2019 VAULT Festival – 20 shows to see

With less than a week to go before the 2019 VAULT Festival opens, I wade my way through the catalogue and come up with 20 shows I think you should catch – in their own words

Now in its seventh year, VAULT Festival returns this year from 23rd January to 17th March with a broad and diverse programme of more than 400 shows in a range of atmospheric venues throughout Waterloo. And as ever, the remit is to be as big and bold as impossible, with the festival featuring theatre, comedy, cabaret, immersive experiences, late night parties, and much more besides.

It can be a little overwhelming to figure out what you want to see, the majority of shows run for a week (Wednesday to Sunday) so you’ll need to move pretty sharpish once you’ve decided – there’s the VAULT Combo deal which saves you money booking more than one show, and some 241 deals available through the Stagedoor app. And to help you, I’ve identified 20 shows (and it could have been so many more!) that appealed to me and asked them to sell themselves in 10 words or less in order to grab your attention.  Continue reading “2019 VAULT Festival – 20 shows to see”

Some goodies for a cold January Thursday

So much to keep on top of – pics from All About Eve, videos from Waitress, foodie secrets from Gingerline and casting news from Emilia

We’re just three weeks away from All About Eve starting previews and these rehearsal pics ought to whet anyone’s appetite.

And more importantly if you’ve not booked yet, details have been released about day seats and a front row lottery – this will definitely not be one to miss.

Day Seats: Available in person at the Box Office from 10am on a first come, first served basis. Maximum x2 per person. Limited availability. £25.00 per ticket.
Front Row Lottery: In partnership with Today Tix. More information on how to enter will be announced on the All About Eve social media channels from Friday 25 January 2019. Maximum x2 per person. £25.00 per ticket. Continue reading “Some goodies for a cold January Thursday”

Review: Pinter Six, Harold Pinter Theatre

A superbly cast double-bill of Party Time and Celebration makes up a sharp Pinter Six at the Harold Pinter Theatre

“My driver had to stop at a….what do you call it…roadblock.”

One of the benefits in producing such a wide-ranging festival as Pinter at the Pinter has been the flexibility in its programming, allowing for thematic evenings to emerge as opposed to a straight chronological trip through the canon. So here, Jamie Lloyd is able to bring together two plays set at gatherings, both conveniently cast for nine people.

The first social occasion is the most effective, 1991’s Party Time begins with the sepulchral chords of Handel’s Sarabande in D Minor processed through an electronic filter and its partygoers sat in a line facing the audience. They’re members of a private club and we slowly learn that as they sip champagne, the world outside has gone to shit. Continue reading “Review: Pinter Six, Harold Pinter Theatre”

Film Review: The Favourite (2018)

Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite offers up a thoroughly human approach to history and three cracking performances from Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz

“Don’t shout at me, I am the Queen”

It may seem like casting directors have forgotten that there are other actresses available alongside Olivia Colman but when the work she produces is this irresistible, you can’t help but indulge them. But though she is being pushed as the lead of Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite, it is important to note that she eagerly shares that spotlight with both Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone.

Which is unique enough for Hollywood in general, never mind a mainstream historical film. But here, Lanthimos completely upends convention to produce something unique, compelling and utterly significant. The history of Queen Anne’s reign may be less of an unknown quantity to recent theatregoers although nothing there will have prepared anyone for the affecting and effective novelty of this approach.   Continue reading “Film Review: The Favourite (2018)”

Review: Pinter Five, Harold Pinter Theatre

Jane Horrocks and Rupert Graves shine in Pinter Five, featuring The Room, Victoria Station and Family Voices at the Harold Pinter Theatre

“You know where you are here”

Pinter Five sees Patrick Marber, someone who could call Harold Pinter a friend and colleague, take the directorial wheel as he presents a triple-bill of The Room, Victoria Station and Family Voices, delving further into the wealth of short plays left behind by the playwright.

The first half is taken up by Pinter’s first play, 1957’s The Room, a prototype for so much of what was to come as he settled into his distinctive voice. The air of menacing strangeness looming over seemingly everyday situations, visitors who disrupt and disturb, relationships that can never be quite pinned down… Continue reading “Review: Pinter Five, Harold Pinter Theatre”

My 10 favourite shows of 2018

And so here we are, at the end of another year where I broke the 300 show mark despite wanting to see less. (I had a very quiet December by my standards at least…) Now where’s the vodka stingers…?!

1 Pericles, National Theatre
Pretty much everything I want theatre to be, a rhapsodic, true celebration of community. From the joyous riffing on Shakespeare through song and dance to its over-riding spirit of bonhomie, it takes something this inclusive to show you how exclusive so much theatre can be.

2 Jellyfish, Bush Theatre
Sometimes, reviewing can’t help but be personal and Ben Weatherill’s minor-key masterpiece for the Bush touched me incredibly deeply, making me (re)consider so much of my own experiences. It has to come back, it just has to. 

Company, Gielgud Theatre
Marianne Elliott’s production was so much more than the gender-swap that led the headline, the smartness of her adaptation making the work speak to today in ways you might not have thought possible, and delivered by one of the best companies you could have hoped for. 

4 Sunshine on Leith, Leeds Playhouse
I was entirely seduced by the film so the opportunity to finally see the musical was one I wasn’t going to give up lightly, and the trip to Leeds was well worth it, I don’t think I cried in happiness this much at a finale in ages. I’d love for a tour to come back and visit more English venues.

5 The Inheritance, Young Vic/Noel Coward Theatre
It says something that I was willing to go back to what is probably one of the most emotional pulverising theatrical experiences of my life. And the Part 1 finale was possibly even better second time around, the highlight of an exceptional new landmark piece.

6 To Have To Shoot Irishmen, Omnibus Clapham
Coming completely out of left field, this play with songs was a devastatingly moving work that had me completely gripped. I won’t be missing any of Lizzie Nunnery’s shows in the future.

7 Bury the Hatchet, Hope Theatre
On a criminally scorching evening, Out of the Forest Theatre made me forget the heat for a hugely entertaining hour which I could have watched right again then and there.

8 Nine Night, National Theatre/Trafalgar Studios
Taking the Dorfman, and then the West End, by storm, Natasha Gordon’s passionate family drama was as educative as entertaining, as well as utterly enthralling by the relevatory final scenes.

9 Hadestown, National Theatre
I booked to see this a second time before I’d even gotten home from the first – it was that enjoyable. 

10 Sweat, Donmar Warehouse
Sneaking in at the last moment, this delivered the Christmas message you didn’t know you needed. Brutally affecting.

Shows 11-25 under the cut Continue reading “My 10 favourite shows of 2018”

2018 Best Actress in a Play + in a Musical

Best Actress in a Play

Leah Harvey, Clare Perkins, Vinette Robinson, Emilia
For the second year running, this award goes three ways as apparently I’m a sucker for a women-heavy production (who knew!). But there’s something more here, it wasn’t just about how Harvey, Perkins and Robinson shared the role of the title character in Emilia, its how they supported each other through it as well, reinforcing the play’s cry for the necessity of solidarity. Everyman? Every-Emilia! 

Honourable mention: Sarah Gordy, Jellyfish
A deeply empathetic performance from Gordy underscored the undersung importance of this production – her searingly honest Kelly opened the eyes and touched the hearts of surely everyone who saw Jellyfish

Patsy Ferran, Summer and Smoke
Marieke Heebink, Oedipus
Elinor Lawless, To Have To Shoot Irishmen
Carey Mulligan, Girls and Boys
Sarah Niles, Leave Taking

8-10
Sophie Okonedo, Antony and Cleopatra; Lia Williams, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie; Ria Zmitrowicz, Dance Nation

 

Best Actress in a Musical

Rosalie Craig, Company
Crowding us with love, forcing us to care…Craig’s initial casting as Bobbie garnered all sorts of headlines but once Marianne Elliott’s production opened, that attention was more than justified by a sterling turn from this most versatile of actors (don’t forget she’d only just finished a run in The Ferryman). A strikingly contemporary figure, she both integrated Bobbie better into the ensemble than ever before and made her stand out at just the right moments, ie making sure she got hers from Andy!

Honourable mention: Kaisa Hammarlund, Fun Home
Given some of the things that transferred into the West End, especially now the Ambassador’s has been freed up, it’s a travesty that Fun Home didn’t get to further its journey (for now at least), especially since it was anchored by a finely nuanced performance from the excellent Hammarlund. A small saving grace is that she’s now free to lead the cast of Violet in the New Year.

Bonnie Langford, 42nd Street
Eva Noblezada, Hadestown
Caroline O’Connor, The Rink
Gemma Sutton, The Rink
Adrienne Warren, Tina the Musical

8-10
Jocasta Almgill, Sunshine on Leith; Jemima Rooper, Little Shop of Horrors; Rebecca Trehearn, Sweet Charity (Nottingham Playhouse)/Gemma Sutton, Sweet Charity (Watermill)

2018 Best Actor in a Play + in a Musical

Best Actor in a Play

Kyle Soller, The Inheritance
As Eric Glass, Soller’s sensitively nuanced performance is one of the most crucial in The Inheritance, the development of his humanity and the lightness of his humour goes a long way to sustaining the considerable heft of this two-part epic. 

Honourable mention: Hans Kesting, Oedipus
A real birthday treat this was, Kesting giving us Sophocles via Icke, effortlessly redefining tragic Greek figures for the contemporary age. Entirely capturing the modern politician’s dilemma about how ‘real’ to be, his dogged pursuit of the truth was as compelling as it has ever been.

Ben Batt, The York Realist
Ian Bonar, Jellyfish
Paapa Essiedu, The Convert
Richard Harrington, Home I’m Darling
Shubnam Saraf, An Adventure

8-10
Edward Hogg, The Wild Duck; Gerard Kearns, To Have To Shoot Irishmen; Richard McCabe, Imperium

 

Best Actor in a Musical

Steven Miller, Sunshine on Leith
Musical theatre is so often derided as frothy flights of fancy that it can be easy to be surprised when a performance of real honesty shines through. Miller’s Davy, a bluff squaddie struggling to readjust to life after a tour in the Middle East, captured so much of that magical ‘extraordinary in the ordinary’ quality from his dancing to his singing, as well as his acting, that I could hardly take my eyes off him. 

Honourable mention: Andrew Finnigan, Drip
I’m not picking Finnigan because he picked me to be his audience hunk (honest) but for the irresistible charm of his effortlessly guileless Liam, the kind of hero you can’t help but root for and exactly the kind of (incidentally) gay characters we need our culture to be suffused with.

Paul-James Corrigan, Sunshine on Leith
Arinzé Kene, Misty
Michael Mathers, Mythic
Leon Scott, Midnight
Zubin Varla, Fun Home

8-10
David Haydn, The Secret Garden; Daniel Healy, Once; Mark Inscoe, Priscilla Queen of the Desert

2018 Best Supporting Actress in a Play + in a Musical

Best Supporting Actress in a Play

Cecilia Noble, Nine Night
A peach of a role for this most characterful of performers, Noble fits Aunt Maggie so well the part could have been written for her. And as with Nine Night at large, the beauty is in the simultaneous specificity and universality of the character. Though rooted entirely in Jamaican traditions, she’s also the archetype of the opinionated elderly relative that is recognisable no matter where you come from and Noble imbues her with just enough heart to go along with the hilarity. 

Honourable mention: Martha Plimpton, Sweat
A late but indisputable arrival, the ferocity with which Plimpton permeates her performance makes an already excellent production into something unmissable. Obviously it helps that she’s an iconic figure from my childhood movie days but seriously, do what you can to see her at the Donmar.

Adjoa Andoh, Leave Taking
Eva Feiler, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Watermill)
Penny Layden, Jellyfish
Lashana Lynch, ear for eye
Charity Wakefield, Emilia

8-10
Lucy Cohu, The Height of the Storm; Sylvestra Le Touzel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie; Kayla Meikle, Dance Nation

 

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical

Patti LuPone, Company
A triumphant return to the West End stage for this most iconic of performers whose every mmm-hmm turns another theatregoer into a homosexual. Every time I’ve seen the show, her interpretation of ‘Ladies Who Lunch’ has brought different colours and textures – and check the moment when her eyes pin down Bobbie with “the girls who just watch”. Plus she does furniture-shuffling choreography like a real trouper – a privilege to watch (and watch again).

Honourable mention: Amber Gray, Hadestown
I’d thought LuPone would walk this category but the elemental force with which Gray blew onto the Olivier stage had me in raptures as her every move and utterance had me absolutely gripped. Is there any way we can keep her in the UK or entice her back as soon as possible please.

Naana Agyei-Ampadu, Caroline or Change
Vivien Carter, Sweet Charity (Watermill)
Genevieve McCarthy, Mythic
Hilary MacLean, Sunshine on Leith
Seyi Omooba, Christina Modestou & Renée Lamb, Little Shop of Horrors

8-10
Cherelle Skeete, Fun Home; Susannah van den Berg, Once; Vicky Vox, Little Shop of Horrors

2018 Best Supporting Actor in a Play + in a Musical

Best Supporting Actor in a Play

Paul Hilton, The Inheritance
How many times and in how many ways can the same man break your heart? Hilton is exquisitely, agonisingly, pitch-perfect in The Inheritance no matter who he is playing, a much needed voice of experience in among the tight, bright young things, an unforgettable, powerfully moving tribute to generations lost.

Honourable mention: Forbes Masson, Summer and Smoke
I’ve long been a fan of Masson’s, going back to seeing his hysterical musical Stiff! back in my uni days, so it was great to see him as such a vibrant and vital part of the ensemble in this Rebecca Frecknall production, standing out as a pair of patresfamilias.

Louis Bernard, Much Ado About Nothing (Antic Disposition)
Demetri Goritsas, ear for eye
Wil Johnson, Leave Taking
Nicky Priest, Jellyfish
Sam Troughton, Stories

8-10

Oliver Alvin-Wilson, Nine Night; Kevin Harvey, The Wild Duck; Samuel H Levine, The Inheritance

 

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical

Jonathan Bailey, Company
Done well, ‘Getting Married Today’ is a highlight of any production of Company but here, making Amy Jamie works an absolute treat in showing both how far we’ve come and how little there is between us all when it comes to gay marriage. Partnered perfectly with Alex Gaumond’s patiently lovestruck Paul, this vignette becomes even more heart-breakingly, soul-raisingly fantastic.

Honourable mention: André de Shields & Patrick Page, Hadestown
Between de Shields getting the party started with his twinkling charm and Page’s basso profundo doing all sorts of things to me, I couldn’t split these two on the way down to Hadestown

Alex Cardall, Sweet Charity (Watermill)
Alex James Ellison, The Secret Garden
Richard Fleeshman, Company
Matt Willis, Little Shop of Horrors

8-10
Maison Kelley, Brass the Musical; Sean Kingsley, Once; Jordan Shaw, It’s Only Life