Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Review: An American in Paris, Dominion

"Who could ask for anything more"

True to its name, An American in Paris premiered in 2014 at the Théâtre du Châtelet in the French capital to ecstatic reviews before transferring to the Palace Theatre on Broadway for another well-received (and Tony-winning) run there. It now rocks up at the newly refurbished Dominion Theatre, just ahead of another huge dance-heavy Broadway musical in 42nd Street, producers clearly banking on audiences wanting distraction from the realities of the outside world.

And that it certainly provides - director and choreographer Christopher Wheeldon's reinvention of the 1951 film (new book by Craig Lucas) is an absolute feast for the eyes and ears. George and Ira Gershwin's score is beyond classic ('I Got Rhythm', ''S Wonderful', 'They Can't Take That Away from Me' et al) and sounds luscious in Rob Fisher's new arrangements musically directed by John Rigby, and Bob Crowley's set and costumes look divine in all their old-school charm.

Tuesday morning treat - Sunday in the Park with George


"I give what I give"

A little something to perk us all up on a Tuesday morning. Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Sunday in the Park with George is enjoying a Broadway revival at the Hudson Theatre (139-141 West 44th Street) and here's a few photographs of the show and its stars Academy Award nominee Jake Gyllenhaal (in his Broadway musical debut) and Tony Award winner Annaleigh Ashford doing things in and around the show. 

Directed by Sarna Lapine, Sondheim and Lapine’s masterpiece follows painter Georges Seurat (Gyllenhaal) in the months leading up to the completion of his most famous painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Consumed by his need to “finish the hat,” Seurat alienates the French bourgeoisie, spurns his fellow artists, and neglects his lover Dot (Ashford), not realizing that his actions will reverberate over the next 100 years. And if you're over the pond, Sunday In The Park With George runs through April 23, 2017. And as if that wasn't enough, there's also a video of Jakey singing 'Finishing the Hat' below the cut!

Monday, 20 March 2017

Review: Love in Idleness, Menier Chocolate Factory

"There’s no situation in the world that can’t be passed off with small-talk"

Overlord of all that is authentic in British theatre, Trevor Nunn is now further redefining authenticity by presenting us with a Terence Rattigan premiere, cobbled together from two pre-existing versions of the same play. Love in Idleness was originally known as Less Than Kind (which itself was seen at the Jermyn Street back in 2011) but was rewritten at the behest of its stars, a commercially minded decision which proved fatal to Rattigan's reputation. And rather than choose one or the other, Nunn has fashioned something new (but assumably still authentic), named for the later version.

Sadly, that sense of compromise lingers strongly here. Fans of Rattigan were utterly spoiled by pitch-perfect interpretations of After the Dance and Flare Path (also by Nunn) at the beginning of this decade and again last year with an excoriating The Deep Blue Sea, so knowing the emotional force with which he can devastate us can only leave you disappointed at the tonally strange and inconsequential comedy of sorts with which we're presented here. Only the long-awaited return of the marvellous Eve Best to the London stage imbues the evening with the quality it scarcely deserves.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Review: La Cage aux Folles, New Wimbledon

"It's rather gaudy but it's also rather grand"

It doesn't feel like that long since La Cage aux Folles was strutting its stuff in London as I made several visits to the Playhouse as it rotated its main cast on a regular basis (Douglas Hodge and Denis Lawson, Philip Quast and Roger Allam, John Barrowman and Simon Burke) but it has a good few years. So the time is clearly ripe for a revival and Kenwright and co clearly agree as they've mounted the show's first ever UK tour.

And with John Partridge and Adrian Zmed at the helm, it remains as gloriously entertaining and heart-warmingly lovable as ever. A story about love and acceptance always has things to teach us, gay or straight, now more than ever and the story of St Tropez nightclub owners Georges and Albin is a touching one as through dealing with Georges' son's fiancée's parents' homophobia, they learn more about themselves and their own identities.

Rehearsal images for Edward Albee's The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia

Rehearsal images for Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? have been released , ahead of the production’s first preview next week. Albee’s darkly comic play about a family in crisis will run for a strictly limited 12 week season at the Theatre Royal Haymarket from 24 March to 24 June 2017.


In Ian Rickson’s production, a husband and successful New York architect with everything to lose must confess to his wife and son that he is having an affair and face the dizzying, explosive consequences. Damian Lewis and Sophie Okonedo play husband and wife Martin and Stevie, joined by Jason Hughes as Martin’s oldest friend Ross and newcomer Archie Madekwe as their son Billy.

The Olivier and Tony Award-winning creative team includes Rae Smith (set and costume design), Neil Austin (lighting design) and Greg Clarke (sound design), with original music by PJ Harvey. All photos courtesy of Johan Persson.


Review: The Roman Tragedies, Toneelgroep Amsterdam at the Barbican

"A people who can neither rule nor be ruled"

8 years ago, I'd barely started to blog, I didn't know who Ivo van Hove was, Andrew Haydon didn't know who I was, it was an altogether simpler time. And I'd be hard pressed to tell you exactly what it was that made me click on the Barbican's website to book for a 6 hour long Shakespearean epic in Dutch but I'm glad I did, for it genuinely changed the world for me (in terms of my theatrical life anyway, who knew I'd start going to Amsterdam regularly for theatre!). I ranked the show as the best of the year for me back then in 2009 and I have to say I still think it is the greatest piece of theatre I've ever seen.

So going back for seconds was always going to be a risk but it was also something I knew I'd never be able to resist. Not least because in the intervening period, van Hove has become one of the most famous, and arguably influential, directors around. His take on A View From The Bridge was the breakthrough moment but for me, it has been his work with Toneelgroep Amsterdam that has consistently been the most revelatory - Kings of War and Scenes from a Marriage both at the Barbican, Long Day's Journey into Night and the breathtaking Maria Stuart at the gorgeous Stadsschouwburg.

Cast of The Roman Tragedies continued

Friday, 17 March 2017

The 2017 Manchester Theatre Awards winners in full

"It's grim up north"

The Manchester Theatre Awards represent the cream of theatre in my native North-West, too much of which I miss due to cheap train fares being like gold dust. I'm hoping to do better this year and in the meantime, here's the full list of winners for the 2017 Awards.

Best Actor
Rob Edwards, To Kill A Mockingbird, Octagon Theatre, Bolton
David Neilson, Endgame, HOME, Manchester
Daniel Rigby, Breaking The Code, Royal Exchange, Manchester WINNER
Don Warrington, King Lear, Royal Exchange
Best Actress
Niamh Cusack, Ghosts, HOME
Kaisa Hammarlund, Sweet Charity, Royal Exchange
Julie Hesmondhalgh, Wit, Royal Exchange WINNER
Kathryn Hunter, The Emperor, HOME

Best Production
Breaking The Code, Royal Exchange WINNER
Ghosts, HOME
The Emperor, HOME
Wit, Royal Exchange

Review: Notflix, King's Head

"Because everything's better as a musical"

Between Austentatious and The Showstoppers, I've been thoroughly entertained (and consistently left in awe) by my dips into the world of improv so there's always been a slight sense of trepidation about going further afield to see others do it, just in case they're not as good! But the company to get me over myself were Waiting for the Call, the "original all-female long-form musical improv team", and their promise of a unique blend of comedy, improv and musical group work.

Their show Notflix just played at the VAULT Festival and is following that up with a week at the King's Head, ahead of a return to Edinburgh in the summer. And you can see why, as improv does carry with it a certain appeal to the festival market in its rapid-fire wit and scrappy energy and in that, WftC are certainly pitching themselves to the right places. 

Not-really-a-review: Joseph Morpurgo - Work-in-Progress, Angel Comedy Club

 funny fail kid like a boss little girl GIF





I wasn't sure what to write up about this show, a Work-in-Progress from Austentatious alum Joseph Morpurgo, at The Bill Murray pub, but it made me feel as happy as the joyous soul of the girl in the above gif, so I had to register it somehow. This was, without doubt, one of the funniest things I've seen for a very long time and if it is still only 'in-progress', I can't imagine how good it'll be once it is finished (and assumedly playing Edinburgh).  So without spoilers, it is form-shattering, artfully intelligent, and above all deeply deeply hilarious, and contains all manner of flowcharts, Oxide & Neutrino references and the funniest Excel joke you will ever see in your life. One to definitely watch out for.

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things


This year's iteration of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival 2017 runs from 12 – 28 May and with it comes a substantial programme of circus, literature, classical and contemporary music, dance, family activities, performance, theatre, visual arts and The Adnams Spiegeltent that befits the fourth biggest arts festival in the country.
Eyecatching inclusions include
And speaking of theatrical highlights,
  • Luke Wright – Following the multi-award-winning What I Learned From Johnny Bevan, Luke Wright’s second verse play Frankie Vah explores love, loss and belief against a backdrop of scuzzy indie venues and 80s politics at the Norwich Playhouse.
  • IOU – Rear View takes the people of Norwich on a tour around the city’s streets as a custom-made bus becomes the setting for an unforgettable journey from the celebrated IOU. Performers Cecilia Knapp and Jemima Foxtrot make reflections, predictions and observations that blur the line between reality and fiction in this moving production.
  • Quarantine – Comprising three live performances and a film, Summer. Autumn. Winter. Spring. is a piece of mass portraiture, epic in scale, ambition and subject. The production, from internationally renowned theatre company Quarantine, is a quartet about the human life cycle; living, dying, and our relationship with time.
  • Stormy: The Life of Lena Horne – Written by and starring Camilla Beeput, Stormy: The Life of Lena Horne is a celebration of the titular movie star, activist and singer in her centenary year. Under the creative direction of Clarke Peters (Five Guys Named Moe), Stormy brings Lena to life, alongside a five-piece band, providing a thrilling musical evocation of one of the great African-American figures in 20th century entertainment.
The full programme can be downloaded here.



Marisha Wallace, currently the alternate Effie in Dreamgirls, is to play Celie in a a charity gala performance of The Color Purple with the British Theatre Academy. The concert will play at Cadogan Hall on Sunday 21st May with musical direction by James Taylor and choreography by Mykal Rand.

Joining her in the company is Wendy Mae Brown (assuming she's not been too mentally scarred by touring in Ghost) as Sofia, Cavin Cornwall (Aladdin) as Mister, Tyrone Huntley (2016 fosterIAN nominee and Dreamgirls) as Harpo, Rachel John (another 2016 fosterIAN nominee for The Bodyguard) as Shug, Hugh Maynard (yet another 2016 fosterIAN nominee for Sweeney Todd) as Pa and Seyi Omooba (recently so electric Ragtime) as Nettie.


Open Auditions for Paines Plough
Monday 03 April, 1-4pm @ The Hat Factory, Luton LU1 2EY
Wednesday 05 April, 10am-5pm @ Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond TW9 2SA

Paines Plough are excited to announce their next round of open auditions in collaboration with their friends Revoluton Arts and the Orange Tree Theatre.

They’re looking to meet actors previously unknown to Paines Plough with a passion for new writing. You can apply in pairs for one of the dates from now until 10am on 21 March and then we’ll randomly select 15 duos to see in Luton and 30 duos for Richmond. They hope this means that everyone who wants to apply is able to, and that the selection process is fair to everyone.

In Luton, they’re only looking for actors who are originally from – or currently live – in Luton or wider Bedfordshire. If you’re not from Bedfordshire please do not apply for these open auditions.

Anyone is welcome to apply for the open auditions in Richmond.

Sounds good? Then read more here about how to apply…


Following an acclaimed, sold-out run at Chichester Festival Theatre, FRACKED! OR: PLEASE DON’T USE THE F-WORD will embark on a UK tour from April 2017. Alistair Beaton’s provocative new comedy takes us to an idyllic English village threatened by an energy company intent on drilling for shale gas. 

Anne Reid plays Elizabeth, a retired academic who finds herself transformed from obedient citizen to angry protestor. While her increasingly grumpy husband (James Bolam) longs for the quiet life, Elizabeth soars to fame via social media. Desperate to get planning permission, hard-nosed PR men team up with a corrupt local councillor to persuade the villagers that fracking is good. Elizabeth’s having none of it, and mounts the barricades.

This new razor-sharp black comedy by Alistair Beaton takes a timely look at the conflicted core of planetary energy and earthly power. A much-praised political satirist, Beaton’s television work includes the BAFTA-nominated The Trial of Tony Blair and Spitting Image, and plays such as the West End hit Feelgood.
James Bolam’s credits include New Tricks (BBC) and Glengarry Glen Ross (Donmar Warehouse, Olivier nomination). Anne Reid is acclaimed for her many award-winning roles including Hedda Gabler (Old Vic) and Last Tango in Halifax. They are joined by Michael Simkins, known for his many TV and West End roles, most recently Yes, Prime Minister and Hay Fever. Harry Hadden-Paton also joins the cast, and is well known for his roles on stage including The Pride, The Changeling and Flarepath, and on television in Downton Abbey.

Further casting includes: Waleed Akhtar, Andrea Hart, Sophie Khan Levy, Freddie Meredith, Steven Roberts and Tristram Wymark.

Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford
Wednesday 12 April 2017 – Saturday 22 April 2017

Malvern Theatres
Monday 24 April 2017 – Saturday 29 April 2017
www.malvern-theatres.co.uk/ | Box Office +44 (0)1684 892 277

Theatre Royal, Brighton
Monday 1 May 2017 – Saturday 6 May 2017

Richmond Theatre
Monday 8 May 2017 – Saturday 13 May 2017

Theatre Royal, Bath
Monday 15 May 2017 – Saturday 20 May 2017
www.theatreroyal.org.uk/page/3010/Booking | Box Office +44 (0)1225 448 844

Cambridge Arts Theatre
Monday 22 May 2017 – Saturday 27 May 2017 
https://www.cambridgeartstheatre.com/ | Box Office +44 (0)1223 503 333













Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Review: Low Level Panic, Orange Tree

"When am I going to wake up and be different?"

How far we've come since the 1980s. Or have we? That's the thread going through Chelsea Walker's production of Clare McIntyre's 1988 play Low Level Panic, an insight into the lives of three housemates in their 20s. Dialogue heavy but conversationally acute, we eavesdrop on these women in their bathroom, sharing confidences, fantasies, stories of what it is like to be a woman in a society that continually objectifies their sex.

It may be nearly 30 years old but there's a sinking awfulness about how recognisable so much of this is. Sexual politics in the workplace, internalised self-loathing, the effects of porn, the looming spectre of sexual assault, McIntyre covers a wide range of issues but approaches them with the complexity they deserve - her protagonists' reactions to them are nuanced and varied and in Sophie Melville, Katherine Pearce and Samantha Pearl's performances, deeply compelling.