“You’re like Huckleberry Finn on a raft of rent boys”
I’m not sure at what point something moves from just being popular to becoming a trend, but containing either onstage narration and/or male nudity seems to be recurring with alarming regularity in plays this year. The Little Dog Laughed contains both, but more on those later!
It’s a tale of a up and coming Hollywood actor, Mitchell Green, who just happens to be a closeted homosexual but using the cover of a relationship with his lesbionic agent, Diane in order to maintain the facade. He’s then thrown when he meets and falls for a rent boy, Alex who has a girlfriend Ellen, and decides that he wants to pursue this relationship and come out to the public. This is played against a sub-plot of Diane trying to get a ‘gay play’ made into a movie as a star vehicle for Mitchell, but needing it to be ‘de-gayed’ in order for it to be made and to maintain Mitch’s straight front. Continue reading “Review: The Little Dog Laughed, Garrick”
“Every person is a new door, opening up into new worlds”
John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation receives its first revival in 18 years with this David Grindley directed production at the Old Vic. Based on a true story of a conman finagling his way into the lives of wealthy Manhattan socialites by pretending to be the son of Sidney Poitier, we see the lives of two New York art dealers, Ouisa and Fran Kittredge turned upside down after they take an injured Paul into their home and he wreaks havoc on their lives and those of them around them as he challenges their comfortable existences. It is kept in its original 1980s setting, presumably as the issues around financial greed are as pertinent today, even if those around race and homosexuality are less so.
Onstage narration seems to be the flavour of the month and it is a tricky thing to get right: Innocence fails, Midsummer gets it right, here is somewhere in the middle. There’s a mixture of Ouisa and Fran, and indeed other characters, narrating the events and the action being played out, and I’m not sure the balance is wholly there: it is just so much more entertaining when the actors are engaging with each other and I was frequently left wanting to see more of that. Continue reading “Review: Six Degrees of Separation, Old Vic”
“You can’t come in here with all your singing, dancing and…ethnic movements”
If Priscilla Queen of the Desert was the marshmallow on top of the whipped cream on top of your cocoa, then Legally Blonde is the full mug of the best Viennese hot chocolate you can imagine. Sticking closely to the story of the film, with just a little streamlining, we follow Elle Woods, a Malibu princess and sorority queen whose world is rocked when her boyfriend leaves her for Harvard Law School and the pursuit of someone more ‘serious’. Elle then follows him but ends up finding out a lot more about herself than she anticipated. The book is completely original and I found it surprisingly good, the opening numbers of ‘Ohmigod you guys’ and ‘What you want’ were both great tunes, ‘Ohmigod’ in particular will not leave your head for hours! There are of course some weaker numbers in there, but never any boring ones which is achievement enough. Continue reading “Review: Legally Blonde The Musical, Savoy”
“Everyone likes to dress up, wear some sequins, get in touch with their feminine side…apart from lesbians that is”
When I found out a great Canadian friend who just happens to be a huge musicals fan was stopping in town briefly in the festive season, I had little doubt of what would be the best thing for us to see: Priscilla Queen of the Desert. For this is not a show about about subtlety: using a carefully judged collection of familiar pop songs, some amazing costumes and a production design team whose maxim was clearly ‘more more more’, this is a fun-packed, crowd-pleasing spectacular that was the perfect anecdote to the horrible weather.
It’s based on the film of the same name, where three ill-matched drag performers take a road trip from Sydney to Alice Springs to meet up with the estranged wife and son of one of them, and little has been changed. Of the three leads, Tony Sheldon is superb as the transexual Bernadette, armed with a lifetime’s collection of quick one-liners, a steady grace and an unerring conviction in who she is. The trumpet anecdote is one of the funniest things you will hear all year and Sheldon’s performance holds the show together, elevating it beyond a series of drag turns. Continue reading “Review: Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Palace”
Seeing a deal on lastminute for restricted view tickets for a tenner, I thought I’d squeeze this revival of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in for a Saturday matinee, but was almost jeopardised by the seats we were allocated: seats AA1&2 in the Grand Circle don’t actually have a restricted view of the stage, because you are actually facing the audience! The seats are about 120 degrees to the stage so you’re basically facing most of the Grand Circle, a great opportunity to fulfil my Glenn Close in Dangerou Liaisons fantasy, but not the best for playwatching. To see the stage, you need to twist round and then lean quite far forward, which then forces everyone else in the row to lean too. Fortunately, with a house that was only 75% full, we were able to relocate at the end of the first act, but it is truly outrageous that these seats are up for sale at all.
As for the play itself, it is an updated version relocated into the 1980s according to the show literature, although there were curiously few references to this and I don’t think I would have worked it out had I not been informed of it. It’s a tale of a wealthy landowning family who are struggling to conceal the cracks caused by repressed homosexuality, inheritance struggles, alcoholism and the shadow of terminal illness, and I suppose the one benefit of shifting the timing of the play enables the fact that the cast are all black to be not considered an issue. Continue reading “Review: Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, Novello”
“It’s what is called a dilemma boy, you are on the horns of it”
After a discussion over the weekend about people who have not yet been made Dames and damn well ought to be, Imelda Staunton’s name came up amongst others (Fiona Shaw and Juliet Stevenson being my other choices), but when I had a check on this blog for the delightful Ms Staunton, I saw no mention of her despite being sure I had seen her earlier this year. Eventually I remembered it was Entertaining Mr Sloane at the Trafalgar Studios, way back in February, but somehow I’d neglected to write up the review. As I want this blog to be a full record of my theatregoing, I’m just going to make a few comments about what I remember of it with the help of some notes I made back then.
The play, written by Joe Orton in 1964, is one of the darkest comedies I think I have ever seen. In brief, a landlady and her brother are both overwhelmed with sexual desire when a charismatic young lodger moves into her house. Caught in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse as his psychopathic tendencies come to the fore, as the balance of power continually shifts around them in this battle for power and possession. Continue reading “Review: Entertaining Mr Sloane, Trafalgar Studios”
When it was first announced that John Barrowman would be taking one of the lead roles in La Cage au Folles, many, including myself, instantly called this a crazy decision. Having seen this show twice already with different casts, and it remaining one of my favourite things I have seen on the stage this year, I had my doubts about this particular casting decision but when a family delegation (including 3 major Barrowman fangirls) expressed their interest in coming down to see the show, tickets were booked.
The obvious criticism is that John Barrowman is too young and good-looking to play Albin, especially given the actors who have played the role here previously, but by casting an equally younger-looking and handsome Simon Burke as his lover, this production has been cleverly reconceived. Instead of being a meditation on a drag queen at the end of his career, the focus here is more on Albin’s insecurities about his relationship with Georges, the comment about not being able to play Salome any longer becomes more of a bitchy aside than a sad statement of truth. There has been a considerable injection of raunchiness into this production, with some very suggestive croissant eating that was dangerously close to the bone (fnarr fnarr) for a family show. However this more overt sexuality played very convincingly with the younger coupling and led to some hilarious scenes. Continue reading “Re-review: La Cage aux Folles, Playhouse”
“Young boys should be enjoying Nintendos, not old newreaders’ c*cks”
Tucked away in the basement of the Trafalgar Studios, Public Property is a new play, a “dark comedy”, written by Sam Peter Jackson. With a very attractive cast of Nigel Harman, Stephen Webb and Robert Daws, it is a sharply observed look at the world of celebrity scandal and spin doctors, and poses the eternal question: is all publicity, good publicity.
As a married but closeted, high profile newsreader with a new autobiography to sell, Geoffrey Hammond finds himself embroiled in a sex scandal when photographers catch him engaged in salacious activities with a 16 year old rent boy in his car. He turns to his publicist Larry to try and spin him out of what seems to be an impossible situation, but all is not what it necessarily seems as the long night goes on, revealing layers of deceit, the machinations of media spin and debates about the scandal-hungry press.
As the PR man Larry, Nigel Harman is excellent: wannabe Machiavellian in temperament and sharply dressed with a rapier wit, he spits out comic lines with verve and his interaction with his beleaguered client is a delicious exposition of a shifting power struggle in which there are no real winners. He also demonstrates a gift for physical comedy with some impressive leg muscles, I’ll say no more! As the homosexual newsreader, Daws is also good, petulantly defiant about public opinion on his private life, though craving their money through his poorly-received book and their adoration as a minor celeb. Although I did take issue with the underworked relationship with his male lover who was only made reference to intermittently despite allegedly being the love of his life, especially as this didn’t seem to fit with his emotional interactions with the rent boy Jamie. And given his desperation for his book to sell, I struggled to believe that he wouldn’t have had more inclination to use the situation as best to his advantage, his was a dubious moral centre to the play. Continue reading “Review: Public Property, Trafalgar Studios 2”
“I had never known what I was really like until I stopped smoking, by which time there was hell to pay”
I was looking forward to this, if only because it was my first trip to the Finborough Theatre: tucked away in Earl’s Court, this tiny fringe theatre has a sterling reputation and always has a highly varied programme, so off I went along the District Line to see what all the fuss was about. The play in question was Little Fish, advertised as the European premiere of a new musical by Michael John LaChiusa (a great name for a playwright, obviously I need to change mine so that I too can write musicals, Foster just ain’t exciting enough!)
The story is based on 2 short stories by Deborah Eisenberg, and revolves around a single New York gal, Charlotte, whose decision to give up smoking leads her down a path of startling self-realisation, as she comes to terms with her troubled past to try and deal with her current unhappiness and finally learn how to enjoy life in the city. It is presented in an episodic form, with key scenes from Charlotte’s past being interspersed throughout the modern day storyline of her trying to find activities to help keep her off the tobacco. I loved this portrayal of urban life as it felt so much more authentic than any number of television shows would have us believe, and the difficulties in maintaining friendships in the face particularly rang true.
Continue reading “Review: Little Fish, Finborough”