Review: As You Like It / Hamlet, Shakespeare’s Globe

Michelle Terry arrives as Shakespeare’s Globe’s new Artistic Director with a delightfully comic As You Like It and a sombre Hamlet

We know what we are, but know not what we may be

After Emma Rice’s promises to ‘rock the ground’ found little purchase with the board at Shakespeare’s Globe, it’s fair to say there have been a few people holding their breath with incoming Artistic Director Michelle Terry’s debut season about to start. One of our finest Shakespeareans, she’s placed the actor at the heart of her programming, which opens with the Globe Ensemble performing As You Like It and Hamlet in rep.

And not to belabour the point, but the difference does feel like the gap between someone who sees Shakespeare as a challenge and someone who sees it an opportunity. Terry’s approach may be less ostentatious but it feels no less quietly radical in flexibility to gender, race, disability and more. Across the two productions it provides some blissful and thought-provoking  moments that feel quietly revolutionary. Continue reading “Review: As You Like It / Hamlet, Shakespeare’s Globe”

Review: Iolanthe, Richmond Theatre

A much welcome revival for Sasha Regan’s all-male Iolanthe, bringing Gilbert and Sullivan to Richmond Theatre as part of a UK tour

“What’s the use of being half a fairy?”

Delving into deep into your wardrobe can get you into all sorts of bother. With CS Lewis, you could end up in the wintry woods of Narnia and with Sasha Regan, you might find yourself in the dress-up fantasy world of light operetta. Of all of her all-male Gilbert and Sullivan productions, Iolanthe is the one which I remember most fondly (its transfer to Wilton’s Music Hall perfectly done) so the news that it was the choice for this year’s revival for a UK tour left me tripping hither and thither in excitement. 

And though I was a little apprehensive to revisit so beloved a production, this Iolanthe has stood up well. Mark Smith’s choreography with its suggestions of sign language for fairy speak, Stewart Charlesworth’s design making full use of the jumble box aesthetic, and Regan’s astute direction milking a show that’s more than a century old for all of its considerable comic potential and finding room for her own innovations as well. With MD Richard Baker controlling the music from his solo piano, this remains an arresting take on your G&S. Continue reading “Review: Iolanthe, Richmond Theatre”

Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Watermill

A brilliantly inventive, inclusive and entertaining take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a great success at the Watermill Theatre

“Shall we their fond pageant see?”

In a week when Shakespearean-inclined eyes are trained on the opening of Michelle Terry’s tenure at the Globe with a season that promises to be “gender blind, race blind and disability blind”, it is gratifying to see other theatres in the UK already delivering this. And unsurprisingly, this kind of approach is full of rich potential to shake up your Shakespeare anew, making the Watermill’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream an unalloyed pleasure.

Paul Hart’s production is full of innovative touches which work separately like a treat and also combine into something really special. It wears its actor musicianship lightly as music is used brilliantly to delineate the otherworldliness of the woods. If ‘I Put A Spell On You’ might seem overly literal for the dosing of love-in-idleness but lyrically it proves a remarkable fit the love/hate relationship of this Titania and Oberon, so too of Puck’s frustration at that latter father-figure. Continue reading “Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Watermill”

Review: H.R.Haitch, Union

New musical H.R.Haitch at the Union Theatre has a feel of knockabout fun which begs not to be taken too seriously

“We are hoping for a happy outcome”

As Kensington Palace gears up for one royal wedding, Iris Theatre are jumping down the aisle first with their musical take on stately nuptuals H.R.Haitch, now playing at the Union Theatre. And though it features a mixed-race woman (like Meghan) marrying a prince, such is the development time for musicals that is actually the fact that she is a ‘commoner’ (like Kate, apparently) that proves the inspiration here.

For aspiring canapé-chef Chelsea is Barking born and bred, and a strident anti-monarchist to boot. And she’s pretty excited about her suspicions that her nice-but-dim boyf Bertie is going to propose! Thing is, Bertie is actually Prince Albert – heir to the British throne and (for reasons I’m not sure we ever really understood) living incognito among the people. Will Queen Mary accept her? Can the older Princess Victoria thwart the line of succession? And what is it with politicians and pigs…? Continue reading “Review: H.R.Haitch, Union”

Album Reviews: Audra McDonald – Sing Happy / Louise Dearman – For You, For Me / Everybody’s Talking About Jamie cast recording

Casting my eye over some recent musical theatre album releases: Audra McDonald’s live album Sing Happy, Louise Dearman’s latest collection For You, For Me and the long-awaited cast recording for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie 

There are few things as well-designed as Audra McDonald’s thrilling soprano to make you happy, so the title of her new album Sing Happy is apt indeed. Her first live album and her first backed by an orchestra (the New York Philharmonic). the gig was recorded  just a few days ago on 1st May and no wonder they were so quick to turn it around.

Whether shimmering through Porgy and Bess‘ timeless ‘Summertime’, proudly getting her life in La Cage aux Folles’ ‘I Am What I Am’ or absolutely nailing She Loves Me’s ‘Vanilla Ice Cream’, McDonald’s velvety textured voice is always so exciting to listen to. And the drama of songs like ‘Never Will I Marry’ sound glorious with the richness of the orchestral backing (conducted by Andy Einhorn).

An affinity for Sondheim comes into play twice, a medley of ‘Children Will Listen’ with South Pacific’s ‘You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught’ and in a showstopping take on ‘Being Alive’, still manages to surprise with the heights to which she lifts the song. An unalloyed, absolute pleasure. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Audra McDonald – Sing Happy / Louise Dearman – For You, For Me / Everybody’s Talking About Jamie cast recording”

Review: Nightfall, Bridge Theatre

The Bridge Theatre proves the wrong fit for the grief-stricken intimacy of Barney Norris’ Nightfall

You need to take what you can get or you’ll be f**ked”

Barney Norris’ previous plays have been well suited to the places in which they’ve found themselves, the studios of the Arcola and the Bush. And as a brand new space with a flexibility built into its auditorium, the Bridge Theatre has been playing with different styles for each of its opening three productions. But as the theatre moves to end-on to promenade  to thrust, it doesn’t find the best match in Nightfall, directed here by Laurie Sansom. 

Part of the problem lies in the innate intimacy of Norris’ writing. He has absolutely nailed his oeuvre of excavating the beauty in ordinary lives, often beset by grief, often in rural England, and it is to these themes he returns here again. A family in deepest Hampshire are still coming to terms with the death of its patriarch, what that means for the struggling farm on which they depend and fighting to determine what the future might hold for each of them.

Continue reading “Review: Nightfall, Bridge Theatre”

Pinter at the Pinter

The Jamie Lloyd Company, Ambassador Theatre Group, Benjamin Lowy Productions, Gavin Kalin Productions and Glass Half Full Productions present an extraordinary season of Harold Pinter’s one-act plays on the tenth anniversary of the Nobel Prize winner’s death, performed in the theatre that bears his name.

Pinter at the Pinter is a unique event featuring all twenty short plays written by the greatest British playwright of the 20thCentury. They have never been performed together in a season of this kind. Continue reading “Pinter at the Pinter”

Review: A Gym Thing, Pleasance

A Gym Thing at the Pleasance, London is a vivid exploration of muscle dysmorphia and how it can affect all around  

“It’s all for you”

Mental illness comes in all shapes and sizes, literally so in the case of A Gym Thing, which focuses on muscle dysmorphia where bigger isn’t always better. Bigorexia or reverse anorexia is a subtype of Body Dysmorphic Disorder, affecting both men and women who get caught up in extreme behaviour at the gym, in a never-ending quest for perfection.

Tom Vallen’s play uses the device of a 60-minute workout to tell its story, a vibrant method of storytelling which works well in the intimacy of the Pleasance (the play was a success in Edinburgh last year). He plays Will Shaw, who mixes squats, lunges and lifts with the tale of love, life and loss shaped by the gym addiction that takes over his every waking moment. Continue reading “Review: A Gym Thing, Pleasance”

Review: Lippy / The Extension, Wandsworth Arts Fringe

As Wandsworth Arts Fringe starts, I visit two shows lipsync extravaganza Lippy and sensory immersive trip The Extension

“I think we need to go back”

This year’s Wandsworth Arts Fringe has now opened and on a scorching hot day, I took the opportunity to dive into the cooling Arches under St Mary’s Church to see Word of Mouth and Rachel Causer’s one-woman lip-sync show Lippy  and surendred to the unknown with Electrick Village’s immersive show The Extension. Quite the contrasting pair and a fascinating insight into the creative ambition underpinning this festival.

Lippy self-describes as “an innovative, semi-autobiographical lip-sync show” and over the space of an hour, Causer manages to pack a lot in. Delving incrementally back into her past, there’s an exploration of the difficulties of becoming a young woman in contemporary society. And she allies that with a journey through some of the funniest comedians we’ve had, looking at how that society has shaped their voices, or otherwise as the case maybe. Continue reading “Review: Lippy / The Extension, Wandsworth Arts Fringe”