Monday, 16 October 2017

Album Review: Janie Dee at the BBC

"Je veux changer d'atmosphère"

30 years or so into a career that has seen her win two Olivier awards (so far - I'd watch out for her to be at least nominated for Follies, if not more), it seems remarkable that Janie Dee at the BBC is actually Dee's debut album. But though there may not be recorded evidence, she is a highly accomplished and experienced cabaret performer among her many skills, and it is from these shows that the material has been drawn for this record.

Recorded at BBC Maida Vale Studios with Auburn Jam Records, the track-listing thus embraces a broad array of songs and styles, all connected by the smooth consummate skill of one of our more under-rated Dames-in-the-making. From Kander and Ebb to Bacharach and David, Stevie Wonder to Spike Milligan, Dee takes us on a journey of hugely sophisticated charm that proves mightily hard to resist, marshalled by MD Steve Clark.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Full list of 2017 UK Theatre Awards winners

The full list of winners of this year's UK Theatre Awards have been announced and you can find them below:

Best Presentation Of Touring Theatre

Nuffield Southampton Theatres for the world premiere touring musical production of Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr Fox

Best Show for Children and Young People

The Snow Queen, New Vic Theatre

Best Director

Gemma Bodinetz, Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse new repertory season

Review: The Lie, Menier Chocolate Factory

"People don’t really want to be told the truth"

Just as The Father comes along with The Mother, The Truth is followed by The Lie. British theatre's amour fou for Florian Zeller continues apace with another of his comedies making it over to London but are we approaching diminishing returns as we delve deeper into his back catalogue? Director Lindsay Posner and translator Christopher Hampton clearly don't think so as they return to the Menier Chocolate with The Lie but I'm not so convinced.

The production got off to a rocky start when James Dreyfus had to withdraw due to illness, though choosing Alexander Hanson as his replacement provides a little extratextual spice as he stars opposite his wife Samantha Bond as married couple Paul and Alice. As we meet them, they're havering over a dinner party they're hosting that is meant to start imminently - Alice wants to cancel it as she just saw Michel kissing a woman who wasn't his wife Laurence but their early arrival takes the decision out of their hands.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Gif Reviews: B + Victory Condition, Royal Court

The Royal Court continues to shake things up under Vicky Featherstone's reign, offering two shorter plays (though not for the price of one) which are running in rep. Guillermo Calderón's B and Chris Thorpe's Victory Condition are both interesting in their own ways but whether it was me being grumpy, a slightly flat atmosphere or something more, neither drama really did it for me. So we're keeping it brief!

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things

How to respond to a week such as that? Defer to those more fearlessly eloquent, and listen.





Emma Rice's tenure at Shakespeare's Globe is winding to its close - the outdoor season is done but there's still a winter's worth of programming in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse to get through. Musical Romantics Anonymous will be one to watch out for and now that casting has been released for Anders Lustgarten's The Secret Theatre, directed by Matthew Dunster, looks to be another fascinating entry.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Review: Beginning, National Theatre


"I feel like my life's turning on the toss of a coin"

There's something about the sweet spot as the embers of a house party start to die out - people lingering behind usually there for a reason (as in the prettiest boy I ever did kiss), conversations that delve right into the deep stuff. And so it is for Laura and Danny in David Eldridge's new play Beginning - it's 2.40am and he's the last one left at the housewarming do at her new pad in Crouch End.

But it's not quite as simple as that (it never is - that boy moved to LA). Both firmly middle-aged, the weight of Laura and Danny's potential encounter is revealed to be ever more significant as they edge towards a truth that there might be more than just a quickie on the cards, that the spark of a connection they both might be feeling could be the beginning of something more and not just a reaction to the intense loneliness they're both feeling in this modern world. They've just got to get to that point.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Review: Young Frankenstein, Garrick

"Though your genitalia
Has been known to fail ya
You can bet your ass on the brain"

It's alive...barely. Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein staggers into the West End after some more time on the operating table since its 2007 Broadway opening (2 new songs are among the changes made) and a short run in Newcastle to tighten the bolts. But for a piece of new musical theatre, it is so desperately old-fashioned that you half expect Russ Abbot and Bella Emberg to pop up and do a turn.

Given that Brooks is now over 90 and that the film on which it is based dates from 1974, it is perhaps little surprise that it feels dated. But also given director/choreographer Susan Stroman's close collaborative relationship with him, the opportunity to be necessarily brutal about what works and what doesn't feels to have been lost, lightning really hasn't struck twice for the creators of The Producers. 

Album Review: Jason Manford - A Different Stage

"I'll gather up my past, and make some sense at last"

Unless you've caught him in tours of The Producers or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or in occasional TV performances, you might not know that comedian Jason Manford can sing. He's even tackled Sondheim, stepping into the role of Pirelli in the Staunton/Ball Sweeney Todd for a while back in 2011, and so it is little surprise that his debut album A Different Stage should turn out be one of showtunes and standards.

Manford's voice emerges as a solid and mannered instrument and clear as a bell, his singing veers towards the precise. This is most effective on the likes of Chitty's 'Hushabye Mountain', sung sweetly with former co-star Rosanna Bates and And much of the material tends towards the booming inspirational anthems beloved of his friend Alfie Boe - 'This Is My Life', 'This Is The Moment', 'The Impossible Dream', all effective if a little similar.

Review: Graeme of Thrones, Charing Cross

"It's going to be Hodorable..."

If you haven't seen an episode of Game of Thrones, I'm not entirely why you would want to come and see a show that spoofs it lovingly if relentlessly. The blurb for Graeme of Thrones mentions it could be seen as "an introduction for the unenlightened" but let's be frank, to expect a rapid-fire comedy show to catch you up on seven seasons of intricately plotted fantasy drama and enable you to get such puns as the one above is to make you as naive as, well, Ned Stark.

But for the initiated, there's lots to enjoy in this madcap which rattle through an inordinate amount of material in its 90 minutes and still barely scratches the surface of the Seven Kingdoms. From its hilarious re-enactment of the opening credits to the arrival of actual dragons*, John-Luke Roberts, Nicola Lamont and Ross Spaine work overtime to take us from Westeros to Essos and back and cover as much of the plot as they can shoehorn in, along with jokes at many of the tropes it fully embraces.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Review: In Event of Moone Disaster, Theatre503

"If an alien came and said they'd whisk you away a thousand billion miles, to a different planet, but you'd never come back, would you go?"

There's something rather delicious about the winner of the Theatre503's International Playwriting Award hailing from Sunderland but a Mackem Andrew Thompson is, and what a winner In Event of Moone Disaster proves to be. The title derives from the interesting tidbit that speechwriters at the time had to prepare for the Moon landing going wrong and though the play uses space travel as a springboard to examine three generations of a family whose destiny seems somehow tied up there in the stars.

So we encounter Sylvia on the night of the Moon landing, in awe of the possibilities it heralds; we meet Neil and Julie in the present day trying to conceive; and in 2055, Sylvia's granddaughter is preparing to become the first person to walk on Mars. And as we see how past actions influence future possibilities, a more pressing journey of gender equality emerges as the main theme in this feminist sci-fi epic (with heart). What does the freedom to 'have it all' actually look like, has what we're willing to sacrifice changed over the years, have we even progressed but at all? 

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things

National treasure Matthew Kelly and West End superstar Josefina Gabrielle are to star in the brand-new stage adaptation of The Box of Delights, possibly the creepiest children's tv show ever and one which is indeliby etched on my psyche. This original production is the first time Poet Laureate John Masefield’s festive classic has been reimagined for the stage, and will be brought to life by an ensemble cast in the gloriously Christmassy surroundings of Wilton’s Music Hall.

Joining Kelly and Gabrielle as part of the stellar cast will be Mark Extance, Safiyya Ingar, Tom Kanji, Samuel Simmonds, Rosalind Steele and Alistair Toovey.

Jo Brand has been announced as the headline act for a charity comedy night at Richmond Theatre. The evening of comedy will raise funds for national charity SeeAbility and features Adam Hills, host of Channel 4's The Last Leg and Live at the Apollo regular, Seann Walsh.

Richmond Theatre will host ‘Stand Up for SeeAbility' on Monday 30th October, where Jo Brand will also be joined by Sally Phillips from Bridget Jones's Diary and award-winner Mark Simmons, as well as Sarah Louise Keegan and John Moloney. It will all be introduced by former Paralympian, Lord Chris Holmes of Richmond MBE.

SeeAbility is a 200-year-old charity with strong local roots to Richmond. They provide extraordinary support for people with learning disabilities and autism across Surrey and the South of England, and champion eye care for adults and children with learning disabilities.


The critically acclaimed (not least by yours truly) production of The Grinning Man, directed by Tony award-winning Tom Morris (War Horse) and based on the classic Victor Hugo (Les Misérables) novel, The Man Who Laughs, will take over Studio 1 at Trafalgar Studios from 5 December, following a hugely successful autumn 2016 premiere at Bristol Old Vic. Tickets will go on sale on Wednesday 11 October.

This romantic gothic musical love story, set in a fantastical world with a dark heart, is brought to life by Kneehigh writer Carl Grose (Dead Dog in a Suitcase) and “powered by an outstanding score” (Sunday Times) by Tim Phillips and Marc Teitler. And in great news, the cast is led once again by Louis Maskell (2016 Best Actor in a Musical fosterIAN winner), in the title role of Grinpayne, and Julian Bleach (2016 Best Supporting Actor in a Musical fosterIAN winner), who plays Barkilphedro, a vengeful clown with a heart of lead. 

Lead casting has been announced for a 2018 UK tour of Terence Rattigan’s classic family drama, The Winslow Boy - directed by Olivier Award-nominated Rachel Kavanaugh. Tessa Peake-Jones (Only Fools and Horses, Grantchester) stars as Grace Winslow wife of Arthur Winslow, played by the swoonworthy Aden Gillett (House of Eliott, Holby City), the father who embarks on an extraordinary campaign for justice for his son.

The tour opens at Chichester Festival Theatre on February 8th 2018 and sees Mark Goucher once again present a classic drama straight from seasons at the Chichester Festival Theatre and Birmingham Rep. The Winslow Boy follows acclaimed productions of The Kings Speech and Single Spies (the latter also directed by Kavanaugh). The production is set to visit other leading UK drama houses including Bath Theatre Royal, Oxford Playhouse, Cambridge Arts Theatre, Salford Lowry, Cheltenham Everyman Theatre, Brighton Theatre Royal, Belfast Grand Opera House, Richmond Theatre and Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre.

And just in case you were wondering what Harry Hadden-Paton is up to (and quite frankly, who isn't), well of course he's making his NY stage debut in the Lincoln Center revival of My Fair Lady as Henry Higgins opposite Lauren Ambrose as Eliza Doolittle, Norbert Leo Butz as Alfie Doolittle, and Dame Diana Rigg as Mrs Higgins, aka the Menier Christmas musical I would have liked to see.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Review: Medea, Written in Rage, The Place

"Maman est avec vous
Maman est avec vous 
Pour toujours…"

Nothing becomes Medea (or at least this version of her) as much as her entry into the world. Into a liminal space shrouded in smoke, summoned by a clarion call from the ether, an unknowable shape emerges. Obscured by lush swathes of fabric, movement governed by improbably high platforms, this figure casts extraordinary shadows (stunning lighting work from Chahine Yavroyan) until they arrive centre stage to finally deliver their story.

And though Euripides' enduring classic may be familiar, it's not likely one has heard it told quite like this. Medea, Written in Rage was reimagined by the Haitian-French Jean-René Lemoine and has been translated and adapted here by Neil Bartlett, to be performed by the Frenchman François Testory. A dancer and singer of some considerable renown, he submerges us into a queered-up, highly-politicised sonic experiment of a piece which is, at times, hugely arresting.