2019 What’s On Stage Award nominations

As we move towards the year end, so award season gets into full swing and What’s On Stage have now revealed their nominations celebrating everyone who works in theatre apart from sound designers and musical directors. As ever, these awards tend to work around which fanbase can weaponise the strongest and so there’s lots of love for shows which might not necessarily be troubling many other shortlists…

Still, am liking the recognition for Milly Thomas and Dust, Es Devlin’s luminous set work for Girls & Boys, and Six and The Grinning Man getting into the cast recording category (though can’t quite work out how Come From Away fits into there as well…). And it’s a bit sad that the way their eligibility period works means that Hamilton comes up against Company, making the supporting actress/actor categories ridiculously difficult to choose between.

You can vote here until 31st January, and winners will be announced on 3rd March.

Continue reading “2019 What’s On Stage Award nominations”

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.

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Review: The Wild Duck, Almeida Theatre

Robert Icke adapts Ibsen to create a vividly powerful The Wild Duck at the Almeida – stunning work

Henrik Ibsen wrote The Wild Duck in 1884

The Wild Duck may be a nineteenth century play but this is most definitely at twenty-first century adaptation, Robert Icke continuing his astonishing strike-rate of Almeida successes with yet another. This time it is Ibsen under the microscope but a mark of Icke’s seemingly endless invention is that his approach here repeats little of what he’s done before.

So a scalpel-sharp play about truth and lies becomes refracted through the truth and lies in Ibsen’s own life, the parallels between his own illegitimate issue and Hedwig’s situation brought into the light. The first half sees this done through meta-theatrical interjections, house lights up and actors commenting on the action as much as acting itself.  Continue reading “Review: The Wild Duck, Almeida Theatre”

Re-review: Summer and Smoke, Duke of York’s

The Almeida’s Summer and Smoke transfers into the West End at the Duke of York’s Theatre to great success. And Patsy Ferran is a star.

“Reaching up to something beyond attainment…”

The Almeida’s Summer and Smoke was a huge hit in the spring so it was little surprise to hear a West End transfer was on the cards (especially compared to, say, The Twilight Zone…). And it has transplanted to the Duke of York’s in fine shape, Tom Scutt’s set losing none of its invitingly curved intimacy as it replicates the bare bricks of the N1 venue.

And Rebecca Frecknall’s production has lost none of its charge, mainly through retaining the electric chemistry between its leads – an exceptional Patsy Ferran as Alma and Matthew Needham as John. The complex emotional connection between their characters is the heart of the play and the stark simplicity of the staging reflects that from the outset. Continue reading “Re-review: Summer and Smoke, Duke of York’s”

Re-review: A singalong Bat out of Hell, Dominion

We go back to the singalong Bat out of Hell at the Dominion Theatre but find diminishing returns

“Can’t you hear the choir now?
Listen to the animals sing”

Just a quickie for this repeat visit to Bat out of Hell, as the allure of the singalong performance was once again too strong. I don’t know if Tuesday night was the best choice though, as the Dominion Theatre was lacking in bodies and in atmosphere, at least in our part of the stalls, which kind of detracted from the communal spirit which was so enjoyable last time around.

I wonder too if the news of the show’s closure has dampened some of the enthusiasm. As D-day (5th January) draws closer, some of that intensity might return but for me, the performance level was weaker than I’ve previously seen. Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton carry the show even more now and that means you only feel their absence all the more when they’re not on stage. Nothing really rocks, nothing really rolls…

Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes (with interval)
Photo: Specular
Bat out of Hell is booking at the Dominion Theatre until 5th January, one more singalong performance is scheduled for 31st December 

Review: The Madness of George III, Nottingham Playhouse

I like almost everything about The Madness of George III at Nottingham Playhouse Theatre apart from the main performance…

“I am not going out of my mind, my mind is going out of me”

Mark Gatiss has been getting rave reviews for his performance in The Madness of George III at Nottingham Playhouse but for me, there was just a little bit too much of
for my liking. There’s lots to love in Adam Penfold’s production, particularly in key supporting roles like Adrian Scarborough’s Dr Willis and Debra Gillett’s Queen Charlotte, and some of the smaller parts like Nadia Albina’s Fitzroy and Jack Holden’s Greville.

And I enjoyed that Penfold cast several of the ostensibly male parts with women, allowing the likes of Louise Jameson and Stephanie Jacob. Throw in a lusciously opulent design from Robert Jones and strikingly dramatic lighting from Richard Howell, and it’s a real theatrical treat, a real statement of intent from this nicely ambitious artistic director.  Continue reading “Review: The Madness of George III, Nottingham Playhouse”

Review: The Teind, London Horror Festival at Old Red Lion

ONEOHONE’s The Teind takes the London Horror Festival into the world of long-form interactive theatre to great effect

“tHeY aRE very

DanGerOus”

One of the more inventive entries into the London Horror Festival was ONEOHONE’s The Teind, a one-on-one interactive horror story stretching out over three weeks. Over Whatsapp, text messages, phone calls, Twitter, blogs and even face-to-face meetings, you’re drawn into a strange and slightly surreal world of darkly-tinged fairytale.

As a choose-your-own-adventure, The Teind is entirely individualised (there’s at least eight different endings) and so I won’t be giving anything away about the story, that will be for you to discover when next the show emerges. But there’s still lots to talk about in Asia Osborne and Eleanor Rushton’s creation, not least the amount of invention it contains. Continue reading “Review: The Teind, London Horror Festival at Old Red Lion”

TV Review: Nothing Like a Dame

I finally get round to catching up with the glories of Nothing Like a Dame – Atkins, Dench, Plowright, Smith, nothin’ acts like these dames

“There’s this new girl…”

Peter Bradshaw wittily deemed Nothing Like a Dame ” an Avengers: Infinity War of theatrical anecdotery” and as the likes of Peggy, Sir John, and Larry are casually namedropped, you can’t help but disagree. But when the people around the table are Eileen Atkins, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright and Maggie Smith, it’s a wonder they’re not dropping more! Continue reading “TV Review: Nothing Like a Dame”

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: Heart of Darkness, Birmingham REP

A hugely thought-provoking, contemporary retelling of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness from innovative theatre company imitating the dog

The story is impossible to tell, but it must be told”

Are some stories just too problematically complex to tell in today’s society? Or is there value in trying to pick them apart, to get to the heart of them in an attempt to understand? imitating the dog clearly cleave to the latter point of view as they forensically dissect Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (“it’s of its time, and that time is racist”) in this hugely thought-provoking production which creates a film noir-inspired adaptation in front of us.

Andrew Quick and Pete Brooks’ reworking is breath-taking in the formal invention of its scope, exploring the intersection of theatre and technology as well as thoroughly interrogating the text. So discussions about the inherent problems of the story smash up against striking effect-laden work on a green screen, spoken stage directions nestle next to a lip-synced Francis Ford Coppola. It’s a sensory overload. Continue reading “Review: Heart of Darkness, Birmingham REP”