Review: Hansard, National Theatre

Lindsay Duncan and Alex Jennings prove entirely watchable in Hansard, a sharp new play at the National Theatre

“It’s the great mystery of our time…the insatiable desire of the people of this country to be fucked by an Old Etonian”

Hansard opens at the National Theatre with an impeccable sense of timing. As the blinkered thinking of Brexit and the perilous threats of prorogation rock Parliament, Simon Woods’ play (his first) urges consideration of what political discourse has become and also reminds us history reflects with a coolly unblinking eye – messages you wonder whether the watching George Osborne took onboard but at all… 

Set in May of 1988, Diana Hesketh and her husband of 30 odd years Robin, a Tory MP, are poiltical opposites and don’t we know it. From the opening shots to the final quiet devastation, her left-leaning sensibilities and his Thatcher-loving ways tear ever-increasing strips off each other in a manner redolent of Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf but one which also leaves you wondering how they ever made it this far.  Continue reading “Review: Hansard, National Theatre”

Review: As You Like It, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch

The Public Acts programme produces another winner in As You Like It at Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, community theatre at its absolute best

“All the world’s a stage
And everybody’s in the show
Nobody’s a pro”

I knew it would take something special to tempt me out of my summer hiatus and given that last year’s Pericles ended up being my show of the year, odds were that this year’s Public Acts production would be the one. And sure enough, Shaina Taub and Laurie Woolery’s adaptation of As You Like It at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch was another truly joyous event, a real celebration of community theatre and all its glorious power to involve, instruct and inspire.

And with a company that totals over 100 people, it is not hard to see why. Just the mere fact of seeing that many people on a stage is enough to warm the cockles, particularly when it genuinely embraces diversity in race, ability, age and more. Throw in an ebullient, musical take on Shakespeare’s comedy and a creative team clearly relishing letting their imagination run wild and the result is completely beguiling, emotionally true and really quite affecting – they were tears of happiness honestly! Continue reading “Review: As You Like It, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch”

July theatre round-up

I might have taken a break from reviewing for the last couple of months, but I didn’t stop going to the theatre. Here’s some brief thoughts on most of what I saw  in July.

On Your Feet, aka the rhythm will get you, sometimes
the end of history…, aka how can you get cheese on toast so wrong
Equus, aka hell yes for Jessica Hung Han Yun’s lighting design
Games for Lovers, aka straight people be crazy
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, aka the one that got my goat
The Girl on the Train, aka Philip McGinley in shorts
Uncle Vanya, aka I really need to stop booking for plays like this with casts like that 
Jellyfish, aka justice for the second best play of last year
Sweat, aka Clare Perkins should always be on in the West End
Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 The Musical, aka yay for lovely new musicals in the West End
The Light in the Piazza, aka Molly Lynch fricking nails it
Jesus Christ Superstar, aka was third time the charm?
Continue reading “July theatre round-up”

Nominees for The Stage Debut Awards 2019

All winners will be announced at the awards ceremony at The Brewery, London on September 15, 2019 which will be streamed live on The Stage’s Facebook page.

Best Actress in a Play – sponsored by Audible

  • Liv Hill for Top Girls at the National Theatre, London
  • Urielle Klein-Mekongo for Yvette at the Bush Theatre, London
  • Lauren O’Leary for The Awkward Years at The Other Room, Cardiff
  • Bea Webster for Mother Courage at the Albion Electric Warehouse, Leeds

Best Actor in a Play – sponsored by Audible

  • Jamal Ajala for ear for eye at the Royal Court, London
  • Stuart Campbell for The Hunt at the Almeida Theatre, London
  • Patrick Gibson for Sweat at the Donmar Warehouse and the Gielgud Theatre, London
  • Ivan Oyik for Blue/Orange at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Birmingham

Continue reading “Nominees for The Stage Debut Awards 2019”

Family theatre in August

A rare summer in the city for me means I can take in some of the family shows on in the West End right now – Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear the Musical, The Scarecrow’s Wedding, Where is Peter Rabbit? and Monstersaurus 

“Microscopic Bobby was my wife”

Photo © TheOtherRichard

The world of Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear the Musical (suitable for 7yrs+) as imagined by director Amy Hodge and designer Georgia Lowe is a fantastically bizarre one, full of warm and witty touches that shoud delight children and adults alike. Tiny gingerbread professors, menacing sunflowers, dancing doughnuts, a rainforest of umbrellas, it is an impressive and inventive take on imaginative world-building that perfectly suits Andy Stanton’s storytelling.

All things told, it is a fairly slight tale – bears, beers, butchers, you know the usual, but there’s just such a sense of fun about the whole proceedings. The cast revel in non-sequiturs aplenty (Helena Lymbery, Steve Furst and Gary Wilmot particularly impress), Jim Fortune’s eclectic score builds in post-modern layers that further pique the interest, and the show even manages to sneak in some pretty powerful messaging among all the madness. Recommended. Continue reading “Family theatre in August”

Album Reviews: Company / Follies / Mythic

A trio of album reviews cover the (relatively) recently released cast recordings of Company, Follies and Mythic

“One more souvenir of bliss”

I adored Marianne Elliott’s reinterpretation of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s Company on my many visits and so the news of a cast recording was of course ecstatically received. And perhaps inevitably it doesn’t quite live up to the thrill of seeing it live but maybe that’s because the production is still so fresh in my mind. I mean we’re only talking a 4 instead of a 4.5…

© Brinkhoff Mogenburg

I swear Patti LuPone’s ‘Ladies Who Lunch’ was different every time I saw it but this version here is as good as any, with the glorious fullness of her voice pointedly sharpening its wit. Her contributions to ‘The Little Things We Do Together’ are inspired, Jonny Bailey’s ‘Not Getting Married’ is breathlessly affecting and the warmth of Rosalie Craig’s character and voice infuse the whole experience with real quality.  Continue reading “Album Reviews: Company / Follies / Mythic”

10 questions for 10 years – Stewart Pringle

Is Stewart Pringle a closet Wicked fan? Find out this and more as he goes in 10 for 10

Writer, dramaturg, former reviewer and Artistic Director, candlestick-maker – Stewart Pringle has worn many hats (and one of those might be a fib). His reviews for The Stage were always ones to treasure but his Papatango-winning play Trestle was a proper minor-key delight 

  • Where were you 10 years ago?

    Finishing my MPhil dissertation, so lost in a quagmire of batty mid-20th century occultists. I’d forsaken the theatre to try to become an academic, which lasted for all of about 18 months before it pulled me back in. I tried to escape again in 2012 and that time I lasted for about 4 weeks. I won’t be trying it a third time. Continue reading “10 questions for 10 years – Stewart Pringle”

News: the National Theatre announces 15 new productions for 2019 and 2020

So much goodness! The National Theatre have just announced details of productions stretching deep into 2020, and with writers like Lucy Kirkwood, Kate Tempest, Roy Williams and Tony Kushner, and actors like Lesley Manville, Maxine Peake, Conleth Hill, Cecilia Noble and Lesley Sharp, it is hard not to feel excited about what’s ahead.

Olivier Theatre 

Following a sell-out run at Rose Theatre Kingston, the acclaimed two-part adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s MY BRILLIANT FRIEND by April De Angelis is reworked for the Olivier stage by Melly Still (Coram Boy). When the most important person in her life goes missing without a trace, Lenu Greco, now a celebrated author, begins to recall a relationship of more than 60 years.  Continue reading “News: the National Theatre announces 15 new productions for 2019 and 2020”

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”