Review: The Story / Hela, Theatre503

The Other Room’s The Story and Hela make a delightful and daring double bill of Welsh drama at Theatre503

Do’s dim hawl ’da ti adael,
You don’t get to leave,
Do’s dim hawl ’da ti anghofio pwy wyt ti
You don’t get to forget who you really are”

A brilliant idea this – Cardiff’s OG pub theatre The Other Room has gathered up the three plays that made up their recent The Violence Series and sent them out on tour. They’re mainly visiting Welsh venues but there’s also a stop at Theatre503, allowing London audiences a highly tempting taster of the quality of work available at the other end of the M4.

I caught two of the three – The Story and Hela being presented in a double bill, Matthew Bulgo’s American Nightmare making up the set of dystopian dramas. That said, you have to wonder at what point we stop calling it dystopia and simply call it tomorrow, a pressing sense of disturbing resonance and relevance that is particularly brought out in Tess Berry-Hart’s The Story. Continue reading “Review: The Story / Hela, Theatre503”

Review: The Process, Bunker Theatre

BAZ Productions’ The Process proves bold and striking in its use of BSL and spoken English, if a little flawed too, now running at the Bunker Theatre

“Would you like me to speak for myself?”

You can’t say they didn’t warn you. Captions like “no-one will understand everything” and “no two people can have the same experience” flash up on the wall before The Process starts – “that is how it is meant to be” we’re gently but insistently told.  For this is a story told in both BSL and spoken English, with overlaps and gaps deliberately built in, probing at our need to understand everything, exemplifying that for some, that is an unimaginable luxury.

Sarah Bedi’s play posits a near-dystopia (ie sometime soon after 31st January…!) where notions of personal economic cost have become a major driver in a political system where the power of the state is becoming monolithic. Jo Kay, a Deaf entrepreneur, has developed the app which is being used to measure people’s contributions and costs to society but though she is ostensibly being celebrated as part of the establishment, she soon sees her tool weaponised against her. Continue reading “Review: The Process, Bunker Theatre”

Review: Tom Brown’s School Days, Union Theatre

A musical adaptation of Tom Brown’s School Days at the Union Theatre has some moments, and performances, to treasure

“Just don’t get caught”

It is now the fifth year that the Phil Willmott Company’s themed series of Essential Classics has taken over the Union Theatre and this year’s season takes on the mantle of V.E. Day, 75 Years On, looking at Britain and WWII through the lens of Noël Coward, musical theatre and this opening production of Tom Brown’s School Days.

Full disclosure, I have to admit to knowing basically nothing about Tom Brown…, Thomas Hughes’ novels and its subsequent adaptations never having figured in my childhood. So the fact that Willmott’s new version moves the action from the 1830s to the 1940s has no impact on my expectations, though it has raised an eyebrow or three from those to whom I’ve mentioned it. Continue reading “Review: Tom Brown’s School Days, Union Theatre”

Review: Antigone, New Diorama

Holy What’s Antigone at the New Diorama shifts the focus of Sophocles’ play onto two young sisters to powerful effect

“Do you think they’ll come back from the war…both of them?”

There’s a pleasing trend toward giving voice to the under-represented through revisiting familiar narratives (cf Six, & Juliet; Teenage Dick) and Holy What’s new production of Antigone makes for a fine addition to that canon. Lulu Raczka’s adaptation of Sophocles’ Greek classic resites the story as an ongoing  interaction between the two sisters Antigone and Ismene and proves all the more compelling for it.

The result is a restless psychological study that forefronts sisterhood, teenage emotion and the impact that trauma has on those left behind. Set in the elegant but eerie space of Lizzie Leech’s metatheatrical design, Tig and Issy play a series of games to try and distract themselves from the fact that their Uncle Creon has locked them in while their brothers Eteocles and Polynices wage civil war against each other. But games only go so far… Continue reading “Review: Antigone, New Diorama”

Review: Six the Musical, Lowry

A belated report on a family trip to the Lowry to see the touring version of the ever-exciting Six the Musical

“It’s the end of the show of the historemix
We switched up the flow and we changed the prefix”

It’s not too often that I get to go to the theatre with my whole family, so a festive trip to the Lowry to see Six the Musical was a definite treat over Christmas. And to see it from the front row too…quite the experience. I’ve seen the show one and a bit times before so I knew what to expect, but the thrill of being that close really did make a difference (even if I was convinced that Katherine Howard was going to kick me in the face at some point or other!).

And it was great to see all 10 of us really enjoy ourselves, grandparents to grandkids (and me the middle child, what else?!). Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss’ anarchic history – sorry, herstory! –  lesson has lost none of its effervescence or energy in this touring version. It helps of course that it is a relatively lo-tech show to run but it has clearly settled well in Salford for this Christmas sojourn as it was packed out and an extra week has been added to the schedule too. Continue reading “Review: Six the Musical, Lowry”

The Curtain Up Show Album of the Year 2019 winners

Controversial perhaps, but I disagree with all three of these decisions! You can’t trust the public to vote for anything these days… congratulations to all the winners though

Best UK Cast Recording
& Juliet – Original London Cast Recording
Company – 2018 London Cast Recording
Follies – 2018 National Theatre Cast Recording
WINNER – Heathers (Original West End Cast Recording)
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ – 2019 Original London Cast
Tina – The Tina Turner Musical Original Cast Recording

Best American Cast Recording
Beetlejuice (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Hadestown (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Jagged Little Pill (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
WINNER – Moulin Rouge (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Oklahoma! (2019 Broadway Cast Recording)
Tootsie (Original Broadway Cast Recording)

Best Solo Album
Cassidy Janson – Cassidy
Ramin Karimloo – From Now On
WINNER – John Owen-Jones –Spotlight
Ben Platt – Sing To Me Instead
Jon Robyns – Musical Directions
Hayden Tee – Face to Face

The finalists of The Offies 2020

The finalists for the 2020 Offies (for performances in 2019) have been announced and congratulations to all 89 mentioned below. A tip of the hat too to the 400+ nominees who you can find here.

DESIGN

Design: Costume
Adrian Gee, Amour, Charing Cross Theatre
Emily Bestow, 42nd Street, Upstairs at the Gatehouse
Hannah Wolfe , Great Expectations, National Youth
Theatre, Southwark Playhouse

Design: Set
Diego Pitarch, Night of the Living Dead – Live!,
Pleasance
Justin Williams, Whistle Down the Wind, Union
Theatre
Lee Newby, The View UpStairs, Soho Theatre
Rachael Ryan, Thrill Me, Hope Theatre

Design: Sound
Benjamin Grant, The War of the Worlds, New Diorama
Lex Kosanke, Hunger, Arcola
Matt Eaton, All’s Well That Ends Well, Guildford Bard,
Jermyn Street Theatre
Xana, Blood Knot, Orange Tree

Design: Lighting
Christopher Nairne, Preludes, Southwark Playhouse
Clancy Flynn, An Act of God, Vaults
Jessica Hung Han Yun, Equus, English Touring Theatre,
Theatre Royal Stratford East
Nic Farman, Night of the Living Dead – Live!, Pleasance

Design: Video
Andrzej Goulding, The Unreturning, Theatre Royal
Stratford East
Ben Bull, Baby Reindeer, Bush Theatre
Douglas Baker, Moby Dick, Jack Studio Theatre Continue reading “The finalists of The Offies 2020”

Film Review: Judy (2019)

Renée Zellweger is sensational in Judy, a deeply moving account of Judy Garland’s final months in London directed by Rupert Goold

“I just want what everybody wants. I seem to have a harder time getting it.”

As if there were any doubt, Judy is a phenomenal success, and should see its star Renée Zellweger add to her tally of Academy Award nominations, if not the award itself. Loosely based on Peter Quilter’s play End of the Rainbow, it recalls the final year of Judy Garland’s life as a roll of the dice sees her decamp to London to perform in a series of concerts that she hoped would reignite interest in her career whose light was seriously fading in the US.

But years of substance abuse and the relentless ride of showbusiness have taken a serious toll, even just turning up on time proves a struggle (hard relate!) and that iconic voice can no longer be relied upon. Thus Tom Edge’s screenplay takes a slightly more realism-based approach than the play to show us the riskiness that accompanied Judy’s every step towards a stage and the slow, crushing realisation of what her life has amounted to. Continue reading “Film Review: Judy (2019)”

Film review: Downton Abbey (2019)

Baron Fellowes of West Stafford stretches not a single muscle in pumping out more of the same in the tiresomely dull Downton Abbey the movie

“I want everything to stop being a struggle”

To crib the tagline of a certain jukebox musical (here we go again…) you already know whether you’re a fan of Downton Abbey the movie. By any stretch of the imagination, it is just an extension of the TV series and so is guaranteed to maintain that same level of comfort that you have always got from the Granthams et al, whether that’s good or bad.

For me, it means a thoroughly unchallenging film and one which proves increasingly dull. (For reference, I’ve only ever seen (some of) the Christmas Day episodes as my parents are fans.) The hook of the film is that it is now 1927 and King George V and Queen Mary are coming to stay for the evening and heavens to Betsy, we’re all of a dither. Continue reading “Film review: Downton Abbey (2019)”

Film Review: Mrs Lowry & Son (2019)

Vanessa Redgrave and Timothy Spall are always watchable but Mrs Lowry & Son lacks the quality they deserve

“Anything’s possible living in Pendlebury”

Mrs Lowry & Son has two things going for it, in the shape of up-and-coming names Vanessa Redgrave and Timothy Spall in its two leading roles. Watch out for them, they’re bound to go far etc etc… What this biopic-of-sorts lacks though, is a film to match their talents.

Martyn Hesford has adapted his own radio play for the screen here and Adrian Noble’s direction does little to disguise the static staginess of its very nature. It covers the relationship between renowned artist LS Lowry and his unsupportive bed-ridden mother, at the point where his artistic career has yet to truly flourish. Continue reading “Film Review: Mrs Lowry & Son (2019)”