News: Lockdown Theatre Festival brings four cancelled shows to radio

Plays by writers including Mike Bartlett and EV Crowe that were forced to close early because of the pandemic will be revived on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4 as part of a festival created by actor Bertie Carvel.

Lockdown Theatre Festival will feature actors including Katherine Parkinson, Rachael Stirling and Nicholas Burns, who will record their lines in isolation, to reimagine their performances for specially created radio versions of the plays.

The plays, which will be broadcast on June 13 and 14, are: The Mikvah Project by Josh Azouz, which had been running at the Orange Tree Theatre, the Lyric Hammermith Theatre’s Love Love Love by Bartlett, Winsome Pinnock’s Rockets and Blue Lights, from the Royal Exchange in Manchester, and Crowe’s Shoe Lady, which was being staged by the Royal Court in London. Continue reading “News: Lockdown Theatre Festival brings four cancelled shows to radio”

My 10 favourite shows of 2019

I barely saw 250 shows this year, quiet by my standards! And as is the way of these things, here’s a rundown of some of the productions that moved me most…

1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Southwark Playhouse
I haven’t lost it in a theatre as much as this in a good long while. I cry at all sorts but this superlative musical had me trying, and failing, to choke back huge, hacking sobs. And I can still sing some of the songs – it has to come back, surely. “It’s all just a matter of time…”

2. Call Me Fury, Hope Theatre
“This is the history we should be teaching, these are the stories we should be sharing”, this striking and soulful piece gave voice to so many whom history have ignored, and was bloody entertaining with it. 

3. West Side Story, Curve Leicester
A musical I love, in a production that I simply adored. Getting to see two WSSs in one year was a privilege and for me, it was the emotional heart of Nikolai Foster’s production that won out.

4. As You Like It, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch
The second year of the Public Acts programme comes up trumps once again with this gorgeous musical version of the Shakespeare classic, community theatre at its finest.

5. Islander, Southwark Playhouse
The magic of musical theatre distilled into two voices and a loop pedal – a marvellously inventive and endlessly moving. 

6. Amélie the Musical, Watermill Theatre/UK Tour/The Other Palace
As sweet-sharp as a diabolo grenadine, something truly gorgeous emerges from this film adaptation that simply demands you come up with better words than quirky to describe it.

7. & Juliet, Shaftesbury Theatre
Tell me why… About as much fun as you can have in the West End right now, this is a particularly fine example of the jukebox model and I want it that way.

8. Sexy Lamp, VAULT
A standout piece in a standout festival, Katie Arnstein’s brutally honest monologue about navigating the patriarchy may be lightened with songs and sweets but is no less effective for it.

9. Karaoke Play, Bunker Theatre
Deeply confessional and subtly magical, Annie Jenkins’ inter-connected monologues combined to become so much more than the sum of their parts.

10. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, National Theatre
A magical family tale, perfect for kids of all ages. Not even reading the exit poll as I left could ruin the feeling! 

Shows 11-25 under the cut

Continue reading “My 10 favourite shows of 2019”

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”

Review: Gypsy, Royal Exchange

Because nothing says Merry Christmas like a stage mum going off the rails….! Gypsy offers a different festive treat at Manchester’s Royal Exchange

“If the cow goes, I go”

The choice of the festive musical is a big one for many a venue, and they don’t come much bigger than Broadway classic Gypsy, which director Jo Davies has tackled for the Royal Exchange (returning to Manchester after a really rather excellent Twelfth Night). It also feels a bit of a bold choice given that the shadow of Imelda Staunton looms large for many, though that was over four years ago now. And if we consider Mama Rose to be the ne plus ultra of female MT roles, well you rarely hear people complaining about the endless succession of Hamlets and Lears, so it is more than time for a new Rose to bloom.

Davies gets a lot right, particularly in terms of her collaborators. Andrew Wright’s choreography makes considered use of the space, brilliantly exploiting the intimacy of being in the round (this is definitely a show to splash out on stalls seats for) as Leo Munby’s musical direction delivers a bright, if fairly traditional rendition of Jule Styne’s iconic score. The bulb-bright flashes of Colin Grenfell’s lighting are showstoppingly effective throughout, particularly when allied with the mobile rig that dominates Francis O’Connor’s set. The sequence where ghosts of the past come to bear witness to a crucial decision by Rose is stunningly, hauntingly effective. Continue reading “Review: Gypsy, Royal Exchange”

2020 What’s On Stage Award nominations

The nominations for the 20th Annual WhatsOnStage Awards have been announced and I have a thought or two #justiceforAnneHathaway

As a publicly nominated affair, the What’s On Stage Awards always throw up an interesting set of nominations, as fanbases engage alongside theatregoers to produce an idiosyncratic reflection on the year. This year though, the nominees for the nine creative categories (Choreography, Costume Design, Direction, Graphic Design, Lighting Design, Musical Direction, Set Design, Sound Design and Video Design) have been decided by an independent panel of industry experts appointed, which has resulted in some pleasing inclusions for the likes of Equus and Small Island

Acting-wise, the focus does land a little heavily on the more famous names (plus ça change) and that Supporting Actress in a Musical category is super-crowded (the Dear Evan Hansen mothers would have been a shoo-in for me there). My only real point of issue comes with the categorisation for the & Juliet players – are you really going to nominate Oliver Tompsett as a lead and then put Cassidy Janson in the supporting category? Did you not see the show, or get any of its message at all?!

Voting for the winners is open now and closes on 27th January 2020, with the winners being revealed at a ceremony on 1st March 2020.

Best Actor in a Play, sponsored by Edwardian Hotels

Tom Hiddleston – Betrayal – Harold Pinter Theatre
Andrew Scott – Present Laughter – The Old Vic
Matt Smith – Lungs – The Old Vic
Wendell Pierce – Death of a Salesman – Young Vic / Piccadilly Theatre
Laurie Kynaston – The Son – Kiln Theatre / Duke of York’s Theatre

Best Actress in a Play, sponsored by Tonic Theatre

Claire Foy – Lungs – The Old Vic
Zawe Ashton – Betrayal – Harold Pinter Theatre
Hayley Atwell – Rosmersholm – Duke of York’s Theatre
Sharon D Clarke – Death of a Salesman – Young Vic / Piccadilly Theatre
Juliet Stevenson – The Doctor – Almeida Theatre Continue reading “2020 What’s On Stage Award nominations”

Review: Light Falls, Royal Exchange

Sarah Frankcom bids farewell to the Royal Exchange with this atmospheric production of Simon Stephens’ Light Falls

“There’s a million things in store for you just beyond the horizon, but please, stay in sight of the mainland”

Sarah Frankcom’s association with the Royal Exchange goes back more than 20 years, so her departure as Artistic Director will undoubtedly be seismic in some ways. And if the first manifestation of that is the appointment of Roy Alexander Weise and Bryony Shanahan as joint ADs, then Manchester certainly looks in for a treat.

Before then though, Light Falls aka it’s grim up north. More than just a tip of the hat to those of us from t’other side of the Watford Gap (Lancashire born and bred, lest ye think I’m a southerner), Frankcom and playwright Simon Stephens visited a number of northern cities and towns to weave together a patchwork of a story about a scattered family. Continue reading “Review: Light Falls, Royal Exchange”

Full list of 2019 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 looking at this list of winners, it was a great day for Sheffield Theatres!

Best New Play
WINNER LIFE OF PI adapted by Lolita Chakrabarti from the novel by Yann Martel – a Sheffield Theatres production
THE WATSONS by Laura Wade – a Chichester Festival Theatre production
ULSTER AMERICAN by David Ireland – a Traverse Theatre Company production at Lyric Theatre, Belfast

Best Musical Production
THE COLOR PURPLE
directed by Tinuke Craig – a Curve and Birmingham Hippodrome co-production
WINNER STANDING AT THE SKY’S EDGE directed by Robert Hastie – a Sheffield Theatres production
WEST SIDE STORY directed by Sarah Frankcom – a Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester production Continue reading “Full list of 2019 UK Theatre Awards winners”

Nominations for the 2019 UK Theatre Awards

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 nominations for the 2019 awards, the results of which will be revealed at a ceremony on Sunday 27th October. It’s always interesting to see a different perspective on award season, particularly one that doesn’t focus on London productions, but it does make me wish I’d could have taken in a few more of these UK-wide shows from this year.

Best New Play
LIFE OF PI adapted by Lolita Chakrabarti from the novel by Yann Martel – a Sheffield Theatres production
THE WATSONS by Laura Wade – a Chichester Festival Theatre production
ULSTER AMERICAN by David Ireland – a Traverse Theatre Company production at Lyric Theatre, Belfast

Best Musical Production
THE COLOR PURPLE
directed by Tinuke Craig – a Curve and Birmingham Hippodrome co-production
STANDING AT THE SKY’S EDGE directed by Robert Hastie – a Sheffield Theatres production
WEST SIDE STORY directed by Sarah Frankcom – a Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester production Continue reading “Nominations for the 2019 UK Theatre Awards”

Winners for The Stage Debut Awards 2019

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
  • WINNER 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

  • WINNER 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 “Winners for The Stage Debut Awards 2019”

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”