Review: & Juliet, Shaftesbury Theatre

Late 90s pop is always my jam so a musical that features it is always going to be a winner. The brilliant & Juliet is so much more besides as well though, don’t miss it at the Shaftesbury Theatre.

“You hear my voice, your hear that sound
Like thunder, gonna shake the ground”

What if Juliet didn’t die? And what if the writer and producer of some of the most iconic pop music of the last two decades (think Britney, Backstreet Boys, Céline, Katy Perry, Robyn, Kelly Clarkson, P!nk just to name a few) decided to lend his back catalogue of songs to a new musical dedicated to her? The result is & Juliet, a slice of energetic and hugely entertaining musical theatre that explodes with joy at the Shaftesbury Theatre. 

David West Read’s smartly self-aware book employs a metatheatrical twist as we open with William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway having a barney about the ending to his latest play Romeo and Juliet and she persuades him to give her a bash at writing a new one with him. Thus we pick up in Verona where Juliet reclaims ‘…Baby One More Time’ from Darius and declares her intention to flee to Paris with her best gal pals and flirt with some foreign guys. But as William and Anne tinker with their plotting, the fractures in their own relationship come to the fore, causing some major new plot twists. Continue reading “Review: & Juliet, Shaftesbury Theatre”

Review: I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, Chiswick Playhouse

A genuinely updated I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change is a really rather lovely thing at the newly renamed Chiswick Playhouse

“The groom tried to stroke me
While we danced the Hokey Pokey”

Expectation can be a funny thing. A revival of Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Roberts’ musical I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change was the choice to christen the newly renamed Chiswick Playhouse (the Tabard as was) but as I caught a version with a luxury cast and terrible venue choice a few years ago, I wasn’t hugely enthusiastic about the prospect of seeing the show again.

But Charlotte Westenra’s production emerges as a really rather lovely thing, benefitting from an updating that does a fantastic job of retooling the show for a contemporary audience. There may be those who roll their eyes but the incorporation of same sex storylines and stronger female voices, while still maintaining the integrity of the book, genuinely makes it all the more powerful. Continue reading “Review: I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, Chiswick Playhouse”

Review: The Green Fairy, Union Theatre

New musical The Green Fairy is a bleak but bold experience at the Union Theatre, featuring the unmissable, almighty voice of Julie Atherton

“So how are you, aside from being an alcoholic”

The Green Fairy announces itself as “a queer pub musical” which sounds like a genre that should have existed for years already and certainly feels like one rich with potential. And in the hands of debut musical writers Jack Sain (book, music and lyrics) and Stephen Libby (lyrics) together with dramaturg Hannah Hauer-King, it proves intriguing, even if the final effect is considerably more Once than Old Compton Street.

Which is a good thing because this musical fully embraces its intimate actor-musician ensemble and  in a still all-too-rare occurrence, focuses on the L (or perhaps the B) in LGBT+. It is open mic night at newly refurbished pub The Green Fairy and knowing her estranged daughter is going to be singing, Jo turns up to the place where she used to work and live and drink, and where the ghosts of her past – her girlfriend, her husband, her childhood best friend – still linger on. Continue reading “Review: The Green Fairy, Union Theatre”

Review: Soho Cinders, Charing Cross Theatre

This amiable revival of Soho Cinders makes for an alternative festive treat at the Charing Cross Theatre

“Hoping for the hum-drum,
Is that aiming high”

I have great affection for Stiles & Drewe’s musical Soho Cinders, from its concert beginnings to a starry Soho Theatre production to a warm revival at the Union Theatre, its escapist fun nature and tuneful score remain quietly appealing. And it is that last Union production that has been reconceived for a new run at the Charing Cross Theatre, featuring some of the same cast members and beefed up with newcomers from Six and Jamie.

The show is a loose LGBT+ adaptation of the Cinderella story, updated to a contemporary London setting, albeit an improbably affordable and innocent pre-smartphone age. Robbie is a young man struggling to make ends meet with his Old Compton Street laundrette and consequently dallying with a sugar daddy, despite simultaneously hooking up with prospective mayoral candidate James Prince, who just happens to have a fiancée. It’s a daft plot but amiable, even if it doesn’t bear too much close scrutiny (clandestine meetings in Trafalgar Square?!). Continue reading “Review: Soho Cinders, Charing Cross Theatre”

Not-a-review: Botticelli in the Fire, Hampstead Theatre

Blanche and Britney ought to be a winning combination bur Botticelli in the Fire at the Hampstead Theatre is a damp squib

“They’re going to kill you. They’re going to worship you, don’t get me wrong. But they are going to kill you”

I’ve long been a fan of Blanche McIntyre and so appreciate any opportunity to see her direct away from the RSC. Jordan Tanahill’s knowingly chaotic Botticelli in the Fire is full of all kinds of riotous energy and queer representation but for me, it just wasn’t the one.

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Photo: Manuel Harlan
Botticelli in the Fire is booking at the Hampstead Theatre until 23rd November

Review: Tickle the Musical, King’s Head Theatre

Set in the world of competitive enduance tickling, Tickle the Musical proves a rather good-natured, sweet thing at the King’s Head Theatre

“There’s something interestingly subtextual going on there”

I probably shouldn’t admit this but I am extremely ticklish, to the point where even looking at someone getting tickled sends a little shiver down my spine. So naturally I booked in to see a musical about competitive enduance tickling (it’s a thing – I’d say google it, at your own peril…) but at a safe distance from any of the feather dusters lurking on the stage.

Chris Burgess’ Tickle the Musical proves to be a rather good-natured, sweet thing that wisely takes itself not at all seriously and is all the more effective for it. A feather-light plot sees smalltown boys Chris and Callum offered fame and fortune (well, five hundred quid) by the calculating Davina Diamond to tickle each other on film, for her website – what on earth could go wrong?!

After a slightly slow beginning, Robert McWhir’s production launches into life once it leans properly into its inherent campness. As Davina declares that two fit lads in short shorts tickling each other isn’t gay in ‘It’s Not Gay’, tongues are placed firmly in cheeks and the homoeroticism is allowed to soar off the chart. By the time we’re at the tickling world championship, you really will be asking what would Julie Andrews do…
Continue reading “Review: Tickle the Musical, King’s Head Theatre”

Review: Mission Creep, White Bear Theatre

Bee Scott’s very funny Mission Creep proves an impressive exploration of some of the more neglected facets of queer identities at the White Bear Theatre

“What the fuck do you think this is, The Handmaid’s Tale in space?”

It can sometimes feel like every day is marking something or other – it’s Black History Month, today is both #PronounsDay and #WorldFoodDay, next week is Asexual Awareness Week and while it is all too easy to roll one’s eyes at yet another date, there’s something invaluable about the opportunities they offer to open our eyes to the rich plurality of the world around us. So words like queerplatonic and asexuality are bandied around in Bee Scott’s new queer sci-fi play Mission Creep, it proves an educative as well as entertaining experience.

And it really is entertaining. For all the weighty themes here – a nuclear apocalypse rages around the characters – Paul Anthoney’s production is a finely calibrated comedy, fully embracing the ridiculousness that is sure to accompany the end of the world. Asexual Tess and bisexual Liam have clocked how to escape impending doom, by gaming their fertility to sign up to an intergalactic relocation project. They just need to convince the authorities that they’re a regular cishet couple ready and willing to procreate. Easy, right…? Continue reading “Review: Mission Creep, White Bear Theatre”

Review: A Partnership, Theatre503

Rory Thomas-Howes’ two-hander A Partnership takes an incisive look at modern gay relationships at the Theatre503

“I don’t know why I thought tonight would be any different”

Playing out over an hour of real time, Rory Thomas-Howes’ two-hander A Partnership takes an incisive look at modern gay relationships and asks big questions about what they could and should like, now that so many battles over equality have been won. Now that the gays can have a ‘normal’ life, what might that look like?

For Zach, it means breakfast islands, posh toastie makers and a Nutribullet. For Ally, it means being able to hold his boyfriend’s hand in the pub on a work do, maybe even give him a kiss. And as the pair of them return to their new flat to wait out the hour before Ally’s 30th birthday starts, the faultlines in their five-year relationship begin to buckle. Continue reading “Review: A Partnership, Theatre503”

Review: Karaoke Play, Bunker Theatre

Annie Jenkins’ impeccably acted Karaoke Play proves quietly devastating at the Bunker Theatre

“I’ve got a fucking funny story
It’s me”

What’s your go-to karaoke track? Mine is ‘What Have I Done To Deserve This’, both the Dusty Springfield and the Pet Shop Boys parts natch, though it takes some doing to get the mike in my hand. But much as they’re easily derided, karaoke nights can offer moments of real insight into something of what our aspirational society has become, hardwired as they are into communities through their local pubs. And it is this rich seam of potential that Annie Jenkins mines with her new play Karaoke Play, directed superbly by Lucy Grace McCann. 

A canny piece of programming at the Bunker Theatre sees this Sunday/Monday show take full advantage of Zoe Hurwitz’s exceptional, hyper-realistic set design for main show We Anchor in Hope. It helps that Karaoke Play is set in a hostelry too but more than that, the informality of the pub chair seating peels back another level of artifice to allow a directness that is sometimes startling. And as Jenkins’ play weaves together 4 interconnected monologues that edge towards the deeply confessional, this sense of being in your local conjures up something subtly magical.
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Review: Torch Song Trilogy, Turbine Theatre

The Turbine Theatre opens with a production of 80s gay classic Torch Song Trilogy

“Just because I said that’s what I want doesn’t mean that’s what I want. I mean, that’s what I want but that doesn’t mean that I’m necessarily ready for it”

I remain unconvinced that what London wants, needs or is ready for is yet another new theatre but regardless, the Turbine Theatre is here, lurking under the arches in the shadow of Battersea Power Station like a cross between the Menier Chocolate Factory and the Union Theatre.

Its opening salvo is a production of Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy, directed by Drew McOnie in his straight play debut and in terms of appealing to – indeed finding – a new core audience (in lieu of the community of people who will actually live in this new development, heading for the gays makes for a wise choice. Continue reading “Review: Torch Song Trilogy, Turbine Theatre”