How to solve a problem like a compilation – my alternative Unmasked

Andrew Lloyd Webber, Unmasled

I make my own suggestions about interpretations of Andrew Lloyd Webber songs that could have been included on his new compilation album Unmasked

“They must have excitement, and so must I”

In a world of Spotify and iTunes and other online music services, compilation albums ought to have died a death. But the enduring success of the Now That’s What I Call Music series puts the lie to that, showing that while the idea of curating your own content is tempting, many of us prefer to let someone else do it for us.

So Andrew Lloyd Webber’s decision to release new anthology Unmasked is a canny one in that respect (read my review here), tapping into the desire to have a nicely pleasant set of musical theatre tunes to pop on in the car. And as with any compilation, it’s as much about what hasn’t been included as what has, that stands out. Continue reading “How to solve a problem like a compilation – my alternative Unmasked”

Review: Circle Mirror Transformation, Home

Director Bijan Sheibani works wonders on Annie Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation at Home in Manchester

“Slow down and start noticing everyone around you”

A cheeky trip up north for this criminally short run of Annie Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation at Home in Manchester, for a top-notch cast and a director – Bijan Sheibani – who when on form, is one of the country’s best. And here he really is at home in the unfussy naturalism and quiet intimacy of this deceptively striking play.

My abiding memory of the Royal Court’s 2013 production is not the amazing cast it also assembled – Staunton, Woolgar, Jones… – is that it was absolutely hotter than sin in the Rose Lipman Building where it was hosted. It was also a time when I didn’t really know who Annie Baker was. Or rather, a time before the hype around her wasn’t quite so overwhelming. Continue reading “Review: Circle Mirror Transformation, Home”

Review: Frankenstein, Royal Exchange

Frankenstein gets taken around the block one more time at the Royal Exchange in Manchester – Sun readers need not apply

“What can stop the determined heart and resolved will of man?”

It may have been 200 years since the publication of Mary Shelley’s magnum opus but let’s face it, no-one has ever needed an excuse to stage it before. A programme note for April De Angelis’ new version of Frankenstein for the Royal Exchange suggests there have been well over 50 adaptations and so there’s a job to make yours be the one to stand out.

Directed skillfully by Matthew Xia, De Angelis’ main superficial difference is to play up the storytelling device that frames the novel, using Captain Walton’s discovery of a bedraggled Victor Frankenstein on his expedition to the North Pole to be the mechanism through which scarcely believable events are described. And it’s a format that offers much potential – in emphasising the parallels (or differences) between the two, in exploring the role of an unreliable narrator, in making this version stand out. Continue reading “Review: Frankenstein, Royal Exchange”

Review: Lock and Key, VAULT Festival

Lock and Key, VAULT Festival

A bitesize new musical from Barlow & Smith at the VAULT Festival, Lock and Key asks how bloody far will you go to succeed in the office…

“Don’t you use my little red key”

A nippy little thing this,  Lock and Key. A new musical from writing duo Barlow & Smith, a couple of cracking musical theatre actresses in Tiffany Graves and Evelyn Hoskins, and the sweaty intimacy of the Pit, one of the VAULT Festival’s less hospitable spaces. It all adds up to something really rather entertaining.

Set in the children’s literature department of a publishing firm, office junior Jess is doing everything she can to impress boss Samantha as the end of her probationary period fast approaches. She’s even missing her birthday party in order to seize a key opportunity but she soon finds out that that is not all she will have to sacrifice to make it to the top. Continue reading “Review: Lock and Key, VAULT Festival”

Review: Things That Do Not C(o)unt, VAULT Festival

Things that do not count, VAULT Festival

An uncompromising look at a personal feminist odyssey, Things That Do Not C(o)unt plays the final week of VAULT Festival

“There’s always a stranger
And there’s always vodka”

I was a big fan of No Offence Theatre’s torn apart (dissolution) so the opportunity to catch their new show Things That Do Not C(o)unt in the final week of the VAULT Festival was one I was keen not to pass up. Written and performed by Nastazja Somers and co-created with Bj McNeill, it probes away at some of the key recurring themes that emerged in this festival.

Society’s expectations of women, and its expectations of how young women should deal with their nascent sexuality. Body image and the uneasy relationship that it inculcates with food. But there’s also a deeply personal vein to this show as well. Partly autobiographical in nature, Somers presents and investigates her Polish heritage too, exploring that impact too. Continue reading “Review: Things That Do Not C(o)unt, VAULT Festival”

Album Review: Andrew Lloyd Webber Unmasked: The Platinum Collection

Andrew Lloyd Webber, Unmasled

Andrew Lloyd Webber marks his 70th birthday with a new musical anthology –  Unmasked: The Platinum Collection – taking in shows new and old with some surprises along the way (Beyoncé, Lana del Rey, Duncan from Blue )

“Oh what a circus, oh what a show”

Upon reaching 70 this year, Andrew Lloyd Webber is clearly in a reflective mood and hot on the heels of his autobiography Unmasked released last week, comes this new compilation album Unmasked: The Platinum Collection. Available physically as a 2CD or 4CD version (the latter with a 40 page book of liner notes and tributes), this collection looks back on a career spanning nearly 50 years and features some new twists on the material as well as reminding us of the old favourites.

Over the four discs, 17 of Lloyd Webber’s shows are represented here (Jesus Christ Superstar tops the list with 8 tracks, Evita and Phantom just behind), alongside assorted one-off songs (such as ‘Amigos Para Siempre’ from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the Gary Barlow co-write ‘Sing’ from the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee). But for ALW fans it will be the unreleased stuff that makes the mouth water – five new orchestral suites and a smattering of new recordings featuring the likes of Lana del Rey (a winsome ‘You Must Love Me’ and Gregory Porter (a spirited ‘Light At The End Of The Tunnel’. Continue reading “Album Review: Andrew Lloyd Webber Unmasked: The Platinum Collection”

Review: Suffragette City, London Pavilion

Do you believe in equality? Would you use violence to achieve your aims? Can you make a rosette? Suffragette City asks all these questions and more in a thought-provoking immersive experience in the heart of Piccadilly Circus.

“Life, strife, these two are one
Naught can ye win but by faith and daring”

There’s nothing quite like a moment of theatre that takes your well-meaning preconceptions and smacks you hard in the face with them but that’s exactly what Suffragette City managed to do for me. The nature of immersive theatre sadly means that no two journeys will be the same, you might well not have the same lightbulb moment of startling insight that I had. Then again, you might already be aware of how ultimately shallow considering yourself an ally to an adopted cause can be.

Commissioned by the National Trust in partnership with the National Archives, Suffragette City occupies a place between living history and immersive theatre. Tucked away behind betting shops and shopping centres in the heart of Piccadilly Circus, a little piece of 1912 London has been recreated in the form of the Women’s Social and Political Union’s headquarters, a genteel tea-room, and the dankest of police cells. And in these spaces, we’re asked to consider how just how far we’d go for equal suffrage. Continue reading “Review: Suffragette City, London Pavilion”

Review: One Hand Tied Behind Us, Old Vic

A stirring and compelling evening of monologues exploring women’s rights – Maxine Peake curates One Hand Tied Behind Us at the Old Vic Theatre in London

“No cause can be won between dinner and tea, and most of us who were married had to work with one hand tied behind us”

That quote comes from English suffragette Hannah Mitchell, from The Hard Way Up: The Autobiography of a Suffragette, and provided the titular inspiration for One Hand Tied Behind Us, an evening of monologues at the Old Vic curated by Maxine Peake and conceived by Matthew Warchus. 

Using the centenary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act as a springboard – and acknowledging that while it granted the first women in Britain the right to vote, many more remained disenfranchised – five writers were commissioned to respond to the anniversary, to take stock of the journey so far, where we are now, how much further there still is to go. Continue reading “Review: One Hand Tied Behind Us, Old Vic”

Review: One Last Waltz, Greenwich Theatre

A delicate dance around the emotive subject of Alzheimer’s – One Last Waltz skips the light fantastic at Greenwich Theatre

“I have my photographs
I have my memories
That’s all I need”

A delicate dance around the emotive subject of Alzheimer’s, Luke Adamson’s One Last Waltz returns to London to the intimate studio space at Greenwich Theatre where it pulls no punches in exploring what this disease can do to even the closest of families, while somehow still maintaining a lightness of spirit that could match the Illuminations.

Alice is at that point in life where her friends keep dying, even the ones younger than her and now her husband has passed, there’s no hiding the fact that she keeps forgetting things. A trawl through some old family photos inspires her adult daughter Mandy to recreate a favourite holiday to Blackpool but not even the promise of the Tower ballroom can disguise her decline. Continue reading “Review: One Last Waltz, Greenwich Theatre”

Review: The Dog Beneath The Skin, Jermyn Street Theatre

Who knew that fascists could rhyme? WH Auden and Christopher Isherwood tackle inter-war Europe in The Dog Beneath The Skin at the Jermyn Street Theatre in London.

“Places sometimes look different when one comes back to them”

Proud Haddock’s production of Mrs Orwell was quite the success last year, earning a deserved transfer from the Old Red Lion to the Southwark Playhouse. And they continue their ethos of celebrating “unearthed stories from classical playwrights” with this revival of WH Auden and Christopher Isherwood’s 1935 play The Dog Beneath The Skin which rounds off the Jermyn Street Theatre’s Scandal season.

Mixing an almost fairytale-like quest with a stark warning to guard for the rise of fascism, it’s a fascinatingly drawn play. And Jimmy Walters’ production leans heavily into its curiosity with voiceover segments, drag cabarets and multiple songs (by Jeremy Warmsley) accompanying the lyrical twist of the rhyming couplets threaded throughout the script. With cleverly expressive movement work from Ste Clough, all this strangeness has a compelling quality to it. Continue reading “Review: The Dog Beneath The Skin, Jermyn Street Theatre”