Sunday, 30 April 2017

Review: The Cardinal, Southwark Playhouse

"A poet's art is to lead on your thoughts through subtle paths and workings of a plot. I will say nothing positive; you may think what you please..."

It's
 not too often that I open a review with mention of the sound design but Max Pappenheim's work in The Little at the Southwark Playhouse is undoubtedly worthy of the accolade. In this intimate auditorium on the architecturally clean lines of Anna Reid's set, there's an extraordinary sense of being in vaulted palace chambers and cathedrals as echoes and reverberations amplify our imaginations perfectly.

It's the kind of creative invention that those familiar with director Justin Audibert have come to expect and it is thrilling to see it maintained whether working in the vast Royal Shakespeare Theatre where his recent Snow in Midsummer was excellent, or on this much smaller scale where it is a real delight to see someone really understanding how to play to all sides of a thrust stage. There's also a fascinating choice of material here in this revival of James Shirley's The Cardinal, a 1641 play whose claim to fame is being one of the last to be performed before Oliver Cromwell pulled the plug on show-business.

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things

Angela Weiss/Getty Images

Cate Blanchett. 


Ivo van Hove. 


All About Eve. 


West End 2018.


That is all.




Bullshit London are proud to announce the return of their hugely popular factually inaccurate walking tours which will run from now until the end of October. The premise is simple – tourists and locals alike are invited to take a step down false-memory lane to be guided on an astonishingly silly and very fun walking tour of London's major landmarks. 
The landmarks are real but the facts are genuine bullshit.
  • See where Queen Victoria exploded! 
  • Smell the Thames mermaid! 
  • Discover the sinister truth about the Barbican!
Bullshit London provide guided tours of ... well of Bullshit. Reimagining the purpose of existing landmarks, cracking jokes about real ones and exploring some of the Bullshit we all carry around in our heads. 

This year the company will be offering two London tours which run every week from April – October:

The Southbank Tour ‘Tourist Trap’
The original Bullshit offering and the most popular, the South Bank 'Tourist Trap' Tour runs every Thursday evening from April - October, leaving at 7pm from the steps of St Paul's (behind the statue of Queen Anne), and usually ending at Trafalgar square via the south bank.

The City Tour ‘Standing On The Shoulders of Giants’
Taking you off the beaten trail in more ways than one, this (de) tour eschews the better known tourist hotspots and joyfully explores some of more the unusual and contradictory architecture of the financial district. Departing at 2pm every Sunday from Moorgate Tube Station (from 16th April), It's a voyage of discovery in more ways than one as you will also *learn* things you didn't know before about how the financial system works and be exposed to shocking new truths which will (probably) BLOW YOUR MINDS!!! The tour finishes at Bank Station.

Listings
TOUR: The Southbank Tour ‘Tourist Trap’
DEPARTURE LOCATION: The steps of St Pauls (behind the statue of Queen Anne)
DATE: Every Thursday evening from 13th April – 8th October 2017
TIME: 7pm (9pm)
PRICE: £10 (Standard), £8 (Concession)

TOUR: The City Tour ‘Standing On The Shoulders of Giants’
DEPARTURE LOCATION: Moorgate Station 
DATE: Every Sunday afternoon from 16th April – 15th October 
TIME: 2pm (3:15pm)
PRICE: £10 (Standard), £8 (Concession)



I have to admit that I wasn't much enamoured by the prospect of a Bob Dylan musical but when I stopped to think about it, I don't know why I was worried because I've long been of the opinion that Dylan's songs are best sung by other people. And with the annoucement of the cast, Girl From The North Country does sound like an intriguing proposition at the Old Vic.

The cast includes Sheila Atim (Marianne Laine), Ron Cook (Doctor Walker), Bronagh Gallagher (Mrs Burke), Shirley Henderson (Elizabeth Laine), Ciaran Hinds (Nick Laine), Claudia Jolly (Katherine Draper), Arinzé Kene (Joe Scott), Debbie Kurup (Mrs Neilsen), Kirsty Malpass (Ensemble), Jim Norton (Mr Perry), Tom Peters (Ensemble), Karl Queensborough (Ensemble), Sam Reid (Gene Laine), Michael Shaeffer (Reverend Marlowe), Jack Shalloo (Elias Burke), and Stanley Townsend (Mr Burke).




The Sound of Musicals presents a new programme of show–stopping music and songs from the greatest Broadway and West End musicals of all time. The concert will be performed at the Symphony Hall Birmingham on the Thursday 11 May at 7.30pm, the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester on Friday 12 May and the Royal Festival Hall on Saturday 13 May.

The show will include a wide range of some of the best-loved musicals: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 'Gethsemane' from Jesus Christ Superstar, 'The Perfect Year' from Sunset Boulevard and 'Another Suitcase in another Hall' from Evita to Kiss Me Kate’s 'So In Love', the show offers many favourite musical treats. Other pieces to be performed include Lionel Bart’s stirring 'As Long as He Needs Me' from Oliver! the tear jerking 'On My Own' from Les Miserables, 'I Know Him So Well' from Chess and 'Mr Cellophane' from the multi award winning Chicago - there is truly a song for everyone.

These show stopping tunes will be sung by an appealing quartet of West End stars - Louise Dearman, Hannah Waddingham,Tim Howar and Oliver Tompsett. The talented soloists are joined by the London Concert Orchestra, under the brilliant conductor of Richard Balcombe.



Following a hugely successful 2016 Australian and UK tour, Frantic Assembly and State Theatre Company South Australia’s critically acclaimed Things I Know To Be True returns to delight audiences in the UK from 27 September 2017. Andrew Bovell’s new play will tour to Oxford Playhouse, The Lowry in Salford, Leicester Curve, Mercury Theatre in Colchester, York Theatre Royal, Chester Storyhouse, Southampton’s Nuffield, Poole Lighthouse and London’s Lyric Hammersmith.

As beautifully touching as it is funny and bold, Things I Know To Be True tells the story of a family and marriage through the eyes of four grown siblings struggling to define themselves beyond their parents’ love and expectations.

Parents Bob and Fran have worked their fingers to the bone and with their four children grown and ready to fly the nest it might be time to relax and enjoy the roses. But the changing seasons bring home some shattering truths.

Andrew Bovell said:
"The only reason to write a play is for it to reach an audience and for it to mean something to them when it does. I'm thrilled that UK audiences will have another chance to see this wonderful production.”
Scott Graham (Artistic Director, Frantic Assembly) said:
“I am immensely proud of this collaboration. It melted hearts on its first Australian and UK tours and I am looking forward to new audiences engaging with this beautiful play.”
Geordie Brookman (Artistic Director, State Theatre Company) said:
“We are tremendously proud of the way this gem of an Australian play has connected with U.K. audiences and feel blessed that, alongside our friends at Frantic Assembly, we can take the production to an even wider audience.”
Featuring Frantic Assembly’s celebrated physicality, and co-directed by Frantic Assembly’s Tony and Olivier Award nominated Artistic Director Scott Graham and State Theatre Company’s Artistic Director Geordie Brookman, Things I Know To Be True is a complex and intense study of the mechanics of a family that is both poetic and brutally frank.

Andrew Bovell is regarded as one of Australia’s greatest storytellers, for critically acclaimed plays including When The Rain Stops Falling, Speaking In Tongues and an adaptation of Kate Grenville’s The Secret River, as well as screen work including Lantana and A Most Wanted Man.

Casting for Things I Know To Be True will be announced in due course.

LISTINGS
27 - 30 September
Oxford Playhouse
On sale from Thursday 27 April
11-12 Beaumont Street, Oxford, OX1 2LW
01865 305 305
www.oxfordplayhouse.com

3 – 7 October
The Lowry (Quays Theatre)
On sale from Thursday 27 April
Pier 8, The Quays, Salford, M50 3AZ
0843 208 6000
www.thelowry.com

10 – 14 October
Leicester Curve
Members on sale for members from Thursday 11 May
General on sale from Monday 15 May
60 Rutland St, Leicester LE1 1SB
0116 242 3595
www.curveonline.co.uk

17 – 21 October
Mercury Theatre, Colchester
On sale from Thursday 27 April
Colchester CO1 1PT
01206 573948
www.mercurytheatre.co.uk

31 October – 4 November
York Theatre Royal
On sale from Thursday 27 April
St Leonard's Pl, York YO1 7HD
01904 623568
www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk

7 – 11 November
Chester Storyhouse
Tickets on sale now
Hunter St, Chester CH1 2AR
01244 409113
www.storyhouse.com

14 – 18 November
Nuffield Southampton
On sale from Thursday 27 April
University Rd, Southampton SO17 1TR
023 8067 1771
www.nstheatres.co.uk

21 – 25 November
The Lighthouse, Poole
On sale from Thursday 27 April
21 Kingland Rd, Poole BH15 1UG
01202 280000
www.lighthousepoole.co.uk

11 January – 3 February
Lyric Hammersmith
On sale from Thursday 27 April
Lyric Square, King Street, London, W6 0QL
020 8741 6850
www.lyric.co.uk

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Review: Obsession, Barbican

"There’s more to this magical life than the love of the ladies"

It has been impossible to ignore the reception of Ivo van Hove's Obsession, the slight sense of glee (from some) at being able to dole out a critical drubbing to the feted director. And so I went into the Barbican with a slight sense of defensiveness - I'm only human after all - albeit with the knowledge that no-one is infallible. And whilst Obsession isn't necessarily van Hove at his best (and lord know we've been spoiled there), it still makes for a fascinating piece of theatre.

Based on Luchino Visconti's 1943 film, adapted by Jan Peter Gerrits and crucially, having its English version written by Simon Stephens, this is an altogether more abstract and expressionist affair than perhaps some were expecting. A tale of sex and murder, whose muscularity and moodiness sprawls over the vast stage with stylish languour, there's a brooding beauty to the intensity here, captured excellently by two striking lead performances from Jude Law and Halina Reijn.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Review: Twelfth Night, Blue Elephant

"What happens in Illyria, stays in Illyria"

Last year you couldn't move for productions of A Midsummer Night's Dream and whilst it hasn't quite gotten that bad yet, it looks like Twelfth Night is 2017's popular choice. The National and the Royal Exchange have already tackled it, Emma Rice will be casting her inimitable spell over it from next month and over in Camberwell, the Original Impact Theatre Company are working their own actor-musician magic on Shakespeare's comedy.

And you have a sense that Rice would approve of the invention of this young company, particularly in its opening half. This is Illyria as expat territory - tropical house blaring from the decks, tropical prints blazoned across shirts, "to beer or not to beer" is scrawled on the back wall, there's even the suggestion that the opening shipwreck is a booze cruise gone wrong. And it is in this world of stunted responsibility that the production finds real purchase.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Review: Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare's Globe

"Everything in extremity"

It's something of a shame that the shadow of Emma Rice's torrid experience as AD of the Globe looms large over her second (and final) season there. The opening production in the 'Summer of Love' is Daniel Kramer's Romeo and Juliet and following Rice's lead, it is bold and brash, full of light and sound, and the kind of ferocious energy that you can easily imagine raising the hackles once again of those influential precious few.

And as such, it's a production that encapsulates the wide-ranging issues of such a radical approach. With its YMCA dance routines and clown make-up, dinosaur costumes and middle-aged lovers, Kramer clearly has no problem in roughing up Shakespeare. And it's no secret that the Bard can take it, one of the smartest innovations here is to run scenes in parallel - the marriage is intercut with the deaths that doom it, action and reaction played out simultaneously.

Cast of Romeo and Juliet continued

Review: Cock and Bull, Royal Festival Hall

"Hard working people, people who work hard..."

A stunning piece of provocative performance art, Cock and Bull grabs Tory political rhetoric by the pussy, slaps it on the arse, tells you to 'calm down dear' and then dares you to look away. Posited as "an alternative party conference", it was originally created as a response to the build-up to the 2015 general election but as it turns out, the empty promises of politicians are timeless and so Cock and Bull continues to be reconceived and performed, finding both new and continued resonance.

That political rhetoric is mostly hot air should come as little surprise to most, but what performers and co-creators Nic Green, Laura Bradshaw, and Rosana Cade espouse here is something more profound. Tapping into the despair so brilliantly surmised by Brenda from Bristol, echoes of Tory party slogans disintegrate into attritional word poems, focus group-friendly body language gives way to boorish Bullingdon carousing, the hollowness of contemporary political campaigning is exposed.

Casting news for Persuasion and Anatomy of a Suicide


I've already written of my excitement for the forthcoming Persuasion  and the announcement of the cast hasn't lessened the thrill at all. Lara Rossi takes on the role of Austen’s heroine Anne alongside Samuel Edward-Cook as Captain Wentworth. The cast is completed by Geraldine Alexander, Antony Bunsee, Helen Cripps, Cassie Layton, Caroline Moroney, Dorian Simpson and Arthur Wilson. 

Directing them is Jeff James, "one of the UK’s most original young theatre makers", who has adapted and is directing this bold retelling of Jane Austen’s final masterpiece at the Royal Exchange Theatre. Designed by Alex Lowde this contemporary production of Austen’s beautifully crafted novel discards the bonnets and trappings of formal life for a startlingly modern vision of Austen. Developed in collaboration with dramaturg James Yeatman and with sound design from the award-winning Ben and Max Ringham, Persuasion runs from 25 May to 24 June 2017.



Gershwyn Eustache Jnr., Paul Hilton, Peter Hobday, Adelle Leonce, Sarah Malin, Jodie McNee, Hattie Morahan, Kate O’Flynn and Dickon Tyrrell have been cast in Alice Birch’s Anatomy of a Suicide directed by Katie Mitchell. It runs in the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs 3 June 2017 – 8 July 2017, with set design by Alex Eales, costume design by Sarah Blenkinsop, lighting by James Farncombe, music by Paul Clark and sound by Melanie Wilson

“My mother always said to Live Big.
Live as much as I could.”

Three generations of women.

For each, the chaos of what has come before brings with it a painful legacy.

“I have Stayed. I have Stayed – I have Stayed for as long as I possibly can.”

To hear Writer Alice Birch and director Katie Mitchell discuss Anatomy of a Suicide (and reveal HUGE production spoilers!) see below


Anatomy of a Suicide is part of the Royal Court’s Jerwood New Playwrights programme, supported by Jerwood Charitable Foundation.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Review: Stepping Out, Vaudeville

"I just popped into Pineapple for this"

There may be few real surprises to be had at Stepping Out but what Maria Friedman's production here at the Vaudeville does, is to conjure a marvellously congenial atmosphere which is ideally suited to the play. Written in 1984 by Richard Harris and set the year before, to call this period comedy dated is beyond stating the obvious, its female characters wafer-thin, its gender politics non-existent.

But if it isn't feminist with a capital F, there's certainly lower-case feminism at work here, not least in the fact that it offers up 8 out of its 9 roles to women - bucking the male:female ratio that is stubbornly persistent in the West End. We follow this group of women, and the solitary man, as they muddle their way through a weekly tap class, building to the inevitable performance that they have to pull off.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Review: Spring Offensive, Clapham Omnibus

"The sheep are closing in"

Victoria Willing's Spring Offensive is a spikily fresh take on the First World War and its enduring legacy, a bold move for the Clapham Omnibus and one which does pay some dividends. The theatre has been transformed into April's Bed and Breakfast, 'the best on the Somme' it would have you believe, and Grace Smart's clever design of cosy but threadbare furnishings instantly lets you know this is a somewhat idle boast.

Expat April has spent more than 20 years in Northern France, having identified her niche and capitalising on the never-ending stream of tourists who visit the battlefields of the Somme to pay their respects. Familiarity has bred contempt though and as the customers have disappeared, her frustrations have turned onto two long-term guests of her establishment, Tom and Pam, and things finally bubble over the course of a long spring evening, a Spring Awakening if you will...

Review: Showstopper, Lyric

"You can't let the pipes play you, you play the pipes"

After their residency at the Apollo, the Showstopper team have skipped along to the Lyric where they have been performing their brand of improvised musical on a random selection of Mondays, roughly every three weeks. If you're new to their work, Showstopper is created anew on the night, suggestions garnered from the audience for the title and the various styles of musical theatre in which the songs will be improvised. And it is always extremely good fun and frequently hilarious, hence my multiple visits over the years.

This evening we saw Greece!, a tale of aspiring thespians, goats, mischievous demi-gods, mysterious rambling women and some impressive pipes, set at the base of Mount Olympus and other assorted ancient Greek venues. And musically we went from Gilbert and Sullivan to West Side Story to Andrew Lloyd Webber, though the highlights were the Hamilton-style love duet (big up to Andrew Pugsley and Pippa Evans) and a truly lovely Waitress-inspired number which although ostensibly a comic number about Dionysus, possessed a strikingly powerful musicality (led by the divine Ruth Bratt). The perfect way to liven up a Monday evening.

Running time: 90 minutes (with interval)
Future performances: Monday 15 May 7.30pm; Monday 5 June 7.30pm

Review: The Braille Legacy, Charing Cross

"Liberté, égalité, fraternité"

The uninitiated might take the existence of braille for granted but Sébastien Lancrenon and Jean-Baptiste Saudray's The Braille Legacy dramatises the fascinating and moving true story behind its invention. Translated by Ranjit Bolt, the musical slots neatly into Thom Southerland's takeover of the Charing Cross Theatre and supported as it is by the Royal National Institute of Blind People, it makes for an interesting piece.

Blinded in a childhood accident, Louis Braille's keen intelligence saw him ruffle feathers at the Royal Institute for Blind Youth where he resided, mainly because prevailing societal attitudes considered the blind to be untrainable. Frustrated by the limits of the opportunities open to him and his schoolmates, he began to develop the tactile code which would unlock the key to reading text - it would be, however, a far from simple journey.

Cast of The Braille Legacy continued

Monday, 24 April 2017

Review: Radieuse Vermine, Leicester Square

"C'est la réponse à nos prières"

Philip Ridley's 2015 play Radiant Vermin was a vibrant and vivid response to the housing crisis that resonated strongly in both the UK (at the Soho Theatre) and the US (in its transfer to 59E59 Theaters), perhaps tapping into something of the societal dissatisfaction that has led to such political turbulence. So it is rather appropriate then that as l'élection présidentielle looks set to shake up French politics, its next move has been to be translated into French (by Louis Bernard) as Radieuse Vermine. 

Directed once again by David Mercatali, assisted here by Flore Vialet, the play is currently previewing at the Leicester Square Theatre in their lounge space, ahead of playing the French Fringe Festival in Avignon in the summer. And these previews offer a striking opportunity - not just for the Francophone population in London, but for any fans of Philip Ridley (albeit with a certain proficiency in French, there aren't any surtitles here) to revisit this play in a same but different way. 

Review: Carousel, London Coliseum

"The crowd of doubtin' Thomases
Was predictin' that the summer'd never come"

The English National Opera have had great success with their move into semi-staged revivals of classic pieces of musical theatre. Bryn Terfel and Emma Thompson lit up the Coliseum with Sweeney Todd in 2005, Glenn Close received an Olivier Award nomination for last year’s Sunset Boulevard, and so this year, we’re being treated to Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s 1945 classic Carousel. I say treated...but with singers Alfie Boe and Katherine Jenkins cast as the show’s ill-fated lovers, this production is a bit of a challenge for musical theatre lovers. Read my three star review for Cheap Theatre Tickets here.

Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 13th May

Cast of Carousel continued

Cast of Carousel continued

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Review: Escape the Room, Namco Funscape


Escape-the-room games can become addictive, as one particular circle of my friends have found out to our cost, and every time a new one comes to our attention, off we trot. Even when one is to be found in the raucous surroundings of Namco Funscape, the amusement arcade/entertainment centre in County Hall which is filled with the likes of slush puppies, techno bowling and even a set of dodgems.

Here, the escape-the-room concept has been tailored down to a trim 765 second, just under 13 minutes in which you and your team of up to six need to hunt down clues, figure out a set of puzzles, and save the day if you can. There's a code of silence as with all these games which means I can't say too much because - spoilers! but I don't think it is too much to reveal that you take on the role of policemen.

What I can say is that this actually works as a good introduction to the genre. If you haven't done one of these before, it is short and sweet (and crucially not too expensive) and captures much of what works about these games. The lateral thinking that is needed, the inventive challenges it poses, the sense of fun that comes as your team works together effectively (or not!). Definitely worth a try.

Round-up of (international) news and treats and other interesting things


Tony Award winner Jessie Mueller, Tony nominee Joshua Henry, and Grammy-winning opera star Renée Fleming will headline a Broadway revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel. The production, helmed by Tony winner and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory director Jack O’Brien, is scheduled to begin performances Friday, March 23, 2018 at a theatre to be announced.


Mueller, a Tony winner for Beautiful: The Carole King Musical and recent star of Waitress, will take on the role of Julie Jordan, with Henry—currently playing Aaron Burr in the touring company of Hamilton—as Billy Bigelow. Fleming will play Nettie Fowler; the Grammy-winning soprano can be seen on the Metropolitan Opera stage this season in Der Rosenkavalier—a production that is said to mark her retirement from her traditional operatic repertoire.

The revival, produced by Scott Rudin and Roy Furman, will feature Amar Ramasar and Brittany Pollack—both of the New York City Ballet—as Jigger and Louise, respectively. New York City Ballet’s Justin Peck will choreograph the new staging on the 1945 musical. The resident choreographer promises “an even more dance-and-movement-focused production.”




The Lyric Hammersmith has announce the full casting for the UK premiere of Ferdinand von Schirach’s thrilling courtroom drama Terror, directed by Artistic Director Sean Holmes and designed by Olivier Award-winner Anna Fleischle. Emma Fielding plays Prosecuting Counsel Nelson, John Lightbody plays Christian Lauterbach, Forbes Masson plays Defence Counsel Biegler, Tanya Moodie plays the Presiding Judge, Shanaya Rafaat playsFranziska Meiser and Ashley Zhangazha plays the pilot on trial, Lars Koch.


Guilty. Not Guilty. You Decide.

Enter the courtroom. Hear the evidence. Make your judgement. A hijacked plane is heading towards a packed football stadium. Ignoring orders to the contrary a fighter pilot shoots the plane down killing 164 people to save 70,000. Put on trial and charged with murder, the fate of the pilot is in the audience’s hands.




The story has been told before, but never like this.

An occupied desert nation. A radical from the wilderness on hunger strike. A girl whose mysterious dance will change the course of the world. This charged retelling turns the infamous biblical tale on its head, placing the girl we callSalomé at the centre of a revolution.

Internationally acclaimed director Yaël Farber (Les Blancs) draws on multiple accounts to create her urgent, hypnotic production of Salomé on the Olivier stage.


Salomé is designed by Susan Hilferty with lighting design by Tim Lutkin, music and sound by Adam Cork, movement direction by Ami Shulman, fight direction by Kate Waters and dramaturgy by Drew Lichtenberg. Cast includes Philip Arditti, Paul Chahidi, Ramzi Choukair, Uriel Emil, Olwen Fouéré, Roseanna Frascona, Lloyd Hutchinson, Shahar Isaac, Aidan Kelly, Yasmin Levy, Andrew Lewis, Anna Lindup, Theo T J Lowe, Isabella Niloufar, Lubana al Quntar, and Raad Rawi

Hundreds of Travelex tickets at £15 available per performance.




And last but not least, Broadway bares for Broadway Cares!

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Review: Guards at the Taj, Bush

"Was it fucked up? Yes, it was. But I don’t have to feel terrible about it"


Opening up the newly-refurbished Bush Theatre is Rajiv Joseph's 2015 play Guards at the Taj. Allocated seating and dynamic pricing have been introduced, accessibility addressed and terraces built, we've come a long way from the intimate room above a pub that was its original home. And it's a fascinating piece of writing to go with, an unexpected move perhaps but enjoyable nonetheless.

Inspired by the legend, for which there is no factual basis, that seventeenth century Mughal emperor Shah Jahan ordered that the hands of all the craftsmen who were involved in the construction of the Taj Mahal should be cut off. He commissioned the mausoleum for his favourite wife and the mythos behind the story is that he wanted to ensure that they could never build anything of equal beauty.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Re-review: Kinky Boots, Adelphi

"I am freedom, I'm constriction
A potpourri of contradiction"

A cheeky trip back to Kinky Boots (my third time) - here's my review from last time. I'll just say Matt Henry continues to be fiercely amazing, the wholesome David Hunter is perfectly (re)cast as ol' Charlie boy, and Elena Skye manages the not-inconsiderable feat of stepping into Amy Lennox's shoes as the hilarious Lauren. It's still a lovely, lovely show and I'm really pleased that it appears to still be doing really well. Now put the nose on the Charlie!



Cast of Kinky Boots continued

Cast of Kinky Boots continued

Bridge Theatre new season - excited by new writing or disappointed by lack of diversity?

Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr have announced the opening programme for their The Bridge Theatre venture – the 900-seat commercial venue near to Tower Bridge which marks their re-entry into the London theatre landscape. The first three productions, all booking now, are:
  • Young Marx - Richard Bean and Clive Coleman's new play about German philosopher Karl Heinrich Marx which will star Rory Kinnear in the title role alongside Oliver Chris as Engels. Directed by Nicholas Hytner it will have designs by Mark Thompson and music by Grant Olding;
  • This will be followed by Julius Caesar directed by Hytner in promenade, starring
    Ben Whishaw (Bakkhai, Skyfall) as Brutus, David Calder as Caesar, Michelle Fairley as Cassius and David Morrissey as Mark Antony;
  • a new play from Barney Norris called Nightfall, directed by Laurie Sansom.

Further ahead from Summer '18, we can expect:
  • a new play by Lucinda Coxon based on the novel Alys, Always by Harriet Lane;
  • a new play by Nina Raine about JS Bach, played by Simon Russell Beale; 
  • flatpack, a new play by John Hodge; 
  • The Black Cloud, a new play by Sam Holcroft from the novel by Fred Hoyle; 
  • Carmen Havana, a version of Bizet's opera by Lucy Prebble with choreography by Miguel Altunaga and directed by Nicholas Hytner.

The focus on new writing is something exciting, all but one of these are new works. And if we count them altogether, there's pleasing gender parity in their number. And that's good enough to get luminaries like Sarah Crompton and Michael Billington fawning over the season ahead.

But looking at all those playwrights, there’s not a person of colour among them. And delving into the cast and creatives of the opening three shows, all of them are being directed by white men. Furthermore, of the headline casting announced, six out of seven of them are white men. We can cling to Michelle Fairley’s cross-casting as Cassius as a sole beacon of hope but let’s not forget that Robert Hastie is already doing this much better and bolder in Sheffield.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Review: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Octagon

"I often cry when I am happy, and smile when I am sad"

Anne Brontë might not be the most heralded of her sisters but that is to underestimate the different way in which she expressed herself. The striking feminism of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall remains as powerful as ever and in Deborah McAndrew's adaptation, directed by Elizabeth Newman for the Octagon Theatre in Bolton of which she is the artistic director, it couldn't find a better place to reassert those feminist credentials.

Even in these allegedly more enlightened times, the idea that a woman might stay in an abusive relationship is one that many people struggle with. And so as the story of Helen Graham unfolds, as the events of her past inform what happens in her present, McAndrew's contemporary dialogue keeps a real modern urgency to the action. Alcoholism and abuse in marriage, gender equality and duty, the struggle for independence - this is timeless stuff.

Casting announced for All The President's Men?

Photo: Gage Skidmore
All The President's Men? is a singular theatrical experience for the politically engaged on 24 April, 7.30pm at the Vaudeville Theatre. 

A staged reading edited and directed by Nicolas Kent and presented by the National Theatre, London and The Public Theater, New York, it features scenes from the U.S. Senate's Confirmation Hearings

In January, one week before the president’s inauguration a fierce fight erupted in the Senate between Republicans and Democrats over the confirmation of the key figures for President Trump’s cabinet. These four powerful men lead the Trump administration’s policy on Russia, the Middle East, Iran and North Korea, on human rights worldwide, on the Paris Climate control agreement, as well as on the civil rights and the health of millions of Americans.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Review: Diminished, Hampstead Downstairs

"I'm not trying to justify it...that's the fucking point"

The next couple of shows programmed at the Hampstead Downstairs are two shows that have previously done well - Deposit and Alligators, which interestingly have press nights scheduled, contrary to the usual practice there. For the moment though, it is the thought-provoking and morally complex Diminished - Sam Hoare's debut play - that is occupying the experimental space.

In Polly Sullivan's starkly uncompromising arena, designed in the round and directed by Tom Attenborough, we first witness a psychiatric session between the high-functioning Mary and her clearly intrigued doctor. They banter almost flirtatiously, dancing around diagnoses and discussions, as we edge closer to the revelation that she's being held in a secure facility after the death of her severely disabled young daughter.

Album Review: Billy Porter Presents: The Soul of Richard Rodgers

"I have dreamed what a joy you'll be"

Who knew that exploring the soul of Richard Rodgers would reveal a Lauryn Hill sample and a guest rap from upcoming Bronx rapper Zaire Park? And that's just on 'Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered' alone. But that's exactly what you find on Billy Porter Presents: The Soul of Richard Rodgers, a project co-produced and co-curated by Billy Porter, the Tony Award-winning Broadway actor and musician.

With lyricists Oscar Hammerstein II and Lorenz Hart, legendary composer Richard Rodgers redefined the American musical theatre with now-classic musicals like Oklahoma!, The Sound of Music, South Pacific, and The King and I. And now Porter pays tribute to his legacy by reinterpreting his songbook with an entirely more contemporary soulful bent. In his own words, “I like to think of this as the Richard Rodgers version of the Hamilton Mixtapes.” 

Full casting for Robert Hastie's Julius Caesar


Full casting has been announced for Robert Hastie's upcoming production of Julius Caesar at Sheffield Crucible, his first at the helm, and it looks like an absolute doozie. Not only has he brought back former artistic director Samuel West and tempted definitive-fave-of-this-blog Elliot Cowan back to the stage, Hastie is continuing his commitment to gender parity by recruiting a company of eight men and eight women and sharing out the roles how he damn well wants. 

So the show features Samuel West in the role of Brutus, alongside Jonathan Hyde as Julius Caesar. Zoe Waites will play Cassius, Elliot Cowan will play Mark Antony and Chipo Chung will star as Portia/Octavius. The cast is completed by Lisa Caruccio Came (Calpurnia), Pandora Colin (Casca), Robert Goodale (Lepidus), Alison Halstead (Metellus), Mark Holgate (Cinna), Arthur Hughes (Lucius), Robinah Kironde (Popilus, Clitus), Lily Nichol (Soothsayer), Royce Pierreson (Ligarius, Dardanius), Abigail Thaw (Trebonius) and Paul Tinto (Artemidorus, Pindarus).

In case you've forgotten, Hastie directed Michelle Terry in the title role in last year's Henry V at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, and Sheffield is clearly very lucky to have him leading one of the country's leading theatrical institutions. Julius Caesar runs at Sheffield Crucible from 23 May to 10 June, with previews from 17 May, and I'll definitely be making my way northwards for this.


Sunday, 16 April 2017

Barely-a-review: Austentatious, Leicester Square Theatre

"Your heart is pure and your brain is good"

Where else would we spend Easter Sunday evening but at Austentatious for the last of their currently scheduled dates - more have been teased but the diary is still loomingly empty. Tonight saw the far-from-promising title Dingo Barry spun into random comic gold with Aussie accents, errant fathers, bonnet-dropping servants, old crones, and an impromptu knife and sword fight on the road to London.

Once their future dates have been confirmed, be sure to book in because these guys really are a hoot.




Review: Miss Nightingale - the musical, Vaults


"You've got to get your sausage where you can"

It's fascinating to be able to revisit shows along their developmental cycle. I first saw Miss Nightingale in its initial chamber-musical incarnation at the King's Head back in 2011 and since then, it has become a fully-fledged piece which has toured the UK extensively. This residency at the Vaults marks the show's fifth production and the first time I've been able to revisit and reassess Matthew Bugg's actor-musician musical.

Set in London in 1942, it relays two parallel and interconnected narratives - the metamorphosis of nurse Maggie Brown to fresh new cabaret star Miss Nightingale, and the illicit gay love affair between her Polish-Jewish émigré songwriter and the upper-class war hero-turned-nightclub-impresario who is behind their rise. As bombs continue to fall on London, contemporary attitudes toward homosexuality threaten to cause no less potent explosions.

Review: Threads, Hope

“This isn’t Groundhog Day...”

We talk about broken hearts at the end of relationships oh so easily, but what if it was actually true, what if a break-up manifested physically on the person left behind. That’s one of the key questions that David Lane’s Threads poses in its exploration of the aftermath of a decoupling. It’s been five years since Vic left Charlie – she’s moved on, apparently onwards and upwards, but he remains in their old flat, in stasis and now calling out for help.

Against her better judgement, Vic responds to the plea by returning to their old flat where she’s unnerved by what she finds. Not just in the overt physical decline of her ex-lover whose heart has somehow stopped pumping blood, but also in an apartment that literally doesn’t want to let her go, shifting around her, locking her in. It’s an unexpected twist in what looks to be a conventional relationship drama, complete with squabbles over cups of tea, making it a real curiosity.

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things

A tempting looking trailer has been released for Late Company, the Finborough's forthcoming drama







Octagon Theatre Bolton have announced full casting for their forthcoming world premiere production of Timberlake Wertenbaker’s new play Winter Hill.


The production’s all-female cast will feature Cathy Tyson (BAFTA and Golden Globe-nominated Mona Lisa; Band of Gold, ITV and most recently onstage in Nikolai Forster’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest, Birmingham Rep) as Irene; Denise Black (Denise Osbourne in Coronation Street and Joanie Wright in Emmerdale, Both ITV; Cucumber and Queer as Folk , Channel 4 and onstage in Pack at the Finborough Theatre and as Mother Superior in the UK tour of Sister Act) as Dolly; Louise Jameson (Doc Martin, ITV; Doctor Who, EastEnders and Bergerac, BBC) as Beth; Fiona Hampton (Of Mice and Men, The Glass Menagerie and Private Lives, Octagon Theatre Bolton) as Emma and Janet Henfrey (Wolf Hall, The Singing Detective and as Mrs Bale in As Time Goes By (all BBC) as Felicity

Joining them will be Souad Faress (Linda in Brief Encounters, ITV and Bridget Jones Diary, Bhaji on the Beach and My Beautiful Laundrette) as Vivian, Eva-Jane Willis (Magnificence, Finborough Theatre And We Really Should Do Something, Bush Theatre) as Alex and Susan Twist (Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Octagon Theatre Bolton) as The Fury.

Directed by Octagon Theatre’s Artistic Director Elizabeth Newman, Timberlake Wertenbaker’s new play explores how a group of seemingly ordinary women endeavour to protect their local community, no matter the cost and questioning the lengths people go to for a cause they believe in and at what point does the fight for freedom become terrorism?


Winter Hill will be playing at the Octagon Theatre Bolton between Thu 11 May – Sat 3 June





Also in casting news, the Old Vic announced that Jade Anouka will star alongside Charlie Fink in Cover My Tracks, their next late-night show interweaving live music and theatre.  Telling the story of an idealistic young songwriter who sets out to write a pop masterpiece and vanishes without a trace, this show plays the late slot from 5-17 Jun. Tickets are just £12-£17.50.


As a teaser, they've shared Charlie Fink performing ‘Firecracker’, the first track from his newly announced album, on stage at The Old Vic. Cover My Tracks will give the exclusive chance to see Charlie perform songs from his new solo album of the same title, his first since Noah and the Whale.






Thinking outside the box as ever, the Royal Court have announced a new  temporary theatre space The Site curated by Royal Court Associate Designer Chloe Lamford.

The Site is a workshop and rehearsal space situated next door to the Royal Court and rented from Transport for London. Chloe is transforming the space and is offering audiences an invitation; an experiment in design, collaboration and process. She has designed a space where language, form, the body and instructions are the materials and where both artists and audiences are invited to rethink how we create, present, and watch plays.

This series of works is an experiment, exploring performance through language, physicality and the power of the imagination, created by five playwrights in response to Chloe Lamford’s provocation.

The programme includes new work from writers EV Crowe, Stacey Gregg, Theresa Ikoko, Nathaniel Martello-White and Deborah Pearson. With Creative Direction by both Chloe Lamford and Royal Court Associate Director Lucy Morrison.

As well as being a leading theatre designer of her generation Chloe is now well known for her extraordinary collaborations with leading European artists such as Lies Pauwels, Katie Mitchell and most recently Wanda on a pop gig. She has collaborated with the Tate Modern and as Associate Designer at the Royal Court is in a constant conversation with the writers to help them challenge form and question the image-based and visual dramaturgy of their work. It is in this spirit that she is leading this project.


The work:

LIGHTS OUT by Stacey Gregg
In 2017 Gregg began to examine strategies used to bridge the gap between socio-economic backgrounds.
The project takes place in the context of Lights-Out manufacturing, which refers to factories that are fully automated and require no human workers, thus no need for light.

It's All Made Up by Deborah Pearson
Deborah Pearson isn't very comfortable writing fiction. To her, it feels like lying. As a result, she's made her career in theatre by telling real stories about her life or her performers' lives. Chloe has challenged Deborah not to do that. Deborah has been asked to write a made-up story that takes place in a real life place - The Site.
Deborah will only start making up the story as soon as she first walks into the Site, always writing from and in The Site. She hopes that what ends up being performed is a string of pathological lies and made-up magic.

A new work by Nathaniel Martello-White
A provocation
What happened.
Did we see what we think we saw?
What are the facts?
Is a square really a square? Or a triangle posing as one?
Or has our capacity to discern a square perished
Truth is in the eye of the beholder
So it's beauty
So is murder
Or maybe it isn't
Did we just have that conversation?
In this new unknown space, Nathaniel Martello-White explores the post-truth era where facts have become irrelevant and we are forced to question the ‘reality’ that surrounds us.

The Unknown by EV Crowe
There are four basic principles:
1) They are not willed by the individual self
2) They reflect social reality
3) They are public rhetoric
4) They are collectively interpretable
EV Crowe's real life dreams will be shared as a play and interpreted by an audience.
Quote source: Nocturnal Omissions: Steps Toward a Sociology of Dreams (pages 95–104). Gary Alan Fine and Laura Fischer Leighton

A new work by Theresa Ikoko
“From creators Chloe Lamford and Theresa Ikoko comes The Site, the brand new, state-of-the art venue of The Space Between.
Welcome, the 107,683,902,202nd contestant will join us shortly.
I will be your host. Life points are under your seat. Feel free to use them today. Or save them for your turn. Maybe soon...
---
The final level.
What's next?”