Jumpers for Goalposts as my Show of the Year, and Barking In Essex as the worst of the worst. But before we get to that, I'm going to babble on about what's caught my eye this year. Don't worry, there'll be pretty pictures to keep you from falling asleep.
Wednesday 31 December 2014
Monday 29 December 2014
Sunday 28 December 2014
Our Town arrive in North London, a rare visitor to these shores but one of the most performed plays in America. It seems in the last decade it's acquired a new rival though, John Cariani's Almost, Maine having apparently already notched up over two thousand productions in the US despite only premiering in 2005. I can see how it would be popular for local and amateur companies - it's another slice of small-town Americana with a large collection of characters, although as the majority of scenes are two-handers Simon Evans' UK premiere production can manage with just three male and three female actors playing all the roles. A portmanteau rom-com along the lines of something like Love, Actually, Almost, Maine takes place in a cold winter in the titular Northern Maine town - although as its name suggests it's almost-but-not-quite a town, a vaguely-connected community that's never quite got its act together enough to formalise its borders.
Tuesday 23 December 2014
Monday 22 December 2014
Sunday 21 December 2014
You can read my original review here, from which you can probably tell I was glad of the chance to revisit it, and most of the original cast have returned with it. New additions are Paul Brendan as the giant, Louise Ford as Luce, and Jolyon Coy as Jasper (sporting what I think may be his actual hair colour, a rare occasion indeed!) Aside from a couple of new faces and the addition of a few Christmassy touches, the major obvious change from earlier this year is that one of the short interludes has been cut, leaving just one in the first half and one in the second; a good choice, as the only major fault with the show remains that it's too long, and already has too many pauses for a musical number.
Saturday 20 December 2014
Thursday 18 December 2014
Part 1 left off: King Henry's forces have beaten the rebels led by Hotspur, but the unrest hasn't died with him, and the Archibshop of York (Keith Osborn) plans to lead a fresh wave of rebellion. But unlike the battle scenes of the first play, this insurgence will be beaten down with politics, and the machinations of Prince John of Lancaster (Elliot Barnes-Worrell.) His older brother Hal (Alex Hassell,) meanwhile, is about to show his own true colours as well: Henry IV (Jasper Britton) is dying, and while Hal is still keeping up the image of the playboy prince slumming it in an Eastcheap tavern, his mind is already on what kind of king he's going to be. As for Falstaff (Antony Sher,) more civil wars on the horizon mean more opportunities to line his own pockets under the pretext of recruiting soldiers.
Wednesday 17 December 2014
Alanis Morisette. And Britton continues to play him as a man with little that's royal about him, more of a politician with a touch of the warrior than a true-born king. The Percys of Northumberland helped him claim the throne, but when he offends them they mount a new rebellion. The support of the Prince of Wales will be essential to help crush it, but Hal (Alex Hassell) shuns his father's court, spending all of his time getting drunk in Eastcheap with Poins (Sam Marks) and committing petty crime with Falstaff.
Tuesday 16 December 2014
Charming, a 9:30pm start time clearly isn't aimed at getting a big kiddie audience in. Instead this version reveals A Christmas Carol as an all-too-contemporary story by stripping it back to its original political message.
Monday 15 December 2014
Friday 12 December 2014
Thursday 11 December 2014
The Animals and Children Took to the Streets, 1927's Golem is based on a novel by Gustav Meyrink and follows a bullied, socially awkward young man called Robert, who finds a job manually backing up binary data where he makes similarly-geeky friends and even a possible girlfriend. One day, though, his inventor friend Philip manages to create real Golems - the mythical clay men who obey their owners' every command - and sell one to Robert. Golem not only helps with work but has handy hints for a better social life as well, but when a sinister corporation buys out Philip's company, Golem first finds the power of speech, then starts to use it to tell his owner what to do. As more people buy Golems, the slaves start to become the masters and homogenise the world in their own image.
Wednesday 10 December 2014
Monday 8 December 2014
vampires seem positively festive in comparison. Hope follows the year 2014 in the life of the Labour council of an unnamed, working class town (everyone in the cast keeps their own accent, so it could be pretty much anywhere.) The actual business of running the town doesn't get a look-in though, as the Government's austerity measures have seen their budget slashed by £22 million a year, and everyone's primary concern is to determine which essential services have to be cut. Thorne's play identifies Government policy as a cynically genius plan: Slash budgets from the top but leave the details, and all the resulting ill-feeling, to the local, opposition councils.
Saturday 6 December 2014
Love's Labour's Lost and Won take us either side of the war, Phil Porter's The Christmas Truce puts us in the thick of it. Part of the inspiration was a local Stratford celebrity other than the usual one: Bruce Bairnsfather was an electrician who helped set up the electrics of the original Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, and lit some early productions. But once war broke out he became famous for a different talent, as the comic cartoons he submitted to magazines became hugely popular. He was considered such a morale-booster that once injured he wasn't allowed to return to the front, so he could keep the nation's spirits up writing full-time. But before that he was also present at an event at Christmas 1914 that would become legendary.
Friday 5 December 2014
Andy Rush's Dick, but this version is the country boy - or, this being the Tom Wells take on the story, he's from Hull and comes complete with flat-cap - who travels to London to seek his fortune. With help from a trainee fairy called Bauble (Rebecca Craven) he finds his sidekick, a belligerent Cat (Delroy Atkinson) who's lost his meow. On arriving in London they quickly make an enemy of the evil mayor, Queen Rat (Tiffany Graves,) whose plans to give rats the vote will see her running the city forever. With a quick detour to the North Pole to fight a Yeti and get Cat's meow back, they hatch a plot to help love interest Sooz (Aretha Ayeh) beat Queen Rat in the upcoming election.
Thursday 4 December 2014
Wednesday 3 December 2014
Tuesday 2 December 2014
Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, but Eve Leigh has a much more intimate take on the subject in her new play Silent Planet. A metal grill raised on breeze blocks forms the thrust stage at the Finborough for Tom Mansfield's production, where Gavrill (Graeme McKnight) has to attend regular sessions with his psychiatrist, Yurchak (Matthew Thomas.) Of course, Gavrill is there because of his anti-Soviet writing, and has a number of former associates who are still at large, so these therapy sessions look suspiciously like interrogations, and in between them there's every chance he'll be given some kind of radical treatment that looks just as suspiciously like torture.
Monday 1 December 2014
You got an ology? You're a scientist!