Review: Much Ado About Nothing, Katzplace

A youthful and enthusiastic Much Ado About Nothing from Exploding Whale in the Katzpace Studio Theatre in London Bridge

“Is not that strange?”

A new theatre for me is always a treat and one tucked away under a bierkeller even more so (I still don’t know how I resisted some pre-show spätzle to go with my lovely Rosarda beer…). Katzpace has been open for a year in the basement of the wittily named Katzenjammers and it even has its own theatre company in residency – Exploding Whale – who are currently mounting a revival of their 2015 production of Much Ado About Nothing.   

In this quirky little 50 seater studio, a quirky little adaptation emerges, wittily directed by Mischief Theatre’s Ellie Morris. Relocated to a modern office setting, its first half is full of delightful little twists. Office politics in place of military tensions, work parties in place of masquerade balls, and the consequent tangled inter-relationships as suited to strip-lighted open plan rooms as they are to Sicilian sunshine. It’s a surprise they haven’t gone the whole hog and have war break out because someone used the microwave to reheat fish!   Continue reading “Review: Much Ado About Nothing, Katzplace”

Full list of 2018 UK Theatre Awards winners

The UK Theatre Awards are the only nationwide Awards to honour and celebrate outstanding achievements in regional theatre throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and they have just announced the winners for the 2018 awards, which include a well-deserved Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Theatre for Maxine Peake – take a look at her acceptance speech here. 

Continue reading “Full list of 2018 UK Theatre Awards winners”

Review: The Humans, Hampstead Theatre

Better than Eclipsed??!! The Humans leave me disappointed at the Hampstead Theatre

“You can never come back”

Huh. The Humans arrived at Hampstead Theatre with the glow of its 2016 Tony Award for Best Play still shining, particularly as its original cast have come over the Atlantic with it. And while I’m hugely appreciate of the opportunity to see another member of The Good Fight cast onstage, and the cast as a whole really were excellent, the play left me somewhat cold and unconvinced of its prize-winning pedigree.

On entering, the heart sinks at the realisation that we’re relying on the much-abused trope of a family coming together around the dinner table and sure enough, beneath the façade of familial jokes and enforced holiday bonhomie (it’s Thanksgiving natch), there’s a whole world of secrets and lies waiting to burst forth. Writer Stephen Karam also layers in a trip to a whole other genre which certainly grabs the attention, but that’s not to say that it works. Continue reading “Review: The Humans, Hampstead Theatre”

Review: The Inheritance, Noël Coward Theatre

After a scorching run at the Young Vic, Matthew Lopez’s The Inheritance makes a well-deserved transfer into the West End

“I couldn’t leave this place, not in my mind, not in my heart”

After a scorching run at the Young Vic, Matthew Lopez’s The Inheritance makes a well-deserved transfer into the West End. And though the seats (and some of the sightlines) at the Noël Coward Theatre make it a little bit more of an endurance test over its near-seven hours of drama, the experience remains a truly soul-enhancing, life-enrichening thing.

All but one of the original cast have returned (Jack Riddiford stepping in for Luke Thallon who has turned to alternative Cock in Chichester), but none of the production’s magic has been lost. Indeed, for those who have seen it before, it is almost better second time round as the exquisite agony of knowing what is to come deepens so much of the first part. Continue reading “Review: The Inheritance, Noël Coward Theatre”

Review: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit, Finborough

New at the Finborough Theatre, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center of New York City proves gently compelling

I can make cancer jokes. Because I have cancer”

Deep breath – Halley Feiffer’s play is entitled A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center of New York City, an entry into titles that are amusingly long when you start to read them but soon end up trying the patience (qv We Are Proud To Present… and I’d Rather Goya). Overall though, the play is better than that.

A wee slip of a thing at barely 80 minutes, it’s a admirably bold take on ‘the cancer play’. That much is clear from the ribald humour of its opening sequence and an initial sense that the focus isn’t going to be on the two women in the hospital beds, but rather their adult children – Cariad Lloyd’s Karla and Rob Crouch’s Don – who are putting in the hours at their bedsides. Continue reading “Review: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit, Finborough”

Review: Parents’ Evening, Jermyn Street

A two-hander full of game-playing – Parents’ Evening is an intriguing new play at the Jermyn Street Theatre

“This isn’t a game”

Bathsheba Doran’s Parents’ Evening starts off in the aftermath of a fraught game of Cluedo, quality family degenerating into chaos because a father can’t lose gracefully to his daughter. Or perhaps it’s the daughter who needs to learn to dial back on the crowing. Either way, mum’s home now and she’s smoothed over the waters and there needs to be an even keel because tonight is that all-too-familiar spot check for kids – parents’ evening.

But though it is their 10-year-old who is nominally under the microscope, a shock revelation from a teacher shatters the uneasy peace. And the playing field turns into something akin to high-stakes Jenga as the couple start to tear each other apart in a risky blame game, each upping the ante in a desperate attempt to diagnose the suspected malaise. It is a deceptively slight play, one which lures you in and then is unafraid to change the rules. Continue reading “Review: Parents’ Evening, Jermyn Street”

Review: Dracula, Brockley Jack

An imaginative take on a familiar tale – Arrows & Traps’ Dracula is good Hallowe’en fare at the Brockley Jack Theatre

“I am counting down the days until we get to Whitby”

On National Coming Out day, there’s something rather delicious about the first act climax of Dracula being set to a haunting remix of Britney’s ‘Toxic’. He may be fangs-deep in Lucy and longing to make Mina his countess but we all saw how taken he was by Jonathan as he set up for a shave. Love is love is love, right, or should that be a vein is a vein is a vein… 

Arrows & Traps have turned their hand to horror before, with a fearlessly inventive take on Frankenstein which lit up the Brockley Jack last year. So adaptor/director Ross McGregor turning to Bram Stoker’s classic Dracula makes sense, not least as at offers ample opportunity to refresh its rather dustily antiquated take on gender. Continue reading “Review: Dracula, Brockley Jack”

Review: Mythic, Charing Cross Theatre

Greek mythology goes pop with appealing new musical Mythic at the Charing Cross Theatre

“Step away from the pomegranate” 

As we wait for Hadestown to arrive at the National Theatre, an alternative modern musical take on Greek mythology has emerged just across the river at the Charing Cross Theatre. Marcus Stevens and Oran Eldor’s Mythic may have a rather unassuming demeanour by comparison, but it is proves to be something of a gently Olympian success from director/choreographer Sarah O’Gleby. (FYI I caught a late preview of this). 

Stevens’ book focuses on the troubled mother/daughter relationship between earth mother goddess Demeter and rebellious teen Persephone. Demeter has rejected the hard-partying celebrity lifestyle of the gods in favour of her Mother Nature ways but Persephone wants nothing more than to drop the trowel and kick it up good with the likes of the Essex-style Aphrodite and an emo Hades. Continue reading “Review: Mythic, Charing Cross Theatre”

Review: I’m Not Running, National Theatre

Not even the excellent Siân Brooke can do much to save David Hare’s new play I’m Not Running at the National Theatre for me

“Jesus says don’t get too fond of anything because one day you’re going to lose it”

I’m Not Running is David Hare’s 17th new play to be presented at the National Theatre but for a playwright known for espousing the state of the nation in his work, there’s a frustrating vagueness that leaves him feeling just a little out of touch. Perhaps real-life events overtook him but for a play about contemporary left-wing politics in the UK, there’s little here that rings with profound resonance.

Rather, there’s a story about a woman, a doctor, swept up into the world of politics when her heading of a campaign to save a local hospital from closure springboards her into winning a seat as a single-issue MP. And it’s not long before she’s ostensibly lured by the prospect of becoming the Labour Party’s first female leader, an issue complicated by the presence of an old boyfriend high in the party ranks. Continue reading “Review: I’m Not Running, National Theatre”