The finalists of The Offies 2020

The finalists for the 2020 Offies (for performances in 2019) have been announced and congratulations to all 89 mentioned below. A tip of the hat too to the 400+ nominees who you can find here.

DESIGN

Design: Costume
Adrian Gee, Amour, Charing Cross Theatre
Emily Bestow, 42nd Street, Upstairs at the Gatehouse
Hannah Wolfe , Great Expectations, National Youth
Theatre, Southwark Playhouse

Design: Set
Diego Pitarch, Night of the Living Dead – Live!,
Pleasance
Justin Williams, Whistle Down the Wind, Union
Theatre
Lee Newby, The View UpStairs, Soho Theatre
Rachael Ryan, Thrill Me, Hope Theatre

Design: Sound
Benjamin Grant, The War of the Worlds, New Diorama
Lex Kosanke, Hunger, Arcola
Matt Eaton, All’s Well That Ends Well, Guildford Bard,
Jermyn Street Theatre
Xana, Blood Knot, Orange Tree

Design: Lighting
Christopher Nairne, Preludes, Southwark Playhouse
Clancy Flynn, An Act of God, Vaults
Jessica Hung Han Yun, Equus, English Touring Theatre,
Theatre Royal Stratford East
Nic Farman, Night of the Living Dead – Live!, Pleasance

Design: Video
Andrzej Goulding, The Unreturning, Theatre Royal
Stratford East
Ben Bull, Baby Reindeer, Bush Theatre
Douglas Baker, Moby Dick, Jack Studio Theatre Continue reading “The finalists of The Offies 2020”

20 shows to look forward to in 2020

I look ahead to some of the 2020 shows exciting me most with an emphasis away from the West End, looking mostly instead at the London fringe and across the UK 

Sure, there’s all sorts of big ticket shows coming to London in 2020 (with big ticket prices too to go with their big names), like Sunday in the Park with George with Jake Gyllenhaal, Sister Act with Whoopi Goldberg, A Doll’s House with Jessica Chastain. But there’s so much more to discover if you venture away from Shaftesbury Avenue…

1 The Glass Menagerie, Odéon–Théâtre de l’Europe at the Barbican
Not that I want to be predictable at all but Isabelle Huppert! Acting in French! Right in front of you! I understand that van Hove-fatigue might be setting in for people but only a FOOL would pass up the chance to see one of our greatest living actors. A FOOL! 

2 The Glass Menagerie, Royal Exchange
And if you wanted to do a direct compare and contrast, Atri Banerjee’s revival for the Royal Exchange will be worth checking out too for an alternative perspective. 

3 The Wicker Husband, Watermill
Even before Benjamin Button tore my heart apart, I was excited for the arrival of this new musical by Rhys Jennings and Darren Clark but now, the bar has been raised even higher. And the gorgeous intimacy of the Watermill feels like a perfect fit.


4 Children of Nora, Internationaal Theater Amsterdam
Me: “I don’t need any more Ibsen in my life”
Also me: Robert Icke revisiting the world of A Doll’s House through the eyes of the next generation? Yes please.

5 Romantics Anonymous, Bristol Old Vic
I don’t think I thought this delicious Koomin and Dimond musical would ever actually return, so this short run in the UK ahead of a US tour feels like a real blessing. Now where did I put my badge?
Continue reading “20 shows to look forward to in 2020”

10 of my top moments of the decade

Ever behind the curve, I present 10 of my top moments in a theatre over the last ten years (plus a few bonus extra ones because whittling down this list was hard, and it will probably be different tomorrow anyway!)

© James Bellorini

Extraordinary Public Acts for a National Theatre

The establishment of the Public Acts programme at the National Theatre offered up something sensational in Pericles, an initiative designed to connect grassroot community organisations with major theatres, resulting in a production that swept over 200 non-professional performers onto the stage of the Olivier to create something that moved me more than 99% of professional productions.  A truly joyous and momentous occasion. 

Honourable mention: this year’s musical take on As You Like It proved just as heart-swellingly beautiful over at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch. Continue reading “10 of my top moments of the decade”

10 questions for 10 years – James Graham

Playwright James Graham may have had two plays in the  West End at the same time but can he handle ten questions from me?!

Though he’s arguably now best known as a purveyor of politically heavyweight substance, I was lucky enough to catch a couple of James Graham’s earlier works, where I pretty much fell in love with him there and then. Most notably in The Man, where we had the privilege of him performing his own work – to this day, hearing both ‘Ben’ and the Black Beauty theme song bring this beautiful play to mind and an artful tear to the eye. Revival soon please.

It’s a time he remembers well too:

“I have tons of fond memories! And stomach churning fears. Taking it on the road around the UK was a real privilege – to get to speak your own text while staring at the whites of the eyes of the audience. Horrifying and fun.”

Continue reading “10 questions for 10 years – James Graham”

10 questions for 10 years – Samuel Barnett

Original History Boy Samuel Barnett takes on the 10 Questions for 10 Years challenge 

Even though I demurred from seeing The History Boys on stage, I’ve loved much else of Samuel Barnett’s work in so many ways. London was cruelly cheated of his Viola but it was in some of his earlier plays that he really stood out for me.
The Way of the World in Sheffield
“I really enjoyed that kabuki drop at the beginning…and I loved playing Witwoud. It was a joy to play a character who is so much funnier, brighter and wittier than I am. I loved the cast too. ”
and James Graham’s The Whisky Taster
“That remains one of my favourite jobs. The writing, the cast, our amazing director James Grieve, and playing in the old Bush theatre: it was one of those rare jobs where everything came together so perfectly. I adored working so closely with Kate O’Flynn, who is just phenomenal. Perhaps my favourite bit was the last few lines about the colour of love, and the snow falling. Got me every time.”

Continue reading “10 questions for 10 years – Samuel Barnett”

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: Square Rounds, Finborough Theatre

An anti-war polemic in verse? Square Rounds has no right to be as good as it is at the Finborough Theatre!

“When I pioneered the process I had in mind
Only benefits and blessings for mankind”

You spend so much effort and labour and time
When trying to make all your words somehow rhyme
So how you would write a whole play that does so
Is downright impressive, that’s something you know

Espec’lly since Square Rounds is not so dramatic
But more of an anti-war talk, so dogmatic
Though new life is brought by a d’rector called Jimmy 
Whose insight and forethought makes ev’rything shimmy

It’s unlike most other things you can now see
And its all-female cast will just fill you with glee
But Finborough and Haddock are hard words to rhyme
So I think this format has now done its time Continue reading “Review: Square Rounds, Finborough Theatre”

Review: Late Company, FInborough

“When you wake up in a cold sweat at night and you think someone is watching you, well it’s me. I’m watching you”

Guess who’s coming to dinner, Toronto-style. The table has been set at Debora and Michael’s oh-so-tasteful upper class home but the atmosphere is thick with tension as their guests are Curtis, the schoolboy who bullied their son Joel – who committed suicide a year ago – and his parents. The meeting has been arranged in order to try and achieve some kind of emotional closure but as it is revealed just how raw the wounds still are, there’s so much more to dig into than a bowl of seafood pasta.

The Finborough has long had a record of supporting Canadian writers and Jordan Tannahill certainly seems like one to watch. Directed with an unhurried and unfussy clarity by Michael Yale, Late Company blisters through its hot-button topics of cyber-bullying and teen suicide with real skill, presenting an even-handed look at the issues but what really impresses, is the way in which he drips revelation after revelation into his narrative to keep us constantly on the edge of our seats. Continue reading “Review: Late Company, FInborough”

Review: Everything Between Us, Finborough

“He was like a real-life Morgan Freeman”

Though it might not necessarily seem like it, I do sometimes miss plays – David Ireland’s Cyprus Avenue being one such example from last year, a rare moment of me deciding that I didn’t want to see it (only partly because I’d pretty much had the shock aspect of it ruined). Ireland is now being acclaimed as “Northern Ireland’s boldest contemporary writer” though and so the Finborough have opted to revive his earlier play Everything Between Us in their Sunday/Monday/Tuesday slot.

After decades of conflict, both politically in terms of Ulster as a nation and personally for sisters Sandra and Teeni Richardson who haven’t spoken in a good few years, the notion of truth and reconciliation seems a noble if unlikely one. But as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Northern Ireland sets up shop in Stormont with politician Sandra representing her Protestant brethren, Teeni comes crashing back in her sister’s life to force negotiations on that level too. Continue reading “Review: Everything Between Us, Finborough”