News: September theatre news gathers apace

Lockdown may have returned but theatres are boldly looking ahead – the David Tennant-starring Good and Six the Musical are moving theatres, Haydn Gwynne is back and The Last Five Years extends at the Southwark Playhouse

CP Taylor’s Good, starring David Tennant, Fenella Woolgar and Elliot Levey and directed by Dominic Cooke, which was due to open this October, has announced new dates for 2021 and a new run at the Harold Pinter Theatre.

Produced by Fictionhouse and Playful Productions, Good was originally scheduled to begin performances at the Playhouse Theatre on Tuesday 6th October. Due to the current global situation, the production was postponed and will now preview at the Harold Pinter Theatre from Wednesday 21st April  to Saturday 17st July 2021.

Current ticket holders will be given priority for the new dates and do not need to do anything. The point of purchase will be in touch with ticket holders to reschedule or refund their booking. Extra tickets for the new dates for Good at The Harold Pinter Theatre go on sale at 10am, Monday 12 October 2020. Continue reading “News: September theatre news gathers apace”

Casting news for early September

As some theatres look to a careful reopening and others consolidate their online offers, casting news of four intriguing shows breaks 

The Last Five Years at Southwark Playhouse will star Molly Lynch (Cathy) and Oli Higginson (Jamie) who return to their roles after they were cut short on 16 March. They will be appearing in the show from 1 – 31 October and will be in the same ‘support bubble’ so the show won’t adhere to socially distancing staging.

However, in the venue, there will be strict social distancing measures in place. For full info on that head here and click on the Covid-19 FAQS tab: https://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/the-large/the-last-five-years/#covidfaqs Continue reading “Casting news for early September”

News: Rosalie Craig and Hadley Fraser to star online in Before After

Southwark Playhouse continue to offer up new musical theatre by bringing together Rosalie Craig and Hadley Fraser to star online in Before After

Not that real-life husband and wife duo Rosalie Craig (Company) and Hadley Fraser (City of Angels) need that much bringing together, but after their West End co-starring gig was cruelly truncated, this online show should prove some recompense and in any case, new live theatre is always a real treat. 

Before After is a staged reading of a brand new musical love story by Stuart Matthew Price and Timothy Knapman. A cast recording of the show (with Fraser and Caroline Sheen) was released a few years ago by SimG Productions and I was a big fan, so I am fully onboard with this enterprise and you should be too. Continue reading “News: Rosalie Craig and Hadley Fraser to star online in Before After”

Review: You Stupid Darkness!, Southwark Playhouse

With its focus on the small things, Sam Steiner’s play You Stupid Darkness! is a delicate but delicious thing at the Southwark Playhouse

“I’ll go and get a Jaffa Cake”

The world outside is going to shit and all you can rely on is the kind word of a gentle soul, if any still exist. So far so 2020, but this is also the set-up of Sam Steiner’s warmly inclusive You Stupid Darkness!, a Paines Plough and Theatre Royal Plymouth production seen on the south coast last year and now making its bow at the Southwark Playhouse.

Something apocalyptic has happened, society seems to be on the edge of collapsing and the shops are beginning to run out of doughnuts. Despite this catastrophic breakdown, volunteers still come once a week to answer the phones at Brightline, listening patiently to outpourings of woe from strangers, offering the hope of connection – a hope they come to rely on just as much. Continue reading “Review: You Stupid Darkness!, Southwark Playhouse”

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”

Quick Review: Operation Mincemeat, Southwark Playhouse

I end up liking, rather than loving Spitlip’s Operation Mincemeat at the Southwark Playhouse

“Step to the left
Jump to the far-right”

I’m very much the Johnny-come-lately to Spitlip’s Operation Mincemeat, revived here at the Southwark Playhouse after a run at the New Diorama last year which saw them slowly build up a head of steam that has resulted in award-winning success. I had my opinion swayed by a couple of people who didn’t enjoy it but with their return, I decided to go along and make up my own mind.

In a nutshell, I thought it was good, excellent in places, but quite a bit too long. Based on a real-life secret mission from WWII, it plays fast and loose with the conventions of musical theatre to create something that defies genre. From song to song we move through a wide range of MT references – a bit of Hamilton here, The Producers there, and it all sounds great – there’s just a lot of it and its focus isn’t always the sharpest. Continue reading “Quick Review: Operation Mincemeat, Southwark Playhouse”

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: Islander, Southwark Playhouse

The magic of musical theatre distilled into two voices, Islander is another success for British musicals at the Southwark Playhouse

“What would they have to say to us?”

Ever with my finger on the pulse, I made it to the final performance of Edinburgh hit musical Islander at the Southwark Playhouse. Conceived and directed by Amy Draper, with music and lyrics by Finn Anderson and book by Stewart Melton, it’s an inventive take on Scottish folklore that revels and rejoices in the power of both storytelling and music.

Kirsty Findlay and Bethany Tennick are hypnotically engaging as they open the show singing unaccompanied at first, and then layering in harmonies, counter-melodies, percussion and sound effects through electronic looping and not an instrument to be seen. It’s a truly magical way of constructing a soundscape that is both arresting and affecting (and technologically so intriguing, I could have gone again just to watch how their computer panel worked!) Continue reading “Review: Islander, Southwark Playhouse”