Review: The Bay at Nice, Menier Chocolate Factory

Penelope Wilton almost, almost, makes it worth seeing a David Hare play with The Bay at Nice at the Menier Chocolate Factory

“I know what life is and what it cannot be”

Oh, British theatre and your ongoing obsession with David Hare. I’ve never really got it, never had that experience with one of his plays that made me go ‘oh that’s what they’re talking about’. Indeed, I only really booked for The Bay at Nice for the opportunity to see the Great British wonder that is Penelope Wilton in the intimacy of the Menier Chocolate Factory.

And such is her exceptional talent, that she almost makes this an unmissable event. Her Valentina Nrovka is a strikingly captivating presence, a former pupil of Matisse called to authenticate a painting that might be one of his. Having left post-war Paris for revolutionary Russia, her artistic career has taken a back seat and motherhood has not proved anywhere near as fulfilling. Continue reading “Review: The Bay at Nice, Menier Chocolate Factory”

Album Review: Joanna Forest – The Rhythm of Life

Classical-crossover artist Joanna Forest takes us through a day in the life of a child with her enchanting new album The Rhythm of Life

“Wave goodbye to cares of the day”

After becoming the first independent artist to go straight to Number 1 in the Official Classical Album Charts with a debut album The Rhythm of Life is classical-crossover soprano Joanna Forest’s follow-up record. And it takes the form of a concept album, taking us on a journey through the day in the life of a child, pulling together songs from a wide range of sources to remind us of how uplifting music can be, no matter our age.

As a theatre nerd, my eye was instantly drawn to the musical tracks and Sweet Charity’s ‘The Rhythm of Life’ is an unexpected success as it brims with irrepressible energy – a fascinating and urgent orchestral arrangement is bolstered with charismatic backing vocals and choirs and the whole production builds layer upon layer to become something really interesting and unlike any version you’d seen on a theatre stage. Continue reading “Album Review: Joanna Forest – The Rhythm of Life”

Review: Queer Trilogy, Drayton Arms

The Queer Trilogy of A Sticky Season, Minor Disruptions & Crystal Bollix presents The Bitch Ball proves something of a mixed bag at the Drayton Arms

“I am finally ready to learn”

Recent Mountview grads Jack Donald, Katie Paterson and Alexandra Christle have banded together to mount Queer Trilogy, a triple bill of shows at the Drayton Arms that probes interestingly at queer identities, how they’re shaped and formed by past and present but also complicated by the mere act of being. They’re further challenged by being bound together in this format which doesn’t necessarily suit them so well.

For they are three disparate, diverse pieces. Christie’s Crystal Bollix Presents The Bitch Ball is a drag act that delves into the social construct of the word bitch and how its continued cultural significance filters down to the individual. Through the use of lip-syncing and some very game audience participation, Bollix’s personality shines through but the piece doesn’t quite have the emotional resonance to achieve the depths it wants. Continue reading “Review: Queer Trilogy, Drayton Arms”

The 2018 Ian Charleson Awards nominees announced

I remain unconvinced we should be rewarding classical roles over the breadth of the theatre out there but hey ho, it’s not my award! A good selection of performances nominated here nonetheless – winner to be announced in May.

Daniel Burke for Diomed in Troilus and Cressida at RSC
Bally Gill for Romeo in Romeo and Juliet at the RSC
Heledd Gwynn for Katharine and Dauphin in Henry V by Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory 
Tyrone Huntley for Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Watermill, Newbury
Martins Imhangbe for Bagot and Aumerle in Richard II at the Almeida
Toheeb Jimoh for Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Crucible
Hannah Morrish for Octavia in Antony and Cleopatra at the National Theatre
Luke Newberry for Malcolm in Macbeth at the RSC
Aaron Pierre for Cassio in Othello at Shakespeare’s Globe
Ellora Torchia for Emilia in Two Noble Kinsmen at Shakespeare’s Globe
Helena Wilson for Mariana in Measure for Measure at the Donmar Warehouse

Review: 10, VAULT Festival

Theatre continues to lead the way in the feminist recasting of history as Lizzie Milton’s 10 introduces more forgotten heroines at the VAULT Festival

“Does that count for nothing?
Do I count for nothing”

Stuck at Six? Try 10. The truth is, sadly, that there are endless women whose histories have been misrepresented, or not even told but thankfully, there does seem to be a desire to tell those stories right now, accompanied by an appetite for them to be seen. Six is nominated for five Oliviers, Emilia has transferred into the West End and other shows at the VAULT such as The Limit have also got in on the act.

And why wouldn’t this be the case. Pretty much half of history has gone untold, unexplored, under-represented in our textbooks and in our culture, so it stands to reason that there’s acres of potential here. Lizzie Milton’s 10 identifies ten such women from across the centuries and across many disciplines, from medieval Mercian queens to Second World War heroines, abolitionists to painters, this is our real history. Continue reading “Review: 10, VAULT Festival”

Review: Invisible Cabaret – Let’s Get Visible, VAULT Festival

Invisible Cabaret – Let’s Get Visible tackles mental health awareness through the medium of burlesque at the VAULT Festival

“You can feel whatever you want to feel, within reason”

One of the more pronounced trends at this year’s VAULT Festival has been a multiplicity of work promoting mental health awareness, both in and outside of the officially curated Let’s Talk strand. There’s still a long way to go in fully destigmatising conversations about these difficult topics but it is gratifying to see so many creative dedicated to the cause.

Among that group is Invisible Cabaret, a cabaret and burlesque troupe whose show Let’s Get Visible is tackling these taboos in their own inimitable style. And though burlesque may not seem like the most obvious artform in which to do so, it proves surprisingly effective here, not least in the skilled compering from Rosie Verbose and her magnificent headpiece. Continue reading “Review: Invisible Cabaret – Let’s Get Visible, VAULT Festival”

Review: A Midsummer Night’s DROLL, VAULT Festival

The Owle Schreame’s A Midsummer Night’s DROLL is a supremely silly and highly enjoyable Shakespearean adaptation at the VAULT Festival

“This is the silliest stuff that I ever heard”

The Owle Schreame’s A Midsummer Night’s DROLL begins with a bit of a lecture, informing us how theatre survived during the Puritans’ purge, by going underground. Rough and ready adaptations of plays, called drolls, were performed guerilla-style – anticipating today’s pop-up theatre festivals…?! – wherever there was a Will and a way.

And once the intro is out of the way, we dive headlong into this raucous version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, claimed as the oldest surviving adaptation of a Shakespeare play. With its focus almost entirely on the Rude Mechanicals, it is huge amounts of fun, full of songs, silliness and a real commitment to the value of crowd-pleasing entertainment. Continue reading “Review: A Midsummer Night’s DROLL, VAULT Festival”

Review: Lucy Light, VAULT Festival

Sarah Milton’s Lucy Light is a powerful tale of female friendship tested to the max at the VAULT Festival

“You don’t have to do any of this on your own”

Is it wrong to like Atomic Kitten’s cover of ‘The Tide is High’? I suspect the answer would be a resounding yes for most people but for Lucy and Jess, two teenage girls from a northern seaside town, (and let’s face it, me), they’ve even got the dance routine from the video down pat, complete with brilliantly improvised wind machine.

They’ve just finished their GCSEs and life ought to be hunky dory but Lucy’s mum has got breast cancer, casting a shadow not only over this summer but over the next ten years as we see in Lucy Light. For the genetics of the c word, particularly when BRCA 1 is concerned, is a bastard but Lucy is prepared to make some tough decisions. Continue reading “Review: Lucy Light, VAULT Festival”

Review: Jinkx Monsoon & Major Scales – The Ginger Snapped, Leicester Square Theatre

Jinkx Monsoon & Major Scales’ cabaret show The Ginger Snapped mixes music, musings on mental health and moments of queer solidarity at the Leicester Square Theatre

“Take it from the whore’s mouth”

The best cabaret shows always find the sweet spot between concert and confessional and in The Ginger Snapped, Jinkx Monsoon and Major Scales manage to do just that. As a promised show disintegrates into a pseudo-therapy session, the pair delve into the murky waters of fame and fabulousness to reveal some of the toll it can take on one’s mental health.

Winner of season five of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Monsoon’s strengths are immediately apparent with the opening number which encapsulates everything about the kind of performer she is. Bantering with the audience, cracking jokes, working in all kinds of interplay with accompanist Scales and delivering some straight-up powerhouse vocals, there’s no mistaking this is the real deal. Continue reading “Review: Jinkx Monsoon & Major Scales – The Ginger Snapped, Leicester Square Theatre”

Review: Medea, Barbican

The incomparable Marieke Heebink astonishes in Simon Stone and ITA-ensemble’s production of Medea at the Barbican Theatre

“I remember us
That’s that I do now”

I first saw Simon Stone’s Medea in Amsterdam, in Dutch, without surtitles, and it was a revelatory experience which has lingered long in my memory as one of the best classical adaptations I’ve ever seen. So the chance to revisit it at the Barbican, once again anchored by the incomparable Marieke Heebink in Bob Cousins’ stunning design was unmissable.

And it did not disappoint in its ferocious retelling of Euripides’ classic, as Stone makes it feel urgent and chilling and all-too-appalling believable in its depiction of a woman pushed to the edge. Poleaxed by the revelation of her husband’s affair with his boss’s daughter, her extreme actions saw her committed to a psychiatric institution. A year later on her release, she craves a fresh start but finds the world has moved on without her. Continue reading “Review: Medea, Barbican”