Saturday, 29 July 2017

TV Review: The Halcyon Series 1

"Ladies and gentlemen, please remain calm. I’m sure it’s just another false alarm "

Oh The Halcyon - shafted by the overwhelming desire for it to be the new Downton, or maybe the unfriendly Monday evening slot, or maybe the fact that Charlott Jones' serial never quite honed in on what it wanted to be. Following the fortunes of a luxury London hotel during the first couple of years of the Second World War, it took all possible opportunities to explore a society on the cusp of major change. But between the aristocrats who owned it, the aristocrats who stayed there, the lower classes who work there, and the multitudes of people affiliated to all these lives, the canvas was far too wide.

The hints were there right from the off in episode 1 which struggled to introduce even just its leading players in its running time, whilst still proving most tantalising, due to its cracking cast and its sumptuous design (those costumes!). At the heart of The Halycon lay the antagonistic relationship between Olivia Williams' Lady Hamilton and Steven Mackintosh's Mr Garland, owner versus manager as they butted heads over practicalities in the face of an ensuing Blitz but though their scenes were electric, they were given too little too late together to exploit this to its fullest. 

Cast of The Halcyon continued

Cast of The Halcyon continued

Friday, 28 July 2017

TV Review: Fortitude Series 2

"People died.
And now people are dying again and what the fuck are they doing about it"

Series 1 of Fortitude was one of those genuinely unexpected dramas which unveiled its genre-spanning ways with some proper jaw-dropping moments, so Sky Atlantic's decision to commission a second series wasn't entirely unexpected (though you do wonder what viewing figures are like over there). Though having revealed itself as a sci-fi/horror/psychological thriller/serial killer murder mystery with political and environmental themes thrown in for a good measure, creator Simon Donald was faced with a decision about which way to go to continue the story.

Or, as it turned out, he didn't make the decision but rather decided to pursue them all once again. And as is proving a recurring theme with shows I've been catching up on (Fearless, The Halcyon), the desire to develop multi-stranded complex dramas falls short once again with the writing ending up serving a jack of all trades and master of none. There's just so much going on in so many of the episodes that it becomes increasingly hard to keep track of exactly what is what, who knows what, who is doing what to whom, and where we are in any of the stories.

Cast of Fortitude Series 2 continued

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Review: Girl From The North Country, Old Vic

"Everything's a little upside down
As a matter of fact the wheels have stopped"

I'm no great fan of Bob Dylan, heretical as it may be to certain elements of the theatre clique. But I don't mind his songs when they're sung by other people, so a musical featuring his work seems just the ticket. Or is it a musical? Girl From The North Country comes attached with that most tiresome of sobriquets, 'a new play by Conor McPherson with music and lyrics by Bob Dylan', as if musical is a dirty word.

Semantics to one side though, I absolutely adored this. Within a couple of songs I had already made a mental note to work out who to invite when I go again; within three, I had decided who was going to get next year's Olivier for Best Actress in a Musical (Sheila Atim); by the interval, I was texting all and sundry to get themselves booked in whilst half-decent seats are still available. And all to see a Bob Dylan musical!

TV Review: Will, Episodes 1 + 2

"You are a curiosity"

American versions of Shakespeare (whether his plays or the man himself) are always worth looking up, even if only for a chuckle and new TNT TV series Will is certainly no exception. There's some weight behind it - it was created by Craig Pearce, the longtime writing partner of filmmaker Baz Luhrmann and has Shekhar Kapur, who directed the award-winning Elizabeth and Elizabeth: The Golden Age, directing and executive producing and in the role of the Bard himself, there's a potentially star-making role for British newcomer Laurie Davidson.

I watched the first two episodes and they sure make an arresting introduction. You feel Luhrmann's influence almost immediately as this is no antiquated version of a sedate Elizabethan London, but rather it is one shot through with bright colours and a punk-filled attitude. Literally so, as they have conceived the burgeoning theatre scene of the time as being akin to the contemporary(ish) world of punk rock - theatres filled with patrons in leather and mohicans, the soundtrack filled with the Clash and drunken singalongs to Lou Reed. 

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Review: Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, Young Vic at the Apollo

"The human animal is a beast that dies but the fact that he's dying don't give him pity for others"

Whatever the reasons behind the decision to open Benedict Andrews' Cat On A Hot Tin Roof directly into the West End, a first for the Young Vic, you can't help suspect that it has been informed by the extraordinary success of their 2014 collaboration on A Streetcar Named Desire. Equally, it is tempting to feel the play would be better off on The Cut, the better for its intimacy to really sizzle.

There's certainly the attempt to raise the temperature - Andrews has his leads Jack O'Connell and Sienna Miller in various states of undress for large swathes of the play - but for all the skin exposed, there's little sexuality between Tennessee Williams' central couple, the reasons for which are painstakingly revealed later on. And ultimately it is a disconnect that reads better than it plays.

TV Review: Fearless, ITV

"I learned a long time ago not to trust what people tell me"

I did want to love Fearless, I really did. Any series with Helen McCrory in its leading role has to be worthy of consideration and ITV have been upping their drama game (qv Unforgotten) recently. But despite an intriguing opener, the six episodes of Fearless increasingly tested the patience as Patrick Harbinson's script failed to deliver on its twistily complex promise, instead giving us a fairly run-of-the-mill thriller that ultimately proved less than thrilling.

With a playbook that threw out major themes with regularity - miscarriages of justice, the Syrian refugee crisis, institutional corruption, the war in Iraq, the ethics of the surveillance state, just to name a few - it was inevitable that some would fall by the wayside. But with the amount of personal backstory for McCrory's Emma also shoehorned in there, the narrative was both painfully overstuffed and sadly inconsequential - it was increasingly hard to know what we were meant to care about.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Review: Fiddler on the Roof, Chichester Festival Theatre

"How can I hope to make you understand"

Though my life has long been filled with musicals, Fiddler on the Roof has never been the one. I've only ever seen it the once (2013's touring version) and though I quite enjoyed it then, I can't say I was hankering after seeing another production. And though Daniel Evans' hands are sure indeed when it comes to classic musicals, I found something rather uninspired both about the choice of programming it for his new Chichester home (although it is an absolute banker) and in his production.

It is perfectly decent, and the quality is solidly good throughout. Omid Djalili is an effective presence as Tevye, Tracy-Ann Oberman is very good as Golde, and it is always nice to see Louis Maskell onstage. But Evans is a director (and artistic director) who has made my heart sing with glorious revivals such as My Fair Lady and Show Boat (and Company and Me and My Girl) and I missed that kind of magic emanating from the unforgiving vastness of the Chichester Festival Theatre's main stage.

Cast of Fiddler on the Roof continued

Review: The House They Grew Up In, Minerva

"This is not only your street with only your stories"

It's always fascinating to get the opportunity to follow a playwright's development in real time and so it has been with Deborah Bruce. From Godchild downstairs at the Hampstead (yes, a play written by a woman there!) to The Distance at the Orange Tree, later revived by Sheffield, and now to a Headlong co-production with Chichester, this is clearly a writer moving in the right direction.

The House They Grew Up In is a difficult play to watch though, a drama focused on reclusive siblings Daniel and Peppy whose hermit-like existence in their South-East London home sees them surrounded by the accumulated detritus of everything they've ever owned. The arrival of the inquisitive boy from next door, seeking refuge from his own problems, threatens the equilibrium they've constructed though, exposing it to severe outside scrutiny like never before.

Review: The Hired Man, Union

"We're not hurried, or flurried, or worried, for ourselves"

The Hired Man remains one of my all-time favourite British musicals, the lusciousness of Howard Goodall's score simply gorgeous to listen and so any opportunity to hear it is one gladly taken. The Union Theatre's Goodall festival a couple of years ago featured the dreaming, Love Story, and Girlfriends and you wouldn't put it past them to host the fringe premiere of Bend It Like Beckham sometime soon, but it is the show based on Melvyn Bragg's novel that takes the spotlight for now.

Set at the turn of the previous century in the unforgiving rural landscape of Cumbria, The Hired Man himself is the hard-working John Tallentire, a man who will turn to any aspect of working the land - above in the field or below in the mines - to support his family, but in difficult times and with the Great War approaching, life is tough. From love triangles to family tragedies, organised labour disputes to the brutal realities of war, a laugh-a-minute musical comedy this is not.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Round-up of news and other interesting things

In the wake of a global shift in politics that saw reality star Donald Trump become the 45th President of the United States of America, Nigel Farage’s Brexit campaign win the majority and the Conservative party seek out a deal with the DUP, Theatre Renegade is proud to present a one-off gala, In Response To... Politics.

With performances from critically acclaimed performers including Pippa Nixon, Madalena Alberto, Gloria Onitiri and Nigel Richards, In Response To...Politics will take place on 24th July at The Other Palace Studio and feature a number of pieces each designed to directly respond to the current political turmoil.

Ryan Forde Iosco, Artistic Director of Theatre Renegade said;
“Many countries, our own included are seeing a huge shift in their political landscape and fear and hate have been the leading force behind several recent campaigns. This evening will see the theatre community come together in solidarity to respond and raise its voice in solidarity.”
All profits from the evening will be donated to the charity Liberty, to protect civil liberties and promote human rights.

Casting for Chichester's King Lear announced

"Reason not the need"

The world is hardly crying for more productions of King Lear but if you're going to put it on, you might as well go balls out on some amazing casting (all credit to casting director Anne McNulty here). Jonathan Munby's production had already announced Ian McKellen as part of the ensemble (teasing an interesting casting breakdown that didn't actually come to anything) but that's a small niggle in what is otherwise some excellent news.
  • Sinéad Cusack as Kent
  • Dervla Kirwan, Kirsty Bushell and Tamara Lawrance as Goneril, Regan and Cordelia
  • Jonathan Bailey and Damien Molony as Edgar and Edmund
  • Sinéad Cusack as Kent
  • Michael Matus (Oswald), Dominic Mafham (Albany) and Patrick Robinson (Cornwall) in there as well
  • Danny Webb as Gloucester
  • Did I mention Sinéad Cusack as Kent?
  • I can take or leave Phil Daniels as the Fool but he may well surprise.

Tickets are all sold out so you might want to monitor regularly for returns or hope for the transfer which one suspects is already in the making.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Review: Twilight Song, Park

“It's hard isn't it"

Completed shortly before his death in 2014, Kevin Elyot’s Twilight Song now belatedly receives its premiere courtesy of the Park Theatre. The play doesn’t emerge as one of his strongest though, the shadow of the excellent My Night With Reg lingers long over the scant 75 minutes here and you’re left wondering just how completed the play was – would it have benefitted from another turn or two in the development mangle after its initial run.

Twilight Song finds itself split between the present day and the 1960s, looking at the relationship between homosexualist Barry, his mother Isabella and his wider family. From his boyhood when decriminalisation was just around the corner but still too late for a closeted uncle, to his present day where sexual liberation hasn’t prevented him from frustrated singledom, we see how individual happiness doesn’t necessarily follow societal change no matter your sexuality or generation.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Review: Dessert, Southwark Playhouse

"I need to change what I can accept"


I only booked for Dessert at the Southwark Playhouse because of the extraordinary Alexandra Gilbreath, one of our finest - and somewhat unheralded - actors. I was no real fan of Oliver Cotton's previous play Daytona and I'm a couple of decades too young to be excited by the prospect of Trevor Nunn directing. And lest you think me harsh, this was borne out by the audience in SE1 being much more like a typical Chichester crowd than I've ever seen here before.

And Dessert more than matches up to the billing by taking place during the final course of a dinner party hosted by an uber-wealthy British couple for an uber-wealthy American couple whose main topic of conversation is the number of millions a chance find of a painting can be flogged for. The menu is interrupted by a visitor but as so much of the play hinges on this late arrival, discretion will be deployed here. 

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Queer Theatre - a round-up

"There's nowt so queer as folk"

Only about a week behind schedule, I wanted to round up my thoughts about the National's Queer Theatre season - links to the reviews of the 5 readings I attended below the cut - and try a formulate a bit of a response to this piece by Alice Saville for Exeunt which rather took aim at the season alongside the Old Vic's Queers (also I just want to point out too that there are two writers of colour involved - Tarell Alvin McCraney and Keith Jarrett). As a member of the 'majority' within this minority, I tread warily and aim to do sowith love and respect. 

It feels important to recognise what the NT (and the Old Vic) were trying to achieve though. Queer Theatre looked "at how theatre has charted the LGBT+ experience through a series of rehearsed readings, exhibitions, talks and screenings" and if only one looked at lesbian women, two of the readings were written by women. Several of the post-show discussions at the NT talked specifically about this issue but in acknowledging it, also quite rightly pointed out that there just isn't the historical body of work to draw from when it comes to wider LGBT+ representation. That's where the talks and screenings came into their own, able to provide some of that alternative focus.

(c) James Bellorini

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Review: Blondel, Union

"I'm a fool...just a fool"

There's something admirable in the Union Theatre's admirable determination to work its way through the dustier, neglected end of the musical theatre canon to see if anything comes up roses. I liked what they did with Anyone Can Whistle, less so with Moby Dick, and now its the turn of the lesser-known Tim Rice musical Blondel (the first he wrote after his Andrew Lloyd Webber collaborations) to get the revival treatment.

Sometimes though, when polishing a pebble in the hope that it turns into a diamond in the rough, it remains a pebble. Sasha Regan's high-spirited, fun-loving production has a wonderfully playful energy about it, and the cast are clearly having a whale of a time, but it isn't too hard to see why the show has rather languished in obscurity. Daftness can only take you so far (believe me, I know!) and Blondel (over-)runs at 2 hours 30 minutes.

Friday, 14 July 2017

A whole load of Friday casting news


I want to be able to resist anything to do with Alan Ayckbourn but the cast and creatives for Chichester's production of The Norman Conquests is making it very hard indeed. Wunderkind director Blanche McIntyre is at the helm of a company for the trilogy of plays that consists of Jonathan Broadbent, Trystan Gravelle, Sarah Hadland, John Hollingworth, Hattie Ladbury and Jemima Rooper. Best get booking then...

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Review: Man-Cub, Etcetera

"Switch Grindr off before the night begins..."

For all the rainbow flags painted on cheeks at Pride and declarations of being an ally, I don't straight people can ever really appreciate the extraordinary rush of feeling that comes from going to your first gay club. The excitement, the fear, the sexiness, the strangeness, the sense of community that feels right at your fingertips, the sense of potential isolation equally, precariously close - it can be a most eye-opening, exhilarating experience. It can also be more ambivalent than that.

And it is the complexity of this sensory overload that Alistair Wilkinson captures evocatively in his dance-led devised piece Man-Cub. Trailed as a queer adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, it feels looser than that but Alex Britt's first-time gay club-goer is our Mowgli and the club is his jungle. And if we don't get a Baloo (no bears in this gay club!) or a Kaa (joke about being hung like a python redacted), what we do get it a sense of the tribal fervour of the dancefloor. 

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Review: The Scar Test, Soho

"I just - I can't believe this is England"

Hannah Khalil's intelligent exploration of the Israeli-Palestine conflict Scenes from 68* Years was one of my top-ranked plays of last year and so I was delighted to be able to see her new play The Scar Test, albeit in the oppressive, claustrophobic heat of the Soho Upstairs at the height of summer. And with that knowledge of at least some of Khalil's theatrical style, it was a pleasure to be able to sink into her idiosyncratic storytelling and be so thoroughly challenged by its subject matter.

Here, Khalil has turned her focus to the experience of female detainees at the notorious Yarl’s Wood detention centre and the many, many indignities suffered by those trying to work their way through the knots and prejudices of our immigration system. And as with that previous play, multiple verbatim strands are splintered into non-linear episodes, some coalescing into something approaching an overall arc, some disappearing into the ether, forgotten victims neglected by us all.

Review: Brexodus! The Musical, The Other Palace Studio

"What the hell do we do now?"

Part of the problem that faces writers trying to satirise Brexit is that the daily influx of tragic, comic and tragicomic headlines are more outlandish than they could surely have ever imagined. A glimpse at the day's stories shows our estimable foreign secretary thinking it OK to tell EU leaders to "go whistle", the PM apparently keen on cross-party working, people waking up to the devastating impact of leaving the European atomic energy community, Euratom, without a carefully negotiated replacement - really, who needs satire.

Which leaves Brexodus! The Musical in a bit of a pickle as it seeks to mine its own vein of humour through a revue-like (and politically even-handed) skip through the key events of the whole Brexit process. Librettist David Shirreff works his cast hard, some of them covering more than 10 roles throughout the show, which means that it can take a little too long to work out who someone is, even in their brief time onstage. Two men in suits are David Cameron and George Osbourne, blink and suddenly they're David Davis and Liam Fox, though it takes substantially longer to work out that this is what has happened.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Review: Queer Theatre - Neaptide, National

#1 in the National Theatre’s Queer Theatre season of rehearsed readings

"My God, I wanted three daughters like the Brontes and I ended up with a family fit for a Channel Four documentary"

There was a special currency for Sarah Daniels' Neaptide being the opening play in the #ntQueer season as this 1986 drama was actually the first by a living female playwright at the National Theatre - an astonishing fact all told. And it is perhaps sadly predictable that Daniels now finds herself somewhat neglected as a writer, despite being prolific in the 80s and 90s.

Neaptide proved a strong choice too, a powerful exploration of the extent to which lesbian prejudice permeated society and institutions even as late as this, and indeed how little we've moved on - in some ways. Daniels presents us with three generations of lesbians and explores how they deal with working or studying at the same school when a scandal threatens to upturn all of their lives.

Teacher Claire isn't out but is involved in a bitter custody battle with her unscrupulous ex, the judgement from the court likely to be more favourable if the secret is kept, but the treatment of gay students at her school disquiets her, very much to her cost as it turns out. Jessica Raine was ideally cast as Claire, deeply empathetic and thoroughly invested in the role even from her chair.

Maureen Beattie as her well-meaning mother got the lion's share of the laughs and a superb Adjoa Andoh as Claire's boss brought real stature to the reading, which you imagine Sarah Frankcom could well turn into a full production given the response it got here. Neaptide may show its age just a little but with its cutting humour and sharp insights, it was the perfect opener to this season.


Review: Queer Theatre - Wig Out, National

#2 in the National Theatre’s Queer Theatre season of rehearsed readings


"Here

Where one night can leave you legendary

Or a subsidiary"

The world has changed just a little in the decade or so since Tarell Alvin McCraney wrote Wig Out. McCraney is now an Oscar-winning writer after the phenomenal success of Moonlight (based on one of his unproduced plays) and RuPaul has dragged drag into the mainstream by its charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent. So to see the play now is an entirely different prospect than its 2008 production at the Royal Court and an interesting example of how cultural touchstones shift.

Wig Out feels intimately connected to Paris Is Burning (if you've not seen it, to Netflix with you now) in its focus on ball culture in the black and Latino gay communities of New York and we get to see it fully turned out as the House of Light take on their rivals in the House of Diabolique. The ball scene is an unalloyed pleasure as outré performance follows outré performance (Craig Stein and Kobna Holdbrook-Smith took the honours for the night) and really make you want to see a fully fledged production.

The play as a whole did feel perhaps just a little insubstantial though. It throws in ideas of gender fluidity (a putative romance involves the gender non-conforming character), misogyny within the gay community, the passing-on of legacies, but none of them felt particularly thoroughly explored - I wonder how much of that came from the staging as opposed to the writing though. Tunji Kasim and Kadiff Kirwan's couple-in-the-making really stood out, Ukweli Roach is possibly the handsomest guy alive even when he's being a rotter, and Alexia Khadime, Abiona Omonua and Cat Simmons need to do everything together as their chemistry as the part-narrating part-performing Fates was fierce as hell. 

Review: Queer Theatre - Certain Young Men, National

#3 in the National Theatre’s Queer Theatre season of rehearsed readings


“Well join the radical wing of the movement where to be really queer you have, as it were, to nail your foreskin to the transgressive mast. Literally it seems, on occasion.”


I have to admit to not necessarily being the greatest fan of Peter Gill's writing and seeing a reading of one of his plays after having partaken of a little of the Pride festivities on Saturday afternoon was definitely not one of my wiser moves. But I wanted the complete set of these readings and so I sat down for 2009's Certain Young Men regardless.

Following the lives of four gay couples and told predominantly in duologues, it had the slight sense of yet another version of La Ronde as established pairings disintegrate and new ones reform. It is more complex than that, as it seeks to present varied and various forms of gay personalities and relationships, resisting the easy definition of a gay community to present a heterogenous grouping of homosexual men with multiple and conflicting desires.

Whether it was the staging with its row of empty chairs, the theatrical word games that characterises one of the key couplings (Billy Howle and Lorne MacFadyen here) which needed more than it got here, or the gin I'd consumed, the play rarely gripped me in this form. I enjoyed Jonathan Bailey and Ben Batt's relationship angst the most and Oliver Chris and Toby Wharton sold their own troubles well but whilst this was certainly the place to see it, it wasn't the right time for me.

Review: Queer Theatre - Bent, National

#4 in the National Theatre’s Queer Theatre season of rehearsed readings

"I love you... What's wrong with that?"

Perhaps one of the better known of these plays but still a new one to me, I really wasn't prepared for the emotional trauma of Martin Sherman's Bent whether I was hungover to fuck or not. Harrowing is barely the word to describe this dramatisation of the way in which the Nazis persecuted gay men in Germany before and during World War II and with this reading, directed by Stephen Daldry, taking place on Pride weekend, its impact was all the more emotional. 

Russell Tovey (continuing his graduation into a properly fine actor) and George Mackay took on the lovers Max and Rudy, their coming together in the hedonism of Weimar Berlin shattered by the dawning of the Night of the Long Knives, the realisation of just how insidious the Third Reich is, and the astonishing lengths that people will go to in order to protect themselves at the expense of all they hold dear.

The second act shift to the concentration camp at Dachau provides an unexpected ray of something that could be called sunshine in the face of such adversity but obviously that turns traumatic too, especially in the hands of Paapa Essiedu here. Sterling support came from Simon Russell Beale, Giles Terera, a rare stage appearance for Pip Torrens...and the brilliance of Sherman's writing sang through as clearly as it would have done in a full fledged production, the visuals more than made up for by the commitment of a director and cast determined to ensure that the play's message of the endurance of the human spirit is as true today as it ever was, more so even.

Review: Queer Theatre - The Drag, National

#5 in the National Theatre’s Queer Theatre season of rehearsed readings

Last but by no means least in this queer season is the one play written by a straight person and perhaps the queerest of the lot. Mae West wrote The Drag in 1927 where its frankness about gay lives (and once again, drag ball culture!) scandalised its out-of-town Connecticut and New Jersey audiences so that it never made it to Broadway. But Polly Stenham has opted to revive it for this reading and to introduce it to a new (Alaska Thunderfuck-literate) crowd. 

To be brutally honest, it isn't the greatest play in the world, but what it does do is hold a fascinating mirror to early 20th century attitudes and how tolerance and intolerance existed side by side, then as now; the safe spaces gay men find in order to be their extravagantly true selves equally as timeless. And closet cases in marriages remain a sad truth, if not quite as dramatic as the son of a homophobic judge married to the daughter of a gay conversion therapist that we get here!

West revels in the scandal that the outing of her protagonist at one of his regular gay soirees causes, but she's also sensitive to the realities that gay men - many of whom she was friends with, advocate for, employer of - faced in the world that scarce treated her much better. Stenham has a real ear for West's caustic wit (Tom Edden definitely slaying here) and you can see a) why she picked the play and b) how she could well turn this into a full production worth seeing. 
 

Review: Yank! A WWII Love Story, Charing Cross

"We're in a battle we never planned"

Seeing Yank! A WWII Love Story on the day that the streets of London were thronged with people celebrating Pride made what was already a strong show into a properly special occasion. Joseph and David Zellnik's 2005 musical was first seen in the UK at Manchester's Hope Mill Theatre which, with its collaborations with Aria Entertainments, has fast become a real fringe powerhouse (their production of Hair also transfers to London later this year) and with James Baker's assured direction and James Cleeve's rapturous musical direction, it is easy to see the love happening here.

Yank! was written by the Zellniks as a deliberate homage to the musicals of the 1940s but it is a Second World War love story with a difference. Beginning as a rites of passage tale for the barely 18 year old Stu who finds himself drafted into the army in 1943, the story grows in stature as his first real taste of the outside world is accompanied by his tumbling head over heels for his handsome fellow conscript Mitch, the revelation that those feelings are reciprocated, and then the crushing realisation of the impossibility of living their lives as proud gay men, whether within the army or without.

Review: Queen Anne, Theatre Royal Haymarket


"Lie down madam and legs apart
Now brace yourself for this may smart"

Helen Edmundson's Queen Anne played a well-received run at the RSC the winter before last and it has now transferred to the Theatre Royal Haymarket for a summer season. It contains two excellent performances from Romola Garai as Sarah Churchill (stepping into the role created by Natasha McElhone) and Emma Cunniffe as the titular monarch and you can read my four star review for Cheap Theatre Tickets right here.

Running time: 2 hours 50 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 30th September

Cast of Queen Anne continued

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Review: torn apart (dissolution), Hope

"Everything is slipping out of my control"

They fuck you up, your mum and dad. Or do they? Among the many themes raised by Bj McNeill's is nature versus nurture, questioning if there's an inescapable genetic legacy carried down by parents whether they're a part of one's life or not, looking at what impact their presence - or otherwise - has on one's own emotional development. Are we doomed to repeat their mistakes or are we actually just responsible for our own fuck ups.

torn apart (dissolution) approaches this with a triptych of relationships in stark relief. A Polish student and an American soldier connect in 1980s West Germany; an Australian backpacker parties hard like it is 1999, realising that her boyfriend has fallen even harder despite her visa expiry date fast approaching; and also in London, in the present day, Holly's love for Erica is challenged by long-reaching shadows from both of their pasts.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Album Review: John Owen-Jones - Bring Him Home

"Give me this moment, this momentous moment"

I was excited by the prospect of a new John Owen-Jones album but the reality of Bring Him Home - A Collection of Musical Favourites was, I have to say, a little disappointing. For it is something of a greatest hits affair, collecting together tracks from three of his previous albums - Unmasked, Rise and his self-titled album and adding in just the three new songs.

Those tracks are Miss Saigon's 'Why, God, Why?', West Side Story's 'Maria' and 'Suddenly', written by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil especially for the filmed version of Les Misérables. Only the last of these has any real interest as something particularly new, although fans will enjoy the personal connection Owen-Jones has to the others (drama school audition song, and first show he was in onstage).

Album Review: The Wind in the Willows (2017 Original London Cast Recording)

"Although we're armed with many prickles
They're no match for large vehicles"

The Wind in the Willows took quite the critical battering when it opened at the Palladium last month and whilst it may not be the greatest show in the world, it does feel to have been a rather harsh treatment (I quite liked it for what it was). I'm not entirely sure what critics thought they were going to get from this revival of Kenneth Grahame's classic story but it was clearly a darn shot edgier than anything Julian Fellowes and composing duo Stiles and Drewe were ever going to create.

Listening to the Original London Cast Recording which has now been released, you very much get a sense of the gently bucolic charm that they were aiming for and which, by and large, they achieve. Their strengths lie in the grand musicality of the ensemble numbers that pepper the score at its key moments. The cumulative choral power of 'Spring', the irrepressible energy of 'We're Taking Over The Hall', the thrill of the fun-loving finale - this what they do so well.

Cast of The Wind in the Willows (2017 Original London Cast Recording) continued

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Review: The Mentor, Vaudeville

"There is a misplaced apostrophe on page 57"

Theatre Royal Bath's Ustinov studio has become quite the workhouse for churning out new European writing. Florian Zeller The Father has been the most notable and still they come with their transfers to the West End, the latest being German writer Daniel Kehlmann's The Mentor, with Oscar winner F Murray Abraham in tow.
Read my 3 star review for Official Theatre here (at least one of those stars is for Abraham alone)

Running time: 80 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 2nd September