Review: Showstopper! The Improvised Musical, The Other Palace

So much fun to be had with the hilarious guys of Showstopper! The Improvised Musical at The Other Palace

“It’s time you felt my gay-rage”

I’ve been watching the Showstopper crew for as long as I’ve been blogging (the King’s Head was a great venue for them), so it’s a real treat to see them constantly move onwards and upwards, stepping up from their monthly West End residencies (which they’re still continuing) to a fully fledged 7 week run at The Other Palace, during which they’ll celebrate their 1,000th show.

For the uninitiated, Showstopper! The Improvised Musical is a show that is made up on the spot by a group of disgustingly talented comedians, taken from ideas given by the audience in terms of musical influences, plot twists and titles. It’s as simple as that and it is ingeniously done, night after night, to produce a brand new musical each time, which has never failed to leave me helpless with laughter. Continue reading “Review: Showstopper! The Improvised Musical, The Other Palace”

Review: Open, VAULT Festival

Christopher Adams and Timothy Allsop’s Open at the VAULT Festival is exactly the kind of fresh, forward-thinking queer theatremaking we need more of

“Do I want my first kiss to be on the District Line?”

A real sense of genuine feeling ripples all the way through Open. Husbands in real life, co-stars on this stage, Christopher Adams and Timothy Allsop’s play explores their nine year relationship and the ways in which it has evolved from meeting on Guardian Soulmates through civil partnership to marriage, accompanied by their decision to be open to sleeping with other men.

Statistics are tossed out – apparently 40% of gay couples are in open relationships – but what makes Open work is the specificity of the story being told here. This is no advertorial for all gay men to sleep around, but rather Chris and Tim’s deeply personal history being laid out, a bracingly frank investigation into the reasons for their choices and exactly how it made them feel. Continue reading “Review: Open, VAULT Festival”

Review: Gentleman Jack, Brockley Jack

Arrows & Traps’ #FemaleFirsts season kicks off with the striking Anne Lister biography Gentleman Jack at the Brockley Jack Theatre

“This is Paris
This is England
And this is Yorkshire!”

The temptation with biographies – particularly of those of trailblazing figures – can be to treat them with the kind of reverence that smooths away rough edges, excusing behaviour that would otherwise be questionable and questioned. So it is pleasing to see that Ross McGregor’s new play Gentleman Jack respects its subject enough to give a full picture of their life.

That subject is Anne Lister, a nineteenth century Yorkshirewoman whose determination to buck societal convention earned her the sobriquet of the “first modern lesbian”. Her daring lay more than just in her open sexuality though; as an heiress and landowner, she redefined expectations of what women could achieve society as she and her partner sought to break into the mining industry.

Continue reading “Review: Gentleman Jack, Brockley Jack”

Review: Drip, Bush Theatre

Tom Wells and Matthew Robins’ sweetly wonderful one-man musical Drip returns to the Bush Theatre

“Eat some toast, then eat more toast
(I love toast)”

In events I can’t imagine being repeated anytime soon, I was the nominated ‘audience hunk’ for this performance of Drip., and far be it from me to review my own performance but never has a wind-chime been tinkled so beautifully… This kind of light-touch audience interaction is threaded throughout the show and really helps to set the mood of slightly bemused wonder.

Tom Wells’ Drip popped up briefly in the library at the Bush Theatre last year, played Edinburgh over the summer and returns to W12 in the studio where its idiosyncratic charms prove well suited. A one-man musical, we follow 15 year old Liam as he makes a presentation to his school assembly in an attempt to win the annual Project Prize and more importantly, win back his friend Caz, Continue reading “Review: Drip, Bush Theatre”

Re-review: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Apollo

Michelle Visage joins Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and it is just as much fun as you’d imagine

“Tell it like it is but they don’t wanna know it.
Life don’t owe you no you owe it”

Having just celebrated its first birthday in the West End (a pleasant surprise to see such a musical thriving there), Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is starting to make the kind of moves that will hopefully see that success continue. Layton Williams will be stepping into Jamie’s killer heels when John McCrea finishes his award-winning turn at the front, and some borderline-stunt casting got me back to the Apollo no worries.

Chucking Michelle Visage into the cast is actually a rather inspired move. Regardless of what you think of her, her friend-to-the-gays credentials are beyond reproach, particularly where drag is concerned. and Miss Hedge is the kind of supporting role that doesn’t pull too much focus while still offering a couple of opportunities to shine. And Visage does seem to have settled right into the company.

Continue reading “Re-review: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Apollo”

Re-re-review: Company, Gielgud Theatre

I can’t keep away from Marianne Elliott’s award-winning Company, and it richly repays the rewatching

“A festive atmosphere pervades the room”

Hot on the heels of its double Evening Standard-award winning weekend, Company remains in sparkingly good form. And from the seats in the dress circle box (a bargainous £20 if you can find ’em), the slightly restricted view matters not a jot as the extreme proximity means you have something of the intimacy of watching a show at the Donmar. Which in a show of this quality means that there’s all sorts of detail that you can see, which isn’t immediately apparent from the back of the stalls.

Some of my key revelations from this visit (not necessarily restricted to things that we discovered by being close) : Continue reading “Re-re-review: Company, Gielgud Theatre”

Review: Lands, Bush Theatre

Devised by actors Leah Brotherhead and Sophie Steer, Antler’s Lands is a quirky treat in the studio at the Bush Theatre

“I CAN’T get off”

Leah likes a jigsaw, Sophie is fond of her little trampoline. But in the world of Lands, their preferences have turned into something more. Leah fills out her puzzles by giving detailed commentary on each jigsaw piece and Sophie, well she can’t remember when she actually last stopped bouncing. 

Created by actors Leah Brotherhead and Sophie Steer with director Jaz Woodcock-Stewart, Lands emerges as a gnomic study of compulsive behaviour and how it impacts on those we love. Trapped in their own cycles of addiction, we watch as their unspecified emotional connection becomes severely tested.  Continue reading “Review: Lands, Bush Theatre”

Re-review: Company, Gielgud

As if you needed more convincing, here’s another 5 star review of this superlative re-imagining of Sondheim’s Company

“Everything’s different, nothing’s changed.
Only maybe slightly rearranged”

From the moment Marianne Elliott’s new production of Company started, I knew that it wouldn’t be something I only saw once. Indeed, by the time we’d reached press night, that was my third time at the show! And now that an extension through to the end of March has been announced, there’s never been a better time to get booking. Read my 5 star review of Company for Official Theatre here.

Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes (with interval)
Photo: Brinkhoff Mogenburg
Company is booking at the Gielgud Theatre until 30th March

Review: The Distance You Have Come, Cockpit

A Scott Alan song cycle promises much but The Distance You Have Come doesn’t quite deliver at the Cockpit Theatre, despite its excellent cast

“I deserve to be seen
This dream feels way overdue”

Scott Alan’s reputation as a songwriter is without question. Over a number of albums over the last decade (a fair few of which I’ve reviewed here), he’s been able to count on an extraordinary array of performers to bring his music to life, songs which are unafraid to chart the lows as well as the highs of living, loving, losing, dreaming… The Distance You Have Come sees him maintain that quality of guestlist in a live setting, as he entwines together over 20 of his compositions into a song cycle.

It proves a curious enterprise though, one which doesn’t quite cohere in a way that the quality of these songs deserves. Alan wrote the book for the show, as well as directing, and you do wonder whether an outside perspective might have helped. The book tries to do an awful lot in the space of a few snatched sentences between songs and its ambition feels somewhat unnecessary if the show is to be a song cycle rather than a fledgling musical. Continue reading “Review: The Distance You Have Come, Cockpit”

Review: Company, Gielgud

The company of Company are simply sensational at the Gielgud Theatre – Rosalie Craig, Patti LuPone, Jonny Bailey…just book now!

“Everyone adores you, what an awful thing”

Phone rings, door chimes, in comes an adaptation of Company that subtly but definitively realigns it for a contemporary audience and makes you wonder how you could ever go back to the original as is. Marianne Elliott’s reworking is most notable for the regendering of its lead character – Bobby becomes Bobbie in the extraordinary hands of Rosalie Craig – but the changes it makes filter right down through the show, reflecting the changes in society since the show was written in 1970.

Sometimes it is overt. Amy becomes Jamie here, and Jonathan Bailey’s show-stopping delivery of ‘Getting Married Today’ (seriously, best priest in a show, ever) is underscored by the fact that gay marriage is a thing now. Less obvious is the switching of roles for Susan and Peter, she’s the professional go-getter and he’s the one who faints at the sight of blood. And even Larry becoming something of a toyboy for Joanne speaks towards an important rebuttal of the kinds of cultural stereotype that have been allowed to persist.  Continue reading “Review: Company, Gielgud”