Thursday, 29 June 2017

Review: Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, Wyndham's

"Nothing rates above you"

Sometimes the hype is entirely justified. Six-time Tony Award-winner Audra McDonald has the incredible record of winning in all possible categories whether lead or supporting, play or musical, the only actor to ever do so, and so it is a little appropriate that her long-awaited UK stage debut comes in the form of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, a play where she gets to do a whole lotta singing. Read my 5 star review for Official Theatre here.

Running time: 90 minutes (without interval) 
Booking until 9th September

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Review: Mad Man Sad Woman, Space Arts Centre

"Down there the poor are like lemons - whenever anyone gets hold of one, they squeeze it"

It's a good few years ago now that I saw Las Brutas, a play by acclaimed Chilean writer Juan Radrigán but as soon as I heard that Head for Heights were producing another of his plays, my interest was most definitely piqued. Mad Man Sad Woman (El loco y la triste) ha again been translated by Catherine Boyle and directed by Sue Dunderdale and it is easy to see the affinity they have for the material in their sensitively handled and powerfully moving work.

In an abandoned building in a grim area of town, Eva and Huinca seem to be suffering the hangover from hell. She's a lame prostitute and he's dying of cirrhosis of the liver and with just a few days left to live, circumstances have conspired to bring them together. Their relationship is a spiky thing indeed at the start as it transpires this was a plan conceived by others. But in the midst of the desperation of their situation, shoots of green begin to appear through the bleakness as something of a connection starts to grow.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Review: Songs and Solidarity, Trafalgar Studios

"We could see this was a bad one immediately. The sky was glowing."

Touted as an evening of song, dance and poetry, Songs and Solidarity was a remarkable event indeed. A fundraising gala evening pulled together in the space of a week by the superhuman efforts of actor Giles Terera and producer Danielle Tarento, it was a concert for the hundreds of families made homeless and the relatives of those who lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower fire. Hosted by Claire Sweeney, musically directed by the enormously talented Tim Sutton, 

The balance of the programme was just right too. From pure musical loveliness like the gentle harmonies of Tyrone Huntley and Jon Robyns on Cyndi Lauper's 'True Colors' and the simplicity of Rachel Tucker's acapella take on 'She Moved Through The Fair', to the more intense emotion of Terera's own 'Ol' Man River' and a visibly moved Clare Foster's 'Don't Worry About Me' (a song with which I wasn't familiar but rather destroyed me). From the much-needed comic relief of Stiles & Drewe skipping through 'A Little Bit of Nothing On A Big White Plate' to the soul-warming 'Indiscriminate Acts Of Kindness' performed by the ever excellent Julie Atherton.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Review: Terror, Lyric Hammersmith

Booking an interactive show in which we the audience get to play the role of the jury?

Using a gimmick to cover the business of reviewing the play....?

 😉

Review: The Quentin Dentin Show, Tristan Bates

"If successful, you can go for the upgrade"

I was rather seduced by The Quentin Dentin Show's charms when I saw it last year - riding post-Edinburgh enthusiasm, this sci-fi musical slotted into the late-night berth at the Above the Arts studio perfectly. Buoyed by that success, producer Hannah Elsy and writer/composer Henry Carpenter brought on a new co-book writer - Tom Crowley - to further expand the show for this new run at the Tristan Bates Theatre.

It's an interesting development as the increased running time now carries with it an interval and I'm not entirely convinced that the show carries this off. The Quentin Dentin Show is always amiable, the glint in its eye feels cheeky even as it approaches something darker in tone and so the 'drama' imposed by the cut to black feels a little artificial. It gives the opportunity to go and get another drink sure, but its hard not to feel that the energy flow would be better maintained. 

Friday, 23 June 2017

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things


Albany Launch Campaign to Provide a Free Theatre Ticket to Every Child in Lewisham

A Theatre Trip for Every Child, Lewisham is a new giving scheme to provide a free theatre ticket for every 5-year-old in the Borough of Lewisham. ‘Every Child’ enables businesses and individuals to give a local child the chance to experience the magic of theatre.

Jude Law has been revealed as patron for the campaign, funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Arts Council England, and with the support of founding sponsors, L&Q. A parallel project will launch simultaneously at ARC in Stockton-on-Tees.

Law is a multi-award-winning actor who grew up in Lewisham and went to John Ball school. His TV, film and stage career spans three decades. His exceptional talent and versatility, from leading roles performing Shakespeare in the West End to playing the Pope and Dr. Watson, make him a perfect exemplar for the power of the arts. He commented:
‘I am delighted to support this terrific initiative which has the potential to positively impact the lives of young children in Lewisham. It is crucial for the future of our communities that we find creative ways to nurture and support the next generation. 
Theatre has the power to inspire children and we must encourage them to follow their dreams, no matter how big.’

Lewisham is one of the 25 local authority areas in England where poverty and deprivation were found to be greatest with child poverty effecting 34% of children. Those on low incomes often have least access to opportunities in Lewisham, and that includes arts engagement. A Theatre Trip for Every Child is a tangible strategy aimed at improving access to the arts for children across the borough from an early age.

Gavin Barlow, Chief Executive at the Albany said:
‘We are passionate about every child having the chance to enjoy high quality theatre in their local area. Early access to the arts contributes significantly to a child’s development, sparking their curiosity and giving them new perspectives on the world. We believe very child should have the opportunity to benefit from that experience.’
Annabel Turpin, Chief Executive at ARC, Stockton Arts Centre added:
‘Giving children access to incredible arts experiences on their doorsteps creates a sense of possibility and a very special sense of place locally. Discovering the thrill of theatre at an early age is inspirational for many children as they grow and develop, and life changing for some.’
Paul Nehra, Community Investment Manager at L&Q said:
‘By the L&Q Foundation working with ‘Every Child’, we hope to contribute to supporting future entrepreneurs, artists and leaders to reach their full potential. We’re passionate about the area and delighted to invest in the future of this community.’
The campaign has benefitted from considerable support from both Lewisham Council and Vicky Foxcroft, MP for Lewisham Deptford.

Sir Steve Bullock, Mayor of Lewisham said:
‘We’re lucky enough to have a thriving arts ecology in Lewisham. This campaign provides a brilliant opportunity for local businesses and individuals to support all of our community to access it and be part of it from a young age.’
Vicky Foxcroft, MP added:
Having experienced firsthand the impact of early access to the arts, I’m delighted to be able to support A Theatre Trip for Every Child. It has the potential to make a huge difference to some 400,000 children in our borough each year and to influence their futures in a uniquely positive way.’
A donation of just £10 enables a child to come to the Albany and experience world-class theatre at their local venue and, contributes to making the whole borough of Lewisham a healthier and happier place to live, work and play. There are opportunities to support a whole class, year or even a postcode to experience the magic of theatre.

To support the campaign, visit the crowdfunding page at www.crowdfunder.co.uk/a-theatre-trip-for-every-child.




Casting for the first two events in the National Theatre's Queer Theatre series has been announced. The series marks the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales and runs from 6 – 10 July 2017.

The first in the series of rehearsed readings is Sarah Daniels' Neaptide. Directed by Sarah Frankcom, Neaptide was the National Theatre’s first full-length play by a female playwright. It presents a ferocious but funny account of the public and private battles of a lesbian mother in the 1980s, alongside the ancient myth of Demeter & Persephone. Having recently come out to her family, Claire now faces a bitter custody battle and uncertainty over her teaching career.


Neaptide is on stage in the Lyttelton Theatre on 6 July at 7.30pm, cast includes:
Ronke Adekoluejo (Val), Adjoa Andoh (Beatrice), Simon Armstrong (Sid & Cyril), Thomas Arnold (Colin & Roger), Maureen Beattie (Joyce), Morfydd Clark (Poppy & Terri), Karla Crome (Diane), Helena Lymbery (Anette & Marion), Sarah Niles (Linda) and Jessica Raine (Claire).

The reading will be followed by a free discussion with Sarah Daniels and Sarah Frankcom about the play.


Wig Out! Is the second in the series of LGBT+ rehearsed readings at the NT. Written and directed by Tarell Alvin McCraney (Moonlight), Wig Out! tells of the fiercest battle in New York as the House Of Light compete with the House Of Diabolique for drag family supremacy at the Cinderella Ball. When Eric meets Wilson, it’s a good old-fashioned boy meets boy fairy tale. However, when Wilson reveals his drag alter-ego Nina, questions of masculinity and gender come to the fore. In the tradition of Paris Is Burning, this big, bold and riotous play looks at gender, drag and fabulousness.

              

Wig Out! is on stage in the Lyttelton Theatre on July 7 at 7.30pm, cast includes:
Tarell Alvin McCraney (Rey Rey), Arun Blair-Mangat (directions), Tunji Kasim (Eric), Alexia Khadime (Fate), Kadiff Kirwan (Ms Nina), Abiona Omonua (Faith), Jonjo O’Neill (Serena), Tom Rhys-Harries (Loki), Ukweli Roach (Lucian), Cat Simmons (Fay) and Craig Stein (Venus).

The rest of the programme includes:
Certain Young Men written and directed by Peter Gill, Saturday 8 July, 7.30pm
Bent by Martin Sherman, directed by Stephen Daldry, Sunday 9 July, 2.30pm
The Drag by Mae West, directed by Polly Stenham, Monday 10 July, 7.30pm.




The Old Vic have announced the next One Voice at The Old Vic which will take place on 7 July featuring new monologues written by Mark Watson and Amelia Bullmore performed by Katherine Parkinson and Niamh Cusack as well as a monologue by Yasmina Reza.

The programme on 7 July features Statuesque written by Mark Watson, performed by Katherine Parkinson and directed by Annabel Bolton, Anyway written by Amelia Bullmore, performed by Niamh Cusack and directed by Max Webster and Robert Toscano from Happy Are the Happy by Yasmina Reza, directed by Chelsea Walker.

One Voice celebrates the rawest of theatre forms – a single voice on a stage without scenery, without costume and with nothing to rely on but words. This series of monologues is specially commissioned by The Old Vic with one-off performances from renowned actors.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Review: Sweet Bird of Youth, Chichester Festival Theatre

"'I think that hate is a feeling that can only exist where there is no understanding"

There's something a little depressingly predictable about my inability to resist a neat bit of star casting - Marcia Gay Harden's long-in-the-making UK theatrical debut being the guilty party here. It's depressing because Tennessee Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth is a play I wasn't much of a fan of the one time I saw it before and the heart wasn't beating any faster at the prospect of sitting through it once again.

And maybe there's an element of self-defeating prophecy at work because I was bored rigid by Jonathan Kent's production here for Chichester Festival Theatre. A quiet audience (never seen the upper seats curtained off like that before) sweltered in the stifling atmosphere but sadly, there was no heat being generated on the stage of Anthony Ward's distractingly-conceived design.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Review: Gloria, Hampstead

"She's like an emotional terrorist"

Truth be told I hadn't intended to see Gloria, my own little act of protest at the Hampstead's continuing gender imbalance - six shows straight on their main stage both written and directed by men. But the delights of An Octoroon introduced me to the writing of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and he definitely feels like a playwright with a lot to say so I sucked it up and went to Swiss Cottage for a cheeky preview, ironically the location for the Women Centre Stage festival late last year.

Gloria sets out as a dark office comedy, shady and sharp as it navigates the ruthless ambition of a pool of young(ish) editorial assistants in the Manhattan offices of a national magazine. It's a scathing satire of the journalism industry and the way it has evolved, or not as the case may be - time was that a foot on the bottom of the ladder meant you could reasonably expect to get to the top but times change, cubicle warfare has intensified, and in this uncertain modern world, you've gotta do what you've gotta do.

Review: Bat out of Hell, London Coliseum

"Will you hose me down with holy water, if I get too hot?"

I think it is safe to say that Bat out of Hell is one of the most random things you'll see in the West End this year, if not ever, whether you're a fan of Meatloaf or not. It is a deliciously over-the-top production quite unlike the usual fare in the august surroundings of the London Coliseum but that's part of its charm here - what would be sacrilegious is actually cheekily charming. Find production photos of the show here and read my 4 star review for Cheap Theatre Tickets here.

Running time: 2 hour 50 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 5th August

Monday, 19 June 2017

TV Review: Fearless Episode 1

"You let a terrorist's wife live in your home and you set a murderer free"

Fearless is a new six-part drama on ITV and whilst some people might be excited by the fact that it is written by one of the writers of Homeland (Patrick Harbinson), all right-thinking people will of course be psyched that it is giving Helen McCrory a stonking leading role. She plays human rights lawyer Emma Banville who is utterly unafraid to butt heads with the world as she investigates miscarriages of justice.

Her latest case draws her into the orbit of Kevin Russell (definite fave Sam Swainsbury) whose conviction for murder looks to be a little iffy. With perhaps a little too much ease, she finds it unsafe and secures a retrial but looks set to have opened up quite the can of national security-flavoured worms as a serious-looking transatlantic phone call on a secure line seems to suggest that there is much more to this than meets the eye.

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things


News, news everywhere - Joe Orton's Loot has had its initial casting revealed in the shape of Calvin Demba and Sam Frenchum pictured up top, and the glorious Sinéad Matthews.