is another Finborough rediscovery.You’ll walk away fascinated by the hope and optimism of this piece as migrants take their place in this new world. But along the way you’re never in doubt of the struggles that lie ahead. Survival is dependent on what money can be made. And if you aren’t part of the right religion your options are limited. It opens in the home of an immigrant Jewish family in New York. Mendel Quixano (Peter Marinker) scrapes out a living as a musician and has taken in his nephew David (Steffan Cennydd). He too is a musician who barely survived the…

Delightful, delicious: The Box of Delights @Wiltonmusichall

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Wilton's Music Hall's production of The Box of Delights is a  delightful night of theatre that never ceases to amaze. A great ensemble and imaginative staging make this a must-see Christmas show.

They've employed every theatrical trick to tell this Christmas adventure. There's puppetry, projections and people popping out of wardrobes. Adapted by Piers Torday from the 1935 novel by John Masefield, the story seems reminiscent given it involves a  mysterious box, the three friends on an adventure and an orphan boy. But while you'll be recalling stories by Tolkien and JK Rowling, the ingenuity of this adaptation is how it grabs your attention and never lets up.

We're introduced to the hero Kay Harker (played by the heroic looking Alistair Toovey) as he's travelling home from school. He's visiting his guardian for Christmas. On the trip he meets a Punch and Judy man Cole (Matthew Kelly) and his dog Toby. He also has an encounter with a spooky looking couple …

Wicked men with beards: The Woman In White @charingcrossthr

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What makes The Woman In White interesting is the cast assembled for this tale about imprisonment, nasty men and poor artists. Even if this story makes no sense, it's a chance to be amazed by performers who hopefully will get to go onto bigger (and better) things.

It’s having its first revival at Charing Cross Theatre. Pared back from its original production which premiered in the West End over ten years ago, here there are less effects and a bigger focus on the story.

But the story doesn’t make much sense. Two young bored women Laura (Anna O'Byrne) and Marian (Carolyn Maitland) trapped in the country enlist the services of an artist, Walter (Ashley Stillburn), to help them draw. The artist sees a ghostly woman dressed in white on the way to their house. Walter falls in love with Laura. But Laura’s engaged to marry Sir Percival Glyde (Chris Peluso) as it was her father’s dying wish. Her father mustn't have liked Laura much as you just know by Sir Percival's facial hair…

Wishful thinking: The Passing of The Third Floor Back @Finborough

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In The Passing of The Third Floor Back, the arrival of a mystery man at a lodging turns a bunch of crooks, philanderers and pretenders that make up English society into human beings.  The action takes place over the festive season and it could be an alternative to Dickens's A Christmas Carol. Without the ghosts.

The piece is having its first revival in 70 years at the Finborough Theatre. I overheard someone leaving the theatre noting they found the first part more interesting than the rest. Afterall, this prologue is the bit that presents the characters with all their flaws. The dialogue is sharp and hilarious. And you could be forgiven for thinking not much has changed in London since Edwardian times.

But Jerome K Jerome, who spent some time living in down and out places depicted here, has other plans for his characters. The arrival of a mysterious new lodger (Alexander Knox) confronts the characters one by one. Each believes they have met him somewhere before and take his advic…

Small yet perfectly formed: King Tut A Pyramid Panto @KingsHeadThtr

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Christmas is coming and so that means that pantomime season is in full swing. Charles Court Opera is back at the Kings Head Theatre with their off-kilter take on the panto genre with King Tut, A Pyramid Panto. Pared back so it’s called a “boutique panto” this one is small but perfectly formed with cheap laughs, a weird plot and some fine singing.Set in the Valley of the Kings, a small troupe of explorers are about to open up King Tut’s tomb only to find themselves whisked back in time to when King Tut ruled with his pal... Who just happens to be a talking Camel.