Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Review: Mouldy Grapes, White Bear

“I’ve been dipping my spoon in both the chocolate and the vanilla ice-cream”

The thing with open relationships is that everyone needs to be on the same page. The eccentric Roo has a fear of going outside as well as wearing trousers so the agreement has been made that his boyfriend Liam can sleep with other men. But when the person he brings home one particular night turns out to be a woman, the gobby Jess, that openness flicks over into much more complex terrain.

Such is the world of Mouldy Grapes, the assured debut production from new company Break The ‘Verse, a group of recent East 15 graduates. Directed by Dom Riley and written by Monty Jones and Ellie Sparrow and “enhanced through devising”, what surprises most about the play is the way in which it manages to combine its smart study of the fluidity of sexual identities with a classic comedy model, and pull both off successfully.

Review: The Test, White Bear

"How do you define consciousness?"

The
 world of artificial intelligence may feel like the realm of sci-fi but in reality is closer than we think, the next frontier in the progression of scientific knowledge. And Ian Dixon Potter's new play The Test shows the human race right at the point of breaching it, as ambitious scientist Dora and eager hacker Josh combine forces to harness the global computing power of the web in order to create 'Mother', the first truly conscious AI. What could possibly go wrong...?!

It is a formidable concept to explore in an hour of fringe theatre and to set up this world of advanced science and technology, Dixon Potter is caught between two stools, particularly in the opening scenes. Either characters rattle off complex ideas which threaten to fly over our heads, or they dumb down too much - the dictionary definition of the Turing Test is a case in point, or lines like 'I need you to hijack the internet' which recall nothing so much as this brilliant bit of comedy.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things


South London based site-specific theatre company Baseless Fabric are presenting David Mamet’s rarely performed short plays Reunion and Dark Pony in libraries across South London as part of National Libraries Week 2017. The plays are two of David Mamet’s earliest work, first produced in the US in 1976 and 1977 respectively and both feature David Schaal and Siu-see Hung in their casts.

Both of the plays explore father and daughter relationships and the audience will be immersed in the worlds of these plays in the unique and atmospheric library environments during National Libraries Week 2017 to raise awareness of exciting events happening in local libraries and bring theatre to people in their local library space. Artistic Director Joanna Turner directs with Set & Costume Designer Bex Kemp, creating a site-responsive design in each library space.

Performance Locations:
Mon 9th Oct 7.30pm - Durning Library, SE11 4HF (nearest station: Kennington)
Tue 10th Oct 7.30pm - John Harvard Library, SE1 1JA (nearest station: Borough)
Wed 11th Oct 7.30pm - John Harvard Library, SE1 1JA (nearest station: Borough)
Thu 12th Oct 7.30pm - Merton Arts Space, Wimbledon Library, SW19 4BG (nearest station: Wimbledon)
Fri 13th Oct 7.30pm - Merton Arts Space, Wimbledon Library, SW19 4BG (nearest station: Wimbledon)
Sat 14th Oct 3pm - Earlsfield Library, SW18 3NY (nearest station: Earlsfield)
Sat 14th Oct 7.30pm - Battersea Library, SW11 1JB (nearest station: Clapham Junction)
Sun 15th Oct 6pm - Clapham Library, SW4 7DB (nearest station: Clapham Common)
Tickets: £9/£7



Testing my all-too-fragile resolve to protest the Hampstead's predilection for the XY, the cast has been announced for the world premiere of Nicholas Wright's adaptation of Patrick Hamilton's The Slaves of Solitude.


Saturday, 16 September 2017

Review: Footloose, Peacock

"Been working so hard
I'm punching my card
Two hours for what?"

Jeez Louise, it gives me no pleasure to report this production of Footloose is among the worst things I've seen this year. Jukebox musicals are fine in their place, movie adaptations likewise are ever increasingly the norm but they need love and inspiration to elevate them, rather than the workaday effort and dead-eyed calculation they get here.

Perhaps its the result of coming at the tail end of over a year's touring, perhaps it was a crowd not quite as enthused as the audience of a feel-good show need to be to give it that lift, perhaps it's just not very good. There's a real sense of mechanical action about the production, everything moves in the correct way but there's zero spontaneity here, little sense of the precious 'liveness' of great theatre.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Review: Deathtrap, Theatre Royal Brighton

"Always when moon is full, I am in top form"

The floorboards in Sidney Bruhl's isolated barn conversion may squeak underfoot, but there's nothing creaky about Adam Penford's smart revival of Ira Levin's 1978 play Deathtrap, first seen at Salisbury Playhouse last year and now touring the UK. A play full of twists and turns, with a play-within-in-a-play and added cinematic meta-commentary thrown in for good measure, this production proves there's still a place for classic crime thrillers in this post-Scandi-noir world.

Bruhl is a playwright struggling to accept that he is past his prime but when Clifford Anderson, a talented young playwright sends him one of only two copies of his brilliant new whodunnit, he spies an opportunity to ape the thrillers on which he built his now-flagging reputation and steal the newcomer's success for himself, despite his wife's reservations. But Anderson is as much a student of the genre as Bruhl and so the stage is set for, well, the unexpected.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Review:The State of Things, Brockley Jack

"If only I could start to realise I'm not the only one who feels like they've been left behind"

Austerity bites. And it seems like it often bites hardest on the arts, government thinking considering them a luxury rather than a necessity as libraries and those relying on arts funding have been finding out to their cost. And in Thomas Attwood and Elliot Clay's new musical The State of Things, it is a group of seven Sutton Coldfield teenagers, preparing for their music GCSE performance, who find that the A-Level music course onto which they all want to progress is being cut from the timetable in a cost-cutting measure.

Being teenagers means that they quickly get up in arms to protest the decision to their headteacher (known as Maggie - the school is an academy...) but being teenagers, they're also horny af and wrestling with the weight of the world on their shoulders, sometimes all at the same time. Thus the political mixes with the personal (affectingly so in the case of Hana, who faces huge responsibilities at home due to her mother's health issues), inconsequential daily drama with sincerely felt fear for the future.

Cast of Mike Bartlett's new TV show Press announced


An ensemble cast of some of Britain’s hottest talent will portray the determined and passionate characters behind the daily news at two fictional, competing newspapers in Mike Bartlett's (Doctor Foster, King Charles III) drama series, Press, on BBC One.

Charlotte Riley (King Charles III, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell) will play the News Editor of fictional broadsheet, The Herald and Ben Chaplin (Apple Tree Yard, The Thin Red Line) will play the Editor of fictional tabloid newspaper, The Post, while Priyanga Burford (London Spy, King Charles III) will play The Herald’s Editor. Paapa Essiedu (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, RSC’s Hamlet) will play The Post’s newest reporter and Shane Zaza (Happy Valley, The Da Vinci Code) its News Editor; while Ellie Kendrick (Game Of Thrones, The Diary Of Anne Frank) will be a junior reporter; Al Weaver (Grantchester, The Hollow Crown) an investigative journalist and Brendan Cowell (Young Vic’s Yerma, Game Of Thrones) the Deputy Editor at The Herald.

They will be joined by David Suchet (Poirot) who will play the Chairman & CEO of Worldwide News, owner of The Post.

Nominations for the 2017 UK Theatre Awards

The UK Theatre Awards are the only nationwide Awards to honour and celebrate outstanding achievements in regional theatre throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and they have just announced the nominations for the 2017 awards, the results of which will be revealed at a ceremony on Sunday 15th October. 


How many of these did you see, and who do you think should win?

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Sir Peter Hall: 1930-2017 - a photo retrospective

In sad news, the death of Sir Peter Hall, one of the great names in British theatre, has been announced today. Sir Peter died on 11 September at University College Hospital, at the age of 86, surrounded by his family.

As the below statement from the National Theatre reminds us, his achievements were unparalleled, his devotion to the arts undoubtable. And in this selection of photos from some of his productions for the NT, his was a rare artistic vision indeed.

Peter Hall was an internationally celebrated stage director and theatre impresario, whose influence on the artistic life of Britain in the 20th century was unparalleled. His extraordinary career spanned more than half a century: in his mid-20s he staged the English language premiere of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. In 1960, aged 29, Peter Hall founded the Royal Shakespeare Company which he led until 1968. The RSC realised his pioneering vision of a resident ensemble of actors, directors and designers producing both classic and modern texts with a clear house style in both Stratford and London.
Appointed Director of the National Theatre in 1973, Peter Hall was responsible for the move from the Old Vic to the purpose-built complex on the South Bank. He successfully established the company in its new home in spite of union unrest and widespread scepticism. After leaving the National Theatre in 1988, he formed the Peter Hall Company (1988 – 2011) and in 2003 became the founding director of the Rose Theatre Kingston. Throughout his career, Sir Peter was a vociferous champion of public funding for the arts.

Peter Hall’s prolific work as a theatre director included the world premieres of Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming (1965), No Man’s Land (1975) and Betrayal (1978), Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus (1979), John Barton’s nine-hour epic Tantalus (2000); and the London and Broadway premieres of Alan Ayckbourn’s Bedroom Farce (1977). Other landmark productions included Hamlet (1965, with David Warner), The Wars of the Roses (1963), The Oresteia (1981), Animal Farm (1984), Antony and Cleopatra (1987, with Judi Dench and Anthony Hopkins), The Merchant of Venice (1989, with Dustin Hoffman), As You Like It (2003, with his daughter Rebecca Hall) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2010, with Judi Dench). Peter’s last production at the National Theatre was Twelfth Night in 2011.

Sir Peter was diagnosed with dementia in 2011. He is survived by his wife, Nicki, and children Christopher, Jennifer, Edward, Lucy, Rebecca and Emma and nine grandchildren. His former wives, Leslie Caron, Jacqueline Taylor and Maria Ewing also survive him.

Review: Doubt - a Parable, Southwark Playhouse

"What do you do when you’re not sure?"

John Patrick Shanley's play Doubt, a Parable comes lauded with garlands - Tony Awards, a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, a Hollywood adaptation with none other than Meryl Streep - so it must be a modern classic right? But, written in 2004, with all of the hindsight of how cases of historical sexual abuse in the Catholic church have been (mis-)handled, I find its dramatic ambivalence hard to stomach.

Shanley sidestepped the issue by setting his play in 1964 where a scandal is brewing at the St Nicholas Church School in the Bronx. Or is it? Ferociously strict principal Sister Aloysius is convinced that there is inappropriateness occurring between parish priest Father Flynn and the school's first black pupil, but her views are coloured by her loathing of Flynn's modernising ways.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Review: Mrs Orwell, Southwark Playhouse

"So what you want, in a nutshell, George, is a mistress, housekeeper, nurse, literary executor and mother for Richard?"

Tony Cox's play Mrs Orwell did sufficiently good business in its run at the Old Red Lion last month that it has quickly transferred south of the river, to the Southwark Playhouse for an additional few weeks. Based on actual events but with a fair measure of artistic license thrown in, as with all the best stories, it sheds light on the final weeks of George Orwell's life, as tuberculosis ravaged his lungs.

Coming from near Wigan as I do, I had heard of Orwell long before I really knew who he was, as much for the pub named after him as his famous book. So Cox provides an interesting biographical slant on the writer, looking at him through the eyes of assistant magazine editor Sonia Brownell, who became a constant visitor to his University College hospital bed and eventually received the most platonic of proposals.

Review: Son of a Preacher Man, Churchill Bromley

"Saying so much more than
Just words could ever say"

No-one could accuse Craig Revel-Horwood of resting on his laurels. He's about to reprise his Miss Hannigan, stepping into Miranda Hart's sensible shoes, in the West End revival of Annie; the new series of Strictly Come Dancing is looming just around the corner; and inbetween all that, he's found the time to direct and choreograph a new Dusty Springfield jukebox musical that is scheduled to tour the country through to July 2018.

There's a slight sense though that he might have overstretched himself with Son of a Preacher Man as I found its opening engagement at the Churchill Bromley really rather underwhelming. From Warner Brown's insubstantial and weirdly paced book with its eye-openingly poor dialogue, to the incomprehensible decision to expose one of the weaker dancers front and centre at the very start, much of the decision-making feels questionable at best.