How-could-it-be-a-review: The National Theatre Theatre Quiz 2015

“It’s from that play with lots of words…”

My first ever trip to the institution that is the National Theatre Christmas Quiz saw teams of four from current shows Husbands and Sons and doing battle for the honour of, well, several bottles of fizz as it turned out. With Emma Freud as Quizmistress and Angus Deayton keeping the scores, it was a light-hearted 45 minutes of festive fun.

Rounds varied from odd-one-out, working out song lyrics from a dry line reading by Deayton, guess which NT show the costume was from, to Taboo-style-guessing-games, and a surprising array of knowledge troves and hidden talents soon came to life – Anne-Marie Duff was very up on her theatrical knowledge, Julia Ford is clearly itching to do a musical and Anna Francolini bossed everything (apart from Katie Mitchell…). Continue reading “How-could-it-be-a-review: The National Theatre Theatre Quiz 2015”

Blogged: #StarForADay

The guys at Hotel Direct now have a new theatre hub called Theatre Breaks and they’ve launched an competition for theatre writers and bloggers to become a #StarForADay by creating a themed day out in London based on a character from a West End show.

After some serious thought, I’ve opted to be Erik, the Phantom himself from Phantom of the Opera

– Since being out and about in broad daylight isn’t really an option for your average Phantom-about-town, I would spend the daytime visiting The London Dungeons as it’s always good to get subterranean and be among familiar faces like my old mate Jack the Ripper.

– You can get hungry mooching about underground though so when it gets to tea-time, I’d head over to a classic French restaurant like Boulestin in St James, where they make old-school food just like Maman used to.

– Then it would be time to go to Her Majesty’s Theatre on Haymarket to see Andrew Lloyd Webber’s version of certain personal events in Phantom of the Opera. He’s got many of the details wrong but that’s probably for the best…

– And then to wrap up the evening, where else but below ground again! Post-show cocktails will be in order at Cahoots underground bar which is decked out like a London Underground tube station which reminds me of the Métro back in my beloved Paris.

#ThankyouNick – my top 10 (and then some) National Theatre productions of the Hytner era

“Pass it on, boys. That’s the game I want you to learn. Pass it on”

Ever one to jump on a bandwagon, here’s my contribution to the #ThankyouNick love-in, as Nick Hytner bids farewell to the National Theatre. Narrowing down my favourite productions at the South Bank venue was hugely difficult given the number of shows I’ve seen there since moving to London just over 10 years ago and also in considering other memorable moments – like the joy of getting to see the likes of Vanessa Redgrave and Juliette Binoche onstage for the first time, the jaw-dropping design feats like Bunny Christie’s tenement block for Men Should Weep and Mark Tildesley’s clanging bell in Frankenstein, the revelatory Shakespearean moments like Clare Higgins’ awesome Gertrude and the extraordinary emotion of the final scene of Dominic Cooke’s The Comedy of Errors

Anyhoo, here’s my top 10 (plus five honourable mentions) in roughly chronological order.

Continue reading “#ThankyouNick – my top 10 (and then some) National Theatre productions of the Hytner era”

Belatedly blogged: The #LDNTheatreBloggers reach Planet Hollywood

“Push pineapple, shake a tree”

Though we do like to protest that we’re in this for more than free theatre tickets and free alcohol, the evil genius behind #LDNTheatreBloggers – the ever-sparkly Rebecca Felgate of Official Theatre has honed in on our weakness (meet-up #1 was gin-tasting, meet-ip #2 was espresso martini-making…) and managed the not inconsiderable feat of bringing together 40-odd bloggers from the cultural sphere on a chilly Friday night. And so thanks to the benevolence of Official Theatre and the guys from Seatplan (a crowd-sourced seat-reviewing website that I’d highly recommend you check out), we enjoyed the hospitality (and yummy finger food) (and 2-4-1 cocktail offers) of Planet Hollywood for a whole load of chat, competitions and Matilda singalongs.

The lovely ladies of Starling Arts told us of their plans to celebrate their impressive 5th anniversary with a concert, West End Wilma was hawking her wares – blue rinse doesn’t come cheaply these days 😉 – with her #stagey tote bags which you can buy from her site, The Gizzle Review was celebrated for its online growth, various people won t-shirts, I won a bottle of Prosecco, and all manner of theatrical and arts-based chat was had. It’s a great set-up although it can be difficult to make sure that you actually speak to everyone there new and old, the temptation to slip away to the bar and just chat to your pals is always strong but ’tis often the way with networking events.
If the idea of #LDNTheatreBloggersappeals to you and you are an arts blogger, whether based on theatre or something else, then I’d urge you to get involved. Just drop Rebecca a line on the contact form on this pageand you’ll soon get swept up into the friendly and interesting embrace of a like-minded community.

For me, I’ve loved meeting new people at the theatre and then recognising their faces at other opening nights and suchlike, and having a new avenue to distribute the plus ones I quite often receive. Also, the debates that flare up between the members of the group are becoming more and more fascinating as we skirt around the ever-contentious non-issue of online criticism versus print journalism and what role we might possibly have in helping to move the conversation along in a constructive and illustrative manner for all concerned. Watch this space because I think interesting things are going to happen!

Blogged: Stars in my eyes

I’m going to New York and this time, nobody’s gonna stop me… At the third time of trying (after traumatic passport lost and a wedding cancellation (someone else’s I should add), I will finally be making my way over to the Great White Way over New Year and though it will be my first trip there, I’m thinking I’m pretty much going to spend most of it in the theatre (where else!). I can do the touristy stuff next time because at the moment I’m just dazzled by the opportunities to see some proper famous people on the stage, shallow fame whore that I have turned out to be.

But even then, the people who I’m most excited about aren’t necessarily the ones you might expect – Bradley Cooper is headlining The Elephant Man but it’s Patricia Clarkson who’s most exciting me in that cast, Ewan McGregor may be the biggest name in Stoppard’s The Real Thingbut it’s the opportunity to see Maggie Gyllenhaal and Cynthia Nixon that is getting me there and if Hugh Jackman is the main draw in The River, it’s the unexpected appearance of our very own Cush Jumbo that is most intriguing. That said, there’s no point in me pretending that I’m more excited about Ruth Wilson than Jake Gyllenhaal in Nick Payne’s extraordinary Constellations – we’ll call it the most high-scoring draw ever.

Continue reading “Blogged: Stars in my eyes”

A night of blog-gin(g)

There aren’t many things I love as much as theatre, but gin is certainly one of them and so the invitation to a soirée that promised gin tasting and cocktail making – on a night when I had nothing booked – was pretty much a gimme. Organised by the delectably dressed Rebecca Felgate from Official Theatre, the evening promised gin and mingling (gingling if you will) with a wide range of theatre bloggers with the intention of trying to start to build something of a community around our shared interest. Of theatre that is, although if anyone wants to start a gin network, I am there.

Our cocktail cabinet for the evening

Continue reading “A night of blog-gin(g)”

Fed up with football? World Cup theatre offers

“Football crazy, football mad”

The World Cup kicks off on Thursday 12th June in São Paolo and will run for a goodly month as 64 games are played throughout Brazil (I’m tipping Bosnia and Colombia to do well, and Rooney to get sent off in his first game). Television and work schedules will be all askew as people try and wrestle with the time difference so the people at Theatre People have teamed up with a starting squad of West End stars to highlight a month of offers and discounts to wide range of shows which offer an alternative to sitting in and watching men in shorts on telly.  Continue reading “Fed up with football? World Cup theatre offers”

12 reasons to go and see Privacy at the Donmar Warehouse

“Ladies and gentlemen, please leave your mobile phones…on”

James Graham’s new play Privacy has just opened at the Donmar Warehouse and I cannot stress how much your viewing pleasure will be increased if you go into the theatre knowing as little as possible about it. So instead of reviewing it, I’ve taken inspiration from Buzzfeed and opted to go down the route of a list of 12 reasons to go and see it, within which is a gentle homage to the show 

1. I liked it

2. No, I really liked it

3. It’s written by the guy who wrote the frankly marvellous The Man (and the also good This House)

4. It has a fosterIAN award-winning actress in it

5. And a fosterIAN award-winning actor

7. It also has #TinyHamlet in the cast
8. It’s in a convenient central London location
9. You get instructions when you arrive
10. You’ll find things out about Google 

11. And about selfies

So there you have it, why wouldn’t you try and get tickets?! Sign up to the Front Row scheme if you haven’t done so already and you could be seeing it from amazing seats for just a tenner.

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 31st May

Blogged: S&S Award

“Find the words”

Set up in honour of and named after his parents Sidney and Sylvia, The S&S Award was created by Warner Brown as a celebration of new and as yet unproduced British musical theatre writing and held its inaugural award presentation at the St James Theatre on Sunday 24th November 2013. Don Black presented the prize to this year’s winners – Scott Gilmour and Claire McKenzie – for their show Forest Boy, of which we saw an extended excerpt but the audience were also treated to snippets from other shows in the running for this new prize.

Recent graduates of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Gilmour and McKenzie based Forest Boy on the true 2011 story of a boy who appeared in Berlin claiming to have spent the last five years living in the woods with his father. But rather than a straight retelling, they use song and dance – movement director Emily-Jane Boyce contributing some excellent work – to explore the psychological journey of the young man, the troubled relationship with his parents, and the power of the imagination to invent and/or protect, as the truthfulness of his fantastical tale is probed by officials. Continue reading “Blogged: S&S Award”

Blogged: NoFit State Circus, the Eden Project and me

Roll up roll up… just the mere mention of the word ‘circus’ has to be one of the most evocative in the English language. Whether from personal experiences or from the multitude of cultural references in which the circus plays a key part – mine include trips to Blackpool Circus in infant school (the water!!), this frequently chilling Doctor Who story and of course Dumbo – there’s something undeniably persuasive about it, a sense of magical escapism that means the brain never quite discounts running away to the circus as a potential life choice 😉

But times change and so too has the circus, or at least some parts of it, as can be seen in the rise of the incredibly popular strand of contemporary circus. Companies like NoFit State and shows like La Clique and La Soirée, and Cantina (which is still running at the London Wonderground) may have left the animals behind but in doing so have focused the attention onto the often breath-taking, boundary-pushing physical endeavours of their human ensembles. So when I was invited to come and preview NoFit State Circus’ upcoming show at the Eden Project in Cornwall, it was something of a no-brainer. I’d never been to this part of the UK before, the offer to teach us some circus skills intrigued and the clips on YouTube looked frankly amazing.

NoFit State partnered with the Eden Project last year, creating the site-specific show Labyrinth which proved to be a huge success and so producers Tom Rack of NoFit and Tom Critchley of the Eden Project decided to continue that relationship for a second summer. This year’s show – Bianco – is being written and directed by Firenza Guidi and has been designed with a view to taking the show on an extensive tour after its run here in Cornwall. The full company of artistes had only just come together before our visit, but the 10 minute snippet of the show that we were privileged to witness already had a pulsing, vibrant energy and the makings of something really rather spectacular. Continue reading “Blogged: NoFit State Circus, the Eden Project and me”