News: keep Clowns and carry on

In which I ask WWPD (what would Patti do) and decide to honour my reviewing schedule as best as I can

“A toast to that invincible bunch”

So…what’s a Clown to do in times of Coronavirus, apart from look longingly at this amazing Patti LuPone photoshoot from Town and County Magazine? It’s hard, if not impossible, to know what the right thing to do is at an unprecedented moment like this. When the creative industries that I love and cherish so dearly are under threat of being decimated, when the day job is also wracked by uncertainty, when the act of trying to manage my own anxiety feels hard enough on its own. Heck, even the idea of staying in of an evening feels strange after a decade of intensive theatregoing.

My answer, for now, is to keep busy and to that end, I am going to be honouring my reviewing schedule as it looked for the forthcoming month. Obviously I can’t reviews shows that haven’t happened but I’m going to try to pull together mini-feature pieces for them, to collate any previews and interviews they may have done, to give you the means of staying in touch with the companies and theatres and most significantly, the ways in which any support that you can offer can be given. Obviously, the precariousness of the situation affects so many of us but any assistance that can be offered, in any shape, will surely help in the process of getting through to the other side. Do as Patti says – “everybody rise”.

 

Photos: Douglas Friedman, styled by Ryan Young

TV Review: Beautiful People (Series 1)

Perfect fun for lockdown viewing, Series 1 of Beautiful People is an indisputable camp classic

“Reading’s such a dump guys, I don’t know how you do it”

There’s camp and then there’s camp. The first episode of Series 1 of Beautiful People contains, among other things, Égoïste advert reenactments, Tennessee Williams-based inner monologues to the tune of  ‘I Will Survive’, future dames Sarah Niles and Olivia Colman wrestling to the tune of ‘Spice Up Your Life’, and Sophie Ellis-Bextor covering ‘Jolene’. Naturally, it is huge amounts of fun.

Written by Jonathan Harvey from Simon Doonan’s memoirs, this 2008 comedy drama follows the life of thirteen-year-old Simon, who isn’t letting the fact that he lives in the sururban drudgery of Reading get in the way of being absolutely fabulous. He dreams of moving to London but until then, we get to see tales from his eventful childhood. Continue reading “TV Review: Beautiful People (Series 1)”

Interview: founder of New UK Musicals and composer extraordinaire Darren Clark

As new digital sheet music store New UK Musicals launches, I talk with multi-award winning composer & lyricist Darren Clark about the site and his career

Darren Clark has been responsible for two of my favourite shows of recent years in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Wicker Husband so I was interested to discover that he has been keeping very busy during lockdown, creating New UK Musicals

New UK Musicals is an online platform where you will be able to purchase sheet music from some of the best new musical theatre writers working in the UK today. It’s a digital store where performers and fans can listen to online samples, purchase fresh, new songs and also connect with the writers who create them.

Designed and built during lockdown, the site launches with a competition for performers who will be able to buy and download selected songs from the site and upload videos of themselves performing to New UK Musicals. First prize includes a number of free downloads from the site as well as the opportunity to perform alongside West End stars in a special edition of Adam Lenson’s SIGNAL Online Concert Series celebrating the work of these writers on the 16th June.

Writers represented on the site include: Finn Anderson (Islander), Rebecca Applin (Jabberwocky), Bateman & Conley (The Sorrows of Satan), Ed Bell (My 80 Year Old Boyfriend), Darren Clark (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Elliot Davis (Loserville), Gus Gowland (Pieces of String), Teresa Howard (I Capture the Castle), Richy Hughes (Superhero), Carl Miller (Wasted), Noisemaker (My Left Right Foot), Eamonn O’Dwyer (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow), Susannah Pearse (Jabberwocky), Victoria Saxton (Marriage a la Mode), Amir Shoenfeld (Benny in Beta), Emily Rose Simons (Confessions of a Rabbi’s Daughter), Tim Sutton (The Secret Garden), Stiles & Drewe (The Wind in the Willows), Webborn & Finn (The Clockmaker’s Daughter) and Wigmore and Green (Van Winkle). Continue reading “Interview: founder of New UK Musicals and composer extraordinaire Darren Clark”

TV Review: Unprecedented, Episode 5

Chloë Moss, Nathaniel Martello-White and Jasmine Lee-Jones make Episode 5 of Unprecedented unmissable 

“I want people not screens”

One of the main strengths, for me, of Unprecedented has been the sheer variety of the writing that has responded to Covid-19 here. Previous episodes (#1, #2, #3, #4) have all impressed but the combination of writers in this fifth instalment really captures that lightning-in-a-bottle potential that makes the best theatre spark.

I watched Chloë Moss’ Everybody’s Talkin’ whilst hungover but not even I can blame the huge weeping tears on that alone, this is a beautifully pitched, gorgeously performed slice of family drama in miniature. Three daughters gather on Zoom to speak with their recently bereaved mother but the trials of finding a new normal, within the context of already having find a new normal is full of unimaginable pain. Moss’ writing and Caitlin McLeod’s direction speaks directly to the challenges that so many faced even before coronavirus hit, and during, and Sue Johnston leads the cast marvellously.

Continue reading “TV Review: Unprecedented, Episode 5”

Review: Hairspray Live (The Show Must Go On)

A joyous production of Hairspray Live gives you hope that the show will go on with The Show Must Go On

“You can wonder i you wanna but I never ask why”

I assumed that since The Show Must Go On went with The Sound of Music Live last week that they would be working their way through the series of live TV musicals that NBC had aired in the US. In going with Hairspray Live this weekend though, it seems that we’ve skipped Peter Pan and The Wiz (maybe due to rights issues?), though it’s not necessarily the worst thing as Hairspray is such a joyous show it should perk up many a flagging spirit.

It proves far superior to The Sound of Music and you have to believe that it stems from a far more successful casting policy. Heading out for a national casting call for Tracy works because she’s such an everywoman character but even then, newcomer Maddie Baillio is thoroughly charming. Having Harvey Fierstein reprise his Edna is a masterstroke and then roping in Tony winners Kristin Chenoweth and Jennifer Hudson indicates that the right strengths were being looked for. Continue reading “Review: Hairspray Live (The Show Must Go On)”