Writing down what I think about theatre I've seen in That London, whether I've been asked to or not.
Saturday, 31 December 2022
2022: Nick's Theatre Review of the Year
2020 and half of 2021 live theatre wasn't really a thing. 2022 hasn't felt quite back to normal in that respect, and I continued to have a number of shows cancelled because of illness or injury, Covid-related or otherwise - the Donmar and Almeida seemed to have been particularly unlucky on that front. And that's before we get to the week or so of shows I had to reschedule or miss entirely because I had Covid. Where shows did go ahead, swings and understudies continued to be more important than ever, so seeing someone other than the star name step up to the plate, usually with impressive results, became another recurring theme of the year. But overall things were sufficiently back on track for me to present, once again: A confusing and bloated roundup of shows I saw, loved, hated or forgot instantly, followed by a bit of light perving over actors who were just trying to do their job, bless'em.
Tuesday, 27 December 2022
Theatre review: Mother Goose (Duke of York's & tour)
Thursday, 22 December 2022
Dolly Parton's Smoky Mountain Christmas Carol
a comedy version that largely ignored everything about the actual story; for my last show before Christmas itself, I would have thought the title Dolly Parton's Smoky Mountain Christmas Carol probably tells you all you need to know. Parton (music and lyrics) and David H. Bell's (book) musical version of the Charles Dickens story started life as a Dollywood attraction before being expanded into a full-length show, and Alison Pollard's production now gets its UK premiere at the South Bank Centre. They've moved the story from Victorian London to 1930s Tennessee and added Parton's distinctive country music sound, but it ends up a surprisingly faithful adaptation both in plot and intention.
Wednesday, 21 December 2022
Theatre review: A Streetcar Named Desire
Summer and Smoke, although the latter collaboration is a last-minute one: Future Dame Patsy Ferran plays Blanche Dubois only because original star Lydia Wilson got injured. The first week of previews was cancelled to give the new lead at least a little rehearsal time, but apart from a running time that'll likely tighten up by the delayed press night, there's little on stage to suggest the production has only been in front of audiences for a few nights, least of all from the extraordinary leading lady.
Monday, 19 December 2022
Theatre review: Sons of the Prophet
Stephen Karam's last play at Hampstead Theatre was That American Play Where An Extended Family Gets Together After A Long Time, Preferably At Thanksgiving But That’s Optional, but surely even the most determined American playwrights can't write that one too many times, and the premise and cast were appealing. And the play, which takes its title from the central family's distant and regularly overplayed relation to Kahlil Gibran, is certainly not clichéd in its premise: It centres on two gay brothers from a Lebanese-American Maronite Christian family, from a part of Pennsylvania where all the towns seem to be named after places in the Middle East. A few years after their mother's death, their father also dies in a car crash after a student prank goes wrong.
Wednesday, 14 December 2022
Hakawatis: Women of the Arabian Nights
Metamorphoses, another winter's evening of adult - sometimes very adult - storytelling by candlelight at the Swanamaker. This time it's Hannah Khalil's take on the 1001 Nights, which she reimagines as much less of a one-woman show than it's usually seen as. For Hakawatis: Women of the Arabian Nights, Rosa Maggiora's set is a dungeon, comparatively comfortable with piles of cushions and plates of fruit but a prison nonetheless, where four women have been kept for so long they've lost track of time. When they're joined by a fifth, Fatah the Young (Alaa Habib,) they have to break it to the teenager that the marriage she's been preparing for isn't all it seems: When the King's first wife cheated on him, he vowed revenge on all women. He takes a new wife every night, and after some no-doubt-entirely-consensual sex, murders her. The plan is to eliminate every unmarried woman in his kingdom, and he's nearly done.
Monday, 12 December 2022
Wickies: The Vanishing Men of Eilean Mòr
in the very loosest possible sense by A Christmas Carol, it's Park Theatre's Scottish take on the traditional Christmas ghost story. But Paul Morrissey's Wickies: The Vanishing Men of Eilean Mòr takes its inspiration from a very real mystery: In 1900, three lighthouse keepers vanished without trace from the Flannan Isles, a particularly remote and dangerous part of the Outer Hebrides. Morrissey's play is only the latest in a long tradition of poems, stories and songs that have taken the mystery into the realms of folk legend.
Saturday, 10 December 2022
A Christmas Carol-ish... by Mr Swallow
Thursday, 8 December 2022
Theatre review: Orlando
Wednesday, 7 December 2022
Theatre review: Kerry Jackson
Thursday, 1 December 2022
Theatre review: Othello (National Theatre / Lyttelton)
Posted by nick730 at 23:39 2 comments:
Labels: Benjamin Grant, Chloe Lamford, Clint Dyer, Giles Terera, Jack Bardoe, Michael Vale, Othello, Paul Hilton, Pete Malkin, Rory Fleck-Byrne, Rosy McEwen, Sola Akingbola, Tanya Franks, William Shakespeare
Monday, 28 November 2022
Theatre review: Baghdaddy
Whoa, Baghdaddy (Bam-ba-lam)
Saturday, 26 November 2022
Theatre review: Arms and the Man
Thursday, 24 November 2022
Theatre review: Here
Wednesday, 23 November 2022
Theatre review: Henry V (Headlong)
the Donmar's bombastic war epic, and different in fact from any I've seen before in 30 or so years of Shakespeare productions. The clichéd view of the play is of a jingoistic celebration of Englishness, but in the last two decades it's been rare to see it through anything other than a cynical eye as a story of British imperialism, and increasingly through the prism of an arrogant attitude towards Europe. Holly Race Roughan's production for Headlong, which opens at the Swanamaker before transferring to Leeds and Northampton next year, takes it right out of the canon of Shakespeare's Histories, reimagining it entirely as a brooding and claustrophobic Tragedy. And if I was less excited than some about Kit "Christopher" Harington's casting earlier this year, Big Favourite Round These Parts Oliver Johnstone getting his chance at one of the big Shakespearean leads is more the kind of thing to grab my attention.
Posted by nick730 at 22:48 No comments:
Labels: Dharmesh Patel, Eleanor Henderson, Geoffrey Lumb, Helena Lymbery, Henry V, Holly Race Roughan, James Cooney, Jon Furlong, Joséphine Callies, Joshua Griffin, Max Pappenheim, Moi Tran, Oliver Johnstone
Monday, 21 November 2022
Theatre review: Blackout Songs
Thursday, 17 November 2022
Theatre review: From Here To Eternity
I found it hard work, but the songs from Brayson were a highlight, and have stayed on my playlists since. So on balance I decided to give it another go in its off-West End return at Charing Cross Theatre, where it gets a smaller-scale production from Brett Smock. And while it still feels like adapting James Jones' novel and the classic film for the stage was an idea flawed from its conception, this more streamlined take on the show (it's a revised script with a number of songs moved, removed or replaced with new ones entirely - the balance of book to music was one of my issues with the original) is a definite improvement. The action takes place in Hawaii in the fortnight before the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack.
Posted by nick730 at 23:01 2 comments:
Labels: Adam Rhys-Charles, Alan Turkington, Bill Oakes, Brett Smock, Carley Stenson, Desmonda Cathabel, Donald Rice, Eve Polycarpou, Jack Ofrecio, Jonathon Bentley, Jonny Amies, Stuart Brayson, Tim Rice
Tuesday, 15 November 2022
Theatre review: Not Now
Yes So I Said Yes fell through, the Finborough Theatre avoided going dark for a month by scheduling the London premiere of another David Ireland play, his recent short comedy Not Now. It's a story that almost feels like it could have been inspired by a running Twitter joke about Jonjo O'Neil's 2012 Richard III, as it opens with aspiring Belfast actor Matthew (Matthew Blaney) rehearsing the opening soliloquy, and trying not to pronounce the first word as "NOY." He's got up early to rehearse his speech because he's flying to London later in the day to audition for RADA, and he feels like he should deliver it in a laboured English accent he associates with classical performances of Shakespeare (he's also able-bodied but putting on an exaggerated hunchback and limp, so never mind it not getting him into drama school, he'd have been cancelled before his career even began.)
Monday, 14 November 2022
Theatre review: Mary
James Plays trilogy has kicked off in Scotland (hopefully with a London run in its future) with James IV, but before that there's another entry in her cycle of plays about the Stuart rulers. Although Mary feels like a bonus feature rather than the next chapter, and not just because it's premiering out of chronological order: Instead of the bloody epics of the main sequence, Mary is a two-scene discussion with just three characters, and the titular Queen of Scots isn't even one of them. There is a James though, but he's not King: James Melville (Douglas Henshall) is a Lord loyal to the Queen at a time when much of the Scottish aristocracy seems to be plotting against her. We open at Linlithgow Palace in 1567, shortly after the murder of Mary's second husband Lord Darnley, father of James VI and I. The scheming Lord Bothwell is the likely culprit, but gossip also puts Mary herself under suspicion.
Thursday, 10 November 2022
Theatre review: Good
Tuesday, 8 November 2022
Theatre review: Marvellous
Friday, 4 November 2022
Theatre review: Not One of These People
some of his past work has gone down there might be why his latest isn't being presented as a full run, but for only four performances - so short that by the time I can write and publish this review it'll already be finished. Or it might be that Not One of These People is being treated more as a short performance art installation, which it was originally conceived as: A rolling monologue that would require only one live performer and some technology, to be part of the theatre's reopening after lockdown. In the end that timing didn't work out so it eventually developed into something different, but still with a novel approach to avoiding crowds of actors on stage together: In Christian Lapointe's production Crimp himself reads the lines of 299 characters, and their faces are projected onto a screen.
Thursday, 3 November 2022
Theatre review: A Single Man
Friday, 28 October 2022
Theatre review: Elephant
Thursday, 27 October 2022
Theatre review: Something in the Air
Cruise, although its focus is slightly different: Part of the theme of those stories has been the generation of queer elders who barely exist because of the pandemic of the 1980s and '90s wiping them out, but Something in the Air brings us a pair of men who've survived into old age and, with the rest of their community long-gone, have found some comfort in each other. Colin (Ian Gelder) and Alex (Christopher Godwin) live in the same retirement home where they've become friends and, to the consternation of Alex's son Andrew (Andrew Woodall,) have started holding hands while they sit in their armchairs. Colin's niece Clare (Claire Price) is more sanguine about it, and in fact has some news for Andrew: The pair have asked to be moved into the same room, but as they're not always lucid, it needs to be run by their families.
Saturday, 22 October 2022
Theatre review: The Solid Life of Sugar Water
Thursday, 20 October 2022
Theatre review: My Neighbour Totoro
Posted by nick730 at 23:11 No comments:
Labels: Ai Ninomiya, Ami Okumura Jones, Basil Twist, Dai Tabuchi, Haruka Abe, Hayao Miyazaki, Jacqueline Tate, Joe Hisaishi, Kimie Nakano, Mei Mac, Nino Furuhata, Phelim McDermott, Tom Morton-Smith, Tom Pye
Tuesday, 18 October 2022
Theatre review: The Canterville Ghost
Monday, 17 October 2022
Theatre review: Ravenscourt
Saturday, 15 October 2022
Theatre review: John Gabriel Borkman
a short, heavily rewritten, monologue adaptation. It can't be topicality that's the problem - given that the title character is a corrupt, arrogant banker, you could theoretically have a production of it playing somewhere in the world 24/7 and guarantee the famous phrase "timely revival" got chucked at it. It does, however, conform to all the stereotypes about Ibsen's work being dark, moody and bleak. JG Borkman (Simon Russell Beale,) once a financial giant, was convicted of embezzlement. He spent five years in prison and, since his release, a further eight years essentially under self-imposed house arrest. In the first act, all we know of him is the sound of him relentlessly pacing his room.
Posted by nick730 at 17:23 No comments:
Labels: Anna Fleischle, Clare Higgins, Daisy Ou, Henrik Ibsen, Lia Williams, Liam Bunster, Lucinda Coxon, Michael Simkins, Nicholas Hytner, Ony Uhiara, Sebastian De Souza, Simon Russell Beale
Thursday, 13 October 2022
Theatre review: The Band's Visit
Come From Away, but bearable?" Based on an Israeli film, this also features unexpected visitors to a sleepy town, but in a much more low-key way: In 1996, the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra travel from Egypt to Israel to perform at an Arabic culture festival in the bustling city of Petah Tikva. But a mixup at the airport leads to them getting the bus to Bet Hatikva, a tiny, sleepy town in the middle of nowhere. By the time they realise their mistake they're already there, and the next bus back to the city isn't until the next day. There's no hotel, so café owner Dina (Miri Mesika) takes in conductor Tewfiq (Alon Moni Aboutboul) and trumpet player Haled (Sharif Afifi) herself, and arranges for other locals to find space for the rest of the band for the night.
Tuesday, 11 October 2022
Theatre review: The Boy With Two Hearts
Friday, 7 October 2022
Theatre review: Brown Boys Swim
Thursday, 6 October 2022
Theatre review: Eureka Day
Tuesday, 4 October 2022
The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore
The Wikipedia page for this 1963 meditation on mortality and grief, thought to have been written in response to the terminal illness of his long-term partner, is essentially a list of how many times Williams wrote it, and it tanked, rewrote it, and it tanked worse, rewrote it as a film, and it tanked globally. But as well as simply wanting to tick another title off the list, there's always the hope that someone will do a Summer and Smoke, and reveal an almost-forgotten work as a misjudged classic with a revelatory production. Robert Chevara's take on The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore at Charing Cross Theatre is not that production.
Monday, 3 October 2022
Theatre review: Jews. In Their Own Words.
Rare Earth Mettle was meant to feature a shifty billionaire called Hershel Fink. Having seen the play, I'd say playwright Al Smith was probably going for something with the vague cadences of "Elon Musk," but he actually landed on a hugely stereotypical Jewish name, paired with an equally stereotypical moneybags character. When the play opened in previews and caused offence, the name was changed, but further controversy came with reports that some people had highlighted the connotations and been ignored.)
Posted by nick730 at 22:06 No comments:
Labels: Alex Waldmann, Audrey Sheffield, Billy Ashcroft, Debbie Chazen, Hemi Yeroham, Jonathan Freedland, Louisa Clein, Rachel-Leah Hosker, Steve Furst, Tracy-Ann Oberman, Vicky Featherstone
Thursday, 29 September 2022
Theatre review: Blues for an Alabama Sky
Tuesday, 27 September 2022
Theatre review: The Wonderful World of Dissocia
Monday, 26 September 2022
Theatre review: The Snail House
Saturday, 24 September 2022
Theatre review: I, Joan
Posted by nick730 at 18:02 No comments:
Labels: Adam Gillen, Baker Mukasa, Charlie Josephine, Debbie Korley, Esmonde Cole, Glynn MacDonald, Ilinca Radulian, Isobel Thom, Janet Etuk, Jennifer Jackson, Jolyon Coy, Jonah Russell, Kevin McMonagle, Naomi Kuyck-Cohen
Thursday, 22 September 2022
Theatre review: Clutch
Jitney, stays behind the wheel for Will Jackson's Clutch in the Bush Theatre's Studio space. He plays avuncular driving instructor Max, who offers his new student the first lesson free and won't take it personally if he doesn't come back for more - he isn't to everyone's taste. Max's no-nonsense teaching style tends to border more on the loud and distracting, but Tyler (Charlie Kafflyn) sticks with him, and soon the seemingly timid young man relaxes and shows his cockier side as he starts to improve. Tyler's job is as a techie for touring bands; a driving license will help him get more work, and Max boasts of a 100% first-time pass record.
Tuesday, 20 September 2022
Theatre review: The Prince
Friday, 16 September 2022
Theatre review: Who Killed My Father
A View From the Bridge really made his name in this country, still occasionally gets the superstar director's work. In particular, it seems to be the home of English-language premieres of solo shows from some of his Internationaal Theater Amsterdam core ensemble members. A few years ago we saw Eelco Smits in Song From Far Away, now it's the turn of an actor often seen as a patrician figure in the company's work, showing a much more vulnerable side here: In van Hove's own adaptation of Who Killed My Father, Hans Kesting plays the book's author Édouard Louis, who confronts his dying father with the ways in which he traumatised him during childhood; but also with the political circumstances that led both to the father's early death, and the knock-on effect on the son.
Thursday, 15 September 2022
Theatre review: The P Word
Tuesday, 13 September 2022
Theatre review: The Clinic
Friday, 9 September 2022
Theatre review: Antigone
Legally Blonde the set was pink, for 101 Dalmatians it was made up of the characters in the show's title; so for the concluding production, Leslie Travers gives us the title of the show... in pink letters. The name Antigone is spelt out in graffiti-like letters that form a skate park, as Inua Ellams' adaptation of Sophocles is not just a modern-dress one but essentially a complete reworking of the myth. So we open at a London youth centre where Antigone (Zainab Hasan) volunteers, alongside sister Ismene (Shazia Nicholls) and brother Polyneices (Nadeem Islam.) Their oldest brother Eteocles (Abe Jarman) has recently joined the police, and after an introduction that sets up the siblings' contrasting personalities we skip forward a few years during which Polyneices disappears. It turns out he's gone to Syria where he's been radicalised; when he returns as part of a terrorist attack, both he and his brother end up dead on opposite sides of the conflict.
Posted by nick730 at 23:42 No comments:
Labels: Abe Jarman, Eli London, Inua Ellams, Leslie Travers, Max Webster, Michael 'Mikey J' Asante, Nadeem Islam, Oliver Johnstone, Pandora Colin, Sandy Grierson, Shazia Nicholls, Sophocles, Tony Jayawardena, Zainab Hasan
Thursday, 8 September 2022
Theatre review: Doctor Faustus
Salomé. Faustus (Jamie O’Neill) is an arrogant young academic who's decided he's exhausted all the knowledge available to him in books, and will cheat his way to learning the secrets of the universe: He employs a demon to be his servant, to answer any question he may have, and show him the wonders of the world. Mephistopheles' (David Angland) services, of course, come at the highest possible price: In return for 24 years of service, he gets Faustus to sell his soul to Lucifer (Candis Butler Jones.) Faustus manages to convince himself he doesn't believe in the afterlife anyway so it's a zero-risk gamble, until the deal is done and he has to face the consequences.
Tuesday, 6 September 2022
Stage-to-screen review: London Assurance
Phèdre still holds that title but another of the early NTLive screenings has recently joined it, giving me a chance to rewatch a show I remembered fondly, and see how well it held up. A far cry from Peloponnesian angst and bloody horse-related deaths (although they do have a bit of forbidden lust in common,) in 2010's London Assurance Nicholas Hytner revived the early hit for largely forgotten 19th century theatrical juggernaut Dion Boucicault. Boucicault's work generally hasn't stood the test of time, and tends to work best when radically reconceived or flat out parodied, and this too has needed some tinkering: In an ongoing collaboration that would have its most famous example the following year, Hytner got Richard Bean to do a thorough rewrite of the script.
Posted by nick730 at 21:45 No comments:
Labels: Dion Boucicault, Fiona Shaw, Junix Inocian, Mark Addy, Mark Thompson, Matt Cross, Michelle Terry, Nicholas Hytner, Paul Ready, Richard Bean, Richard Briers, Simon Russell Beale, stage to screen, Tony Jayawardena
Friday, 2 September 2022
Theatre review: Horse-Play
Wednesday, 31 August 2022
Stage-to-screen review: Oliver Twist
Posted by nick730 at 17:47 No comments:
Labels: Amy Leach, Brooklyn Melvin, Bryony Lavery, Caroline Parker, Charles Dickens, Christopher Wright, Clare-Louise English, Katie Erich, Mitesh Soni, Nadeem Islam, stage to screen, Stephen Collins
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