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”

Review: All’s Well That Ends Well, Jermyn Street Theatre

Shakespeare via Fleetwood Mac, Patti Smith and Judy Collins? All’s Well That Ends Well works well at the Jermyn Street Theatre

“The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together”

Finally managed to get to the Jermyn Street Theatre to see All’s Well That Ends Well, a co-production with Guildford Shakespeare Company, after director Tom Littler spoke so passionately about it to me. And I’m glad I did too, as it is a rather wonderfully inventive and musical interpretation of the play that makes it sing in a new way, albeit with a careworn air of Joni Mitchell.

Pushed into a (near-)contemporary setting and presented almost as a memory play by Hannah Morrish’s Helena, handing out keepsakes as props. The plot isn’t one of Shakespeare’s strongest, as Helena tries to inveigle her way into the affections of the higher-born Count Bertram, but suggesting it as a recollection of the folly of (younger) love, I bought this take on it. Continue reading “Review: All’s Well That Ends Well, Jermyn Street Theatre”

10 questions for 10 years – Tom Littler

Artistic Director of the Jermyn Street Theatre, Tom Littler tackles the 10 questions challenge with some real gusto

Tom Littler became AD and EP of the Jermyn Street Theatre in 2017 but his relationship with the theatre goes back way further. And when I asked him to about his memories of Anyone Can Whistle which I noted as my favourite of his productions, this was his response: 

“I’m slightly perturbed that you think I peaked in 2010…! That was a memorable time. I remember the three leads, Issy van Randwyck, David Ricardo-Pearce and Rosalie Craig, very clearly. David had a song called ‘Everybody Says Don’t’ – a hymn to anarchy and breaking the rules, but most of all to trying: ‘Tilt at the windmill, and if you fail, you fail.’ That often feels pretty relevant in art and life.” 

  • Where were you 10 years ago?

    I was opening a play at the Arcola called Origin of the Species by Bryony Lavery, with Clare-Hope Ashitey and Marjorie Yates. It’s about a prehistoric woman who comes to life. We buried Clare-Hope in sand and the audience had no idea she was there until Marjorie excavated her.

    Continue reading “10 questions for 10 years – Tom Littler”

20 shows to look forward to in 2019

So many of the recommendations for shows to see next year focus on the West End. And for sure, I’m excited to catch big ticket numbers like All About Eve, Come From Away, and Waitress but I wanted to cast my eye a little further afield, so here’s my top tips for shows on the London fringe (plus one from the Barbican) and across the UK.

1 Medea, Internationaal Theater Amsterdam at the Barbican
Simon Stone’s sleekly contemporary recasting of Euripides is straight up amazing. Anchored by a storming performance from Marieke Heebink, it is as beautiful and brutal as they come. It’s also one of the few plays that has legit made me go ‘oh no’ out loud once a particular penny dropped. My review from 2014 is here but do yourself a favour and don’t read it until you’ve seen it.

Macbeth, Watermill Theatre
2018 saw some disappointing Macbeths and I was thus ready to swear off the play for 2019. But the Watermill Ensemble’s decision to tackle the play will certainly break that resolve, Paul Hart’s innovative direction of this spectacular actor-musician team will surely break the hoodoo…

3 Noughts and Crosses, Derby Theatre, and touring
Pilot Theatre follow on from their strong Brighton Rock with this Malory Blackman adaptation by Sabrina Mahfouz, a Young Adult story but one which promises to speak to us all. Continue reading “20 shows to look forward to in 2019”

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: About Leo, Jermyn Street

Excellent creative work makes About Leo, the debut play from Alice Allemano a real success at the Jermyn Street Theatre

“I have never, in my life, for one moment, been anyone’s muse. I was too busy rebelling against my family and learning to be an artist”

What does a woman have to do to be appreciated on her own merits? Be a leading surrealist painter? Be a founding member of the women’s movement in the country where she lives? Write several successful books?  Leonora Carrington may not be the best known of names but she deserves more than being known someone who had an affair with Max Ernst.

Such is the set-up for Alice Allemano’s impressive debut play About Leo. Wannabe journalist Eliza Prentice rocks up at Carrington’s Mexico City residence in order to secure an interview for a retrospective of Ernst’s work but is soon disabused of the notion that she was a mere ‘muse’. And over a long night, as tea turns into tequila, stories of love and loss and art and aspiration reveal a hugely fascinating figure.  Continue reading “Review: About Leo, Jermyn Street”

Review: The Dog Beneath The Skin, Jermyn Street Theatre

Who knew that fascists could rhyme? WH Auden and Christopher Isherwood tackle inter-war Europe in The Dog Beneath The Skin at the Jermyn Street Theatre in London.

“Places sometimes look different when one comes back to them”

Proud Haddock’s production of Mrs Orwell was quite the success last year, earning a deserved transfer from the Old Red Lion to the Southwark Playhouse. And they continue their ethos of celebrating “unearthed stories from classical playwrights” with this revival of WH Auden and Christopher Isherwood’s 1935 play The Dog Beneath The Skin which rounds off the Jermyn Street Theatre’s Scandal season.

Mixing an almost fairytale-like quest with a stark warning to guard for the rise of fascism, it’s a fascinatingly drawn play. And Jimmy Walters’ production leans heavily into its curiosity with voiceover segments, drag cabarets and multiple songs (by Jeremy Warmsley) accompanying the lyrical twist of the rhyming couplets threaded throughout the script. With cleverly expressive movement work from Ste Clough, all this strangeness has a compelling quality to it. Continue reading “Review: The Dog Beneath The Skin, Jermyn Street Theatre”

Review: Woman Before A Glass, Jermyn Street

“Modern art is never an answer, it is a question”

Woman Before A Glass may be a one-woman show but what a woman it reveals to us. Peggy Guggenheim was born into one of the wealthiest New York socialite families at the dawn of the twentieth century and during a most unconventional lifetime, became a mainstay of the modern art scene. The art, and artists, that she collected made her Venetian palazzo one of the hottest spots to be seen and it is there that we visit her for the three key scenes of this play by Lanie Robertson.

The first is introduced with a wonderfully clever conceit – searching for an outfit to wear for an interview, she sifts through a pile of couture gowns, reminiscing about them all and thus giving us an instant insight into her existence – a strained relationship with her family both immediate and extended, an apparently insatiable sexual appetite, and a genuine love for the collection, protection and encouragement of the modern artists that she gathered around her. Plus she has a nifty way with a cocktail shaker. Continue reading “Review: Woman Before A Glass, Jermyn Street”

Review: The Frogs, Jermyn Street

“Gods of the theatre, smile on us”

No matter the star quality of the names associated with The Frogs – Meryl Streep and Sigourney Weaver were in the original student company who performed it in a Yale swimming pool in 1974, Nathan Lane was one of the co-writers who expanded it for a Broadway run in 2004 – but there’s no escaping the fact that it is one of Sondheim’s rarely performed musicals. It’s a descriptor that rightly causes a deal of trepidation – more often than not there’s a good reason that works collect dust on the shelf and the hunt for worthy rediscoveries only rarely turns up a diamond.

Another way of looking at it is that you need to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince and if this isn’t an outright amphibian, it’s also by no means royalty. Loosely based on a 405 BC play by Aristophanes but sending up Greek comedy at the same, we follow Michael Matus’ Dionysos and his slave Xanthias, played by George Rae, as they journey to Hades to find someone who can “enlighten the easily misled and coerced masses of Earth”. They light on George Bernard Shaw as a saviour but Shakespeare has something to say about it, as do Herakles, Charon, Pluto and a chorus of frogs… Continue reading “Review: The Frogs, Jermyn Street”

Review: I’m Getting My Act Together And Taking It On The Road, Jermyn Street

“I’ll find my way again
And I will sing my song”

Written in 1978 by Gretchen Cryer and Nancy Ford, it’s a little bit depressing that I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road still has the resonance that it does nearly 40 years later. The show may not have been seen in the UK for nearly 40 years but its commentary on how the music business – indeed culture at large, even society as a whole – treats middle-aged women remains as incisive as it surely ever has done.

Heather Jones is a pop singer who has just turned 39 and is on the cusp of launching a refreshed act in front of a bunch of music biz luminaries in a New York cabaret club. The only problem is, her manager Joe isn’t keen on her new image, her new sound, her new lyrical honesty, he wants the safe, same old same old, unthreatening Heather back because he doesn’t believe he can sell a mature woman as a commercial prospect. Continue reading “Review: I’m Getting My Act Together And Taking It On The Road, Jermyn Street”