Winners of the 2018 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards

BEST ACTOR in partnership with Ambassador Theatre Group
Bryan Cranston Network, National Theatre (Lyttelton)
WINNER – Ralph Fiennes Antony and Cleopatra, National Theatre (Olivier)
Ian McKellen King Lear, Minerva Chichester & Duke of York’s
Colin Morgan Translations, National Theatre (Olivier)
Kyle Soller The Inheritance, Young Vic & Noël Coward Theatre

NATASHA RICHARDSON AWARD FOR BEST ACTRESS in partnership with Christian Louboutin
Laura Linney My Name Is Lucy Barton, Bridge Theatre
Carey Mulligan Girls and Boys, Royal Court
Cecilia Noble Nine Night, National Theatre (Dorfman)
WINNER – Sophie Okonedo Antony and Cleopatra, National Theatre (Olivier)
Lia Williams The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Donmar Warehouse Continue reading “Winners of the 2018 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards”

Review: Fanatical, Playground Theatre

If the music doesn’t quite grab you like it should, Fanatical is still an enthusiastically warm-hearted show at the Playground Theatre

“It took too long
It cost the earth
It drove me nuts
And it was worth it.”

Matt Board and Reina Hardy’s new musical Fanatical taps into the apparently unstoppable rise of comic-book culture, but takes a refreshingly uncynical slant on the subject, particularly where its fan-base are concerned. The notion of comic cons full of cosplaying superfans might leave you cold but as we discover here, they’re places full of potential and meaningful interaction for kindred souls – is it really so different from a pub full of grown men all dressing up in the same football or rugby shirt…?

This particular comic con(ference) is for the fans of comic book-turned-TV show Angel 8, but the organisation of it has been far from smooth sailing for uber-fan Trix. She’s worried that the show’s creator might not make it to the venue, and is ill-prepared to deal with his idiosyncratic ways once he does. There’s also rumours of an undercover reporter in the crowds, penning a hit piece on the easy target of geeks. And along the way, there’s many a life lesson to be learned, by us as well as them. Continue reading “Review: Fanatical, Playground Theatre”

Review: Brass the Musical, Mountview at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre

My second version of Brass the Musical in a week – Mountview students at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre do an impressive job with this moving WWI musical

“War turns everything on its head”

It’s not often that you get the chance to compare and contrast two contemporaneous productions of the same musical but that is exactly what you can do right now with Brass the Musical. Sasha Regan at The Union Theatre opened her version this week (review here) and now a group of Mountview students are having a crack at it at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre. I was particularly tempted to return to the show as the show’s writer Benjamin Till – an alumnus of Mountview himself – is also on directorial duties.

It was fascinating to see the show for the second time in a week as the approaches by each director offered up intriguingly different interpretations. Till clearly benefits from the resources of one of the UK’s leading drama schools and so is able to conscript a band to meet the demands of his brass-heavy score, fill his stage with bodies and get them to execute some pretty nifty choreography (by Simon Hardwick). The contrast is huge with the Union, where studied intimacy is the watchword even though the company is only fractionally smaller.   Continue reading “Review: Brass the Musical, Mountview at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre”

Review: Brass the Musical, Union Theatre

Brass the Musical at the Union Theatre is a powerfully moving celebration of sacrifices made, of service offered, of music itself – beautifully done

“Just until our lads come back”

There’s a neat symmetry to the life of Brass the Musical thus far. Originally commissioned by the National Youth Music Theatre to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, its professional London premiere now marks the Armistice Centenary. Benjamin Till’s musical, with additional lyrics from Nathan Taylor and Sir Arnold Wesker, thus serves as a powerful tribute to those who served, both at home and on the frontline.

What is particularly gorgeous about Brass is how it is suffused with the joy of music. Its power to bring people together (as in the characterful ‘Forming a Band’), its potential to lift spirits (the marvelous storytelling of ‘Whistle Billy’), its ability to express something deeper beyond just words (the haunting vocalese at the trenches). And as an expression of the musical theatre form, it works beautifully in deepening an already profoundly moving piece of history.  Continue reading “Review: Brass the Musical, Union Theatre”

The 2018 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards – Shortlist announced

The clocks have gone back and so it’s time to start reflecting on the year gone by. And first out of the gate in terms of the major theatre awards, the London Evening Standard Theatre Awards have released their shortlist. Winners to be announced on Sunday 18th November at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London.

The expansion to five nominees feels like a good thing, making the lists feel a little less random, but I remain piqued at the differentiation between best actor/actress in a play and best musical performance, not least since it means no-one from Hamilton or Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is up for an individual nod, and Patti LuPone and Jonny Bailey end up robbed!

But that’s the joy of these things, they’re entirely subjective even when your panel consists of Henry Hitchings, Baz Bamigboye, Mark Lawson, Sarah Crompton and Matt Wolf. And I’m liking the love for Nine Night and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, wondering whether I should have made the effort to see Translations, and pondering whether I should be re-booking for Caroline or Change

EVENING STANDARD THEATRE AWARDS 2018 – SHORTLIST

BEST ACTOR in partnership with Ambassador Theatre Group
Bryan Cranston Network, National Theatre (Lyttelton)
Ralph Fiennes Antony and Cleopatra, National Theatre (Olivier)
Ian McKellen King Lear, Minerva Chichester & Duke of York’s
Colin Morgan Translations, National Theatre (Olivier)
Kyle Soller The Inheritance, Young Vic & Noël Coward Theatre

NATASHA RICHARDSON AWARD FOR BEST ACTRESS in partnership with Christian Louboutin
Laura Linney My Name Is Lucy Barton, Bridge Theatre
Carey Mulligan Girls and Boys, Royal Court
Cecilia Noble Nine Night, National Theatre (Dorfman)
Sophie Okonedo Antony and Cleopatra, National Theatre (Olivier)
Lia Williams The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Donmar Warehouse Continue reading “The 2018 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards – Shortlist announced”

Re-review: Company, Gielgud

As if you needed more convincing, here’s another 5 star review of this superlative re-imagining of Sondheim’s Company

“Everything’s different, nothing’s changed.
Only maybe slightly rearranged”

From the moment Marianne Elliott’s new production of Company started, I knew that it wouldn’t be something I only saw once. Indeed, by the time we’d reached press night, that was my third time at the show! And now that an extension through to the end of March has been announced, there’s never been a better time to get booking. Read my 5 star review of Company for Official Theatre here.

Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes (with interval)
Photo: Brinkhoff Mogenburg
Company is booking at the Gielgud Theatre until 30th March

Review: The Distance You Have Come, Cockpit

A Scott Alan song cycle promises much but The Distance You Have Come doesn’t quite deliver at the Cockpit Theatre, despite its excellent cast

“I deserve to be seen
This dream feels way overdue”

Scott Alan’s reputation as a songwriter is without question. Over a number of albums over the last decade (a fair few of which I’ve reviewed here), he’s been able to count on an extraordinary array of performers to bring his music to life, songs which are unafraid to chart the lows as well as the highs of living, loving, losing, dreaming… The Distance You Have Come sees him maintain that quality of guestlist in a live setting, as he entwines together over 20 of his compositions into a song cycle.

It proves a curious enterprise though, one which doesn’t quite cohere in a way that the quality of these songs deserves. Alan wrote the book for the show, as well as directing, and you do wonder whether an outside perspective might have helped. The book tries to do an awful lot in the space of a few snatched sentences between songs and its ambition feels somewhat unnecessary if the show is to be a song cycle rather than a fledgling musical. Continue reading “Review: The Distance You Have Come, Cockpit”

Review: Company, Gielgud

The company of Company are simply sensational at the Gielgud Theatre – Rosalie Craig, Patti LuPone, Jonny Bailey…just book now!

“Everyone adores you, what an awful thing”

Phone rings, door chimes, in comes an adaptation of Company that subtly but definitively realigns it for a contemporary audience and makes you wonder how you could ever go back to the original as is. Marianne Elliott’s reworking is most notable for the regendering of its lead character – Bobby becomes Bobbie in the extraordinary hands of Rosalie Craig – but the changes it makes filter right down through the show, reflecting the changes in society since the show was written in 1970.

Sometimes it is overt. Amy becomes Jamie here, and Jonathan Bailey’s show-stopping delivery of ‘Getting Married Today’ (seriously, best priest in a show, ever) is underscored by the fact that gay marriage is a thing now. Less obvious is the switching of roles for Susan and Peter, she’s the professional go-getter and he’s the one who faints at the sight of blood. And even Larry becoming something of a toyboy for Joanne speaks towards an important rebuttal of the kinds of cultural stereotype that have been allowed to persist.  Continue reading “Review: Company, Gielgud”

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”