Thursday, 30 June 2016

Review: Strangers In Between, King’s Head

“I’m not gay. I’m not full blown gay. I’m just… in Sydney”

Even though it’s only just over a decade old, Tommy Murphy’s Strangers In Between already feels like a bit of a period piece. In a similar way to Beautiful Thing, it depicts a version of metropolitan gay life that has already – in many ways - been left behind by the fast-changing pace of our society. From Scruff to Grindr to the depths of the internet, being gay is just different these days.

Which is not to say that Strangers In Between is fatally dated, it just operates in a kind of pseudo-space. It’s set in the sketchy King’s Cross area of Sydney where 16-year-old Shane has run away to from his hometown of Goulburn and got himself a job in a bottlo (off-license). There, his boyish charms attract the attentions of customers such as the built Will and the older Peter, who help him to find his feet and eventually, to deal with the past he’s fled.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Review: The Truth, Wyndham's

"Don't play those games with me"

In these post-referendum times, there's something a little ironic in the whole-hearted manner withw which British theatre has embraced French playwright Florian Zeller. From The Father to The Mother and now to The Truth, from the Theatre Royal Bath to the heart of the West End, Zeller is clearly having un moment. A moment that has been extended by the Menier Chocolate Factory transferring their production of The Truth into the Wyndham's Theatre for the summer.

Less inventive and affecting as his other two plays that we've seen, The Truth is more of an outright comedy, almost farcical at times, as the affair between Michel and his best friend's wife Alice threatens to spiral out of control as his own wife seems to be getting closer to discovering what is going on, and who knows what Alice's husband knows. But as ever with Zeller, it's very difficult to ascertain exactly what we - or his characters - can believe, the truth is as slippery and unknowable as ever.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

The Complete Walk, from the comfort of your sofa #5

“When we are born, we cry”

Entries #1, #2, #3 and #4 - and here's number 5. 

Actually taking Lear to the White Cliffs of Dover seems like a good enough reason to mount the entire Complete Walk project if you ask me, and director Bill Buckhurst doesn’t disappoint. Belaris Free Festival’s interpretation gets a wee whirl before we move to Kent where Kenneth Cranham’s disoriented monarch comes across powerfully in jerky jump-cuts and voiceover and then ultimately powerful soliloquy. Skipping to the end of the play, Joseph Marcell then takes on Lear for a sensationally powerful reunion with Zawe Ashton’s deeply considered Cordelia.



Saturday, 25 June 2016

Review: The Suicide, National

“Everything was free”

A late jaunt to the National to The Suicide, Suhayla El-Bushra’s fiercely contemporary updating of Nikolai Erdman’s 1928 play, before it closed. Though I have to say I wasn’t entirely convinced by it, Nadia Fall’s production is visually hugely ambitious, retooled for the world of YouTubers and hipsters, but ultimately feeling as shallow as the societal trends that it is trying to satirise.

Javone Prince’s Sam Desai is long-term unemployed and newly bereft of benefits, so disillusioned with the world is he that he decides to top himself but when a film clip of him making that decision goes viral, he’s swept along for the ride as all of society try to co-opt him for their own ends. To publicise a café, to get a music deal, to highlight the lack of adequate mental health care.

Happy London Pride - paying tribute to Orlando and beyond

"Love, sweet love...no, not just for some but for everyone"

It's no secret that Broadway cares but there's still something extremely touching about a community coming together to help others, especially when it feels close to home. However others want to spin it, the attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando was an attack on the LGBT+ community and that is something that is just chilling in its cold reality. But from such horror comes something positive too as people rally together to share love and support, solidarity and hope that no matter how dark it gets, we're never alone. 

In London, the LGBT+ community has the Pride in London Parade to spark the coming together over what will be a poignant weekend. And on Broadway, Broadway Records President Van Dean, SiriusXM Radio Host Seth Rudetsky and Producer James Wesley have pulled together a dream choir of amazing performers to record a charity single of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s 'What The World Needs Now Is Love' to benefit the Orlando LGBT+ community. Take a look at the video below (and be blown away by such luminaries as Audra McDonald, Bernadette Peters, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Idina Menzel and so many more) but I urge you to please buy a copy too, to support this very worthy cause.

The Complete Walk, from the comfort of your sofa #4

"Come now, what masques"

With 37 films to work through and no need to do them all in one weekend as the Complete Walk was originally designed, I'm rather enjoying working my merry way through them at my own pace. First, second and third sets of film can be found here. 

Given how many Dreams I’ve seen this year, it’s a little surprising that A Midsummer Night’s Dream can still surprise me but such is the enduring beauty of the play. Nikki Amuka-Bird and David Caves take on Hippolyta and Theseus in the stately surrounding of Wilton House in the English countryside in Wiltshire, done with a romance here by Rebecca Gatward that is rarely seen these days. The flip to the brilliantly feisty pairing of John Light and Michelle Terry’s Oberon and Titania (from the 2013 Globe version which ranks as myall-time favourite) is vibrant, but it’s gorgeous to go back to the further developing of an unexpected tenderness between two characters who rarely receive it. A snippet of Pearce Quigley‘s Bottom is a bonus but it is Caves and Amuka-Bird who are the bees knees here.

Friday, 24 June 2016

CD Review: Nadim Naaman - Sides

"Livin' for the moment's rewards"

I did like Nadim Naaman's first album We All Want The Same but with its compositions stretching over a decade of Naaman's songwriting, it didn't quite have the cohesion to show off his emerging talents. For his second CD though, he's gone all-out to demonstrate the depths of both sides to him as a musician - opting for a double-length album, half the songs are musical theatre numbers which have received his own spin, and the other half are original songs written over the last year. Thus Sides reaches with larger ambition, and succeeds.

Naaman has a marvelous showman quality to his voice but it's beautiful to hear him bring out all the colours he can - the sense of building excitement in The Hunchback of Notre Dame's 'Out There', the driving, the driving swagger of The Fix's One, Two, Three complemented by its tenderly heartfelt break. A jaunty 'Moving Too Fast' sees him looking back to one of his first professional roles as The Last Five Years' Jamie whereas his current gig - Raoul in The Phantom of the Opera - is acknowledged with a startling but hugely effective Latin-inflected treatment of its title song, accompanied by the glorious richness of Celinde Schoenmaker's voice.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

CD Review: As Long As I Have Music - the songs of Rob Eyles & Robert Gould

"There's still music in the air..."

As Long As I Have Music - the songs of Rob Eyles & Robert Gould is a new album showcasing the new musical theatre writing partnership of composer Eyles and lyricist Gould. Gould has been a prolific writer for some time now, as evidenced on his last CD Words Shared With Friends and whilst Eyles may be a newer composer, the pair have clearly found a rich vein of collaboration. The album features songs from two Eyles & Gould musicals - Stiles + Drewe Award finalist A Pebble for Aaron and The Wonderful Musician, a new musical-in-development based on the Grimm Brothers Fairy Tale, with a smattering of other songs too to complete the collection. 

The brace of songs from The Wonderful Musician are both strong - Joe Sterling capturing a beautiful sense of optimistic innocence in the title track and Michael Riseley and Kayleigh McKnight soaring on 'Perfect Companion'. But it's the trio of tunes from A Pebble for Aaron that stand out. Kieran Brown's reflective 'The Flowers Have Faded', the raw anger of Keith Ramsay's 'I Want You To See You' and the aching pain of Shaun McCourt's 'Losing Him' are point towards a richly emotional and poignant musical that is touching even in these brief excerpts here. The marriage of longing melody and lyrical meaning works superbly well here. 

Review: Ross and Rachel, Battersea Arts Centre

"I'll be there for you..."

Can anyone of a certain generation (well, my generation) hear that Rembrandts theme song and not want to clap along, even if just mentally? Such is the depth of the cultural penetration that Friends managed over its decade of television dominance and then subsequent re-run overkill, that even someone who hasn't watched an episode of the comedy stands a chance of recognising the names Ross and Rachel. Which is partly why playwright James Fritz has so named his latest show.

A big hit in Edinburgh last summer, Ross and Rachel is now midway though a UK tour and its entire run at the Battersea Arts Centre. And it's not hard to see why - people may come because they've some affection to their Geller/Green memories but they'll be hooked by Molly Vevers' performance. Alone onstage, she gives us both sides of the story of a couple whose identities have been subsumed into one, their relationship - and the myths around it - having become bigger than either of them.

The Complete Walk, from the comfort of your sofa #3

“A lot of fighting ensues”

The Globe's Complete Walk is being released in dribs and drabs for all to see and given the helter-skelter busy-ness of a blogger's life, it's actually working out quite well in working my way through them slowly. Click on the links for the first lot and the second lot for read about them and head below for 

Dominic Dromgoole is one of the directors lucky enough to secure the same actor for his film as for the stage versions of the play – Jamie Parker took on Henry V to great acclaim in 2012, clips of which we see here, but there’s a special thrill in seeing him on the fields of Agincourt, chatting incognito with Joel MacCormack’s sceptical soldier. And the final shot, showing Agincourt for what it is today is subtly but beautifully done.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Review: Henry V, Open Air Theatre

"This revolt of thine is like another fall of man"

It would be great to live in a world where gender-blind casting isn't newsworthy in and of itself but we don't and so it should be shouted out and celebrated wherever it happens, until the day that it just feels rightly commonplace. What should always be celebrated though is the opportunities being given to some our greatest actors to take on powerful leading roles - the intrigue of Glenda Jackson's return to the stage, the trifecta of Harriet Walter's Donmar leads soon to be capped off with Prospero and here at the Open Air Theatre, the glorious Michelle Terry rising to the challenge of Henry V.

Insofar as Robert Hastie's modern-dress production has a conceit, it's of a group of actors coming together to put on a play, waiting for Charlotte Cornwell's Chorus to anoint one of them with the leading role - and it's hard not to feel a frisson of delight as she bypasses the cocky guy pushing to the front to place the crown on Terry's head. And from then, it's a relatively straight-forward production, playing out on the wide expanse of Anna Fleischle's square of riveted iron, props kept to a minimum, John Ross' movement coming to the fore in impressionistic battle scenes lit beautifully by Joshua Carr.

Review: BARBU, Spiegeltent London Wonderground

"Ma-gique, ma-gique, ma-gique..."

Cirque Alfonse scored a big success with their iconic production Timber! and this summer, they're returning to entertain audiences on London's South Bank with their third - BARBU. They describe their show as a raucous and sexy cabaret and that pretty much hits the mark for this Québécois company as they combine circus tricks and magic tricks, beer-keg juggling and burlesque, acrobatics and audience participation (and alcohol too), the majority of which is delivered by bearded men and women (but mainly men) in their pants.

From roller-skaters pulling each other around by their beards to a man dressed as a glitterball whirling inside a Cyr wheel, the guys using one of their company as an actual skipping rope to human pyramids that seem to defy the laws of physics, the sheer amount of both skill and skills on display is a constant delight. Alain Francœur's direction keeps things constantly moving and each segment sufficiently compact that if, say, gob-smacking trampolining or juggling ain't your thing, it's soon over (although the latter really should be, the scarves and the cups are just genius).