Review: Macbeth, Greenwich Theatre

Lazarus Theatre’s ensemble-based take on Macbeth at Greenwich Theatre proves thrilling in its stylish directorial vision

“In these cases, we still have judgement here”

A glance at the credits suggests that this is Ricky Duke’s Macbeth, as much as Shakespeare. Dukes directs his own adaptation here and has also designed this production for Lazarus Theatre and at its best, it is thrilling in its stylish directorial vision. With its eye on the ensemble, its the physicality of this production that marks it out as a refreshing change to the norm.

Played in contemporary dress, this Macbeth finds itself unmoored from any real specific context. Guns and gas masks sit alongside sharp suits for the company but the world of the play is ultimately, suitably strange. Apparitions haunt the stage, watching scenes impassively; coronations burst out of glitter drop falls; war is fought through the scattering of mountains of paperwork. Continue reading “Review: Macbeth, Greenwich Theatre”

Review: One Last Waltz, Greenwich Theatre

A delicate dance around the emotive subject of Alzheimer’s – One Last Waltz skips the light fantastic at Greenwich Theatre

“I have my photographs
I have my memories
That’s all I need”

A delicate dance around the emotive subject of Alzheimer’s, Luke Adamson’s One Last Waltz returns to London to the intimate studio space at Greenwich Theatre where it pulls no punches in exploring what this disease can do to even the closest of families, while somehow still maintaining a lightness of spirit that could match the Illuminations.

Alice is at that point in life where her friends keep dying, even the ones younger than her and now her husband has passed, there’s no hiding the fact that she keeps forgetting things. A trawl through some old family photos inspires her adult daughter Mandy to recreate a favourite holiday to Blackpool but not even the promise of the Tower ballroom can disguise her decline. Continue reading “Review: One Last Waltz, Greenwich Theatre”

Review: Lizzie, Greenwich Theatre

“In the house of Borden, there’s a lock on every door”

I’d be fibbing if I tried to claim that rock is my kind of music. Although even as I say that, I’ve a residual fondness for the big hair and tunes of Heart from my childhood, Skunk Anansie figured large in my teenage years, and seeing Peaches live at the Astoria is one of my all time live music highlights, so evidently I’m more partial to (female) rock than I instinctively realise. 

And maybe it’s just my frame of reference but elements of all three intermittently came to mind in Lizzie, written by Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer, Alan Stevens Hewitt and Tim Maner. The storytelling of opener ‘The House of Borden’ is rooted in melodious soft rock, Eden Espinisa’s extraordinary vocal can’t help but bring to mind Skin at her fiercest and the chants of Somebody Will Do Something’ felt but a breath away from ‘Fuck the Pain Away’. Continue reading “Review: Lizzie, Greenwich Theatre”

Review: They Built It. No-One Came., Greenwich Theatre

“Neither of us were very charismatic.
&‘That was a problem'”

Inspired by a true story published in the New York Times, Fledgling Theatre Company’s They Built It. No-One Came. was a hit at the Edinburgh Festival last summer and has now resurfaced for a short run in Greenwich ahead of a UK tour starting in May. It’s the tale of two young men who, finding hostility to the love affair that blooms between them, opt out of society altogether to set up an “intentional community”, a commune by any other name, where they can create someplace new, someplace better.

It’s a tempting prospect, going back to nature and living in peace and harmony, but over a decade after setting up shop, Tobias and Alexander are still waiting for their first member to join them. So when eventually a troubled young man named Pablo does rock up, his integration into the lifestyle here is far from smooth sailing. And written by Callum Cameron, this awkwardness is given a brilliantly homespun, lo-fi treatment that is frequently hilarious. Continue reading “Review: They Built It. No-One Came., Greenwich Theatre”

Review: Gazing At A Distant Star, Greenwich Theatre

 “When you’re at uni, you think the salad in your kebab is your five-a-day and Marlboro Lights are a food group”

I do try and attend new writing nights here and there and I often ponder what, if anything, happens to the many works in progress that feature in their programmes. And in the case of Life Sentence by Siân Rowland, a short but powerful monologue I saw as part of this night at the Southwark Playhouse, I’m getting to see that development first-hand. Expanding on the larger theme of people going missing (this production supports the charity Missing People), Rowland has introduced two more monologues and intertwined the three together to create Gazing At A Distant Star

Call centre worker Arun is grinding through shift after shift to save for university, the only chink of light coming with his friendship with colleague Glen, but he’s not been seen for a week. Anna is training for a 5k run when a chance encounter brings memories of her long-disappeared sister come flooding back. And Karen’s wait for a postcard from her son, who is off on a lads holiday, is interrupted by a knock on the door from the police. As they each deal with the pieces of their shattered lives, so too are their stories fragmented as the narrative continually shifts between all three. Continue reading “Review: Gazing At A Distant Star, Greenwich Theatre”

Review: Altar Boyz, Greenwich Theatre

“Jesus called me on his cellphone”

A huge off-Broadway hit, Altar Boyz has taken its time to cross the pond but now Paul Taylor-Mills’ production has settled into Greenwich Theatre for a short run to help us cast off our sins. Hailing from small-town Ohio, the Altar Boyz are a Christian boyband who have reached the end of their ‘Raise the Praise’ tour and have one last concert in which to save as many souls as possible through the gift of their cheesy pop moves, confessional anecdotes and the divine technology of their ‘soul sensor’.

It would be easy to suggest that the music is blandly forgettable, the book laboured rather than funny as it just trifles with the notion of skewering this take on religion instead of actually lampooning it (Kevin Del Aguila, Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker all share credit for book, music and lyrics). And there’s truth in both propositions, but the strength of Steven Dexter’s direction and some highly astute work by casting director Will Burton means that the performance level elevates the material to a higher plane.

The superb comic touches that Jonny Fines brings to virtually all of Mark’s movements as he battles with his feelings; the sheer commitment of Faisal Khodabukus’ Latin lothario Juan who just can’t turn his natural charm off and flirts outrageously with most of the audience at one point or another; Liam Doyle’s steadying presence as the group’s de facto leader Matthew; Alex Jordan Mills’ lyrical Jew; and the Jason Stackhouse of the group, Jamie-Ray Hartshorne’s ab-tastic Luke (who can lay hands on me any day of the week, not just Sunday) whose goofiness is more than mitigated for with some hugely impressive dance moves (choreographed by Ewan Jones).

Between them, these five likely lads ensure that the pace of the show never dips too much amidst songs that go on a touch too long too often and a script that just doesn’t possess enough killer lines. That they manage to pull out as much humour as they do is testament to their skill as nurtured here by Dexter and consequently Altar Boyz emerges as a lively, if undemanding, evening of theatre.

Running time: 75 minutes (without interval)
Programme cost: £2.50
Booking until 18th October
Photo: Claire Bilyard

Review: The Last Five Years, Greenwich Theatre

 
“I think you’re really gonna like this show 
I’m pretty sure it doesn’t suck”

First performed a shade over a decade ago, Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years swiftly became a hot favourite when I first heard the score, something confirmed by the first production I saw which featured Julie Atherton elevating herself to goddess status! As a two-hander with little staging needed, it is a popular show to revive, though not necessarily an easy one as a hugely misguided Guildhall production showed. Pleasingly though, this new version avoided such pitfalls to give a brilliant account of this unique love story, albeit with a criminally short run.

Co-produced with Greenwich Theatre, As Told By’s new revival played just four shows in Greenwich and will show another three times at the Brighton Fringe next week. Which is fine, but Katie Pesskin’s production is a simply stellar piece of work that deserves a much wider audience, Michael Riley’s musical direction makes the score sound as good as it has ever done and in its performances by Danielle Hope and Jon Robyns, it showcases British musical theatre talent beautifully. Let’s hope there are future plans afoot.  Continue reading “Review: The Last Five Years, Greenwich Theatre”

Review: Avenue Q, Greenwich Theatre

“You gotta go after the things you want while you’re still in your prime…”

Since co-writing Avenue Q in 2002 with Jeff Marx and book-writer Jeff Whitty, Robert Lopez’s career has sky-rocketed with the mega-musical The Book of Mormon and Disney behemoth Frozen so the opportunity to revisit life with the puppets in the less salubrious parts of New York is a welcome one. Sell A Door’s production opens at the Greenwich Theatre and then will go an extensive tour of the UK, visiting 19 more theatres across the country to spread its often outrageous but always warm-hearted tales of the trials of day-to-day living in the big city.

So we follow fresh young graduate Princeton as his idealism gets slowly crushed by temp jobs and mounting bills and relief can only be found in booze and casual sex. Told in the style of an adult version of Sesame Street, the show is blessed with a brilliant witty score from Lopez and Marx which keeps a welcome edge to the show’s gooey heart and songs like ‘The Internet is for Porn’, ‘Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist’ and ‘If You Were Gay’ are instantly memorable classics which sit easily next to the bittersweet emotion of ‘It’s A Fine Fine Line’ and ‘Fantasies Come True’.  Continue reading “Review: Avenue Q, Greenwich Theatre”

Review: Bare, Greenwich Theatre

“The boys have gonorrhea, now they burn for you each time they pee”

Not really being a fan of rock musicals, I didn’t make the journey to the Union Theatre to see Bare earlier this year and I was kind of reluctant to go and see its belated transfer to the Greenwich Theatre. And true to form, it really wasn’t my cup of tea. A cast of bright young things sing well and deliver a great level of performance but the show, written by Jon Hartmere and Damon Intrabartolo, feels dated both dramatically and musically, its off-Broadway high-school charms very much eluding me.

Set in the senior class of a Catholic high school, these 17 year olds race towards graduation whilst battling with issues of sexuality and identity, religion and reality, all the while rehearsing a production of Romeo and Juliet which ham-fistedly reflects the tortured inter-relations between this tangled group. Clunky comedy turns into deficient drama as boy meets closeted boy meets girl, but the nearly entirely sung-through lyrics rarely give such an emotive issue as homosexuality in high schools the sensitivity and complexity it deserves. Continue reading “Review: Bare, Greenwich Theatre”

Review: Rent, Greenwich Theatre

“In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife”

Just a brief note on Rent as it is closing tomorrow and sadly I could find little constructive to say about it. I somehow have remained immune to the charms of Jonathan Larson’s show despite it gaining a fanatical following amongst some and so the prospect of seeing it filled me with much less anticipation than it did my companions for the evening. And for me, Paul Taylor-Mills’ production at the Greenwich Theatre did little to convince me to change my mind. 

A 90s pop-rock updating of Puccini’s La Bohème, the focus becomes a community of bohemians in New York’s Lower East Side as HIV/AIDS spreads its lethal influence as they all struggle to hold onto their dreams. There’s undoubtedly a dated feel to the material, something exacerbated by the low budget design of set and costume which feels rough around the edges but not in a way which really worked with the show. Continue reading “Review: Rent, Greenwich Theatre”