Monday, 5 December 2016

News - more tickets for Mary Stuart released today

"It's all in the execution"

Aside from an excuse to use one of the greatest publicity shot ever created in our lifetimes, courtesy of Miles Aldridge, this is actually a public service announcement to let you know that more tickets for Mary Stuart will go on sale at 10am today (Monday 5th December). And  a little bird can tell you that since the show is pretty much in the round, the new seats that they've added in the Stalls (Section C) are really rather good as you're very close to the action. (Sightlines are affected occasionally esp in final scene so I'd opt for 3-4 or 31-32 if you can). That little bird might also tell you to book now for the love of God, tickets will be like gold dust!

Running time: 3 hours 20 minutes (with interval) (subject to change)
Booking until 21st January

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Review: The Clockmaker's Daughter, Trinity Laban

"We only have so much time"

I don't often make it to drama school productions but an invitation to see The Clockmaker's Daughter at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance was one I found hard to resist. I loved the Michael Webborn and Daniel Finn musical when I saw it premiere at the Landor last year and whilst we wait patiently for a cast recording (I asked Santa again and I have been a good boy this year...), this felt like an ideal opportunity to revisit the show, appropriate too as Webborn is an alumnus of this very institution.

So, The Clockmaker's Daughter was presented here by Trinity Laban's final year Musical Theatre students, with two teams of lead performers sharing the four shows and the rest of the company doing them all. And it's impressive to think that there's this much talent to share the roles, especially with the quality of Lucy Elson's confident turn as the titular Constance. Both vocally and acting-wise, she demonstrated an impressive maturity that could well mark her as one to watch in the future.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Review: Her Aching Heart, Hope

"I love her"

The Hope Theatre's Gothic Season winds to a close with a slightly more positive take on the genre - festive-gothic perhaps - in Bryony Lavery's Her Aching Heart. A pastiche of Gothic literature in which modern day Harriet and Molly find themselves both reading the same lesbian bodice-ripper novel, it just so happens the main characters are called Lady Harriet Helstone and Molly Penhallow, and so we see connections build between both their real and literary selves as they take the first steps in a putative relationship.

Directed by the Hope's AD Matthew Parker, the re-enactment scenes are quite frankly hilarious. Split into chapters with titles like 'A Nun Has A Nightmare', 'A Buxom Young Wench And A Sprightly Old Woman' and 'Thorns', the love/hate tug of war between village lass Molly and society lady Harriet is fast-paced and funny, with a tip of the hat, a wink of an eye and its tongue very much in cheek. They meet on a hunt when Molly tries to save the fox, played by a hand puppet, and once the broad and bawdy humour starts, it rarely relents. 

Review: NoFit State Circus - Bianco, Winter Festival Big Top

"Here be dragons"

As any regular reader will know, I don't tend to see much cirque. But the invitation to see NoFit State Circus' BIANCO was one that stood out for me, for I actually went to visit the company a few years ago when they were based at the Eden Project. I got to try out a few circus skills, though I didn't dare brave the trapeze!, and saw a sneak preview of the first part of the trilogy Time For Beauty too. It was a little far to go back for the whole show though, so I was glad of the opportunity to see them again, to see the third and final part - Here Be Dragons.

As part of the immersive nature of the production, and the connection that NoFit State seek to build with their audiences, the whole show is done in promenade. It's surprisingly easy on the feet though, even at 2 hours, but the reality of being shepherded a few feet that way and this soon proves to be somewhat trying, especially as you're thus constantly at the mercy of being stuck behind tall people and having your view severely compromised - it is definitely worth keeping your eyes open and your feet nimble to secure good positions at each juncture.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Review: The Children, Royal Court

"At our time of life, we simply cannot deal with this shit"

It's interesting to see the things that make ruffles in the theatrical establishment and those which pass by without comment. Vicky Featherstone's reign at the Royal Court has not been without its uneven moments but the fact that The Children will be followed on the main stage by the return of Escaped Alone is indicative both of the daring nature of her programming in forefronting stories about older people, and also its success.

Lucy Kirkwood's new play further ups the ante in making her protagonists sexual beings, her trio of retired scientists are battling not only the fallout from nuclear disaster but from the collision of their emotional lives. Nearly 40 years ago, Hazel and Rose were rivals for Robin and the play opens with the two women seeing each other for the first time since then. It's a stilted, strange encounter, further complicated by Robin's arrival. 

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Re-review: The Last Five Years, St James

"First, a story"

When The Last Five Years announced an extension of a week just after opening, it meant I was able to nab a pair of cheap tickets down the front, conveniently on the side where the shirtless scene happens, and take a friend. And I'm glad to I got to revisit the show, both to see it (literally) from a different angle and also to experience it with understudy Samuel Thomas playing Jamie, as Jonathan Bailey was suffering from an indisposition.

My original review of Jason Robert Brown's production of his own musical can be read here and as per, it still stands. Samantha Barks has really got the role of Cathy down to perfection with a beautiful line in rueful, reflective humour alongside that gorgeous voice. And Thomas did a great job as Jamie, perhaps more of a vocal match for his co-star as evidenced in a stellar 'Nobody Needs To Know' - my only note would be his clock dancing could be a little freer (and that's only because I've seen Bailey do it, my friend thought he 'clocked' just fine!).

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things

Marianne Elliott wasted no time in making headlines twice over last week - after the announcenement of her departure from the National Theatre, it was officially been announced that she has teamed up with theatre producer Chris Harper to set up Elliott Harper Productions which will produce new work throughout 2017. The first play in the season will be Simon Stephens' Heisenberg which will be directed by Elliott and run at a yet-to-be confirmed venue in Autumn 2017. This will be followed by Oedipus to Antigone in a new adaptation by Yael Farber who will also direct. 

But the highlight of the season looks set to be a modern revival of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's musical Company which will see the glorious Rosalie Craig take on the role of Bobbie, in a gender-reversed version of the musical about a confirmed bachelor that has been specially approved by Sondheim, once again directed by Elliott.

Not much else is known about the production or even the season, but watch this space!

Though it may feel that the world needs another production of A Midsummer Night's Dream like it needs a Trump presidency, Joe Hill-Gibbins is sure to make it one to remember at the Young Vic. And predictably, he's got a great looking cast to help him. Announced so far are:

Michael Gould as Oberon,
Anastasia Hille as Titania
Leo Bill as Bottom.
John Dagleish as Lysander and
Jemima Rooper as Hermia
Oliver Alvin-Wilson as Demetrius
Anna Madeley as Helena
and Matthew Steer as Peter Quince.

A Midsummer Night's Dream starts on 16th February 2017.

Casting news coming thick and fast - the London Musical Theatre Orchestra's production of Christmas Carol - The Musical has also revealed its cast. Tackling the Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens' hit Broadway show will be:

Robert Lindsay as Scrooge
John Addison as Fred Anderson
Madalena Alberto as the Ghost of Christmas Past
Carrie Hope Fletcher as Emily
Giovanna Fletcher as Mrs Cratchit
Hugh Maynard as the Ghost of Christmas Present
Peter Polycarpou as Mr Fezziwig
and Norman Bowman as Jacob Marley.

The concert will take place on 19th December at the Lyceum Theatre.

Whoopi Goldberg is to perform her stand up show Whoopi Goldberg - Stand Up Live! for the first time in the UK. The Sister Act actress will appear on stage at the London Palladium for one night on 11 February 2017. I got to see her in the musical version of Sister Act in her brief run at the same venue but her stand-up promises to be something else entirely.

The musical version of Fantastic Mr Fox is about to open at Southampton's Nuffield, ahead of a London run at the Lyric Hammersmith from late January, and there's a first look at some of the songs in with this interview with composer Arthur Darvill.

Festive news #4 - #StageFaves launches new musical merchandise

Stage Faves, the pioneering social media directory for musical theatre fans, has launched several new ranges of fan merchandise, just in time for Christmas. All designs are available across women’s and men’s t-shirts as well as hoodies, tote bags and mugs. 

Stage Faves is a fresh concept in musical theatre community building, connecting fans, performers and shows with each other and all the 24/7 social media content they want in one place. At its heart is a database of more than 2,000 musical theatre performers – Alfie Boe to Zoe Doano and every letter in between – that pulls together all of their public social media feeds into a single profile page for fans.

Festive news #3 - West End Sings for Childline

And because things come in threes, here's the news about West End Sings' Christmas single 'If We Only Have Love' by Jacques Brel. Released to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Childline and all proceeds will go to the charity. The track can be pre-ordered from Friday 2nd December and will be released on Friday 9th December.

The song features stars from several West End Musicals plus the Sylvia Young Choir, with music by the producers of two out of the last three Christmas number 1s. Just some of the people singing are Dean John-Wilson, Cassidy Janson, Lucy St Louis, Davina Perera, Dylan Turner, Daniel Boys, Ben Forster, Rachelle Ann Go, Caroline Sheen, and Claire Sweeney - more details can be found on their website.

Festive news #2 - Christmas Concert by Music Theatre Masterclass

Also giving up precious time before Christmas in aid of a good cause, is this motley crew to the left. Rufus Hound will be hosting a concert featuring them at The Actor's Church in Covent Garden in aid of Children with Cancer UK on Sunday 18th December from 7.30pm. Children with Cancer UK is the leading national children's charity dedicated to the fight against childhood cancer. Almost 4,000 children and young people are diagnosed with cancer every year in the UK and their aims are to determine the causes, find cures and provide care for children with cancer.

The impressive line-up here features Ramin Karimloo, Cassidy Janson, Ben Forster, Emma Kingston, Peter Polycarpou, Sandra Marvin, Jordan Shaw, Emmanuel Kojo, Carole Stennett, Norman Bowman, and Chris Johnson. And the company will be bolstered by the Musical Theatre Masterclass Choir – a group of talented students from the London performing arts school, run by Michael Xavier (dammit, he really is close to the nicest man alive isn't he!).

Tickets cost £25 plus booking fee and are available here.

Festive news #1: West End Up Close… at Christmas

'Tis the season for goodwill to all, and proving most generous with their time are various sets of musical theatre performers who are doing all sorts of charitable endeavours this December. First up are the guys at Relative Motion have just announced West End Up Close… at Christmas, their third concert in partnership with The House of St Barnabas, a charity and members’ club in the heart of Soho.

 sold-out concerts earlier this year with Jodie Jacobs and Julie Atherton, this festive concert will take place on Wednesday 14th December at 7.30pm feature the amazing talents of Madalena Alberto, Julie Atherton, Julie Jupp, Joshua LeClair, Nigel Richards and George Ure as they bring some of their favourite songs and seasonal classics to the Chapel of St Barnabas in an intimate, acoustic concert, musically directed by James 

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Review: Top to Bottom, White Bear

"One night with your face down in the pillow doesn't make you less of a man"

Kennington's White Bear Theatre has been at the mercy of a considerable overhaul of its parent pub over the last few months, but has now been relocated upstairs in a brand new space and a resumption of its programming. That includes development nights in their Sunday/Monday slot for emerging theatre companies and first up is Tripped Theatre Company with Top to Bottom by Lewis Chandler.

Playing out in real time, it starts off as a dinner party gone awry. Alison and Jeff have gone over to Mark and Tom's for dinner and as they knock back glasses of wine and amuse-bouches, both couples seem to be getting on fine. But a chance remark from Alison shatters the mood and instead of tucking into their main course, the foursome carve up each other as accusations and acrimony dominate the air.