Not-a-review: seeds, Soho Theatre

tiata fahodzi and Wrested Veil’s tour of Mel Pennant’s play seeds should have been opening at the Soho Theatre today but all is not yet lost…

“Well if it ain’t black and white…”

It is some small measure of comfort that seeds had completed much of its UK tour before circumstances dictated its cancellation but I’m still sad that I didn’t get to see it at the Soho, not least because it was another chance to see the excellent Penny Layden (so brilliant in Jellyfish). But as it had done the rounds a bit, there’s a fair bit of content around to ease the pain until theatre doors reopen and potential future life investigated.

Interview with Mel Pennant at Live Theatre
Interview with Mel Pennant at Theatre Weekly

Review of seeds by Yorkshire Post
Review of seeds by Fairy Powered Productions
Review of seeds by Always Time For Theatre

You can also check out ways to support the company and theatre below:

For seeds

You can buy the playtext from Nick Hern Books here
You can check out the website here
You can follow producers tiata fahodzi on Twitter here and Wrested Veil on Twitter here
You can look at the different ways of supporting tiata fahodzi here
And you can watch a teaser trailer for the show below:

 

For Soho Theatre

You can follow the theatre on Twitter here
You can look at the different ways of supporting tiata fahodzi here
And you can sign up to their mailing list here to get any announcements about future plans, once the dust finally settles 

Photo: Wasi Daniju

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”

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: The View UpStairs, Soho Theatre

A vital piece of gay history is unearthed in LGBT+ musical The View UpStairs at the Soho Theatre

“In this kingdom we’ve found
Where the queens and clones collide
And though it reeks of cheap cologne
It’s my favorite escape from the world outside”

There’s something so powerful about the power of theatre to educate as well as ilustrate. The 1973 arson attack that took the lives of 32 people in a New Orleans gay bar was actually the most tragic hate crime until Orlando but it remains comparatively little known. So Max Vernon’s choice to use it as inspiration for his musical The View UpStairs is freighted with significance from the off.

And at its best, it is hugely powerful. A cross between a kind of oral history and musical theatre, it fleshes out the lives of gay people in 1970s USA in all its multi-faceted nature through its collection of what might at first be mistaken as stock characters. The aspiring drag queen, the sharp-edged hustler, the dreamy twink, the closeted musician, the lesbian ‘mother’, all are present and correct. Continue reading “Review: The View UpStairs, Soho Theatre”

Review: The End of History, St Giles-in-the-Fields

Site-specific theatre done right – High Hearted’s The End of History sits us in the beautiful surroundings of St Giles-in-the-Fields and really makes us think

“Why are we here?”

Marcelo dos Santos’ The End of History is not just performed in the church of St Giles-in-the-Fields but it is set there too, a quiet spot of calm in among the bustling Soho streets. And as Crossrail forces yet another upheaval of the immediate surrounding area, dos Santos and director Gemma Kerr ask us to locate this development in the wider scheme of things, in a history of constant evolution and ponder what might be lost in the process.

This they do by colliding two individuals – charity worker Wendy and Paul, seeking to make his mark in the world of property. They’re both having a shocker of a day – she’s coming out of a long-term relationship and searching for somewhere to live, he’s waiting on some test results and the battery on his phone is going down fast because he can’t quite keep off Grindr. Or Scruff. Or Hornet.  Continue reading “Review: The End of History, St Giles-in-the-Fields”

Review: Dust, Soho

A piercingly effective and surprisingly funny at the impact of suicide – Dust has already sold out at the Soho Theatre in London but returns may be available.

“I’ve been dead for three days”

If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. Given that Milly Thomas’ one-woman show Dust is centred on a young person’s suicide, there’s a surprising amount of humour contained therein. It’s of the darkest, most mordant kind of course, but it does mean that the emphasis of the writing skates a little close to the surface.

Alice decides to end it all but when she wakes in a hospital, it turns out she hasn’t succeeded quite how she wanted. For though she is dead, she hasn’t passed on and is forced to observe the aftermath of her decision to end her life, bear witness to the impact it has on her friends and family, the loved ones left behind. Continue reading “Review: Dust, Soho”

Review: The Scar Test, Soho Theatre

“I just – I can’t believe this is England”

Hannah Khalil’s intelligent exploration of the Israeli-Palestine conflict Scenes from 68* Years was one of my top-ranked plays of last year and so I was delighted to be able to see her new play The Scar Test, albeit in the oppressive, claustrophobic heat of the Soho Upstairs at the height of summer. And with that knowledge of at least some of Khalil’s theatrical style, it was a pleasure to be able to sink into her idiosyncratic storytelling and be so thoroughly challenged by its subject matter.

Here, Khalil has turned her focus to the experience of female detainees at the notorious Yarl’s Wood detention centre and the many, many indignities suffered by those trying to work their way through the knots and prejudices of our immigration system. And as with that previous play, multiple verbatim strands are splintered into non-linear episodes, some coalescing into something approaching an overall arc, some disappearing into the ether, forgotten victims neglected by us all. Continue reading “Review: The Scar Test, Soho Theatre”

Review: BLUSH, Soho Theatre

“Cock, non-bio.
Cock, non-bio.
Cock, non-bio.
Cock.”

Charlotte Josephine’s BLUSH makes its way to the Soho Theatre after a successful run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe last year and ahead of a tour across the South of England (and Birmingham). And it’s a play that manages to hit two of my bugbear phrases in theatre writing, in that it is both ‘darkly comic’ and ‘extremely timely’. But though reviewers and publicists may desperately overuse both terms, it doesn’t make it any less true here.

BLUSH is concerned with revenge porn, weaving together five stories of people who have found themselves swept up in this most modern of afflictions. An older sister looks on helplessly as her 18 year old sibling has intimate photos published online by a boyfriend, a father struggles with his porn addiction, a jilted lover is surprised at the reaction she gets when she posts her ex’s nudes, Josephine and her co-performer Daniel Foxsmith show us the many ways in which the issue can impact our lives. Continue reading “Review: BLUSH, Soho Theatre”

Comedy Review: Adam Kay – Fingering A Minor On The Piano, Soho

“I’m like a medical Anne Frank”

The title of Fingering A Minor On The Piano apparently stems from former doctor turned comic Adam Kay trying to ensure that none of Nicholas Parsons’ audience stayed on to watch the show when the two were programmed back-to-back at Edinburgh last year. It gives nothing away about what the show actually is, a fast-paced hour of journal readings from Kay’s hospital diary interspersed with musical punchlines, building to a gut-punch of a climax that flies the flag for our beleaguered NHS.

It’s a strong combination – there’s endless dark humour in the snippets of life as a medical professional, climbing the ranks from inexperienced house officer to registrar in the field of obstetrics and gynaecology, as he deals with any number of complaints from eye-wincing penis injuries to spots on the tongue (taste buds!) whilst acknowledging the strains it puts on trainee doctors with their 16 hour days and the struggles it imposes on trying to maintain a normal life and relationship at the same time. Continue reading “Comedy Review: Adam Kay – Fingering A Minor On The Piano, Soho”

Review: Andrew Hunter Murray – Round One, Soho Theatre

“This year we won’t have a practical round after last year’s ‘Can you put out a chip pan fire?’ debacle”

It’s no secret that I’ve tumbled hard for the Austentatious guys so it should come as no surprise that I’m now stalking them at their solo shows too. Rachel Parris brought us her Best Laid Plans last week and Andrew Hunter Murray has also been appearing the Soho Theatre with his Round One (which has just announced two more dates later in March). The former really makes the break from improvised work with her scripted show and with its looser sketch format, it’s interesting to see how Hunter Murray’s seems to work best when it is involving the audience.

The show is built around a pub quiz, The 15th Annual Rose and Crown Pub Quiz Championship Final no less, but its content actually comes in the spaces inbetween the rounds, where Hunter Murray works through a roll-call of character sketches. There’s the impromptu seated samba class with Arturo Flame which is huge fun, the representative from the crime and erotic book group who talks only in rhyme (the pineapple/Miss Marple couplet is a thing of joy) and these sections fizz with life as he clearly relishes sparking off the interactions with the front row. Continue reading “Review: Andrew Hunter Murray – Round One, Soho Theatre”