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Fille matérielle: The Massive Tragedy Of Madame Bovary! @JSTheatre

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After seeing The Massive Tragedy of Madame Bovary, which is currently playing at the Jermyn Street Theatre, I found myself walking past the shops of Piccadilly wondering what Madame Bovary would make all of this apparent luxury. She was a woman ahead of her time, running up debts to live a life of luxury while having both a sensible husband and a lover. She would fit in in a nation where household debts have risen by a third . Even if she was living in a small provincial town.  So the premise of this piece by John Nicholson is whether it could be a comedy. Particularly given the time of the year when Christmas is approaching, and everyone is just after a feel-good night out at the theatre. The answer is, perhaps. The comedy is mostly sight gags and props, while the story of indebtedness and boredom in the provinces no doubt will enthral London audiences by reaffirming their own life choices.  But while we get a sense of the basic plot behind Madame Bovary,  we don’t understand the moti

The young and the infectious: Make Mine A Double @ParkTheatreLondon

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Ah, to be young, carefree and single. When the receptionist at the clinic testing for gonorrhoea knows you by sight, or you haven't yet found the right (Jewish) man to settle down and enjoy smoked salmon and bagels. You know that there is trouble afoot. Park Theatre has programmed a series of short plays from emerging artists called Make Mine A Double this month. Four shows are running for two weeks apiece. And the first two are hilarious.  The first piece is called Anything with A Pulse . It's a two-hander about twenty-somethings falling in and out of love in London. Describing all the action in the third person can sometimes be a bit jarring. The reviewer thought. The reviewer also struggled to keep up with the goings on in the drama. But that was probably more to do with his age than the writing. Still, things move fast in this boy meets girl on the dance floor and then returns to her place for some ambiguously unsatisfying sex before they go their separate ways, wondering

Songs in the sand: From Here to Eternity @charingcrossthr

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From Here To Eternity lands at the Charing Cross Theatre with all the energy and enthusiasm of a surprise attack on the layabout and jaded audiences of the West End. Afterall, audiences at the West End seem a bit soft these days. This revival focuses on the leading characters in the story, making the two weeks leading up to the bombing of Pearl Harbour a musical theatre event that doesn’t let up… much. Adapted from the novel by James Jones, the musical has lyrics by Tim Rice, music by Stuart Brayson, and a book by Donald Rice and Bill Oakes. It is a pared-back version of the show that was on in the West End nearly ten years ago. But this also helps distil the drama down to the bare essentials. And the smaller space of the Charing Cross Theatre gives the piece intensity, focus and a sense or urgency.  Centred around an army unit stationed in Hawaii two weeks before the bombing of Pearl Harbour. There's talk of war but no action except for the fighting among the men. There's so

Double Indemnity: The Coral @ Finborough

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Coral can weather all sorts of undersea turbulence. Small and adaptable, it survives in its watery world. And so 100 years from when it last performed in the UK, we have The Coral. A piece about the forces of capitalism in a dystopian dog-eat-dog world. It's currently playing at the Finborough Theatre. Whether it has survived the forces of change over the last 100 years might be a topic of post-theatre debate on your way home. There are no names in the piece. There are just people with characteristics such as the secretary, the daughters and the millionaire. The focus of the piece is on the millionaire. A play from 100 years ago will not keep up with inflation, but he is wealthy and powerful in this world. It is also a dangerous world. And so he also uses his secretary, his doppelgänger, so he can be everywhere while also sitting back on his yacht with his daughters.  But besides the troubles at his factories and pamphlets calling for change, he has other problems. When his daughte

Romance and other theatrics: Love all @JSTheatre

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As part of its Temptation Season, Jermyn Street Theatre serves up a civilised and biting farce with Love All. Full of incisive observations about the roles and expectations for women at the time while managing to be a fun and silly romp spanning Venice and London, it is a both a guilty pleasure and a lost gem currently playing at the Jermyn Street Theatre .  Written by Dorothy L Sayers, better known for her detective novels, there is an obsessive attention to detail in the piece. You could miss something crucial to the plot or a laugh later on if you're not paying attention.  The premise is that Lydia Hillington (Emily Barber), a famous London stage actress, has given up the stage to elope with a famous novelist Godfrey Daybrook (Alan Cox). But after eighteen months of living in a hotel on the Grand Canal, all is not well. A chance meeting with a producer inspires her to escape to London to audition for a role an exciting new playwright is casting (Leah Whitaker). Meanwhile, Daybro

Swimming upstream: Hero & Leander, Or, I Love You, But Everything's Underwater @southbankcentre

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Jack Dean & Company landed at the Southbank Centre's Purcell Room for one day with their gig-theatre retelling of the Greek myth Hero & Leander. Songs that mix folk, country, electronica and the odd sea shanty tell the story of the tragedy of Hero and Leander.  In this version of the tale, Hero and Leander are from two towns but meet at a dance and continue to see each other. But their towns are separated by a narrow strait, and when the ships stop sailing between the towns due to a conflict, Leander swims across the strait to meet Hero, guided by the light of the lighthouse where she lives. And being a tragedy, this doesn't end well.   The staging is simple, with just the musicians on stage. Jack Dean and Siân Keen are engaging as the ill-fated lovers and various other characters in the story. It's incredibly inventive and evocative with its fusion of musical styles and sensibilities.  The storytelling is brisk and sometimes feels like it could benefit from expans

On matters of love and debt: The Bear / The Lady With The Dog @TheUniontheatre @ART_THEATRE_LDN

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Summer means that attention for all things theatrical (and fringey) usually drifts north to Edinburgh. But over at the Union Theatre , a Chekhov double bill by new production company Art Theatre is there to remind us that London can still surprise us with exciting fringe theatre any time of the year.  There are two short comedies by Anton Chekhov and directed by Dmitrij Turchaninov, an alumnus of Studio Chekhov: Moscow Art Theatre School – which first performed  Chekhov’s plays. And with a simple staging and engaging performances, the works come to life.  First up is the Lady With The Dog, which is about a cynical married man who, while holidaying in Yalta, falls in love with another married woman who happens to go everywhere with a little dog. Based on a short story of Chekhov’s, it’s more storytelling than a play, but with its simple projections and props, you feel like you are on holiday at the turn of the last century.  After the interval is The Bear, a story about a retired office

My night with mum and me sisters: Straight and Narrow @abovethestag

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Update: since posting, Above the Stag has announced its permanent closure Above the Stag Theatre is going all retro with a revival of Jimmie Chinn's Straight and Narrow. Before the show begins, clips from television programmes and commercials are playing from the period to get you in the mood. In case you need to know (or be reminded) about what living in the eighties was like. And while time may not have been too kind to this piece with its views on women and foreigners, this production manages to create a vivid portrait of family dynamics in Manchester. Set in the 1980s in Manchester, Bob (Lewis Allcock) and Jeff (Todd Von Joel) are long-term boyfriends who also have a successful business installing kitchens. But spending years together doing the same thing every day, they seem stuck in a rut. A trip to Malta is an opportunity to do something differently. But the trip didn't go as either of them was expecting. Things get a bit explosive and emotional on the return. And Bob